Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Survive Your First Homeschool Convention

Homeschool convention season is upon us. I just returned from my 5th annual trip. This year went so smoothly after many years of bumps and obstacles and generally trying to figure out how to navigate the weekend. Here I offer my best tips and tricks for making your first (or second or third) conference a smooth one.

1. See if they have a children's program. Our conference has a children's program, and it is so nice to not have to track down a babysitter for the weekend. Plus, they get to meet new friends and have two days of crafts, songs, bouncy houses, etc.

2. See if they record and offer sessions for purchase. My first year, I nearly killed myself trying to get to every little session I was interested in. I was so agonized over what to choose if two topics fell in the same session. By the end of the conference my brain was fried, and I was beyond exhausted. At the very end of the conference I learned that I could buy all 60+ sessions plus the keynote address for about $75. What a stress relief! Now, I could easily choose what speakers to see, take an extended lunch break, visit the vendor hall, etc.

3. Don't take money on the first day! The vendor hall is way too tempting. Thousands of books, curriculum, art supplies, parenting books, religious books, activities, etc. You'll want to have and do it all! If you leave the money at home, you won't be tempted by an impulse purchase

4. Plan on making at least 4 trips through the vendor hall. I'm serious about this one. It is very overwhelming, but if you break it down into a few trips with specific purposes, you won't feel lost.
  • First trip is just a quick breeze through. Make a note of what booths you are interested in either learning more about or purchasing from.
  • Second trip is strictly for freebie signups. Not every booth will have a giveaway, but don't discount booths you find uninteresting. One booth at our conference this year did not apply to our family at all, but they were giving away a $100 Visa card. That would pay for about 20% of my curriculum!
  • Third trip is for learning. This will be your longest trip through. Take time to ask questions of the vendors, note prices of things you may want to buy, pick up information, etc. Spend enough time at booths you are interested in to get the information you need and skip any booths you have no interest in.
  • Fourth trip is where you are going to make purchases. You've done your research and know who has the best prices on what, so now go shop! :-)
5. Finally, have fun! I know it's a time for you to learn and grow as a parent and teacher and to network with other homeschool parents. I also try to take the weekend to do something fun with my family!

I hope these tips help you to have a much more relaxing and productive conference experience!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Teacher Planner

My creative outlet tends to flow best when I'm making lists and plans. I'm not always best about following through with those plans. After years of buying teaching planners and having them not quite work out for my personality, (I'm a little OCD at times.) so this year I put my own together. I've actually used all the sections in it, so I'd say it was a success!

This year I went a little crazy with the whole Mickey Mouse theme, as evidenced my the above photo and our classroom! I found the graphics over on Granny Enchanted under free kits, and the Disney font was found on a quick Google search. 

Now, onto the planner itself!

I started off with a basic information page, which records contact information, a family photo, and my children's ages. I also added a section for our family memories. Here I record our favorite read aloud, restaurant, movie, family activities, and board game. I also have lines for travels, new studies, and anything God did in our family.

Each student has an information page as well. These pages include a space for a photo, name, age, grade, goals for the year, curriculum information, and general notes.

Behind each info page is a schedule. My teacher schedule is pretty much a combo of my schedule and each of the kids' schedules.

The next section includes a semester overview, calendars and planning pages. The semester overview has spaces for goals along with field trip and project ideas.

I have a full page calendar for each month where I record any appointments, birthdays, community events, homeschool group events, and general stuff that happens outside of our usual schedule.

My planning pages each have 4 lines for each subject Monday - Friday. Along the right hand side is a place for notes and weekend plans.

Our attendance chart can be seen here hanging in our classroom. Each day we have school, the kids get to put a sticker on the date. At the end of each month, I count up all the stickers. Then it goes in my planner at the end of each semester.

Finally, I have a semester wrap up. Here is where I record any notes about the students performance, attendance, etc. all on one page. :)

Overall I have really liked the layout, but I have found a few tweaks I plan to make for next year. For one thing, after I put this together, I found the planning pages in my Tapestry of Grace software. (Yeah, I'm a bit slow.) I'll probably use those instead of trying to change all the dates on the pages above. I also have a few ideas for condensing down some of the above pages in order to save a bit of paper. Lastly, I'd like to spiral bound the whole thing instead of using the binder I did this year. It was just way to accidentally tear pages out.