Saturday, September 8, 2012

Homeschool Planning Step By Step

As I sat down to plan out next week's school lessons, I decided it might be helpful to someone if I did a step by step post of how I plan our days.  While it's not right for every family, this set-up is working really well for us and I'm sure someone out there can pick up a few tips. 

Step 1: I created lesson plans for each subject before the year started.  I've made some of these available for free on the blog, so you've probably seen what they're like.  While not strictly necessary, having these prepared and on my computer makes my weekend planning easier on me. 

Step 2: I need to have a paper calendar, it's easier for me to keep up with than an electronic one, so I have a planner that gives a monthly calendar (where I write appointments, meetings, theater rehearsals, sports practices, etc...) and then a weekly section with space to write on each day.  This year I had to upgrade to larger sized one so I had room to write everything. 

Step 3: At the beginning of the year, I decided how many days we needed to spend on each subject each week.  This was based on how many lessons there were to cover.  Something like math, with about 160 lessons, is going to have to be 5 days a week.  Something like history, with only 90 lessons, only needs to be about 3 days a week.   Based on this, I decided which subjects would be covered each day.  I spread out the 2 and 3 day a week subjects to make each day roughly equal.

Step 4: EVERY TWO WEEKS, I write the lesson plans in my calendar.  I do this because that's easier than doing it every day, but it's not so far ahead that I have to totally redo everything if we get ahead or behind.  It's easy enough to change a few days on the planner, I don't want to change an entire year or feel like the schedule is completely inflexible.  I start out by writing the subjects for each day (based on step 3, it's the same all year long), leaving a space between each one:
Step 5: I take one subject at a time and fill in the specific plans for each day based on the lesson plans that are on my computer.  They are organized in my files according to subject and grade level:

Something like history, where I've created my own plans, will have a lesson number, the topic, the assignment, and an approximate date (we don't strictly stick to the dates, they are just to help me plan the year and facilitate things like studying pilgrims around Thanksgiving, or studying flowers in the spring).  For art, which I also created, there is a project and the list of materials I need gathered for that project:

For something like math, where I am following a purchased curriculum, I simply have the lesson number, the worksheet number (if there is one) and the supplies required:
In my planner, I will fill in all of Sierra's history, then all of her math, and so on until all the subjects are filled in for all the days.  I write down the lesson, any worksheets needed for that lesson, and in the notes section in the margin, I make note if there are materials I will need that I don't already have on hand:

Step 6: EVERY WEEK (usually late at night on Sunday because it's my procrastination tendency that requires this sort of organization in the first place), I get the papers that will be needed put together.   I have a binder with several weeks worth of worksheets:
 There is some debate in homeschool circles about whether you are allowed to copy workbooks, or you should buy a new one for each child.  Most of the books we use actually explicitly allow copying and it's been financially beneficial for us so far to do that.  I buy printer ink once a year and bought a case of paper over 2 years ago that I still haven't gone through (we run old worksheets back through the printer and use the back sides).   I like having everything in one binder like this because it's less for me to get out when I'm planning, it's easy to grab when we go out of town, and if I'm sick or need to be out of town or otherwise away from our little school, it's easy for dad or grandma to find and know where we left off.

Another binder is set aside for the current week's work.  Check out my creative labeling:
This binder has 10 vinyl folders in it.  Sierra's are blue, Sedona's are green and they are labelled for each day of the week:
I grab my planner (where I've written down any worksheets I need for each lesson), and my worksheets binder and get out all the worksheets needed for the week and put them in the appropriate folders in the "this week" binder:
Step 7: EVERY NIGHT, I use my planner to write the next day's lessons on the white board.  This gives myself and the kids a checklist to work on throughout the day.  We erase assignments as they're completed and can see at a glance how much school is left.  This "work at a glance" system has been really key to quickly picking up where we left off and maximizing our time while Secora is occupied with other activities.
 I also put that day's vinyl folder for each girl in a wall file that's hanging on our pegboard (at the beginning of the year, Sedona had picked yellow for her color, but I couldn't find more yellow folders at the store, so she had to change). 

This system has been great for us so far.  It minimizes the work I need to do during the week and prevents delays in the morning by having everything ready to go as soon as the girls are ready to get started (which is often before I'M ready to get started).  I can't imagine going back to when we first started homeschooling and I was looking over lessons every night, running to the store in the morning for materials we needed that afternoon and copying worksheets as needed.  It's definitely a stress relief to have everything set-up and ready to go. 

It's taken me two and a half years to slowly work my way towards this set-up, what other great organizational ideas am I missing?  If you have other tips, leave them in the comments to share with everyone!

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