Friday, May 11, 2012

How I Organize My Homeschool: Part 1

Sometimes the way we organize, or don't organize, our homeschool can make or break our year.  At our house, our 2010-2011 school year included a number of family changes including a move across the country, a change in curriculum, and a general disruption in how I was organized in just about everything.  Our year felt very disorganized to me in so many ways. I hated it.

For our 2011-2012 school year I found and adopted a method of planning and organizing that really worked well for us.  Even though I was still trying to organize our home and my own daily schedule, we changed curriculum (again), and had other things pop-up here and there, it made all the difference that I was organized for school.

So, for anyone interested, here's how I organize lessons for our homeschool.
 And, before you go thinking that I must be very organized all around, let me just correct you.  I am not.  But, I do find that I need something to keep me on track; a list, a schedule, an assignment.  Otherwise, I just seem to flounder through my days.  Yes, things will still get done, but not nearly as well or with as much purpose when there's a plan in place.

The first step I take in organizing our school year is to plan for the year.  This is easier than it sounds.  For me, this simply means sketching in a calendar where our school days will fall.  The core curriculum I use is organized into 4 quarters of 9 weeks each = 36 weeks.  On my calendar, I pick a day to start on and start labeling where each week will fall leaving allowance for holidays and a short break between quarters and a couple of extra weeks at the end for comfort just in case something comes up and we need that extra time to finish the school year.
Apologies for my pictures.  I'm obviously not a photographer.

This calendar is never set in stone.  What in life is?  But, it gives me a basic outline of where our school year will fall and helps tremendously when planning other things like when my husband should take leave from work or when the best time to take a vacation would be, appointments, etc.

Next, I get out my trusty, handy-dandy file box.

Pretty impressive, eh?

This method of organizing I learned from a video I obtained with my curriculum from Tapestry of Grace entitled Out of the Shrink Wrap.  I found it very helpful, but did make some modifications to fit my needs.  And, I believe it can be useful for any curriculum, not just TOG.  It does take some time to get it all organized and ready to go, but it made my week-to-week planning go so much more smoothly than it had in the past.  Here's how it works:

I have 3 children.  Each color represents one child: green = son, purple = daughter, yellow = preschooler.  The two red folders are for me.

The folders in the front are numbered for the corresponding weeks of the year.  I put 9 weeks (or one quarter/ unit) in the file box at a time.  There is also one red "Teacher" folder in the front.  I'll tell more about that later.

The second set of folders is labeled Monday - Friday.  One set for each child.

In the back, everyone gets a file folder labeled "Keep."

Now to get organized.  In each numbered folder I place any worksheets that will be done that week.  For example, with the Math we use, my kids go through one worksheet per school day.  So, for one week I will place 5 Math worksheets in that folder for each student.  This will also work for our Vocabulary, Grammar, mapping exercises, lapbook exercises that go with our curriculum, and our curriculum related worksheets.  Also, knowing which week of our school year fits where means that I can look at the calendar and see if there are any holidays or special events coming up and place related material in that week's folder.

The "Teacher" folder is where I hold any tests or information that I need to retain.

This method has proved to be a way of getting a majority of a quarter's worth of work planned out quickly.  If we find we didn't have time to get everything finished for the week, no sweat.  We adjust by moving papers back to the next folder when putting together the next week's binder. (I'll talk about the binders in Part 2).

The Monday - Friday folders are to help me get organized for the next week ahead of time.  Sometime during the current week I will take the papers out of the next week's file and organize them by days.  This makes it easier to load the binders when it comes time to arranging the assignments for my children for the next week. It also makes it so if I have the children load their own binders, they know exactly what assignments/ worksheets belong on which day.

The "Keep" folders in the back are where we store any assignments or ongoing projects so we don't lose them.  For example, we were doing some notebooking pages at the beginning of the year.  My intention was to do these each week and then compile them into a sort of book at the end of the year.  That project was eventually dropped, but the "Keep" folder was the perfect place to keep track of those papers.  I use my "Keep" folder to store assignment sheets and any loose paper records I have (more on that at a later time).

But wait, folks, there's more!  I have two file boxes.  Why?  I use the second file box to organize the next quarter/ unit while we are still going through the current quarter/ unit.  The only difference between the two boxes is the second box doesn't have the Monday - Friday folders or the "Keep" folders in the back.  By using the second file box, when we are done with the current unit, then all we have to do to get ready for the next is to switch out the folders.

Admittedly, when I first learned of this method of getting organized for school I thought, "That's a lot of work to make things easier!"  But, now that I've used it I can see how it makes planning for each week go so much more easily and quickly than it had in the past.

In Part 2 I'll talk about how I organize for each week.  With the folder system, it goes pretty quickly.

Till next time,

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