I haven't been online much in the past week because I've been too busy trying to plan and organize our homeschool year. Well, I've also been busy with other things, including getting in gear for the homeschool girls American Girl Doll Club I'll be co-leading (we have our kick-off meeting this Friday!). But mostly I've been planning and organizing.
Planning: After creating my annual calendar, I make a spreadsheet for each child. The spreadsheet has a row for each week of school (we're doing 36 weeks this year) and is divided into quarters (9 weeks per quarter). It has a column for each subject that the child will learn in school. As the kids are different stages, no two spreadsheets are the same, although some subjects do overlap. For instance, I combine music and art for all four girls so once I complete those subjects on the first spreadsheet I get to copy and paste on the rest (this doesn't sound like much, but I live for those moments when I'm in Step Two). I then look at the planned curriculum and break it down into 36 weeks. After that's done, I plug in what we will cover each week (this could be page numbers, titles of books, the name of the artist I plan to cover, etc.). I have found that there are times when someone moves more quickly or slowly through a subject, and that is wonderful - it's why I homeschool; to work with the child one-on-one at her level. The point of the spreadsheet system isn't to make us stick to it like glue - the point is to give me a guideline and idea of where we're headed and to help me cover everything that I want to cover. It's worked very well for me in the past and although it takes loads of time to execute, I find the pay-off more than worth the effort.
After I have the spreadsheets completed, I move into a more detailed planning session in my notebook. I use a generic composition notebook and I give each week two pages. I go through all the subjects for each girl, write down the goal for that week, and include any special notes or materials I'll need. I also give myself warnings (e.g., in Week Seven I might write something like, "Don't forget you'll need grass seeds and potting soil next week!") so that I can prepare in advance. Additionally, I mark down all supplies needed under each project so that I can see what I need in a glance and gather them quickly.
Once I've completed my planning notebook, I compile my materials lists for the year. One list involves all items that can be purchased in advance. The other are items that I do not usually have on-hand, but that are perishable and will need to purchased closer to the lesson. Then it's time to shop and place the items into boxes labeled for the quarter in which the items will be used.
Once the above items are completed, I move on to Step Three. I am currently in the middle of Step Two (filling in my notebook) and I'm feeling behind due to ...
Organizing: I've found that part of getting through Step Two always involves a bit of household organizing. I wish it didn't. I don't feel like organizing my house when I'm neck deep in papers and spreadsheets. But inevitably it happens. As I'm looking for one book, I find three I don't need. I find papers that should have been filed years ago. Projects that have faded in the sun and are coming apart with age. Jewelry made by the kids and falling to pieces. Worksheets crumpled under bookcases. Etc., etc., etc. I start to weed things out and create give-away boxes of curriculum I'll never use. Then I look around the room and decide that it needs to be re-arranged and re-worked. I call my husband at work and ask if he will help me dismantle bookcases and lug tables out of the basement when he gets home. I end up doing Step Two in a room that looks like both a hurricane and an earthquake hit it. When I leave the room, I close the door firmly and issue orders that no one is to enter under penalty of death. I am currently sitting in the midst of a room that looks like WWIII is going on in it.
Suffice it to say that I am in the quagmire of Step Two and probably will be until the end of this week. I am hoping to be enter Step Three this weekend and FINISH the planning process by September 1st. That gives me a few days to relax before starting school after Labor Day.
Wish me luck - I'll need it!