Posted by Cindy on July 27, 2012
Better lesson organization is one of my main goals for the upcoming school year. Having a high school student, middle school student and a kindergartener, I have no choice but to be more organized – or feel flustered and fall behind too often like I did last year when I was less prepared.
I have a newly organized planning notebook for myself and both of the big kids have their own weekly binder. Besides organization, the binders are going to help the kiddos work towards more work independence and responsibility. I’m so excited about these!
Middle and High School Binders
The pocket pouch holds a highlighter, pencils, erasers and a pencil sharpener. Only the necessities for those times when they take school somewhere other than the school room.
Left: Weekly Chore Chart and Typical Daily Schedule
Right: Weekly Assignment Sheet
These pages will be the main stop daily. The kids will make sure their daily chores have been completed and then move on to the lessons assigned. Using the typical weekly schedule in my notebook (below), I will jot down daily assignments a week at a time. Any reproducibles or worksheets that apply to particular lessons will be placed in the appropriate day’s pocket (again, below.) As an assignment is completed, the kids will highlight it on the lesson plan sheet and place completed work in a pocket at the back of the binder. At the end of the day (or week), I will grade what needs to be graded and file away the completed work.
We read a lot around here, but the necessary, assigned books don’t always get the attention they deserve. The kids either lose interest and don’t finish the books, or they drag on way too long. The reading log will help solve that problem. Not only will the kids jot down books they read for fun, but this chart allows us to set a due date and plan out how many pages or chapters will need to be read daily to meet the due date.
Service Project Log
The service project log won’t be in the middle school binder. I wanted Mahayla, the high schooler, to have a place to keep records of all the community service she does for the purpose of completing a transcript or portfolio as she plans for college in the next couple of years.
Grade Recording Sheet
I haven’t always kept grades, and I’m not promising I’ll go overboard this year. However, for better accountability, I’m planning to be better about keeping a grade book. I found this grade sheet from PrintableHomeschool.com.
Left: High School Transcript (Obviously, this won’t be in the middle school journal either.)
Right: College-Bound High School Requirements
The high school transcript and requirements sheets are simply there to keep Mahayla completely “in the know” about what she needs to accomplish and what she has already accomplished for a college-bound education. (I use HomeschooTranscripts.com to keep track of it all.)
Daily Assignment Pockets
There are six pocket dividers in the back of the book. One for each day of the week, and one for completed work. As I make lessons plans for the week ahead, I’ll put in any pull-out worksheets or reproducibles that I’m able and place them in the appropriate day’s pocket. For lessons that can’t be placed in the pockets, I’ll jot down page numbers for the kids so everyone knows exactly what work to do. Beside their desks, each of them have a crate that houses all their textbooks and workbooks, so they will always know where to find their work.
The things we do together – like Bible, for instance – we typically do at the very beginning of school or the very end. That way the individual work can be completed as independently as possible. That’s the goal this year for one of my sweet children…need mom less. I’m just sure these binders are going to help with independence (as well as organization.)
Eli won’t have a binder, but we will implement a chore board and workbox for him to begin teaching him some independence and responsibility.
His chore board is simply a set of preschool chore cards (from Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations) pinned to a small cork board. I will move the day’s particular chores to the top of the board and he will move them to the bottom once completed.
His workbox is just a big ol’ crate where I will place the supplies for his school day. We’ll explore the crate together to decide what he can do by himself and what we will work on together. As activities are completed, papers will be put in a special Eli spot and other supplies will be put away.
Mom’s Planning Binder
My pocket pouch holds a few pencils and a pencil sharpener so I don’t have to search the house for supplies when it’s time to plan.
Having an up-to-date calendar in my planning binder is of utmost importance! It helps me know how to schedule the coming days as I take into consideration things like appointments and field trips.
Left: Official Documents
Right: Curriculum Lists
The pocket divider on the left holds official documents – a copy of my letter to the board of education and anything else I deem important. Page protectors hold lists of each child’s curriculum (copied from my blog post.) I use the curriculum lists as reference for myself when planning and then file them away in end-of-the-year portfolios as a record of what curriculum was used.
Mahayla will be taking a chemistry lab on Mondays at co-op and trying to fit bookwork into T-W-Th. To make sure we cover everything, I jotted down pages that needed to be covered daily. We likely won’t stick to this year-at-a-glance plan perfectly, but having the lessons broken down into manageable bites will keep us on track to completion by the end of the year.
Friday Idea Lists
Fridays will be a little different than the rest of the week. On the first Friday of the month, we’ll go somewhere for a nature walk. The second Friday we’ll go on a field trip. The third Friday we’ll dedicate the day to art and artist study. And the fourth Friday we’ll head out for service projects. So that I’m not scrambling each Friday to figure out where we’re going or what we’re doing, I’ve created some idea lists for service projects (with contact numbers/emails), field trips and nature walks.
Left: Mahayla’s Typical Weekly Assignment Plan
Right: A Stack of Mahayla’s Lesson Plan Sheets to Fill Out Weekly and Place in Her Binder
Left: Caleb’s Typical Weekly Assignment Plan
Right: A Stack of Caleb’s Lesson Plan Sheets to Fill Out Weekly and Place in His Binder
Left: Eli’s Typical Weekly Assignment Plan
Right: A Stack of Eli’s Lesson Plan Sheets to Fill Out Weekly (I will keep this in my binder for my reference only and use it to fill up his workbox daily.)
Some of you have asked for a copy of my weekly lesson forms. I have included one of them as a Word doc that you can edit. It’s really nothing more than creating a table in Word and changing fonts and colors to make it pretty.
Behind the tabs, I have a section of:
Things I’ve collected about homeschooling high school in KY
Living literature book lists
Paper for jotting down notes
It feels SO good to be organized!!
Posted by Cindy on July 19, 2011
I was giddy with excitement when I came across this post about keeping a visual organizer of all your e-books. Melissa and I have struggled much with the fact that it’s entirely too expensive to put our e-books in print. We know how many of you would much rather have a hand-held copy. Luckily, we found it really doesn’t take that much ink to print the studies.
However, many people don’t want to print entire e-books and we understand! Like most of you, we’ve purchased PDF files from other companies and stored them on our computer only to forget about them. Out of sight, out of mind. We don’t want you to forget about the NaturExplorers units – they’re far too much fun to stay hidden in the depths of you computer!
Sheri from Scrapbooks and Lapbooks agreed to allow us to post her wonderful idea for keeping a visual file of all the e-books on your computer. She has specifically written her post about the Hands of a Child lapbooks (which we love, too!), but the idea can be used for any e-books you own.
Ok, so after attending a conference last weekend, and hearing Niki from Hands of a Child speak and show her wares, I got to thinking….I know I have a lot of their ebooks, but which ones and where are they all. Well, yes-I am that unorganized with such things-I have them burned to CDs and on my flash drive…but not all in one spot (now I do, as I made one CD with just those on it). So then I thought-hmm, when I am planning, I don’t want to have to go thru the CD to see what I have…how can I make it so I know which ones I have and have it all neat and tidy? Hmm…then duh! I have had some postcard plastic sheet holders (I used them in my SU demo chick days to showcase the cards I made) and well-why not…
So I right clicked/saved then transfered to MS Word, the pics of the ones I have. I resized em to fit the holder slots, and now I have a nice display and reference of what I have. No more guessing. I can easily slide them out and rearrange to add more down the road too. I did copy em in color, but one could easily do just gray scale. I used what I had laying around…so these holders are bigger than what most would want. I know you can buy those baseball trading card holders (most stores carry them in the sporting goods or in the trading cards area) in a pack, and then you could just size them for those slots. It would save on ink as well as get you more per sheet, due to the smaller size. I also am have a section going for my Home School in the Woods lapbook collection, my Live and Learn Press and the A Journey through Learning lapbooks too. I just haven’t printed those but for one, due to running out of colored ink and time (IE: having to go thru my CDs to find them again…after knowing I had to get my puter diagnosed and then subsequently get it switched out from Vista to Windows 7-I had to do a quick “save it or lose it” CD burn-a-thon…so they are everywhere). SO that is for another day when I have nothing better to do.
Hope this idea helps you organize your ebook collection too…and man, frankly-I could do this for all my ebooks I have. Hmm, another project for down the road.
I have these stored in my Lapbook 3-ring binder. I also have the stuff I copy off from Homeschool Share in tabbed sections behind this-that way if I revisit the stuff, I have it already to go.
That empty spot is for the Hot Diggity Dog cover…I believe it is the current free one for the semi-annual freebie on HOAC..so until that is back on the site…that spot sits all empty like. Oh that is funny-just realized the Galaxies needs to go down to that blank spot and Hot Diggity can go after…guess I need to brush up on my alphabetizing skills-LOL!
I have one more on the back side of this…a couple are the free sample lapbooks (so I only have some sections of it-and plan on just writing “sample” on a slip of paper to slide in on top of them until I buy the full kit). Many of these are ones I got for free, others I bought, and one was a part of the goodie package I got when I renewed my TOS magazine subscription. I am awaiting the States, and the Astronomy one (just purchased them at the conference)…looking to check them out. Fun, Fun!
Thank you, Sheri! Be sure to check out her original post. Others have commented with some of their own organization ideas, too. And below is a little more about her and the FOUR blogs she maintains.
I am Sheri and I have been homeschooling (officially) for 16 or so years. We have 4 children, 2 of which have graduated from our humble homeschool, and are currently wrapping up their Bachelor’s Degrees from local colleges. Our two youngest are 15 and 8. I have been a part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew since it’s inception in 2008, and will continue to serve as a First Mate this coming school year, as well. This has given me an opportunity to receive and utilize several different homeschooling products, and blog about them. I actually have 4 blogs that I regularly maintain: one for general HS info, one dedicated to the reviews, one on Lapbooking/Scrapbooking, and one all about Workboxing. I have found I really enjoy blogging, and love meeting new friends via the Cyber-world way. I also have just started a huge project called HOPE Ministries, with my friend Leah. Our goal is to provide encouragement and support to local homeschooling parents. And if that isn’t enough-we are also starting a Charlotte Mason based HS co-op in the fall.
I also like to find ways to organize, and remember the huge collection of eBooks I now am in possession of. The highlighted post is one way I came up with to do just that.
Posted by Cindy on December 28, 2009
It’s been well over a year since I posted anything about the nitty-gritty planning of my unit studies. I’ve had several email questions lately wondering how I plan, so I thought it might be time for a new post on the subject.
The emails I’ve received have all been similar in the basic four questions I tend to be asked.
- How do you choose what you study each year?
- How do you plan your units?
- Is there any sort of curriculum you follow?
- How do you not overload?
I’ll take a few minutes to try to answer these questions in a way that makes sense. (Planning is a very personal thing, so I have a hard time articulating how I plan sometimes.)
How do you choose what to study each year?
Our unit studies typically revolve around history and science. Although I consider myself a Charlotte Mason style homeschooler, I follow the Classical model of a four-year cycle in the areas of history and science. Basically, that means every four years we will be covering similar topics with the depth of understanding and expectations growing each time around. Here’s the plan I’ve followed from the beginning:
- Year 1 – Ancient History / Biology
- Year 2 – Medieval History / Earth & Space Sciences
- Year 3 – Early American History / Chemistry
- Year 4 – Modern American History / Physics
Of course, I don’t limit myself to only doing these units or studies each year. I do make sure each of these are covered in their appropriate year, though. I also include nature study (biology) each and every year.
I used to follow The Well-Trained Mind’s plan of history three days a week and science two. For me, this seemed to drag each study out way too long. I opted to create my own units to cover the history and science concepts in blocks of time and I haven’t turned back. (With the exception of chemistry last year. We did chemistry a couple times a week while history units were done in chunks of time.)
My children and I really like delving into a particular history or science subject. We’re able to check out all sorts of library books, books on tape and videos that go with the theme. We’re able to include whatever math, language arts or other subjects that might fit with the unit. We don’t have to stop learning about something just because we’ve already done history three times in the week. And, we’re able to end the unit and move onto something else when we’ve soaked in all we can handle.
How do you plan your units?
I always start by gathering information and supplies. For instance, if I’m going to do a unit on Slavery in America, I’ll start by going through all my files, curriculum guides and bookshelves to see what I already have by way of ideas and resources. Oh, and I’ll also check my computer files for e-books and other resources I’ve stashed away.
I think I need to stop here and remind you that I keep fairly organized files, shelves and computer files, so the initial gathering of materials doesn’t take long at all. All my resource books for history are placed in chronological order on a bookshelf. I also keep file folders on various topics. As I come across a great idea that I don’t want to forget, I copy it or tear it out from a magazine and file it in the appropriate folder. You can get a glimpse of my file cabinet here. I also keep history related literature together on a bookshelf so they are easy to find as well. And, I suppose you might like to know that I have a folder on my computer for each academic area, so I can stash e-books in an organized way.
If I don’t have many resources on my shelves already, I’ll go to the internet next and type in searches for free units based on the topic I’m planning. This will usually lead me to more information than I care to have, so I limit internet searching as much as possible. From my resources, I start a list of important topics I feel need to be covered. I simply jot them down in a notebook. As I make topic notes, I’ll also jot down great activity ideas or literature suggestions I run across from the resources.
All of this eventually fleshes out into a full unit! I NEVER get to all the activities that are jotted down in the initial planning. As the unit progresses, I pick and choose what will work best based on how my children are responding to the study.
I might note here that during the planning stage, I almost always pick out one or two pieces of living literature for my children to read during the unit. Plus one or two that I will read aloud and/or we’ll listen to on tape/CD. All of our units rely heavily on living literature!
Either as I’m planning the unit or as we come to the end of it, I’ll be thinking about final projects. You can read more about our projects here.
(I know this seems confusing. I’m trying to write it clearly, but it would be so much easier for me to have you over for some tea and cookies and just show you this process. It really isn’t as hard as it looks!)
Is there any sort of curriculum you follow?
When we’re talking about unit studies, the answer is yes and no. If I come across a really great curriculum guide or library book with most of my topics covered, I’ll often make that my “spine”. In other words, I will use that book for the majority of our studies, but I never hesitate to add or take away from that book. An example of this would be using a prepared lapbook unit. That lapbook unit will provide much of the material for our unit. If I come across a hands-on idea that seems like it will help the children understand something better than the particular lapbook activity, I’ll ditch the lapbook activity and do the hands-on idea instead.
I have used in the past, and probably will use in the future, some really good curriculum for my unit studies. I just rarely use them “as is”. In other words, I use them in ways that meet our family’s needs rather than how I’m “supposed” to. Some examples of great unit study type curriculum would be Story of the World, Mystery of History, prepared lapbooks from any company, Apologia Elementary Science, Considering God’s Creation, Diana Waring elementary materials, and Beautiful Feet units. I’ve never used any of these “as is”, but they have each been great “spines” at one time or another.
How do you not overload?
Well, this question could actually have two meanings: How do I not overload myself as I go about planning and preparing units? AND How do I make sure not to overload my children with the unit?
1. How do I not overload myself as I go about planning and preparing units? I’ve been doing this a long time. In the beginning, I did overload myself. I spent WAY too much time planning, preparing, scouring the internet, searching the library, etc. Overplanning will burn you out on preparing your own units faster than anything else!
My best tips are:
- Don’t plan too many units per year. (I only plan approximately six per year.)
- Use a good spine like a prepared hands-on curriculum and tweak it to fit your needs.
- Don’t try to pull in too many resources for ideas.
- Try to get as much planning done as possible during school breaks. (I get the basic planning done for all units over summer break.)
- Don’t try to teach everything about a subject and don’t try to do every wonderful activity you come across.
- Keep units shorter, rather than dragging them out too long.
2. How do I make sure not to overload my children with a unit? Oh, I have! And, believe me, I knew it! When you’ve planned too much or the unit has gone far too long, your children will not hesitate to let you know they’re tired of the subject.
I’ve tried to keep my units shorter and save project time for the rabbit trails that interest my children most. This way they get the basics, while delving deeper into parts of the unit that are most meaningful to them. We all win that way!
Please feel free to ask questions! I’m sure I haven’t covered everything.
Update: You can find answers to several questions from this post by visiting Unit Study Questions Answered.
Posted by Cindy on August 12, 2008
DIng Dong, the schoolroom’s done!
The schoolroom’s done!
The schoolroom’s done!
Ding Dong, the big ol’ schoolroom’s done!
This little tune from The Wizard of Oz has been going on in my mind ever since we finally tackled the schoolroom this morning! School was supposed to start this week. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wrap my mind around a new school year until everything in the house is in place. Instead of a pregnant woman nesting before birth, I nest before school! LOL
Anyway, we decided to hold off for one more week on our studies while we tackle some much needed areas of the house. By the time the week is finished – Lord willing – we will have a fresh, clean and organized house through and through!
This morning’s big job was the schoolroom. Remember the picture I showed you at the beginning of summer break? Well, I’d picked and poked at it off and on over the summer, so it wasn’t quite that bad, but we still had A LOT to do.
Clean school desks.
Organized storage shelves of craft supplies, manipulatives, colored paper and folders and science kits.
A new-to-us bookshelf for grab-n-go art supplies, math manipulatives and MORE books.
A semi-organized play area for little guy.
A new toy jail downstairs so little guy can’t break in and free the captives while we do school work.
And a new spot for linens since the new toy jail used to be my linen closet.
The last task for the schoolroom may or may not be done any time soon. Hubby has promised to put in florescent lights (or some other lighting solution) in place of the very dim “regular” lights. Our schoolroom is in an upstairs bonus space. It’s a wonderful room, but very dim because we only have four small windows, two at either end of the room. Come winter time, I *need* more light. I believe I suffer from SAD anyway, but I think anyone might with the lighting in our schoolroom. Hopefully, hubby will tackle the lighting project soon.
I’d love to go on a “tour” of your schoolroom. (I’m always looking for wonderful organizing and decorating ideas!) Let me know if you post about your schoolroom any time soon, or if you have already!
Posted by Cindy on August 8, 2008
School is just about up and running again and schedules are getting back on track. I sure love the freedom that summer brings, but I’m always ready to get back on schedule. School schedules, chore schedules, weekly engagement schedules. Somehow, life is just calmer when it’s scheduled (around here anyway.)
Here’s a rough sketch of this year’s daily schedule and school routines.
- Praise, Prayer, Bible
- School Work
- Free time for big kids while mom gets little man down for nap
- While little man naps – read alouds and/or game time
- Free time for big kids to explore nature, handicrafts, projects, play, cooking….
School time is shaping up to look something like this:
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri
Bible w/all Bible study Bible study Bible study Bible w/all
Saxon Saxon Problem solving Saxon Problem solving
Spelling Nature Study Spelling Spelling Spelling test
Journal Artist Tea Writing Blog Foreign lang
Grammar Lap Club meeting Grammar Grammar
30 min reading 30 min reading 30 min reading 30 min reading 30 min reading
Piano Piano Piano Piano Piano
History History Chemistry History
Bible w/all Bible study Bible study Bible study Bible w/all
Math Math Math Math Math
Phonics/Read Read Alone Phonics/Read Phonics/Read Read Aloud
Spelling Nature Study Spelling Spelling Spelling Test
Journal Artist Tea Cursive copywork Cursive copywork Foreign lang
Grammar Club meeting Grammar Grammar
Piano Typing Piano
History History Chemistry History
You can see many of our curriculum choices here. We will do the following subjects together as a family:
- Some Bible
- Nature Study
- Artist Tea
Our small county homeschool group already meets for Creation Club and 4-H. Since both groups already meet on Tuesdays, we decided to add two more clubs to round out the month. We’ll have a club four Tuesday afternoons a month. The other clubs will vary between art, chemistry, a book of the month club and play dates thrown in for good measure.
Oh, and I got the wonderful idea to dedicate a morning to nature and art (integrating other subjects) from my beautiful friend, Melissa. Our Tuesdays should turn out to be wonderfully rich and exciting.