Thursday, August 2, 2012

School planning -- fitting the pieces together

We’re starting back to school next week and I’m shuffling our daily schedule a bit to make time for my two youngest students’ work in the morning when I have more energy. I spent the morning really confused but I think I’ve solved it, so I’m sharing it in hopes it’ll help someone else out.

I’m trying to keep in mind Charlotte Mason’s suggestion to mix up the lessons, so that I don’t have two or three similar kinds of work scheduled back-to-back. For instance, handwriting and math worksheets both require fine motor work, so they should be separated by something very different, such as reading.

Further complicating matters, I’m also trying to follow Ruth Beechick’s advice not to combine concrete and abstract thinking in one math lesson. So I have math flashcards (memory, drill, abstract), a lesson from Arithmetic for Young Children (oral, narrative, concrete), and a math worksheet (fine motor, drill, abstract) to plan for, but I don’t want them to happen one after another.

I need to have both the students with me because we do some things together (math and phonics flashcards, handwriting) but I need to have them each alternate between independent work (reading, math sheets) and lessons with me (math, reading).

Finally I decided to use the technique that makes Managers of Their Homes so helpful – make slips of paper for each activity, a different color for each person.

My son is blue, my daughter is pink (aren’t I original?), and the two of them together are white. After shuffling pieces around for a couple of minutes I figured it out.

Here’s what I came up with. I’ll keep this page in my notebook until I get the routine down well enough not to need a cheat sheet.

And here’s how my weekly plan book looks for Summer 2012. Laura of Lines in Pleasant Places recommended this planner to me several years ago and I've used it ever since then. It's been a huge help.

Notice I don’t use the plan book the way it’s meant to be. I put the days of the week across the top and the subjects down the side. The first section is our Morning Time, which we have in the living room. Everyone who’s at home participates in that, even my “graduated” students. The next section is for my 13-year-old student, most of which she does independently, and the next is for my two youngest. The goal is for all of this to get done before lunch, though my 13yod will probably need to spend time later in the day to finish hers.

We’ll have lunch and outside time, plus a rest time, then come back together for the next section which is mostly Ambleside books. The four youngest and I sit around the school table, while I read the selections for each day, stopping occasionally to let someone narrate. The kids are allowed to color or do anything quiet as long as they’re paying attention to what I’m reading.

The composer entry doesn’t have a scheduled time. We’ll listen to that music at random times throughout the week, such as before Morning Time when we’re waiting for everyone to gather.

That last entry, “Read Aloud,” is what we read for fun, meaning the kids don’t have to narrate. Right now we’re reading some of George MacDonald’s fairy tales (even when we’re not doing school we always have a read-aloud going) and before that we read The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff, and Captain Blood by Raphael Sabatini. We usually have read-aloud in the late afternoon before we have to start evening chores, but given the changes I’ve made, I’ll probably need to do it right after lunch instead. We’ll see.

As we go through the day I make a brief note of what we’ve done. This way, the list in the first column serves as my guide to the school year, but the daily columns show what we’ve actually accomplished, which keeps me “doing the next thing” without having to constantly rewrite lists for each week or month.

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[I noticed two of my links don't show up on Google Reader, so here are text links -- hope they work!
The Three R's
Scholastic Daily Planner]

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  1. I love seeing how you work! I'm about to put my school plans on paper, and I hadn't considered Charlotte Mason's advice to mix up the lessons. Hmmm. Something to ponder for a few days. Thank you for posting this!

    1. I'm glad it was helpful!

      When I was writing this I meant to give you credit for telling me about that Daily Planner -- I love it!

  2. Nice. I only have one real student, number two tags along as she wants, and I have some time with her alone. But next year your color thing makes sense, with two and different readings and common ones, I will need to sort out the different short lessons, and varied them as you did.



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