Saturday, October 3, 2020

Putting It All Together - Part 2

 I have hesitated writing this final post in my homeschool series for several reasons.  First, everyone thinks and therefore plans differently.  So how I do it may not really work for you.  You really have to figure out how you think and how your family functions, as well as play with things until it all works for you.  Second (but probably the biggest reason), is that this school year has not gone as planned for us so far.  And so I feel a little preachy showing you how we do it, and really what we are doing now is a bit different.

But!  That's part of what makes all of this homeschooling life work.  Challenges come and we deal with them and face them and emerge stronger because of it.  Our schedule, our plan, all of it is built with flexibility and our own unique family in mind.  

So I will write the post.  And if it helps someone, even just to see how it can be done, then it has done its job.  Even if you go off and do it completely different, but it works for your family and this post has helped you think through that, great.

A quick recap:

We've talked about some general thoughts about what a homeschool day can look like.

We've talked about Morning Time.

We've talked about curriculum for each grade.

We've talked about Book Baskets as a way to get things going, as well as living the liturgical year.

Today (and finally), we'll talk about how I lay our plans out and get things from a general idea to what we do each day.

Once I've ordered my curriculum and it begins to come in, I sit down with my calendar and map out our school terms.  We plan for 32 weeks of official school.  Each term is 5-6 weeks with a week of prep in between.  Our school year generally begins in July, we take a very long break for Christmas, and we are generally done in May.  This plan allows for flexibility in case of sickness, or visiting family, or vacation.  I can just move our prep weeks around, we can start earlier in the year, or end later.  It's flexible because life is often messy.

(Click each picture to enlarge.)


Next, I open up an excel spreadsheet to map out our Morning Time (don't let me lose you here.  You don't have to use spreadsheets or the computer at all.  I plan well this way, but pen and paper, or Word or whatever else can work just as well.).  I always start with Morning Time because it determines what happens for the rest of our school day.  Each week looks something like the sheet below, for 32 sheets/weeks on Excel.  In generally Monday through Wednesday are heavy school days for us, including a full Morning Time, with Thursday as a light day with very little to no Morning Time, and Fridays are bare minimum as I set aside that day for time with dad (he has every other Friday off from work) or chores/errands.  Life is school as well and so we try to bake that in.


Once I know my Morning Time plan, I make an excel spreadsheet plan for each school age child.  I decide how much time each child should spend on a given subject per week and then fill in assignments from there.  Most "school" books are easily divided into weeks, and for those that don't you just divide the number of pages in the book by the number of weeks and ta-da! you have the number of pages in the book per week.  

I try to tie in their assignments with what we are doing in Morning Time.  I group as many of the subjects as possible as well.  I know our family schedule, I try to know what days we have outside classes, and I plan around that.  But I don't know everything, and so as the school year goes on I have to adjust the plan a bit.  

A really great breakdown of time for each subject and how to decide all of this (and frankly where I learned how to plan) is Sabbath Mood Homeschooling's My Matrix (check out all of her planning posts!) and Brandy Vencel's Planning Posts.  This planning takes a lot of time, I admit, but every year, I thank myself for doing this.  Because once it's done, I know weekly what we are going to be doing and I don't ever have to guess or make things up.  And I can still be flexible with it all, as I'll explain soon.  






So I consider that my big planning.  It does take a lot of time, but I view it as I either spend the time planning up front and then I'm mostly done, or I do it each week.  I know myself and know I can be very undisciplined and that we would end up in a pickle if I didn't do this big planning.

Now comes the implementation.  I do not just hand one of these spreadsheets to my kids.  They would get overwhelmed immediately.  These sheets are for me only.  Each week, either Thursday or Friday (or Sunday night or Monday morning if I've gotten behind) I sit down with my planners and my kids' planners and hand write out their assignments.  Some years I've used Sarah MacKenzie's idea of notebooks, some years I've pre-printed out checklists and filled in the blanks.  This is how I'm doing it this year.  My planner and the kids' planners all came from The Catholic Daily Planner.



My planner has the school planner add on, and here I write out the week's Morning Time plan.  Why do I write it out each week when I already have it printed on the spreadsheet?  Because of flexibility!  Some weeks we may have missed something or gotten ahead on something, or our days are a bit different and so we need to move things around.  This way, I can write out a plan that will actually work for us that week, check off the things as they are done on both my weekly list and my spreadsheet and just keep going if we miss things.  No worries if we didn't get to lesson 3 day 2 on Tuesday of week 3.  We can do it on Monday of week 4.  Or maybe we already talked about whatever it is somewhere else and I feel we can skip it.  Remember, the curriculum and the plan works for you, not you for the plan!


Again, after Morning Time is planned, I can plan the kids' individual work.  I hand write this out in their planners, including whatever I have to work through with them towards the bottom of the list so it is clear to me.  Then when it's each kids turn for lessons with mom, they bring me their list, and the books we need for the plan and we can just begin.  I know I'm not missing things or adding in too much.  The plan has already been thought out and we can roll with it. As they complete things independently, they check it off, set their completed work on our hutch in the dining room for me to check and then they move on to the next thing.  

A younger child will need mom through more of these steps, and an older child can be pretty independent.  You know your kids!  Work with that and it will work.







An example of another way to do this is below.  I've had to experiment a bit with different forms for one of my children.  Currently I am printing out a form I made on Word and then I just fill in the blanks.  The planning on my side is definitely easier each week and this child has more freedom to do lessons when they choose (or I can take the list myself if they get overwhelmed and tell them what to work on next.)



During our "Prep Week" I sit down with my checklists and see what prep I need to do for the upcoming month, refill Book Baskets, etc.  


I also will have to periodically update our Average Day plan with whatever new schedules we have for activities.  I use all of this as a guide and not a law.  Actually I'm pretty terrible at following a schedule as written, but it brings us all peace knowing how our days are structured and keeps me from trying to cram in too much.


If I've not lost you completely, I hope something here helps you plan your own homeschool days for your individual family.  

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