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Friday, February 27, 2015

7 Quick Takes

  I love doing my 7 Quick Takes Friday post! I don't always get around to it, but this week we are ON TOP of it, so I'm putting it together. My theme this week is: 7 tips for planning your homeschool year! A friend of mine (Stacey) asked me to do this post a while back. Sorry I'm just now getting around to it, but hey 'better late than never'.

Background Info. 
I've been homeschooling our children for 10 years. We began when our oldest was 4 years old. Right from the start it worked for us. At the time in life I had 3 kids under 5 years old and my husband was traveling 75% of every month. I learned about homeschooling in a college course I was taking. It was presented as one of the options for educating children. I'm an elementary/religious education major. Even back then homeschooling appealed to me and I actually remember thinking 'I'd like to try that some day.'  So, here we are 10 years of homeschooling later and I've learned a lot (yes, academically too) along the way. One thing I've learned is it takes a good amount of discipline to homeschool. Organizational skills come in handy too. I happen to be a natural at both. That's not to say ONLY someone who is disciplined and organized can homeschool, but it sure helps it go more smoothly.

1. Year at a glance calendar. 
  My first step in planning our year is to print out a year at a glance calendar and determine what our first day of school will be. Then from there I go through every week and number it. For example, quarter 1 week 1, quarter 1 week 2, etc. A quarter for us is 9 weeks. We don't use the last week for anything different. I know some use that to catch up, but we just keep all 9 weeks the same as we've never felt a strong need to catch up in any subjects, but I can see how using that week for that would be beneficial for some. Also, when planning our calendar I work in Christmas break, Easter break and any other days off we'll be having. My oldest attends private school now, so using her schools calendar has made this task a lot easier for me.

2. Month by month.
  Our homeschool group has an abundance of clubs and activities offered. As soon as I know which ones we're going to sign up for I enter them into a month by month calendar. This way I can see each month individually throughout the year and i know which days we'll use as our 'school hard' days and which days will be 'lighter days'. If you've never seen this website it's a fabulous place to start with LOTS of organizational printable. I use this site a lot, but I'm also kinda picky and I like some of my calendars to be cute, so I search for cute ones too.

3. Take a moment.
  Usually by this point I feel a bit overwhelmed, so I take a break and 'sit on' the overall plan for the year. I pray about it and make sure we're doing what God wants. Keeping a balance between school, clubs and extra curricular activities is tricky and that BALANCE looks different in everyone's family. Before getting into weekly and daily details be sure to pray about where God wants you to spend
your time and energy.

4. One at a time.
  For several years now we've used an organization called St. Thomas Aquinas Academy as our guide for our homeschool curriculum. STAA has been important because they've helped me homeschool the children as a family instead of individually. Although even back when the kids were young we would do certain subjects together, STAA has taken the work out of the 'what are we going to study this year' and has helped us in our preparations for each school year.
  At this place in my planning I look at each quarter and I plan what subject we will be doing. Some may ask ' don't you do every subject all year?' Well, yes, most subjects are year long, but with STAA some of the content we study changes during the year. For instance, they recommend 1 quarter of music study and sometimes 1 quarter of art (for the kids who may not enjoy art so much), etc. Working the calendar to reflect when these additions or subtractions need to happen is helpful. I usually just put a post it on my calendar that says: music study 4th quarter or whatever.

5. Projects/Reports
  Now is the time to enter in when book reports, memorization work- poetry, bible verses, etc (this is something we do extra because I believe it's good for the kids), other projects (our history program this year has project suggestions which we do about 2 times a month), etc. are going to be due. The kids do at least one book report a quarter, but they aren't all due on the same day depending on the length of the book. I enter in these dates, but I also remain flexible because THAT is one of my favorite things about homeschooling. Deadlines are NOT stressful and are movable with life as it changes sometimes unpredictable (i.e., the flu, a new baby etc.)
6. Daily Schedule.
  This is the hardest and most time consuming part of planning, but once it's done...the year is a lot easier to 'write in' (step 7). At this point I sit down with each child's recommended course of study from STAA and I come up with the daily plan for each one individually. I take into consideration the child and where he/she needs to grow and be challenged as well as each ones strong qualities. For instance, one may do well starting the day with Math while one may do best 'warming up' with Penmanship. Take your time on this step. I suggest, if you're able, getting away to Panera or a quieter place, to be able to focus and consider all the factors in planning your child's daily plan.

7. Lesson planning.
  Thankfully the hardest part is over. This part is fun to me, but 3/4 the way through the year...I kinda get sick of it. By this point each child has some sort of 'planner'. I started out just using a printout that was from the site mentioned above (donna young) that was a week at a glance style and I'd basically make one 'master' plan that i'd print each week or two at a time and if any adjustments needed to be made...I'd write that in.  That was a really easy way to do it and I think I'll go back to that because the way I'm doing things now is super time consuming. But I'll mention it anyway because it may be what someone else wants to do. I just found it taking too much time to write in everybody's planner every two weeks when from week to week the plan didn't change that much. And the kids don't need as much detail as I think they need, so I can keep it simpler and better for all of us. Anyway, right now, each child has his/her own planner and every two weeks I enter in two weeks worth of work.

  Wrapping it up.
  I'm in the process of re-registering for STAA or NOT. Next year is going to bring MUCH change in our household. We'll have our 2 oldest in private Catholic school. #3 (rising 6th) will be in junior high academic classes all day on Monday's. She'll do some additional subjects at home, but those she'll do mostly independent of me. And it is highly likely that #4 will be attending a private Catholic elementary school. We are in the 'looking around' stage right now, but #4 is in a place in her life where we believe she'll strive more in a school setting than she is at home. Let's just say I spend too much time arguing with her. She seems to kinda like the idea of trying school out. looks like next year I'll be able to really FOCUS on my littles. I'm actually VERY excited about this. I LOVE the early elementary years. I was so good about being FOCUSED on my two oldest kids when they were little. We had so much fun! I'm very proud of the foundation we were able to give them at home which I believe was a huge contributor to how well they're doing in school for junior high. I'm READY to give my littles that chance.

  Every summer I do a post on 'the next year' of school', so stay tuned to hear more details as we work things out and discover what will be best for our family next year.

TGIF!! Have a wonderful weekend friends and family!


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