Friday, March 26, 2010

Pain or Plan?

Last summer I spent two solid weeks - and I mean solid - planning out our current academic year. I took over the family room, spent hours pouring over catalogs, homeschool books, and the internet. I pestered my friends and family for advice. I created spreadsheets, checklists, notecards, etc., etc., etc., to try to organize my thoughts. Eventually I came up with a forty-week plan for each of my girls, put it on a spreadsheet, made photocopies of everything we'd need, created weekly assignment sheets, put together a weekly assignment binder for each kid, and lastly, I placed all materials into a file box. Each girl has a section broken into four quarters, each quarter has 10 weeks and into each folder for every single week I put any materials we would need according to the plan. Oh - and I also went through the art, science and history books and shopped for any materials we would need for projects so we would be prepared.

Phew - just typing that makes me tired. It was a TON of work. I was so exhausted from the planning that I wasn't sure I had it in me to actually homeschool. Now, this may seem insane, but I have tried to be less organized in the past and I ended up fizzling out and getting so behind where I wanted to be, having lots of resources that I'd purchased go to waste because I hadn't planned out how to fit them in, etc.

This year is actually going incredibly well. We are sticking to the plan and it's been relatively smooth sailing. Naturally, the plan is just a guideline and there have been things I've changed or tweaked. We haven't hit all the art projects I wanted to do, but I think we'll have a fun art week or something and do those. They are incredibly fun and the girls would love it. We're one composer "behind" (if we're looking at the plan) in our music appreciation work. And I have a hard time keeping up with my read-aloud schedule. I do the reading, it just doesn't happen like the plan, which is what I expected. I just added the books to the plan so I'd have something to shoot for.

So the question is - can I handle another year like this? Can I go through the pain of making a plan for next year? After the sweat, blood and agony of last August, I swore up and down that I would plan ahead the next time. I was thinking that since I actually have a plan, I could be like those other homeschool moms I read on various message boards that start planning in the spring and by June 1st are all set for the next year. I was relishing the thought of not "thinking homeschool" over the summer. But now I don't know. I don't know that I want to spend so much time planning. I get torn between unschooling completely or a boxed curriculum (notice the common thread there - no planning). I've been doing a (loose) classical approach from the get-go (except the very first year when I did Five in A Row). I'm feeling restless with it now. It's been five years. But I feel overwhelmed just thinking about next year, especially when it comes to making changes in my approach. And I have to admit that at this point in the year (Week 26) I get the itchy, scratchy feeling of boredom. Though if I'm honest, this isn't just in the realm of homeschool. It affects all aspects of my life. I dream of making big changes, moving to a new country, starting a new business, etc., etc., etc. So maybe the urge to make drastic homeschool philosophy changes is simply a sign of the time of year, my brain responding to all the newness bursting out of the earth and a desire to emulate it in my own human way.

So that's where I'm at - contemplating the Pain, er, I mean Plan, for next year. What to do, what to do? I know what will happen - I'll end up doing what I do every year and do nothing until we've finished off this year. And then I'll do nothing for several weeks more because I'll need the mental break. And then at some point in August, I'll post another entry like this wondering what I should do...


  1. Hi. Found you through Secular Great post! It's like you are looking in my window or something lol. I felt so burned out with planning (this is our 12th year!) that I was all ready to go complete boxed curriculum and let someone else do the work for me. Didn't work. Number one, way too expensive, number two, couldn't find any curriculum that would work for us (although I did buy the MFW Kindergarten for my 5yo but it is not enough for him.) So I guess I'll check back in in August lol! Seriously, know that you aren't alone. :)

  2. Hi Julie! That's my fear with the boxed exactly - too much money for something that won't work. Though I'm seriously tempted!!!
    Thanks for the empathy! =D

  3. I'm planning next year NOW !!

    damn school didn't give me the programmes of study for this year until January and I've been on the hop since then so I've got my hands on next year's in advance.

    I like the process, but not in one big wollop, more like small hits when feeling enthusiastic and then a break until enthusiasm returns.

    I have tried to stay ahead by getting the following week ready on Sunday night, but I feel all at sea cos I prefer to know more or less what I am doing and when ... BEFORE I start.

    Like you it's a plan with much flex, but it takes pressure off me in the mornings when I am still waiting for the coffee to flow into my veins and kick start my hard drive.

  4. Usually, I do the same thing - start planning in August and go a little crazy by September. But this year I'm starting early! I figure if I draw it out over the spring and summer, that won't be so bad at all. :)

    Maybe you could focus on one subject per month for planning? Or spend a little time each week on planning for the upcoming year?

    Good luck!

  5. Wow, this stuff scares me! This is my first year, and I started with a very general plan, and tweaked it along the way. I feel like my 13 yo and I are doing better, but the sunday night crunch to plan his week stresses me out. My 6 yo is almost being unschooled . . . aside from the T4L which is done totally independently, and only about 2 hours/week.

    For next year I'm thinking of doing a totally self-made history, based on Asimov's book, using library books . . and I"m terrified I cant do it. I also consider putting the teen in an on-line high school. I'm feeling so insecure about it atm!

  6. Sarah & Dbmamaz: Yes - trying to plan each week the Sunday before (which is how I rolled until last year) works in the beginning, but then I loose steam and feel very stressed - especially imagining planning four kids each week. Not going to happen with a happy, cheerful feeling.

    Wendy: Yes - good idea with the subject each month. Now, should I do my favorite first or favorite last? =)

    Dbmamaz: You can totally do it! It's just a pain to spend the time planning - but the payoff is great. I can't even think about the teen years. Hang in there!

  7. Hi Queen Bee! I luuuuurve planning. Doing, not so much! I spend a lot of time planning my next year. It helps that I try to follow the Well-Trained Mind approach somewhat so at least I have an idea of what "spine" to use for each subject. But since I tend to supplement a lot, I spend tons of hours researching other resources.
    I keep my lesson plans in Homeschool Tracker Plus (HT+) which helps me a lot. A notebook wouldn't cut it for me. Since I use SOTW for History, I check if the suggested additional reading resources are available via my library (thanks to the online catalog) and then I create a matrix in Excel listing all the additional resources I'm going to want to use each week both for History and for Science. I try to find a lot of DVDs or online videos since Noah likes that, a few books to read together, a lot of books for him to read on his own (related to our history and science curriculum), online games, board games, worksheets, etc. It's usually overkill but I'd rather have a lot than not enough. Then I schedule everything in advance on HT+ so that at any given time I can pull up a day during my school year and know what I'm planning on doing that day. It's really useful to try to coordinate appropriate field trips too. I also created Excel spreadsheets that keep track of what library and online resource I will want to use on a particular week and I put my library resources on hold (via online library access a couple of weeks in advance so I'll have them by the time the lesson comes about). Then on Sundays I'm supposed to be prepping the upcoming week's folders (1 folder per day which would contain all the worksheets that we would need on a particular day) and that was taking me about 1 hour (STILL!) and lately I haven't been doing that at all and it's fine. HOWEVER, I do feel like I'm a slave to the schedule and because I plan on using a lot of extras but we only have so much time to homeschool, a lot of my research ends up not being used. And I do lose steam at about Christmas time. This coming year I'm going to try not to schedule things in advance so much so that we have the luxury of spending more time on some lessons if we feel like it instead of feeling "rushed" because of my preplanned schedule.
    I try to plan throughout the year so I don't have to do any of it over the summer. I'll usually keep some stuff to do at the last minute to help put ME back into the mood for school as well, lol.