Friday, October 11, 2013

Organizing Our Homeschool Year!

When this posts, we will be finishing the last day of our 9th week of the school year! I spent yesterday organizing and planning for the next nine weeks and decided to take some photos and share how I organize our school days!

This was taken after I finished.  Just some laundry and school planning!

Here's the front of my notebook.  I keep a big binder every year and at the end just take everything out and put it with all their school papers in a blue banker's box and label it with the year.  I put everything they do in there.  It's only two kids work so the box is plenty big to keep everything.  I also throw in their art, co-op papers and projects, and test scores.

The first page in the binder is a page listing our curriculum for the year.  Our Math has been scratched out a few times for our issues picking something at the beginning of the year, ha ha.

I then have divided sections as you can see.  The calendar I print from Donna Young and pencil in special events when I know about them.  I also roughly plan out our semesters and breaks, then actually circle school days after we've completed them. That section also contains the printed confirmation of our declaration of intent which I have to keep a copy of for legality sake.

In my lesson plan section I have....lesson plans! ha ha.
Yep, I write out lesson plans.  I do this for nine weeks at a time, ahead.
I started doing this the year that I was pregnant with Ruby, (although I didn't know I was pregnant when our year started).  It was the single most important thing that kept us afloat while I was very very very sick with the pregnancy.  And then, our year went SO well, that I decided to keep doing it!
I take each subject, and just go through writing down a very short lesson number or just a phrase to describe the topic for that day.  
The top section of the lesson plan is just showing that we do spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting practice every day and gives an approximate time those take each day.
The next subject is Math, I write the lesson number and the skill/topic.
The next subject down is our rotating subject area.  This is new for this year.  
I decided that instead of doing a little bit of science, social studies, language, writing, and art every day, that we would block those subjects off by day.  
So on Monday, after co-op, we do a week's worth of social studies along with the worksheets or activities.  On Tuesdays we do First Language Lessons, again a week's worth (which is usually only 1-3 lessons), and I have scheduled Art that day as well because Language doesn't usually take as long. 
On Wednesdays they do a lesson from Institute for Excellence in Writing, and complete the work that goes along with it.  That's also a subject that only does one lesson per week. 
 On Thursdays I had originally planned on it being a light day because they had violin and karate spread out throughout the day, but Katie's violin got switched to the morning, so this has turned into finishing up the writing assignments and maybe doing Art if it wasn't done on Tuesday. 
Then on Friday, we do science.

I looked into those subjects, the number of chapters or lessons, then figured out how many we needed to cover per nine weeks, then went from there breaking it down into each individual week.
This really helps me make sure that we will finish each curriculum by the end of the year.  I have also allowed for most subjects to be "finished" before the last two weeks of school, to allow for review or delay, and to allow time for testing week.

Under that in the bottom section is Reading.  We are doing Literature studies this year and they are reading the same books which is wonderful!  
You can see we are going to be continuing our study of The Borrowers.  

Now, some people may HATE being stuck to a lesson plan, but I LOVE it!
Honestly, if it were left up to me to go on our own pace....well....
let's just say that pace would reflect my serious deficit in attention and love of procrastination.

The next section is progress reports. The Georgia homeschool law states: "Parent must write an annual progress report and retain it for three years."
The way I do this is to write a short little status for each subject area at the end of each nine weeks for each child.
I made a chart and printed it out similar to the lesson plans with each subject area, then put a box for each nine weeks.  Then I just write a little update, list something they excelled with, or listing something they might have struggled with.  Then at the end of the year I have a more detailed account for each nine weeks than if I'd just written something at the end.
And yes, my kids always do well on their progress reports? Why in the world wouldn't they?! ha ha.
They always get A's because why would a private tutor move on before their student learned the subject matter? ;)
They keep working till they've finished for the day, so there's no "unfinished work" or incomplete projects.
Yep, they have been doing math right before bed. But it doesn't happen often. But if it needs to, it does. There's no leaving because it's time for school to be "done" and therefore they just take a bad grade.  
They finish. And if they get it wrong, we redo it together. Pretty good system.
Oh, and they don't have to go attempt independent work until we've done enough of it together that I know they understand what to do.  Just another BIG advantage of individualized private schooling at home from a teacher who knows you. ;) 

So, after my lesson plans section comes the WAY big help.  All my lesson planning would be in vain if I didn't do this next part.  I usually spend an evening or two planning out all the lessons then spend another afternoon or evening doing this.

I have a numbered divider for each nine weeks.

Behind each numbered nine weeks there are two heavy duty plastic page protectors. One for Katie and one for Noah.

Inside their labeled page protector is every single worksheet they will need for that week.
Spelling, Math, Vocabulary (pulled out of the Wordly Wise book, yes), Science, Social Studies, and even their Language Lessons. I pull everything out of its original workbook, divide it up and put it in these individual page protectors.

I cannot express how much this has helped me stay on track and COVER everything!
Even last year there were some things that I didn't pull out of the workbooks, like spelling and vocabulary, and guess what didn't get finished by the end of the year??
When dad is home in the mornings, there is a needy toddler *needing* to be given a new distraction every so often, or a juice cup refilled, or there are just various random *things* going on, every 2-3 minutes that it takes to find a workbook, find the page they need to do, show them where it is, and FIND it later or the next time you need to do some work, well that's just time we don't have! Add that on to every subject and you've got a BIG ole chunk of wasted time spread throughout the day.
Not to mention, I've got quite a few things on my mind.
Planning out when I need to start lunch (since that's our big meal of the day with Corey home), time getting Ruby down for her nap, and trying to get most everything done fairly early in the day so we aren't still working on school at 5pm (it happens!), well, this is just the thing to help us not waste time finding what we need.
And this year, I added another level of organization to it that is even better!

Katie and Noah each have a binder with five pocket dividers.
On Friday or over the weekend, I take all those worksheets out of the 9 week page protectors and further divide them by day into their own dividers. 
This is where some more customization can come in.  If we are behind, or if I know there's a change in the schedule that week, I can divide things out to accommodate those things.
When we are up and I'm getting breakfast or prepping for lunch, I can tell them to go get started on their Math or Vocabulary, or start on their reading for the day.  It's so wonderful that it's already in their day's work so I don't have to go find it.  It also gives them some responsibility, or at least gives them the opportunity to take ownership of their work a little more.

The back of each day has a pocket as well, so the idea is that they will put their completed work there when they are done...but that part hasn't work out quite as well, ha ha.

Their Literature studies are right now from things I've put together myself and printed.  I put them in pocket folders and they are separate from all this.  Their literature study is a weekly assignment (ex, by Friday read and finish all the pages chapters 1-5), so they are being given some responsibility in planning out what days and when they complete those assignments.
They also have a completely separate binder for Institute for Excellence in Writing.  They came with that curriculum and it has to stay separate because they have sections with outlines, sources, word lists etc.

I love that I don't have to have ALL our workbooks and curriculum out all the time.  We have enough just storing the binders, reading books, and textbooks for science and social studies.  Everything else, teacher books, workbooks, etc, stay put away.  Another good thing is that last year we were in transition a couple of times throughout the year and having nine weeks planned out at a time this way was WONDERFUL when we had to be out of sorts and I didn't have to lug boxes and boxes of school stuff just to stay on track. (as long as picking up and going never happens the 9th week! ha!)

Now, since I've gotten all this done DURING our 9th week, I can enjoy our fall break next week with no planning to get done! And I'm finished planning through the rest of 2013! I don't *have* to plan again until our Christmas break, though I will probably get it done before then.

Theoretically I could do this over the summer and have an entire year planned out at once.  It would take more space to store the nine weeks materials, perhaps a hanging file system. It would also take some TIME and SPACE. I really want to give that a try next year. I bet it would be really nice! :-)

1 comment:

Tara Freeman said...

I'll definitely be bookmarking this page for a reference! Along with the busy boxes...those will for sure come in handy for my 'busy body' 2 year old!