Saturday, July 5, 2008

Summer Scheduling for a Fabulous Fall

The key to a smooth start of the school year is to begin planning early. Yes, I know it’s only July, but the end of August (or even the beginning of September) comes quickly. In order not to feel overwhelmed the weekend before I plan to start school with the kids, and in order not to feel like I’m completely missing my summer vacation, I do a little bit of planning at a time. Obviously this is an unnecessary step for those of you using a prepackaged curriculum, but for those of you using a combination of curriculums or making up your own, this will save many prep hours during the year.

There are several types of planning that make homeschooling go more smoothly: long-range planning, mid-term planning, and short-term planning. I will plan to cover each of these in more detail in another post, but I will give a summary now. Long-term planning involves choosing curriculum for each child that matches her learning style and will be used for several years in order to have continuity in each subject. It can also involve planning which science classes and which literature periods will be covered during the four years of high school (or grade school). Deciding which method of homeschooling (classical, Charlotte Mason, traditional, eclectic, etc.) suits your family best falls under long-term planning, too. Mid-range planning is the focus of the rest of this blog entry. It focuses on planning several months ahead and/or using the summer months in between grade levels to plan for the coming school year.

Mid-range planning involves breaking the school year down into quarters (or whatever units you use), then months, then weeks. I plan which books will be read when and which projects go with which history and science units. I also look at every textbook, workbook, and living book we’ll be using to see approximately how many pages and chapters need to be done every quarter, month, and week. It saves time when I do my short-term planning during the school year, and it also helps me keep the children on track to finish each book by the end of the school year (but not three months early, unless we want to do it that way).

Short-term planning, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, involves planning specific pages, chapters, lessons, and projects for each day of our school week. I have found that it works best for me to do this once every two weeks. Doing it every week tends to feel cumbersome and never-ending. If I do it only every three or four weeks, we tend to get out of sync too easily by an unexpected field trip or illness. It may take you a few tries to figure out what timing works best for you, but you will be much more relaxed throughout the school year if you take a little bit of time now to do so.

Many tools exist to help you with all this planning. You can go to a teachers’ supply store or a homeschool convention and find many different types of paper planners. If you like to have a physical notebook in your hands, this is the way to go. Take the time to choose the style that will best suit your needs: large family, unit studies, high school, and many others. When I used paper planners, my favorites were these two: The Home Schooler’s Journal, published by Fergnus Services Foundations for Learning, and Homeschool Teacher’s Plan Book, by Grace Publications. If you’re computer savvy and don’t want extra papers cluttering your desk, then check out the wide selection of electronic planners. Some are web-based, meaning that your computer has to be connected to the internet in order to access them. Some are can be downloaded from the internet and some can be purchased on a CD-rom to download onto your computer yourself. TOS has just introduced a brand-new homeschool planner that promised to have everything. I can’t wait to check it out! There are a few freebies online, so if you’re trying to decide whether or not planning on the computer is for you, that’s a good place to start.

Your goal for this week: purchase a homeschool teacher’s planner. Leave me a note on your search for the perfect planner and which one you chose and why you chose it.

Coming next: A How-To Example of Mid-Term Planning