Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Homeschool Scheduling (For the School-at-Home types like myself)

I know I've been absent and incommunicado (I'm still reading your blogs--though I don't have time to post comments, etc). I have big, heavy things on my mind!

It's time to get ready for the start of school. This is the time last year that I battened down the hatches and wasn't heard from again for 5 months. That and a little thing I like to call 'baby,' or 'monster,' or 'big guy,' or what-have-you. I tend to be an ultra-focused person. It's more like obsessive. I really throw myself into one thing and most everything else tends to fall by the wayside. When I'm ready to plan for school, I spend almost every moment doing that. When I'm ready to sew, I spend almost every moment doing that. When I'm ready to have my house be kept up, I spend almost every moment doing that. When I'm ready to blog about homeschooling, I spend almost every moment doing that. You get the point (uh, I know--you got it three sentences ago). To the detriment of most anything else. One-track mind, you see. I'm sure there's a nice, long, clinical-sounding name for it.

How am I planning for school, you might ask? You didn't ask, but you might! Mightn't you? Huh? Well? Aw, come on.... Ask or not, and ye shall receive.

I did half a plan last year. I had the curriculum and figured if we just worked on it each week everything would be hunky-dory. Except that we didn't work on a lot of it. My kids gravitated to stuff they liked, like reading and math, and the rest just got left more and more often. So my older daughter, going into 4th grade, knows long division but still has 3rd grade spelling and we did very little writing. My youngest is going into 2nd (though she could be considered a 1st grader since her birthday is at the end of November) and she can read most words (though she doesn't want to) and can add with carrying but hasn't learned about verbs yet. Too bad. So sad.

In order to catch up with the stuff we should have done this past year and to work on the stuff we should be doing this new year, I need a plan. A real plan. A weekly plan. With books chosen and page numbers marked for each week. It is tough and yet hasn't been as hard as I expected.

The first step for me was to figure out what we should be learning. I started with this World Book list and an Excel worksheet. (Note: The World Book list is just a quick synopsis of what kids might be learning in public school--though not necessarily what they ought to know. I do change what I cover from that list and do not cover some things on that list.) I put the subject down the left-hand side and the months August through June across the top (mid-August to mid-June since we missed a lot and need extra time to catch up). I then wrote all of the points from the World Book list across in each topic until I got to June and then started back at August and kept on going. You'll note that this is not great if the topics actually seem to match. If that was the case, I then put two in August before moving on to the next month. Once I did that for each of the topics listed in World Book, I went to Ambleside Online. From Ambleside I picked some books for literature study and in some cases even followed their schedule for how much to read each week (wow--that is really intense for two kids--I'll be hoarse by the second day).

After getting those big items, I then checked my existed curriculum to see if what I have covers some of it (spelling: yes; vocabulary for 4th grade: yes; writing: no--ordered; math: changing programs--ordered; classification: need to make material and get books from library). For what needs to be covered still, I write out a list of what needs to be made (spelling and vocab for my 2nd grader) or bought. I still use a lot of Montessori materials which I make.

Once some books and curriculum are isolated, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty. I list each school week. For books I figure we may read a chapter a day (depending on the length) and thus we'll read A Little Princess over the course of four weeks (at least it will be scheduled for four weeks). We'll follow the Ambleside Online recommendation and plan to read two Aesop's Fables a week. For the rest of the subjects, I take the curriculum we have (or will have) and schedule so that it is finished by year's end. For grammar, that means taking the 77 lessons left and scheduling two a week to finish by mid-June.

For homeschool history, we'll sign up for History at Our House for both girls. Two levels--one lower elementary and one upper elementary. I hope it works out for my youngest. This will be her first experience, except for being shushed while the nine-year-old was on the phone last year. I may try to do some general music and art this year. By the time I'm done with the 'do or die' topics, we don't usually have time left for art and music, and what I want the kids to learn (color wheel, names of notes, etc) just doesn't seem to be as much fun as they imagine.

Wish me luck! I'm an expert planner, but follow-through depends on baby-dom, cooperation, my own momentum, and various other factors. Look! I already have my excuses in place.

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