Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All You Wanted to Know & More!!

I recently received a comment with the following question:
I would not mind some info on how you schedule your time/day. How do you get everything done? Especially planning and preparing materials?

I wanted to take the time to answer this question because it's one I receive alot. This question is actually pretty vague so I will probably over answer it, but hopefully I can answer some of the many other questions you all have asked me in the past that I have either answered in passing or failed to answer at all.

As far as our day-to-day schedule goes we do a lot more than school in a day, and some days we don't even do school - to be honest every day looks different and our "schedule" is constantly changing but in order to try to explain I will give you a snapshot of what a typical (good) day looks like for us.

A Good Day
7 am - We get up in the morning - my kids are almost always up within 15 minutes from day-to-day. I do NOT wake my children up.... ever! :)
As soon as we get up we do breakfast, while the kids eat at the table - I generally eat on the move doing odds and ends before our day gets started (like a load of laundry, unloading the dishwasher and getting myself dressed)
8 am - The kids are fed and in the process of getting dressed. We typically clean up the house at night so there isn't much to be cleaned but if there is, we will do it now. I try to give Alexa a little one-on-one during this time - typically it's just a play time for all of us.
10am - We start doing a little school we typically start with what Treyton calls "fun" school, the things that we can involve Lexie in - this includes, nature walks, most crafts and experiments, reading stories together, etc. As we go on our school gets a little tougher but I always save "fun school" to insert at any time to keep our school light and fun throughout our day.
During this time Lexie usually heads off to play on her own - sometimes I have to encourage this a little more than other days. She has toys that she doesn't always get to play with (like a deck of cards, large dice, jars and lids that she likes to put on and off) that I will sometimes get out for her, though she doesn't need this every day, sometimes she will spend an hour or more in her room alone... some days not.
12pm - Lunch, clean up time, fun play time and switching laundry (most days)
1:30/2:00 pm - Lexie goes down for her nap. Some days Treyton does quiet time during this time, this is the case if I didn't manage to get up before the kids and get my quiet time with God, and sometimes we do quiet time just cause mom needs a nap or time alone. Other days, Treyton and I will do more school together - most often our "tougher" subjects (phonics and math) during this time so that Treyton is more quiet and Lexie isn't able to distract/bother Treyton. We do not have a daily checklist or lesson plan so this is completely flexible and dependent on the moods of everyone involved.
3:30 pm - Lexie is usually awake by now - this is play time and/or declutter time - some days we will also do some of our weekly chores during this time (vacuuming, a bathroom scrub, mopping floors, dusting, window washing, etc.)
4:30/5:00pm - Most days Dad is home around 4:30 or 5:00. As soon as Dad comes home happy chaos ensues - Lexie runs to the door to greet Dad, usually with Treyton right behind her. Treyton shows dad what he did for school - Lexie also shows off her art project (if there is one). Depending on the day we may send the kids off to play on their own (for as long as they will) so that I can talk Dad's ear off about my day, what my thoughts are about... aynthing and everything!
Dinner gets started. Sometimes I plan ahead for this, sometimes not. I would say Tim and I split cooking 50/50 - but to be honest most nights it's a joint effort by the two of us - juggling the two kids and dinner equally.
6:00/6:30pm - Dinner is usually done - cleanup begins
6:30/7:00pm - Daddy wrestles with the kids, reads them stories, watches TV (we watch American Idol on Tuesday nights with Treyton) or we go to church (Wednesday) - if Tim has any errands (like getting milk from the farm, running out for mom, etc.) he will usually take one or both of the kids. Every night is different. During this time I am usually putting away our school projects, double checking if I need anything for the following day, checking the calendar, e-mail, etc.
7:30pm - The kids start getting ready for bed. Brushing teeth, pajamas, stories, going to the bathroom, and prayers, devotions take ALL of 30 minutes in our house.
8:00pm - Kids are in bed, Tim may go work out or we just hang out. If Tim works out I am usually on the computer, reading a book or doing a Bible Study. This is when I get most of my blog stuff done, minor lesson plans completed and other things that I have to get done.
11:00pm - Bedtime for me :)

What School Looks Like For Us
My style of schooling would be considered eclectic (I think) I use some workbooks, some hands-on, some lapbooking, some unit studies, etc. I take what I think will work best for me (as a teacher) and Treyton (as a student) and that changes depending on the stage we are in, the subject we are working with and several other factors.

Right now, this is what our curriculum looks like because of my style of schooling and the fact that I am only teaching one child there are lots of subjects, games and extras that I plan ahead for.
I am not afraid of change so it's not uncommon for us to stop something that isn't working part-way through. I do not feel as though I HAVE to complete something. Because of this I try hard to spend as little as I can on a curriculum I do buy because I never know if it will work or not. Even if I did spend a lot on a curriculum though I will not insist on us using it if it is not working - it's just NOT worth it.

Planning Ahead
This is the number one area I would stress for anyone (like me). Like I said before, I write alot of our school myself, and what I don't write I usually tweek/add to/take away from.
I know lots of homeschoolers who do not plan ahead or alter the curriculum they use and that's fine, for them, but for me, if I didn't plan ahead we would be in ALOT of trouble.
So far, I have written all of our science units myself and it has worked out best if I set aside a weekend to devote to planning as far ahead as I can get. When you start writing your own stuff this may take you a while, you may need more than one weekend to get much done, but the more you write the more efficient you will become.
I talk more about this below, but my list of resources is crucial in this process. And I typically follow a similar outline for every unit we do.

This has helped speed up my process tremendously.
The more subjects I tweek or write myself, the longer this takes.
It is during the "planning weekend" that I get the "bulk" of my planning and printing done, but not all of it, I said before, I am constantly tweeking as I go (tweeking taking place mostly at night after the kids are in bed).

Monthly (or longer)
When I write any unit I start by making a list of goals that I have - what it is that I want Treyton to learn from the unit - and that helps me to at least get started in my planning and keeps me on at least a little bit of a "track". I never try to schedule or put a time limit on one of our units, I don't break it down into daily activities or even weekly activities - I simply break it down into topics (if there are multiples, like there were with the human body), I list the activities, worksheets, ideas, crafts, lapbooking pieces, etc. that I have in mind and any resources, book list, blogs that I use or want to remember. To put a time limit or expectation on a unit is restrictive to me, so I don't really know until we are in the middle of it how long it will take us to get through it.

Every Sunday night I take a look at the week ahead and fill out a form (I designed) called "Weekly Lesson Plan & Goals" - I have it divided by subject - under each subject I write what I hope to accomplish that week and the lessons that I think we will use to accomplish this. (For example: If we are working on number 9 I will write down the workbook and pages we will be doing as well as any games, ideas that I have to further supplement in.
It is at this time as well that I will try to figure out if a new unit is coming up for us and I will begin to put library books on hold or order books that I am interested in buying.

Every day I take a look at my weekly lesson plan goals and see what I think will fit best in that day. As we are doing school - which can sometimes be sporadic and spread out through the day I have another form called "Weekly Journal" I have it divided into 4 days (rarely do we do school 5 days), this is where I take my notes of what we actually did and any special comments that I would like to journal (on the blog).
I also take pictures as we do school, this has helped me remember activities that we have done that I may otherwise forget.

The common question I get asked "How do you get so much done?" is a humbling question, because I don't feel like I get all that much done, but if I had to say one thing, for us, that keeps our home running smoothly is ORGANIZATION - and the following is a partial picture of some of the ways I organize and keep our home school flowing smoothly.

Organization of Weekly Lesson Plans
I have a binder labeled "Lesson Plans". In the front of this binder I have my "Weekly Lesson Plan Goals" & "Weekly Lesson Plan Notes" pages, and the worksheets, printables, activities that I am planning on using this week.

The rest of the binder is divided up into:
Current: This is where I keep the current unit study we are working on with any printables that go along with it, current geography & nature units/ideas/printables that I may not be using this week but that I want to keep at the fore-front of my mind

Unit Studies: where I keep all planned Science Unit studies I have written
Letters & Phonics: I keep phonics games, extra worksheets, activities, ideas, printables, etc. that I may not need this week but will be using soon here
Speech: I have a list of ways to teach proper pronunciation of letters (an area Treyton struggles with), I haven't started using them yet but I will soon.
Calendar: I record on my calendar simply but exactly what we do each week - which letter, unit and number we are working on in that week. I also keep some of my current/older weekly notes and goals to look back on.
I also store the lapbook that we are currently working on at the back of this binder so I can easily have it accessible when we are doing school.
This binder is almost always out on our counter during the day so that I can easily access it or look in it for ideas/activities throughout the day.

Resources and Materials
I am currently putting together a list resources and websites that I regularly use.I hope to post it shortly (be sure to check back for it)
Most of the resources I use are free (minus the books of course) but there are a couple companies that I will occassionaly purchase units from at a reasonable price (usually less that $13).
Having this list makes my planning a lot faster and easier. It took me a while to develop mine (and yours will probably be different) and it is always being added to.

Organizing Finished Work
At the end of each week we, like any homeschooling family, face the question of what to do with our finished work. Without some sort of a system, things in this area can get out of control quickly and nothing stresses me out more than lose paper hanging around, long term.
Most of our crafts get hung up somewhere throughout the house for a while, but our worksheets, lapbooks and other printables need to be filed or thrown out weekly (if not daily)

For me, I have a large (3 inch I believe) binder that I have stored everything in. My goal was to keep a binder for each year, but as you can tell in the picture this binder is filling up quickly and we're only half-way through. So either I'll have to clean it out or go to two binders.

The first part of the binder is divided into letters (25 tabs) - this is because the first semester was primarily divided up by letters. Each letter tab has the crafts and worksheets Treyton completed for that letter as well as my journal entry (from the blog)

Following the letter tabs are the lapbooks we put together this year - I found a cute idea from Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations - I add duct tape on the edge of my lapbook and I punch a hole in the duct tape to hold them into my 3-ring binder (otherwise I would never be able to punch through the lapbook). Behind each lapbook is a copy of the unit I wrote (if I wrote it), my journal entries (from the blog), and any worksheets or printables we did in that unit that weren't part of the lapbook (if there wasn't a place in the lapbook for them to be stored in.

I have recently added 5 new tabs, for our new subjects - Nature, Numbers/Math, Health, Geography & Phonics. I store my journal entries, lessons I have written, printables, worksheets, activities completed by Treyton here.

Plans for After Baby
The question I have gotten asked most often recently, are what my plans are for after the baby comes (in just 9 short weeks!)
To be honest, I don't have a plan! It really just depends. I have no problem and will feel no guilt if we cease all schooling for a while. We have completed more than I ever expected this year and if this begins a large "summer like" break, I'm okay with that.
However, I highly doubt that happens. Treyton and I both enjoy our school and it isn't work or hard for us to do it. We both look forward to it. I don't see us going long term without it. I certainly could see letting go of some of our higher focused and demanding subjects for a while, but even that I think we will turn into mostly hands-on games without the workbooks rather than not doing anything at all.
Truth be told, only time will tell.

I hope that this answers some of your questions or helps you in some way. If any of you have any more questions for me please leave a comment or e-mail I would be happy to answer you (if I can).


Virginia Lee said...

Great post. Seems like we do lots of our planning in the same way. I have a binder that is laid out very similarly. I do not know what I would do without it.

I love what you do with his work. It is such a good idea and I bet he loves looking through it. We are in need of something like this. Right now we have piles and then some more piles. I have started throwing some stuff out, but there are items I would like to save. What an organized and accessible idea.

As for after the baby, it is probably hard to plan that. You do not know how she will fit in or her personality yet. My Caleb was so easy going we, but Caroline, well, not so much. Everything came to a screeching halt when she was born. To be fair she was 5 weeks early and had many needs to be met.

Thanks for sharing all your organizing ideas. It is always good to see what works for another family. Especially a family with like minded priorities.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That was awesome. I appreciate all the time and details you put into this post. I hope to gain some insight. In our home, things seem so inconsistant. I am really trying hard to work with the kids for 2 hours every day. It is a struggle. I often find myself up late planning or printing off materials for the next day. There does not seem to be enough hours in the day. Thank you! Thank you! I plan to take away a ton of tips and suggestions. Love your binders and how you are making memories.


Ticia said...

Wow, that was a lot to sort through. You did an awesome job answering all of that, and gave me a kick to get started working on some things I need to work on. Like I'll probably get off the computer and go start/finish a load of laundry right now.

Beccy said...

I enjoyed reading about your day and seeing the way you do things. From a former teacher's perspective, I find this AWESOME!! Your planning, adjusting based on Treyton's and your family's needs and organization are wonderful and clearly make it a great experience for all. Learning is the best, and it makes me happy to read this! Now that the kids are 5, 4 and 2, and I'm not so completely drained all the time, I'd like to pick up doing more teaching with Seth. Thanks for sharing and hope you're feeling as well as possible at this point!

Honey said...

I really loved your blog post. Thank you for taking the time to share in such great detail. It is so nice to see how others do things.

Thank you for visiting my website and leaving a comment.


Lindsay Ernst said...

Hi Amber! I absolutely LOVE your blog. I have a 4 and almost 3 year old and we do a very lax homeschool right now, just based on things I've had from teaching kindergarten. My big fear for homeschooling is the socialization part. I am a huge home body and so is my son, and although we have tons of friends we have a hard time organizing events with them. It's just our personalities. I was wondering what if any homeschooling groups you are in? It looks like you have a large family, which we do not, and most of my friends are still teaching and not home. Anyway, thanks so much for all your hard work on this blog. Blessings,

Amber said...

Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and taking the time to leave a comment.
I am always humbled when someone can walk away with something from my blog.
The social aspect can be a concern for people (including me).
I just became a part of a homeschooling CO-OP in our area. It's a rather large one which I wasn't too sure about but what I really liked about it, and helped me make my decision was that it offers a program they call WINGS - which is a program that runs one afternoon every other week, where students and moms (or dads) come together and teach their kids in more of a class-room setting. Different moms take turns teaching classes for different age groups. There are three blocks of time each meeting, so your child can pick 3 different classes to be a part of. There are usually 2 class options per hour.
My son and I chose: a storytime class, a math class and a sports class - there was also a dancing class, cooking class and one other class offered for his age group. I can't really recommend or critique this program yet because we haven't been a part of this group yet, we actually just signed up today, so I have a lot to learn.

But in the past for social activities, we participated in a lot of area storytimes and crafts. (the local library and bookstores are a great place to look for these).
We've also done swimming classes, through the city and YMCA (at different times), he took a couple tumble classes when he was 3, and we are pretty active in our church so if nothing else my kids are in nursery at LEAST once a week (if not twice). And on top of all this we also do occasional play groups (with our friends). Later this summer I am hoping that Treyton will be part of a T-Ball team.
There really are lots and lots of options out there to get your children involved in group activities with kids their age and of a wide variety of ages.

I too am a home-body, so doing all these things were a stretch for me at first (and I've never done them all at once!!) I don't think that they were all necessary, but they did make me feel better. My son is a shy kid, my daughter (who is 2) isn't as much. Being shy doesn't mean a kid isn't social - it means that they are shy :)

Socialization is important, but not as important as we make it - and the socialization we think our kids need isn't always the best. For example, our kids don't have to hang out with kids their age, a good range in age (including adults) is important. No where else, other than in public schools are kids expected to hang out with JUST kids their age - as soon as they are out in the real world they are expected to work with people of all ages. That's what we need to be teaching.
I hope I was able to give you a few ideas, but mostly I hope you don't worry too much about it - make sure you get out and about for sure, but don't worry about it TOO much :)
If you have any more questions feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment!!

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Kelsey said...

Hi! Stopping by from preschool corner links. I am new to this whole homeschool game and was just staring at our piles we have created in the last few months and wondering what in the world to do with it. I am working hard at being more organized but it is surely a weakness of mine. Thanks for the blog and tips! I am really enjoying it!