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I love planners, planning, organizing schedules, etc. When I first started homeschooling, I over planned, over organized, and over scheduled to the point that everyone was consistently feeling like a failure.
Slowly and painstakingly I have been able to turn the ship of my expectations, and set a course for more reasonable requirements for my students each day. The result? More productivity. How is this? I've found that being consistent in the little things over time brings great rewards. Daily habits of great study produce smoother sailing, and a crew more willing to partner in the sailing instead of fighting against you.
One of the best books that has shaped my thinking in this area is a little e-book called: Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free by Amy Lynn Andrews. What she does in this quick read is lead you through considering what roles you play (teacher), what kind of "teacher" do you want to be (inspirational), and how are you going to plan your time so that you can be that kind of inspirational teacher. It's under $3...go read it.
After we worked through all of our time vision and budget, we came up with a plan to get all of our work done in a way that everyone enjoys, and still keeps us open and available for relationships. One aspect of our family vision is to build quality relationships within our community. If we don't have time to have people over because our school work is crowding our schedule, then we're not living up to the vision. One way we accomplish this is continuing our schooling to Saturday morning. This isn't an every Saturday event, but just a way to have routine through our week, and our afternoons off.
So I'm going to walk you through the schedule of my two younger kids, and show you our plans for this year.
Ellen: My youngest is 9 and entering the 4th grade. She's full of curiosity, loves creating art (mostly sunsets), and a struggling reader. Here's what's on my list for her:
- Classical Conversations: She's enrolled in Foundations (6th year...not getting old yet!) and Essentials (1st year! Yay!). I love this program for my struggling reader. In Foundations, no reading is necessary. She loves to sing, so we enjoy all of the songs in the program, and make up our own for memory work that doesn't come with a song. As a first year Essentials student, I'll require much of her work to be done orally. Since the program repeats for three years, we'll build up to the full speed Essentials in coming years. She's been practicing at home with her big sister, so she'll be ready.
- Math: Starting with Life of Fred: Dogs, we'll aim for a lesson a day. I love this math for her because it incorporates reading as well, and it makes us laugh a lot. We take 30 minutes on each lesson because we read the chapter together. I try to sneak as much out loud reading in as possible. We'll also start working on flash cards for math facts.
- Latin: Our focus this year will be to memorize Latin Noun endings (declensions), and vocabulary from Henle I. We'll use a spiral notebook to decline a word a day from the vocabulary list. Short and sweet.
- Maps: After going through Challenge A with my son, I've become compelled to work on map drawing with my girls as early as possible. We'll focus on drawing Africa using the step by step book: Draw Africa. Last year we mastered the USA, and next year I'll focus on Europe. These kinds of activities are hard to schedule, because I want her to master it before we add on more. We'll take it slow and steady! By the time she enters Challenge A, she might be familiar with 3 or 4 continents, and really thrive in drawing the whole world.
- Reading: We're going to read through the My Book House series, taking a leisurely pace. My goal is reading daily with her...both her reading to me and me reading to her; saturating her environment with literature.
- Music: She's taking piano lessons from her dad, and she's in the first volume of Suzuki Piano She's toyed around with guitar lessons too, but I think I'm going to make her commit to practicing the piano first, and if she wants to play guitar too, that practice will come in her free time.
- Grammar: This includes our Essentials of the English Language work with English grammar, as well as spelling with Spell to Write and Read. I allow for extra time in this area so that if something else takes longer, we don't run out of time. I'll also start some of her writing work in this segment if we have time. If not, it will happen in the afternoons.
That's the specific list for my youngest. Notice I have no extra history or science mentioned, but we do some of that all together. I'll explain more at the end.
Grace: My middle child is 11 and entering 6th grade. She's full of life, an avid reader, and ready to move on to Challenge. Not yet my dear! One more year of play won't kill you!
Grace's schedule looks a lot like her younger sister's, only she starts with music and not math. I do this so I can rotate them through having one-on-one time with me. She also has more work after lunch, but the work is self-driven and fun. It looks very regimented, but it's really flexible. Their schedules are in a page protector in the school room, and they just mark off what they've done as they go. Sometimes it gets done out of order, but that way we know what has been completed.
- Classical Conversations: She is also enrolled in Foundations (6th year), and Essentials (3rd year). Not much will change for her. One way I'll put her to work is leading the conversations for Essentials with her little sister. If you can teach it (in a loving and patient way), then you truly have mastery over it. I will be present in the sessions to give her backup though!
- Math: She is also using Life of Fred books, but she'll be starting Life of Fred: Kidneys. She'll spend 30 minutes a day on this as well as reviewing her math facts.
- Latin: Last year we started Henle 1 a slow pace (we made it through Lesson 2). Since I'm using this book in Challenge with my son, this is the easiest for me. There are so many other great Latin programs for younger kids, if you've never done Latin before, choose one of them and learn with your kids. We'll keep going in Henle 1 as far as we can get. She'll also focus on learning the Latin Noun endings and keep a declension notebook (declining one noun a day).
- Maps: She'll also work on drawing Africa daily.
- Reading: I have a bookshelf designated for books I want her to read aloud to me. We read one until she finishes, and then she picks another and keeps going. I like to give her control of this so she's motivated to read.
- Music: She's taking piano and guitar lessons from her dad as well. She's about to finish Suzuki Piano Book 1 and is looking forward to starting Suzuki Piano Book 2. She'll alternate days spent on piano and guitar.
- Grammar: This is her time to teach her little sister what she knows from the Essentials of the English Language. We'll also continue with her spelling using Spell to Write and Read.
By this time, both girls have made it through their morning studies, and covered the core of what I desire to cover in their schooling. My son works on his work independently in the mornings, and that gives us time in the afternoons to work together.
After Lunch Activities:
- Read Alouds: I've found our family really enjoys reading aloud after lunch. It's a restful time, and everyone's ready for a little break. I used to plan out a list for the year of books to read together. Now, I keep my heart sensitive to the needs of my family. I try to keep a list of the books that we read. Sometimes we listen to audible together, or I pull together my best voices and read to the kids. Occasionally, we've found a great book that works like a reader's theater and we all pick a part and read the book out loud together. Winnie the Pooh works great for this, as well as The Mysterious Benedict Society. It's amazing how much reading happens when you plan to read a chapter a day. Often the kids will work on their handwriting as they listen to the books. Other times, they'll cuddle up beside me and just imagine what's going on in the story. It's taken much practice to get good at reading together as a family, but the practice has been worth it.
- Scholé: Last February I was introduced to the concept of Scholé. It is an element of Classical Education that focuses on leisurely and contemplative learning. In our family, this will involve nature walks, sketching nature, looking at objects found in nature under the microscope, and letting our curiosity lead us. Our additional science studies fit under this category. I don't necessarily elaborate on the foundations memory work. Grace will start to practice more formal research by reading and writing up her findings, while Ellen will be free to have a little more time for hands on discovery outside up a tree, or in the dirt. We'll also have an afternoon of art which could consist of admiring a great painting, learning about a great artist, or practicing the great skills required to make great art. This is totally unplanned education, and we won't even do it just to check the box off on the schedule. We will do it because we love learning.
- Writing: This happens for us in the afternoons. We generally split it up over the course of the week: Wednesdays - key word outline, Thursdays - rough draft, Friday - type and finalize. If we can get more done on Wednesday, we do, but if anyone starts to feel overwhelmed, we back off and save it for another day. Since our papers are read in community on Tuesday, we like to start the process on Wednesday allowing for as much time as possible to ensure we'll have it done by community day. We use IEW's History Based Writing Lessons, so this is where I add in my extra "planned" history.
Where is your CC review?
I add CC review into the car time. Sometimes if they finish their other work early, they spend some time on the CC App to review their memory work. English memory work filters in to Essentials time. Latin memory work shows up when we do our Latin. Math in Math. I don't recreate the Foundations day at home though. We ramp up our study time as Memory Masters approaches, but we stay pretty flexible in the early weeks of the memory work.
So I've charted the course for next year, but I've left wiggle room for life that comes up. My son's schedule looks different since he's in High School, and I spend different kinds of time with him, so I'll leave that post for another day.
How do you schedule your time? Do you have a planner that works for you, or are you constantly feeling like you're not getting enough of the plan completed?
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.