Month: August 2020

How I Plan: Part 2

You’ve just sat down with all of your exciting curriculum, sticky notes, crisp new planner, pretty pens… when you have a terrifying realization.

You have a lot of things we want to cover in a year, but when you write it out every day… well, you might need to skip meals and sleep to get it all done!

That is where looping comes in to save the day!

What is looping?

Looping is where you take subjects that you don’t need to cover every day, and put it on a cycle. I actually have a few loops. For example, I have a “weekly” loop which includes things like composer study, art study and a few other parts of our curriculum that I don’t need to do every day, but want to hit ‘roughly’ every week. I make a list of those items. Here is how I would set that up:

1. Pull out the core material you need to cover daily. Things like foreign language, math, reading. And put those on your daily plan.

2. Now, set aside a time in your daily schedule for LOOP

3. When you get to “LOOP”, start at the top of your LOOP list and get through whatever you can on that list during the time you set aside for LOOP. When time it up, stop.

4. The next time LOOP comes up on your daily schedule? Simply pick up on your LOOP list where you left off! When you hit the bottom of the list “loop” back around to the top item on the list and keep going! Have more than one loop? Loop your loops – weekly loop, stem loop, arts loop, weekly loop, stem loop, arts loop… you get the picture!

Pam Barnhill does a fantastic job of explaining it all here:

Real Life Example

We use AmblesideOnline for our curriculum. They provide these amazing, editable, schedules for the year, like this one for Year 1. I use this as my starting point and my “Master Sheet”.

Then I begin the work of planning out my weeks into my planner.

First I need to decide what will happen daily:

  • Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
  • Literature, History and Tales
  • Poetry
  • Math
  • Handwriting/Copywork
  • Phonics/Reading
  • Foreign Language
  • Recitation

That leaves everything else up for looping! Last year I only had one loop – we were just introducing formal learning and it was very low key. This year continues to be low key, but we are beginning at add more topics into our schedule. If I put it all into one loop, it would make for an extremely large loop which means I might hit some of those topics only once a month. I want to make sure I’m hitting them more this year, so I’m creating multiple smaller loops.

WEEKLY: Nature study, timeline, recitation, geography, picture study, drawing, handicrafts, composer study

STEAM: BitsBox, Engineering Kit, Lego Challenge, Science Experiment, Cooking, Gameschool, Art Class

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL: Big Life Journal Podcast, Big Life Journal Activities, Social Detective Curriculum, Calming Practice

We have co-ops on Monday and Wednesday, so we only do daily work on those days. But here is what my plan for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday would look like…

TuesdayThursdayFriday
Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
Math
Lit/History/ Tales
Handwriting/Copywork
Loop: STEAM
Poetry
Phonics/Reading
Foreign Language
Recitation
Loop: Weekly
Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
Math
Lit/History/ Tales
Handwriting/Copywork
Loop: STEAM
Poetry
Phonics/Reading
Loop: S/E
Foreign Language
Recitation
Loop: Weekly
Bible/Hymn/Folk Song
Math
Lit/History/ Tales
Handwriting/Copywork
Loop: S/E
Poetry
Phonics/Reading
Foreign Language
Recitation
Loop: Weekly

Keep in mind this will all take less than 3 hours to complete – we stick with short lessons while working on focused attention. And we alternate types of work so we don’t fatigue the kids’ focus and attention – so the order may change based on how we are feeling that day and what task may have been more difficult than expected. Don’t be afraid to change the schedule until you find what works!

Double Check Your Work

We can go to some big extremes with our schedules.

Are we trying to make it look just like Suzie’s from church?

Are we trying to cover too much in one day?

Are we stressing ourselves, and our kids, out?

Are we using our schedule and curriculum to bless our home and children?

Are we using our schedule to prove ourselves to others?

A great way to double check your work:


❤ Tara

How I Plan: Part 1

I am often asked how I schedule out our homeschool year. I truly think everyone’s schedule is their own and should reflect their own thinking preferences, the types of learners their children are and what philosophy they follow with homeschooling. That being said, I do think seeing how other’s schedule can help us find our own way of doing things.

I come at my scheduling from a unique perspective and a strong sense of who I am as a person and mother:

  • I am a Speech-Language Pathologist who specializes in Executive Functioning. So I utilize many of the tips and tricks I teach my clients.
  • I am an energizer bunny much of the time – so I need a system that won’t eat time I’d rather be spending elsewhere. Because I know myself and I won’t see it through until the end if it does.
  • I am spontaneous – friends are going to the zoo today? We can learn a lot at the zoo, so let’s go! My schedule needs to be as flexible as I am to sudden changes in our plans and routine

Knowing all of this about myself, I’m going to do a few posts on how I schedule our school year, our days, our curriculum and more.

My Planner

I use this book every year. I fell in love with it when I worked in a clinic and was excited to use it again when I began homeschooling my kids. It’s *extremely costly* [insert sarcasm here] at $8. But, you can actually get it for free, every year. Yep, free! Sign up as an educator with Lakeshore Learning and, at the beginning of every school year, they send an ad with a coupon for this planner. It is free with a minimum purchase amount, which I never have a problem hitting. Stickers, posters, paint and glue get stocked up for the year and I nab my free planner! Click here to order the planner online.

Now let’s take a peek at why I like it and some of the other tools I use in planning my year…

The front of the planner is full of reproducible awards, student information, etc. I don’t really use any of that, so I just paper clip them together. That means I flip open to this page when I open my planner.

This page is one of my favorites, because it is my Year At A Glance. Here I lay out everything that switches each month and term. I make note of our our hymns, folk songs, composer and art studies, read alouds and audiobooks for those months. I like seeing the overall plan for the year. I also love this so I can peek ahead and make sure to request the books I need from the library in advance!

Next I collect my sticky notes. Now, I have a huge addiction to the sticky note. As in, drawers full all over my house. I have loved them since college. But these sticky notes are specifically for my planner because of their size (2″x2″) and the variety of colors. These are the ones I have purchased:

Why a variety of colors? Because I color coordinate them to the 7 categories I break our work down into… “Lemon” for literature, “Lime” for loops, “Magenta” for math. It’s how my brain works!

Now for the actually planning pages! I love the “freedom with structure” that each page provides. On the left side I write any co-ops, field trips or special activities we did within the day of the week box.

Across the top I break up the material and topics we cover into 7 categories – remember those 7 colors of sticky notes? The boxes are 2″ x 2″ – so my sticky notes fit PERFECT!

I write out what we need to cover each day on color coordinated sticky notes and place them in the appropriate boxes in the corresponding column. This helps me make sure certain days aren’t too overloaded and that I can fit it all in around co-ops and other outside trips and commitments. I can see it all at a glance!

Tip: I follow (loosely) Sonya Schafer’s Homeschooling Hack for laying out our days.

Side note: I have also seen families who give each member of the family a column, then all the colors of notes go in that person’s column. Again, “freedom with structure”!

Why Sticky Notes?

Plain and simple? Plans change. Opportunities arise. Bad days happen. And homeschooling gives us the freedom to seize opportunities. To respect each other’s needs. To take breaks.

Did Wednesday not happen? Pick up those sticky notes and move them to another day. Rearrange, stack a day a little heavier, or even do school on Saturday instead. With sticky notes, nothing is written in stone.. or pen. When I write something in a spot and it doesn’t happen? I feel ‘behind’. But behind who? This is our journey. Our story. Our life. We aren’t behind anyone. We are right where we need to be today.

So pick up that sticky note and move it to tomorrow. And know that baking with a sad little girl, or hiking with your disregulated young man, is exactly what school needed to look like today. The curriculum book will be waiting for you tomorrow.

And when we do accomplish that sticky note? I keep a tape runner [affiliate link] in my case and I glue the bottom part of the sticky note down. Then it won’t fall off and I don’t have to rewrite anything! Remember what I said about it not taking up my time?

Keep It Together

One last recommendation for you all. Keep your planner, and any tools you use, together. I love this Yoobi Document Organizer I picked up at Walmart .

It’s a zipper case that fits my planner perfect. It also has zipper pockets for my color coded sticky notes, slip in pockets for my pencils/pens/tape runners, and a handle for carrying it! It’s quite frustrating to not have everything you need when you have time to work on it – so keep it together in one spot!

I hope this helped give you an idea of just one way to plan out your year! Here are some links to other ways people plan out their year:

Coming up soon I will post about daily schedules and our loops!


❤ Tara