Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Scheduling and Planning for School

Alot of record keeping is currently required in PA, though we just had HB1013 pass both the House and Senate, and the governor has promised to sign it, so perhaps it will not be so much by the time I actually have to file paperwork for Britt.  The only advantage to homeschooling in PA is that the mandatory school age is 8, so I don't have to file paperwork until that point.  The law is very detailed mandating exactly what subjects have to be taught, how often.  You have to log 180 days or 900 hours (at the elementary level).  So for me to log what we were doing last year, I picked up a planner at Staples.  I looked at all the teacher planners, but I wanted to be able to note things that we did for school on Saturdays and Sundays so that didn't work.  I'm a fan of "real life learning" and find that we are doing stuff that is school all the time.

It came with a class schedule section, which I thought might be useful when I was first trying to plan our our days.  I read Managers of their Homes, and tried to do some scheduling.  Let's just say, I don't do well on a strick schedule.  Things are too fluid around here for that.  I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish in a day (hence my planner and to do lists), but I've quit trying to make them all fit in a specific time, because without fail, I always allow less time than I actually need.

The month pages were really too small.  I used them almost solely for logging the days and hours we put in during a day.  I didn't have to keep a log yet, since Britt was only 4 at the beginning of the school year, but I wanted the practice to see how difficult it was and what would work best for us, before we got to that point.

Each month had a blank sheet next to it for notes, I didn't really use them except at the end of each unit study to record the vocabulary words we learned.  However, at the end of each of the weeks I got a blank note page.  Some weeks I made lots of notes, some weeks not so much.  I recorded notes about how I needed to improve in my teaching.  I recorded notes about what the kids really got, and what they didn't.  I recorded ideas that I should better incorporate into our lessons.  I learned alot about how the kids learn, how I typically learn (and thus teach), and better ways of making learning more hands on for the kids.

The lesson plan section worked well, and even if I had to use arrows to move things around at times.  The one draw back was that I didn't really have enough lines for multiple things, anything more than the basics, or when I started working on different lessons for each kid.  Some weeks were heavier and some were lighter, so sometimes the squares worked, and sometimes not so much.  With that in mind, I went ahead and got a teacher planner for this year.

The Hey Mama! SchoolHouse Planner is put out by some other Homeschoolers.  There are some things I really liked, and that work better for me, but others that I don't care for. One thing I love is the monthly spreads.  They are huge like my regular planner from last year (and they are on 8 1/2 x 11 paper so nice size).  I am logging hours and days for Britt and Ruth, but I can also note field trips and other learning opportunities outside of the house.  However, there are some things I don't like.  The months are all at the beginning and the lesson plans all at the end.  I would so much rather have five weeks of plans between each month.  I end up flipping back and forth way more than needed.

To make my lesson plans work.  I ran my subject areas across the top, and the 7 days of the week down the side.  It gave me the opportunity to log things that we do even on the weekends like field trips (since we like to go places with Daddy) and Sundays (preaching, and talking about Bro. Jonathan's sermons, as well as Bible reading and hymn singing on the way to Church are definitely Bible and music for the day).  I plan out my math and language arts about a couple of weeks in advance usually.  Right now I have it planned out through Nov. 5th.  I stopped my language arts for Britt a little sooner, because I'm not sure exactly how well he'll take to blending sounds in reading.  I often plan out my science a month or so ahead of time.  I build a unit study at least roughing it out how long it will take to learn about a specific biome for example, and generally leave an extra day or two in the schedule somewhere in case I need to bump some stuff back or think of something I want to add in.  Anything I don't get to in the course of the week, I cross it off and move it to the next week.  Sometimes I just arrow and move things.

The last few pages of my planner, have a set of boxes to check off school days.  If the kids were doing more independent schooling (aka if they were older) I might let them keep that portion.  I do really use the Books read pages.  One of the things we have to do in PA is to keep a "log of materials" for most parents that translates as a book list.  I've kept a book list in my planner for me for years, I like knowing what all I've read, and sometimes look back to find a book that I want to read again, or suggest to someone.  So this isn't that much trouble for me, especially since I'm the only one doing the reading right now.  I do know, that there won't be enough of these pages in my lesson planner.

I am not sure what I will use next year.  I've thought about using the Erin Condren Teacher Planner.  I've seen several Youtube videos and blogs about adapting it to use for homeschool, but I would still have the problem of only have 5 days of the week.  They are big, beautiful and have lots of options.  But they are also much more expensive ($60), since I only paid $16 for this one when they were on sale back in April.  I suppose I would do better to make my own, but who has time for that.

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