For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Planning Series -Week 2: Planning an Eclectic Homeschool Year Type A Style

For the second week of my planning series Leanne Seel from  frenglishlearning.com shares about how she plans her Eclectic Homeschool Year.



Off the top confession: I am totally type A. I plan my entire year all at once. I leave room for rabbit trails and the flu, but I like to know where we’re headed. I find that once all the extra-curricular activities are in full swing, I lack the energy and time to figure out what’s next for academics. I also run a business on the side, and when I take on assignments at the last minute, it’s a huge relief to have the planning done ahead of time.

Before my children were fluent readers, I did not plan at all. We took it day by day, with tomorrow’s activities being based on how much they absorbed today. I would look at these moms who planned their whole year and think they were crazy. Of course, I also used to think that homeschooling was crazy, but I digress.


Math & English

In spite of my totally type A personality, I don’t plan these at all. We’ve got our curriculum, it’s nicely laid out, so the kids complete a lesson in each about 4 times each week. If they need more practice, we take more time on a particular topic. If they are speeding through all the questions with no errors, then they skip the rest of the practice sheets on that subject.

French

French is a very important part of our homeschool. As a French Immersion graduate myself, I am keenly aware of the benefits of a second language, and am striving to pass this on to my children. One of the hard things about French is that there aren’t as many resources available as there are in English. Because of this, most of my planning time for French is spent searching for materials and/or creating them myself. My frustration with French led me to create a blog dedicated to the cause. At http://frenglishlearning.com/ you can filter resources based on your child’s level, your fluency, and many other criteria. You can also read a recent post about how we do French at home here.

Unit studies

We use a unit study approach to cover science, history, and geography. I find that hands-on activities really help my kids to absorb and retain what they are learning. I use Konos as my backbone, piecing together the specific activities and lesson plans myself. This is a multi-stage process.

We’re part of a unit study co-op that covers 5 topics each year. Those are decided in January/February for the following school year. Different moms put together the co-op activity plans for those five topics and then I plan our home lessons on the same subjects around what we’re doing at co-op. It all works together!

We also study subjects that are not being covered at co-op. I look at what’s going on in our town and in our lives and try to add enhanced education surrounding those events. For example, my brother-in-law is getting married in Belize this fall. Before we go, we will do a unit study on the Mayan people, and some research and activities about the country and people of Belize.

Specifics for each topic

When planning the nitty-gritty details of what we’re going to cover on each topic, the first thing I do is look at what I already have. On my hard drive, that means all those freebie files I’ve downloaded over the years. As I download them, I save them into folders corresponding to the Konos unit that they belong to, so that when we get to that unit, I know what I’ve got. I’ve started using Pinterest the same way – pinning ideas for specific units for the future. I also go through my Currclick account to see what I’ve got there and download anything relevant that I’ve saved on their system. I read through all this stuff, along with my Konos binders to get a general feel for what we’re going to do. As I’m reading through, I’ll make headings in a word doc. 
 

Next, I go to my local library’s web site and start looking for books. I assemble a mix of fiction and non-fiction books on the given subject. Our library system has the ability to save items to a list right on their server. I create a list for each unit that we are doing and put all the books we’re going to use on that list. I print the list to a pdf file and save it on my hard drive in case their server eats it for breakfast one day. A few weeks before we actually start the unit, I go back to my list and put the items on my list on hold. Thankfully, our library allows unlimited items!

For items that have a lot of holds on them, I actually place my hold right away in the planning stage and then suspend it until the unit start time. This allows me to advance in the queue to number 1 and stay there until the date I’ve asked for the item. (See, I told you – totally type A!)

I plan for short lessons that start with reading and end with an activity – usually a science experiment, object lesson, or game. I will also use an online simulation or educational game when I can find a good one. I sometimes use lapbooks or worksheets to fill in, but not as often. I plan all of these in advance and put the references in my word doc.

I save the word doc to Dropbox so that I can access it from my iPad on the couch to get the live links (I also keep a backup on my hard drive, just in case). I print the lapbook sheets and any other printables we may be using and file them in my “current” binder along with a printout of the lesson plan. Once we’ve completed a particular activity, I write the date beside it, and it becomes my record for what we’ve done. I hand write any notes/changes as we go.



The master schedule

Once I’ve got all the individual lessons planned for French and unit studies, I put them in a master Excel spreadsheet that serves as the to-do list. I put a very short description of what we’re doing so that I know what’s coming up at a glance.

Sometimes the lessons I choose require supplies that I don’t normally stock. If the supplies are non-perishable, I put them on my shopping list right away so that I can keep my eye out for them. If we’re doing something with food, I put what we need as a task in Toodledo to remind me to add it to my shopping list the week before we plan on doing the activity.

If all this sounds ridiculously time consuming, it is! It’s an investment of hours of time per unit. However, I save time in the long run because I’m not running to the store multiple times to get supplies and I’m not chasing down library books. Everything comes to me when I need it. I also find that I’m more efficient by doing everything at once. I get into planning mode and gain momentum as I go.

The beauty of having a plan is that it gives me a lot of peace throughout the year. I know I’ll never be stuck with nothing for the kids to do. Do we always follow the plan to a T? Definitely not. I swapped out one of our French curriculum books this year because it just wasn’t working. I found something else mid-year and it’s been great! I’m willing to drop the plan and go with the flow when it makes sense to do so. Hey – perhaps I’m not so completely type A after all!


Leanne Seel, CPA, CA is a homeschool mom of 2 from Ottawa, Ontario. You can read more about her take on French at frenglishlearning.com, and money & tax tips at sensiblemoneysolutions.com.
Now that all her planning is done, Leanne is really looking forward to hitting the beach this summer!




In this series:

3 comments:

teachcooklove said...

That's a great breakdown of how you plan! I am just getting into my planning for the year and will be taking some inspiration from you! Lovely photo of you, by the way! :)

Knittycat said...

Thanks for sharing how you plan. I aspire to be more organized - we always have a rough plan :)
~Kimberly
http://www.homeschoolinginnovascotia.com

Leanne Seel, CA said...

Thanks, teachcooklove and Knittycat, I'm glad you found the information helpful!

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