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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cue the Ominous Music- It's Time to Talk About Planning!

Welcome to Day Three- Homeschool Planning

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With rare exception, I'd bet not many parents would say that planning is their favorite part of homeschooling.  A necessary evil, yes.  Their favorite part?  Not so much.  And I would by no means claim to be an expert or anyone with any sort of inspiring advice in this area.  Instead, I'll just share what I've done, and what I do now.

When my kids were little, I didn't do much planning at all.  Their curriculum elements were simple, and planning was as easy as tomorrow we'll do the next lesson.  My first challenge came with my all time favorite curriculum- The Weaver.  I just couldn't wrap my head around the planning of it enough to make it work for us long term, which is a shame because, did I mention, it's my favorite curriculum.  Admitting defeat, I switched to Five in a Row, with is simple enough- read a book 5 days in a row.  Even I can plan that!

But then a) I had more kids and b) my older kids were getting, well, older.  Suddenly, there was one Mommy, and four people simultaneously needing her help.  And young students really DO need Mommy for a lot of their learning.  So how do you occupy the other kids while you work with one?  It takes a bit of <gulp> planning.  It was right about this time that workboxes saved my life.

I reviewed workboxes in 2009 and it literally changed my life.  Being a visually oriented person, the workboxes gave me the chance to SEE my kids' days scheduled out.  If also gave them the chance to know exactly what they had to accomplish each day, and if they worked through their boxes in order, it kept any two children from needing me at the same time.  Workboxes are, in a nutshell, brilliant.

But they come at a price.  It would honestly take me almost an hour every night to go through, check their work, remove finished assignments, insert new papers, and give directions for the next day's work for 3 children (the 4th was too young to need workboxes).  We were getting more organized, they were being more productive, but I wasn't loving the extra work-that's for sure.

 I came up with a simple grid that allowed me to plan a week at a time, which sped the nightly process up.  It was a start, and would still be alright for younger kids, but it still wasn't optimum. 

Then last year, we started Sonlight.  We began the year with a co-op, and, having never done Sonlight, I knew nothing about the scheduling that would be required.  But due to life circumstances, we weren't able to continue with the co-op, and I suddenly found myself trying to schedule two different cores of a curriculum I didn't really even understand. Luckily, Sonlight provides a schedule, but there were subject on it we weren't doing, others that we were, but were using different resources for, and still other places where I needed to change the pace or substitute one reader for another.  So I took their schedule's appearance and made one for myself.


This works perfectly for my kids.  I still put their supplies in their workboxes, but now they know exactly what is expected each day, and for the whole week.  That means if they want to work ahead in one subject, they can see the trade off and know where they will have to make it up the next day.  The only drawback is that doing these schedules for 3 kids every week (and loosely scheduling my youngest) was taking ALL weekend.  Again, it totally streamlined our learning, we had our best academic year yet, but it was NO FUN for me. 

So here we are at the start of another school year.  I'm still trying to work it out.  My intention had been to "work ahead" and have several months of scheduling done for this year...but then we've really continued schooling some things over the summer, and I haven't had the downtime I expected.  I am totally creating World History for my 9th grader, and I think once I do that, the rest will be much easier.  I can't schedule Bible until I know what our Precept group is doing.  And some subjects will just move from lesson to lesson.  It's really the history/literature component that will take some work.  And breaking out Science into do-able amounts every day and scheduling the lapbook work to go with each lesson. 

See, I told you I didn't have any answers!

I want to mention that there are some really great planners out there.  In fact, The Old Schoolhouse puts out some amazing planners every year.  They are free to members of SchoolhouseTeachers.com.  You can type directly into each box and then print them out or just use them virtually.  They are pure genius.  I definitely use those to get me thinking, and to track long term things like high school credits over 4 years.  But I guess my brain just works differently, and it really helps me to organize things the way I think, and no form made by someone else's brain seems to work the way mine does, so that's why I make my own.  You certainly don't have to re-invent the wheel though!

Final thoughts on planning:  If you really, really can't plan, or don't want to, then you need to either a) pick a curriculum that does it all for you or b) go the opposite direction and chose a method that doesn't at all depend on a schedule.  Otherwise, no matter how unpalatable you find it, you really will have to plan some, especially as your child gets older or if you have multiple children.  I'd highly recommend workboxes, and there are plenty of support groups related to them out there for you to glean information from.  And a planner like the Schoolhouse Planners may be exactly what you need to be able to take what's in your head and turn into a plan for your homeschool for years to come. 
To see what my other Crew Mates had to say about planning, click any of the links below:

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