Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back-to-Homeschool Day 5: Classroom Tour

Oh boy! Did time get away from me or what? I'm so sorry at the lateness of this post, but sometimes life happens and must be lived. Am I right?

Onto our tour!

Our class room is setup pretty much the same as last year, so be sure to check out my 2013-2014 classroom tour post. This year I'm going to show you the  changes I made to the setup.

The first & most obvious change was the addition of Baby Boy's desk. He picked this out and paid for it himself using a gift card he received as a Christmas gift. He was so excited to get it in and help me put it all together!

The other change I made removing the color discipline chart. It just wasn't working out, and I couldn't figure out why until I read this post by Teaching in Progress. It made total sense, especially in dealing with Big Boy's behavior issues. He was so defeated by the end of the day that he wasn't on "blue" that he just wanted to give up. This year I'm trying to take a different approach that I've had a bit of luck with using the concept of "stealing school time". I'll do a post on that later to explain my full approach, but I will say it has seemed to work so much better than the old color system. In it's place, I'm working on getting another large world map to use with our zoology studies.

Those were really the two only changes I made. I'll occasionally bring in Baby Girl's bouncer if she's awake. Most of the time she naps on her activity mat in the other room (but still in clear sight). I'm also trying to do a better job of utilizing the room just off the classroom as a preschool playroom for Baby Boy when he is finished with his work. This both keeps him busy AND in sight!

Well, off to get myself some lunch before the two little ones wake up from their naps!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back-to-Homeschool Day 4: Teacher & Student Planners

Last year was my first year putting together my own teacher planner (see it here) after years of buying planners that didn't quite fit my needs. This year Big Girl and Big Boy wanted there own planners, so while I put together mine, I did one for each of them.

Teacher Planner
- Contact Info & Family Memories
- Student Information - Name, Age, Grade, Goals for the Year, Curriculum Information

- 2014-2015 Year at a Glance
- Semester Goals & Notes
- Monthly Calendars
- Daily Schedule - I put one of these behind each month since my husband's schedule changes so frequently.

- Weekly Planning Pages

- Student Grade Report
- Semester Student Notes
- 2015-2016 Year at a Glance
- Notes for Next Year

Student Planner
- Contact Info & Yearly Goals

- 2014-2015 Year at a Glance
- Books I've Read

- Monthly Calendars
- Daily Schedule - behind each calendar
- Weekly Assignment Sheet

- Semester Review
- 2015-2016 Year at a Glance
- Notes for Next Year

The biggest change between last year and this year's planners is the planning pages. There were times when I felt I needed more room, and we are moving to a block schedule (see my post on scheduling for more details). I hope the new design helps with these two items.

What do you use for planning - store bought, homemade, or electronic planner? Do your kids have a their own setup, or do they rely on you for daily instructions?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back-to-Homeschool Day 3: Scheduling - Yearly, Weekly, & Daily

As a homeschooler, I feel like I have to be on top of time management. Coincidentally, time management is probably my biggest weakness. Here's how I do my best to overcome it.

Yearly Scheduling
As with everything else, I always check my state's homeschool requirements for attendance. My state requires 180 days of instruction. The first thing I do is pull out my Year-at-a-Glance calendar along with 4 highlighters.

First, I highlight all holidays in one color.
Second, I highlight all family birthdays in another color. I know the weeks leading up to these days are often hectic and need to be met with a lighter course load.
Next, I determine a start date and highlight our days in school in a third color. This year, I did this by counting back from Christmas 19 weeks and starting our week on Monday.
Finally, as I work through setting our days in school, I work in breaks with the final highlighter color. This year I aimed to take a one week break between 9-week units and two weeks at Christmas.

Here's what I came up with:

Now, it's not perfect and doesn't take into account Saturday field trips or the like, but all things considered, we'll meet our goal! *grin*

Weekly Scheduling
This year we are trying something new. I've tried the schedule every subject, every day approach, and it was too overwhelming for both myself and the kids to maintain. So, we are giving block scheduling a try.

To set up the blocks, I split our week into 3 blocks - two 2-day and 1 1-day. Math and phonics are done everyday. From there I listed out the rest of our subjects based upon how often they needed to be done - art (1), Bible (2), geography (1), history (2), literature (1), piano (1), science (2), spelling (1), and writing (2). Then it was simply matching subjects up with either day 1, 2, or 3.

Once I divided subjects up into blocks, I also had to take a look at outside activities. In a typical week, the kids have church, library day, and karate. This year Big Girl will also be playing for a year-round softball traveling team she was selected to be apart of after summer leagues were complete. The parents are all great and are mostly in our circle of friends, so we all trust each other and are all willing to swap driving to and from practices.

Once I get that all written down and many sheets of scratch paper later, I have something resembling a typical weekly schedule. Outside activities all have set days, but the school blocks are depending on my husband's work schedule since he will be teaching our Bible/worldview course. You'll see more how this all works out in my next post, so be sure to come back!

Daily Scheduling
This is where I hit my biggest challenge! I've tried many things in the past for getting our days to run smoothly, but they've all lead to all kinds of crazy stress - not good for the home or learning environment. Last year, I decided to go a little more loosey-goosey with it, and things just sort of fell into place. I'm sticking with it!

First off, I am not a morning person, so getting up at 5:30am for time in the Word, breakfast on the table by 7am, chores wrapped up and starting school at 8am just doesn't work for me. Instead, I fill all workboxes with individually completed assignments the night before. This way my early risers can get started with those as early as they'd like. My goal is to get started on group lessons by 10am. This year I am adding in Baby Boy's preschool lessons before group, so I want to work on disciplining myself to get around a bit earlier and start those about 9:30.

From there, I just have a list of what needs to be accomplished, and we work from top to bottom until it's done. We do have set times for lunch and Baby Boy and Baby Girl's naps that don't change. We simply take a break at those times before continuing on with our work.

So, that's the down low on how it all comes together and fits in our hectic lifestyle. It's by far not the only way to do things, but it's what works (after lots of trial and error) or our family!