Monday, February 02, 2009

How Do You Plan?

This is a question to any and all homeschooling moms reading this:

How often, and how in-depth, do you plan your homeschooling lessons?

I ask this as I am just finishing up my normal Sunday night routine: that is, I grab a hot cup of tea, and get out the MODG syllabus for 5th, 4th, and 3rd grades (I don't have one for my 1st grader or my Kindergartener). I go through each section that I'm following her suggestions for, and see what is scheduled. I read all the lessons and all the chapters. If I agree with what is written down, I put it on my children's assignment sheet for the week. Otherwise, I have to be creative and come up with something different.

Since I am not following MODG completely, I go through several other books, trying to get ideas (i.e. science projects to somehow cover K-5th... picking out read alouds and assigned readings for history... finding different poems to memorize since we're not on schedule with history, etc etc etc). I also try to find pictures to print out for the kids to put in their history timelines.

All in all, I put in about 3.5 hours of work every Sunday night.

Some may think I'm crazy to do it this way, but there is a reason for my madness.

1. I'm not following MODG completely, so I can't just hand them a syllabus and say, "have at it, kids!"

2. I prepare a weekly assignment sheet for them so they can work independently -- as much as possible -- which saves me from a lot of grief during the day when I've got a 3 yr old wanting juice and wanting to homeschool too and "can I pwease just sit in your wap, Mommy?" and a 1 yr old wanting (and getting into) EVERYTHING all while I'm trying to direct 5 kids who just want to know, "What am I supposed to do next?"

Oh no. We've lived that nightmare before. It was horrible.

This way, I can grab a 3-yr old and take her to the bathroom while I've got a 1-yr old clinging to me and shout, "Just look at your sheet and do what you can!"

3. I'm hoping all this will really pay off when the "next wave" (i.e. Christopher and Thomas) come through. I will have already planned 3rd-whatever grades, so perhaps (?) my job will be a bit easier next time.

4. I do NOT feel comfortable giving them a reading assignment without knowing what they are reading or learning. I want to be able to jump in and help them if they need me to, without having to say, "OK, give me about 10 minutes here while I read your chapter to figure out what on earth you're talking about." I'd rather know ahead of time so we can be ready to discuss.

Those are my reasons, but still.... well, I'd love to find a way to streamline this system a bit! Teaching 5 at once (with 2 more on the floor!) is a bit overwhelming, so any helpful ideas out there?

What works for you? How have you been able to step back from the books (if you have) and place that responsibility on your children's shoulders? What do you do as read alouds, and what do you assign as independent work? (we read history and science together). How do you schedule time to discuss/narrate/go over work?

I welcome any helpful suggestions!


Malia said...

I don't use a curriculum like you do, Ouiz, but I do have a bit of a system, albeit an imperfect one. The oldest, being in high school, does his own thing, with the exception of history. I read each new chapter aloud to both him and the next son down, and then they both do the worksheets and activities on their own. I'm not quite sure why I do the reading for them, but I guess it accomplishes two purposes: I get to keep up with what's being studied, and the two of them aren't fighting over the book. :-)

I do an easier history with numbers three and four, and I also combine science for these two. Child three does his math, grammar, and reading on his own with my help when needed (which frankly is a lot of the time), and I check his work afterward. Child four still needs my help with almost everything, with the occasional exception of math, if I'm lucky.

One of the best things I've found to make things a little easier for me and free me up to do more work with the younger two students is to have child two do science on his own. We use the "Christian Kids Explore..." series, and he handles it quite well. The set-up is straightforward (reading, vocabulary, review sheet, experiment, and then a Unit Test every few chapters), and can be easily self-taught. The material may seem on the simple side, but he learns a lot and it's one thing I don't have to do.

My homeschool habits seem to be constantly morphing, but I guess that's a good thing! You'll have to show me your materials so that I can change things up here... yet again.

Barbara said...

There are so many different ways to plan!

I don't use a curriculum, but do tend to stick with programs I like (Math-U-See, Exploring God's Creation, History of the World, daily grams, easy grammar).

Before school starts in the fall I map out my calendar of school, vacation, short weeks, etc. I usually have 30-33 weeks. Then I block out how many pages or chapters need to be done each week to get where we want to go. Each week I translate that into what gets done each day, although I'm not as good at that as I'd like.

I've only got a few left at home. We share history, science, art and read alouds. They do their own level grammar, music, math.

For us read alouds are almost exclusively cd/cassette--good for car rides or so I can putter in the kitchen, and because I fall asleep if I sit down to read. I try to find books that fit our curriculum; if nothing suits, I'll just go for great classic stories.

We'll also watch dvds from Netflix or the library that fit our curriculum. We watched "The Life of Birds" (online!), with just some commentary from me about the evolutionary mumbo jumbo (natural selection I can deal with, but some of this was over the top). We're watching a library dvd about barbarians this week.

Just some scattered thoughts.

Jane (a.k.a. patjrsmom) said...

Hi Ouiz,

I don't have a great deal of homeschool planning experience, but I have nearly a decade of classroom planning experience and I have found that although the "classrooms" are different, I still tend towards the same style of planning.

I, like you, find it very relaxing to grab a cup of tea and gather all of my weekly materials (various curricula, programs, resources, etc...) and spread them out. Generally, I follow the same schedule each week (ie-2 Formal Math lessons are each given on Tues/Thurs mornings with review, practice, quizzes or tests given on M, W or F and Science/SS, Religion, Nature Study, Informal Reading, etc...are all taught in the afternoon.) I'll try to gather my thoughts about this in a more formal post, but the short answer is I plan much like you and using our pre-set "schedule" (which is flexible, mind you...ah, the beauty of homeschooling) fill in what we need to accomplish for each week. And for many of the afternoon subjects, anyone who is not napping just joins in.
I will second what Barbara already said. At the beginning of the year, I break the year up into smaller sections (weeks, months, units, etc...what ever works for you) and figure out how long I'll give myself to cover certain topics. Then, I don't feel so overwhelmed throughout the year about staying on track.

God Bless,

Barbara said...

Another random thought: some subjects, like math and spelling, I don't plan in advance. We just take as long or short as needed to move through the material.

This has worked well so far, with my children being at or above "grade level" by junior high. I've got one right now who is a little behind, but she's making progress, and hurrying to get through a certain number of lessons within a specific time frame would be a disservice to both of us (learning AND sanity-wise)!

Ouiz said...

Thank you all for your comments! (I've been dealing with chicken pox over here, and haven't been able to sit down and write like I wanted to).

I write down year-long goals at the beginning of the year, but I don't do well with breaking those goals down into smaller semester/monthly ones. Perhaps that can be something I can try this next time around (coming up pretty quickly... we have less than 60 days left to do).

I talked to a woman today who said that she doesn't read anything her older children are reading... she just relies on the answer key. I'm not comfortable going that route. If my children were in school, I would trust that the teacher knew the material, had read it thoroughly, and would be able to discuss it with the kids. It's important to me that I am able to do the same.

So I guess that means that I will have to continue that part of my planning! *grin*

Like Barbara said, some things are pretty straightforward. Spelling, for example... phonics for younger children... math in the lower grades, etc. Those don't need much prep work.

The other subjects will just have to be tackled head-on, knowing that they will take more time for me to plan.

Thank you! Keep the comments coming!