Nowhere is this more true for me then when it comes to homeschooling. I love to plan. I love to make lists. I love to design tables and grids in Word and Excel (as you will see later!).
The main reason I love to plan for our homeschool is I don't have to think about it anymore. I plan for the entire year each summer. I lay out the week's work each week. Once I have all of this planning in place, then the teaching and the learning is open-and-go which is what I need. Because once you start your school year...life happens. Sickness, travel, cleaning days, vacations, field trips, and more all begin to intrude. When I have my year planned out, though, it's just a bump in the road, and we keep on trucking!
I've been homeschooling Chipette now for three years (four if you count preschool). I've tried many different methods, but the one we are using this year is going to be around for a while. It just works too well for our family.
The entire week plan centers on a plastic, comb-bound, eight pocket folder. You can buy these things every year at the back to school sales for a couple of dollars. I picked up one for each of my children this past year (yes, even Monkey! Remember I'm the planner.):
First thing you need to know about this product is that you do NOT want to use it in this form. Comb-binding was invented by someone with a sick sense of humor. Those things NEVER stay threaded through the pages if you use the book or notebook more than five times.
Second thing you need to know is that because of the problem with comb binding listed above, you are going to take it apart.
Pull the comb binding apart and pull each page and the covers out. DO NOT CUT THE PAGES OUT! You are going to need those slots the comb binding was threaded through to not be torn or cut. Then throw away that awful binding! You are also going to throw away the front cover. Now you are left with the interior pockets and the back cover. Unthread the rubber band closure out of the back cover and throw it away.
Put your clear pockets and the back cover into a three ring binder. The holes that the comb binding was threaded through should line up just about perfectly with the three rings. I think on Chipette's notebook I had to use a single hole punch to help with the middle ring, but that was it. Here is a picture of the inside of Chipette's three ring binder with the pockets installed.
Now comes my own litte quirk. I hate to label our days with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. Why? Because of life getting us off schedule. Being the Type A, OCD person that I am, it would drive me INSANE to be doing Monday's work on Tuesday if Monday's work was still labelled Monday. So I label our week as Day One, Day Two, etc. In Magpie's binder it is labelled Day One (1), Day Two (2), etc. because she can't read yet, but she does know her numbers so if I tell her to get out Day Three's work she can find it without needing to read. So now you are thinking, "Why don't you just label it Day 1, Day 2, etc. then?" Well, it's because I'm wanting her to learn how to read. If I have the number written underneath the number word, then hopefully she will begin to associate the two. Below is a picture of Day Four and Day Five labels (large index cards taped to the outside of the pocket) in Chipette's binder:
Since we threw away the front cover, we are now left with six clear pockets and the back cover which also has a pocket. There are only five days in our school week (next year we are going to four), so I use the sixth pocket as storage for ongoing paper projects or worksheets, reference pages, etc. The seventh pocket, which used to be the back cover, I label as the To Be Filed pocket. This is where completed work is placed after I have checked it. At the end of the week, I grab this stack of papers and file it in a hanging file folder. You'll see a picture that system in this post. Here is a picture of the last pocket:
So now that you have your binder set up, how do you know what to put in it? You put any worksheets or thin workbooks that your child will use that week. And by the way, if a workbook has perforated pages, then I am tearing those things OUT! It is so much more difficult for a child, or anyone, to write in a workbook than on a flat piece of paper. The only workbooks I leave together are the ones that are not perforated. Although I've been known to have the bindings cut off (any office supply store will do this for a nominal fee) of those as well, especially if the workbook will NOT lay flat.
I use my lesson plan grid to know what we are doing each day for each subject. This has all been planned out before the school year started (although changes occur frequently) in my nifty, handmade planner that I put together in Microsoft Word. The only things that I record on MY planner are things that I do with the student. Their independent work plans are stored in a different place. Here are some pictures of my two page one week spreadsheet so you can see what my weekly planner looks like:
Page One (Days One through Three)
Page Two (Days Four and Five, school logo, inspiring Bible verse, and boxes to write in for Child Development, Composer/Artist study, Library Books Needed, and Supplies List)
Once my children are reading well enough to follow instructions from a workbook or worksheet then I start them s-l-o-w-l-y doing some things independently. This year (2nd grade) Chipette does her math worksheets, handwriting/copywork, geography workbook, logic, vocabulary, and phonics on her own. Of course we go over her work together after she has completed it, but she enjoys being a "big girl" and getting to do some things without my help. Plus it helps me know if she really understands what she is doing.
For her independent work I use a homeschool planning website called Homeschool Skedtrack. It is free to join and use. It is a web based planning site so there is nothing you have to download onto your computer, which is nice if you are away from home but still doing school because you can pull up all of your assignments from anywhere. I'm not going to go into how it works because there are video tutorials that will teach you how to use Homeschool Skedtrack if you decide to join.
I print out each day's checklist of work from Homeschool Skedtrack. Unlike me, Homeschool Skedtrack automatically assigns a specific date to that day's work. We just ignore it and whatever day the work is completed that is the day I type into the computer and save as the date completed. Chipette just likes the checklist with all of the nifty boxes and I like not having to come up with another planner just for Chipette or handwriting all of the assignments out for her. Quick, easy, painless. Here is a picture of two of Chipette's daily checklists printed out from Homeschool Skedtrack:
You will notice that even her math fact review game on the computer is scheduled on her independent work. Once she has completed the written work she is "rewarded" with getting to play on the computer.
To store these independent checklists, I slip it behind the appropriate day. This makes the three ring binder completely independent. She can grab her binder, turn to the correct day, pull out her worksheets/workbooks, and her checklist. Now she is ready to do her independent work with little to no input from me. Here is a picture of her Day One checklist being put in the correct pocket:
Once you have your lesson plans and your student's independent work, you are ready to fill their weekly binder. I file behind each day all independent work and any worksheets that we need for the teaching time that we do together (usually our Writing With Ease sheets and Zoology 1 lapbook pages). Here is a picture of Chipette's weekly binder loaded with her work and checklists ready for the week:
While explaining this process sounds extremely complicated and time consuming, it only takes me about 30 minutes to load Chipette and Magpie's binders for the week. Magpie has a binder like Chipette, but no independent work and no checklist, just worksheets and workbooks that she does with me. She LOVES workbooks!
I like this system because we can sit down to do school each day and everything we need is at our fingertips already organized and ready to go. If I get in a bind with Monkey or Magpie, I can tell Chipette to grab her independent work until I can get back to the table.
There are two questions that naturally arise in your mind.
#1 What about a worksheet or workbook that you use more than one day of the week? Chipette's geography worksheets fall into this category. A week's worth of work is on two worksheets so I color code what I want her to do. Day One's work is highlighted pink, Day Two is orange, Day Three is yellow, Day Four is blue, and Day Five is green. She knows to only do the problems or questions highlighted that color on that day, then I file the page behind the next day's work at the end of the day. No problem.
This system is useful for any worksheets that would have work for one day on one side and work for another day on the other.
A red one that says "stop" marks where to end.
Hopefully seeing the way I plan our week will inspire you find a system that works for your family.
MY PLANNING SERIES:
How I Plan Our Homeschool Year
How I Plan Our Homeschool Day
How I Plan Our Homeschool Subjects Part 1