Thursday, May 17, 2012

How I Organize My Homeschool: Part 3

Last week I outlined two methods I use to help keep my homeschool planning organized and running smoothly.  I promised that I would wrap up this short series with a few other ways I employ to keep my planning quick and (relatively) painless.  So, here are a few other things I use to keep my job of setting up assignments going smoothly.

1.  Mapping out lessons for the year.  Not everything I use for our homeschool comes with a schedule of how to teach and assign the lessons.  And, even the ones that do have it all outlined for me, sometimes I look at and modify to better fit our year.  This "mapping out" is not detailed or set in stone.  Rather, its a basic outline to help me see what could be on the assignment sheet for the week.  I then use this outline to help me write out the assignments for my students for the week.

For example, the science curriculum we use, though it has a suggested schedule that comes with it, I prefer to look through and see what we can do with each lesson myself.  Some of the lessons are somewhat seasonal and I would like to take advantage of that.  So, one evening after the kids had gone to bed, I sat down with a notebook and the science book and wrote out what I thought was doable for my kids for two days of science lessons each week including the reading and any worksheets and projects/experiments.  I mapped this out for all 36 weeks of the year.  It took me about an hour.

This pre-scheduling isn't rocket science.  Nor is it something we have to strictly stick with.  Rather, its a convenience for me so I can quickly write out an assignment for my kids when that week arrives.  If I find that I assigned too much or too little, no problem.  It can always be modified.  The basic reason for this "mapping out" was still achieved; I would have something to quickly refer to when making assignments.  I store my "maps" in my "Teacher" folder in my file box and refer to it when making weekly assignments.

2.  General to detailed.  I used to get very intimidated and stressed out by planning and scheduling for the year.  I finally figured out that what was stressing me out was that when I had a written out and detailed schedule before me, I thought I had to follow it.  When our days just didn't stick to the plan I felt I had somehow failed.  Sure, I knew that we were allowed to be flexible.  But, my mind just likes to stick to lists and schedules and when I reached the point where what we were doing for the day in no way resembled the pre-planned schedule, I freaked got frustrated.  (This was way back in the beginning when I used a boxed curriculum that had every day till graduation mapped out and tightly scheduled.)

Nowadays, when I plan I start with the general and move on to the detailed.  What do I mean by that?  I start out with the general: What subjects are we going to cover?  Are there any activities I really want the kids to participate in this year?  The next questions I ask myself: What are we going to use to accomplish this?  In other words, what curriculum, websites, or resources are we going to use to learn this year?  Once the curriculum is in order, I can move ahead with mapping out and putting together the file system.

Then, I put it away until the fall.

I know some like to have a detailed schedule for each week of the school year all set up and ready to go.  Not me.  It would be very convenient, but I know from experience how easy it is to get off track due to illness, a child that needs more time on a lesson or project, and whatnot.  I don't set up a week's assignments until the weekend before.  That way we can schedule our week around appointments, field trips, making up for the previous week's missed assignments, and whatever else comes up.

3.  Dedicated space.  What I mean by "dedicated space" is really just basic organization; everything has its place.  Pretty basic, I know.  But, it bears repeating.  Having things organized in a way that helps you find what you need when you need it, really helps cut down on wasted time.

At our house we have a fancy-schmancy plastic crate that I use to put the books that the kids will use for the week into.  I organize this each week to   make sure the right library books are there as well as the texts or other references that will be used.  This greatly reduces the "Moooooooom, where's ____?" syndrome.  I have another crate for myself where I store all the other library books we have that will be brought out for later assignments or are ready to go back to the library.  I also have a shelf in our home office, right next to where I store my file boxes, dedicated just for the convenience of when I have to sort out worksheets and write out assignments.  Everything is right in one place as opposed to having to move about the house to pick up one book here and refer to another one there.

4.  Relax.  Schedules, organizing, making lists and assignments - this sounds like a lot of work!  And, when put all together, it can be.  But, I do these things in steps and stages and when I have time.  It takes an hour here and 30 minutes there, another hour later on...  The end result, however, is that once I've got things organized according to how I best work, it makes my weekly planning go smoothly. I end up so much less stressed concerning our week.  And, no one really appreciates when I'm stressed.

I know, nothing earth-shattering here.  But, perhaps something helped put in some one's mind how their homeschool planning could work more efficiently.  The whole "Make your curriculum work for you" and not the other way around.  I get that now.  And, being a little more organized and prepared has really helped me with that.  I totally see what a difference being more organized can do.  Last year I was hunting for daily lessons out of boxes each day (thanks to our move).  This year went so much more smoothly.  I really appreciate that.


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