A Year-Long Approach to Lesson Plans, by Lynne

 

I have been told that my lesson plans are intimidating.  At first glance, it might appear that way! If you take a peek into my lesson plan binder, you will see that I have every subject planned out down to the page numbers of the books we are using that day.  I have learned not to show my lesson plan binder to folks who are considering homeschooling, since it has sent a few of them into a panic about how they are possibly going to take on this gargantuan task.

At that point, I have had to backpedal and tell people that this is MY way of doing things.  I need to have a detailed and highly organized lesson plan to follow, or I won’t be satisfied that we are covering all the things we need to cover.  This is my way of keeping tabs on all the interesting curricula I have chosen for the kids, and my way of making sure we use all those cool extras I found to incorporate into the lessons. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is that each parent gets to choose what he or she deems to be the best method of organization and planning.

In some cases, parents choose not to have any lesson plans at all.  They choose quality materials, and let the children investigate the materials at their own pace.  Parents can encourage children to move on, slow down, dig deeper, etc.  This is a great way for self-motivated kids to really get into the nitty-gritty of a subject that fascinates them.

There are also programs that are referred to as “open and go.” These curricula provide  built-in lesson plans, which means that you just do each lesson in the program sequentially. Once you’ve completed that day’s lesson, just continue on to the next lesson on your next school day.  This is an extremely uncomplicated way of going about homeschooling.  This method works for many busy homeschooling families.

A homeschooling parent can find a variety of planners, both online and in print, that can help with daily, weekly, or even monthly lesson planning.  Many homeschoolers have created their own planners and have shared them with other parents.  Just glancing through some of these planners can often help you to figure out how you should break down the work. I queried some of the homeschooling moms who participate in this blog, and along with just your basic lined paper and pencil, here are some of their favorite homeschool planners:

Google Drive (An example of one mom’s schedule)

The Well Planned Day

Donna Young Planner Pages

Homeschoolskedtrack.com

7 Step Curriculum Planner

Scholaric

Evernote

Homeschool Helper App

Urthemom.com

As you can see, there are many options to help you with lesson plans.

I am one of those parents who has created her own planning system.  I will outline for you exactly how I go about doing lesson plans.

First of all, I carve out a significant amount of time during which to work on my lesson plans.  This usually involves the cooperation of the household.  Personally, I require peace and quiet to concentrate on the planning.  I cannot be constantly interrupted by boys jumping off furniture, demanding to be fed, or otherwise disrupting my homeschool planning zen.  I am fortunate to have lots of family members who can help me out with this.  However you can manage to work it, I recommend setting aside a time to plan.  That’s not always possible, I know, so just do the best you can.

My primary objective is to plan out the entire year all at once.  This is NOT a common way of doing things.  This is my way.  Take what you will from it, and leave the rest.  I just want to reiterate that this is what I have found to be helpful to my style of teaching, my children’s style of learning, and our homeschool atmosphere.  I hope that it may provide insights and guidance for others that may have a similar working style.

To start my planning, I assemble all the materials I have acquired and make stacks for each subject.  If I have online resources, I print out a list of those resources for each subject and put it on top of the stack.  I have some sort of anxiety that I will forget to include something vital or really interesting, so it helps me to have everything all together in one place. I also use three-hole punched paper and a large three ring binder for my yearly plans.

I work on each individual subject separately.  I begin by spreading out all the materials on the table (or couch or floor) around me.  Using the table of contents, any plans that came with the materials, and just my own skimming of each item, I break the entire subject down into daily chunks.  I write each day out by hand on a sheet of lined paper.  For example, a week’s worth of science would look like this:

Day 17: Read Biology text pp.  200-211.

Day 18:  Complete worksheet on p. 212 and read Library book about life cycles

Day 19:  Do color by number p. 33

Day 20:  Read Biology text pp. 213-220.

Day 21:  Visit life cycle exhibit at the Natural History Museum and draw in notebook

Math might look like this:

Day 52:  Watch Video of Lesson 24 and do workbook p. 56.

Day 53:  Do workbook pp. 57-58

Day 54:  Practice Math facts with Mom

Day 55:  Lesson 24 Quiz

Day 56:  Math games workbook p. 19

I try to break each subject down into 180 days of material, since that would correspond to our public school system’s schedule.  Some subjects are only one semester, or unit studies, so those are just broken down into manageable chunks.  Once I have each subject broken down into the daily chunks, I put those sheets into my large binder that is separated with tabs for each subject.

This large three-ring binder becomes my go-to book for the entire year.  Obviously, I cannot foresee what is going to happen over the course of an entire school year, so I need to be flexible and willing to change my lesson plans.  But, having this gargantuan year-long plan helps to keep me on track and not lose sight of our goals for the year.

My next step in lesson planning is to put the subject plans onto my weekly planner.  I normally do four weeks at a time, because by then, I usually know what our schedule looks like, and I can plan around field trips, outside classes, holidays, and the like.

Quite simply, I have created a table on my word processing software for weekly lesson plans.  For each day of the week, I have a two column table. The left hand column lists the subjects and the right hand column is where I fill in the assignments from my big yearly planning binder.

Monday
Language Arts Read poetry book pp. 98-102.Write poem using alliteration.Read book club book for 20 minutes. Copy spelling words 3x
Math Workbook pp. 33-34
Science Read library book about butterflies
History Listen to SOTW ch. 7 and do Map on SP 45.
Latin Workbook pp. 20 -21
Music Practice three songs on your recorder
Other Swim & Gym today at CSU

I have a table like this for each day of the week.  I can add things to the tables or take them out as necessary.  Once I have added an item from the big, yearly planning book, I make a red check mark through it so that I know it is already accounted for in my weekly plans. I usually print off the weeks in four- week segments and keep them in another binder of weekly lesson plans. I’m old-fashioned, and I like to be able to cross things off of a paper list when we finish them.  You could just as easily leave the plans in digital form, and cross them off on the computer screen.

Below is a week from my actual lesson plans from last year:

Monday: NEED TO PREPARE FOR JANICE VAN CLEAVE EXPERIMENTS
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 65-70 Go over spelling words. Write spelling words 2x
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Watch MUS Lesson 21 and Do 21 A&B
History Listen to Ch. 19 The Vietnamese Restoration Society. Complete the Outline SP 75Map SP 77
Science Janice Van Cleave #182 Toothy-Gears. Write about it.
Latin Grasp the Grammar p. 36
Health Read Nutrition 101 pp. 97-108. Do questions p. 18
Logic Connections p. 17
Extra
Tuesday:
Co-Op Day
Wednesday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 71-76Do Word Search & Parts of Speech analysis pp. 71 & 72
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Do 21 C&D and E&F
History Listen to The Mexican Revolution Ch. 20. Complete the Outline SP 80Map SP 81
French Simon Says game with body parts
Science Janice Van Cleave #183 WedgesWrite about it
Extra
Thursday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 78-83Play 3 different Spelling City games online. Cursive book pp. 68-69
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Test 21
History Listen to Ch. 20 World War I. Complete the Outline SP 80Map SP 82
Science Janice Van Cleave #183 Lifter- Incline Planes. Write about it
Latin Vocab Review
Extra
Friday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Spelling Test CE4. Read Building Poems p. 104. Write a poem with near rhyme or slant rhyme. Start working on All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters
Reading BOOK CLUB
Math Measurement p. 54
History Do Spanish Flu Maze Timeline AG 87, SP 85 & 86
Logic Unlocking Analogies p. 9
French Do p. 36 Vocab., Grammaire, Dialogue
Science Janice Van Cleave #185 Ramps. Write about it
Extra

As you can see, I make notes for myself in red so that I can see in the beginning of the week if I need to gather any materials or otherwise prepare for any of the lessons.

There is a second portion to my lesson planning which, to me, is just as important as filling in the binder and tables.  Once I have my four weeks of lessons printed out and put in my weekly binder, I insert pocket folders for each child behind each week of lessons.  In those pockets, I place the actual worksheets they will be doing, and any papers or maps we will need.  Basically, I get as many of the materials prepared ahead of time as I can.  We are ready to go with lessons as soon as the breakfast dishes are cleared.  We rarely waste time looking for materials.

This system has worked very well for us.  We all work well when there is a routine and a schedule. I homeschool my two sons, and they are only sixteen months apart in age, so I am fortunate that they can both do the same work.  If I had children working on different levels, I would probably do something similar to this, but have separate printouts for each child.

Doing the bulk of the planning up front has been quite a boon to me.  Last year, I was struck with a very unexpected illness, which kept me bedridden for a couple of months.  Fortunately, I didn’t feel too panicked about our homeschooling situation, because I had already done most of the work.  All I had to do was plug the daily chunks into my weekly tables and make sure all the materials were ready to go.  I’m a fairly decisive person.  I deliberate over curricula, then choose one and stick with it through the duration of the school year.  I re-evaluate after giving something a full shot.  I’m at peace with my lesson plans.  I know not everyone will want or be able to do things the way I do, but I don’t think I could homeschool any other way.

This quote sums up my philosophy of lesson planning:

“Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882);
Philosopher, Poet, Author, Essayist

Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism, who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon to be revitalized blog at http://www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com

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Five Tips for Making Homeschooling Easier, by Caitilin Fiona

 

When you are homeschooling, especially early on, life can often be overwhelming, and the advice you may receive is often equally so. Bearing both of these things in mind, I would like to offer five small tips that I have found make homeschooling easier. Please, take from this what you find useful, and leave the rest behind! No one has all the answers, and each of us has our own challenges to face; if even one thing here is helpful to you, that’s a win for us both.

1. Plan your meals, all your meals.

This is something I wish I had done many, many years ago, for though I’ve only been at it for about six months it has hugely improved our family’s diet and budget. Nowadays, I sit down on a Friday night or a Saturday morning and decide what we are going to eat for each meal for the next week. In the interest of frugality, I have switched our breakfasts from cold cereal and toast/bagels to hot cereal or eggs every day. I plan which of the five or six options for hot cereal we will have, taking into consideration what we will be eating later on each day. Thus, if we have cream of rice for breakfast, I’m not going to serve black beans and rice for supper, etc. From there, I go on to plan the rest of the week’s meals, giving thought to what we had last week, what is on sale at the grocery store, and whether each day will be busy or relaxed.
A couple of websites I have found very useful are www.budgetbytes.com, which has a fabulous selection of different types of meals on a very reasonable budget, and www.soscuisine.com, a Canadian meal-planning site, which has both free and paid subscriptions and an interesting variety of recipes; it is also often less meat-heavy than many American options I’ve seen.

2. Have assigned chores, for you and for your kids.

As a homeschool parent, often you’ll have the lion’s share of household tasks. However, you can significantly lighten your burden without overloading your children by giving each assigned tasks to complete daily. The reason to assign them is that old saw about how Anybody could have done the job, and Everybody thought Somebody would do the job, but in fact, Nobody did it. If five-year-old Charles knows it’s his job to feed the dog and set the table, and nine-year-old Helen knows it’s hers to unload the dishwasher, and so on, then all those necessary things are done, and done with minimal argument, because everyone knows that there’re plenty of jobs to go around. Mom (or Dad) is then freer to focus on the larger-scale aspects of running the home and the homeschool, using timely reminders, rather than having to newly assign every task to someone as the day goes on.

3. Work for finite periods, both daily and in the longer term.

Homeschooling is a tough gig: though the rewards are great, the pay is miserable and the hours are often long. One way to help counteract these long hours is to decide to only work on school for limited periods of time. To begin with, decide on a time when you’ll be finished for the day, even if you’ve not accomplished everything you wanted to do.
At my house, we school from 8:30 to about 3:30, with an hour for lunch in there somewhere. If you have only young children then your day will be shorter, and if older the day can often be longer, but whatever your cut off time is, stick to it. Older kids can work on schoolwork as homework later, after supper for instance, but you and they both need a break.
In the grander scheme, it has been very beneficial to our homeschool to have finite schooling periods after which we have a small vacation. In some years, we have divided our year into quarters, with ending points at Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and summer. More recently, we have shifted to a six weeks on, one week off schedule. For us this has been a wonderful change, as it allows us the freedom of more frequent breaks without getting behind.
These are just two of the myriad scheduling options you can choose from, but whatever you choose, make sure you schedule in breaks–you and your children will be thankful.

4. Say NO to outside activities.

It is often tempting as a homeschooler to try to take advantage of every educational opportunity that presents itself to your attention. Resist this temptation. While a couple of outside-the-house activities are very enriching, maybe even necessary, to the homeschool, undertake too many and you’re dooming yourself to failure. You will find that you’re doing fine for a while, a month or two maybe, but as time wears on, you’ll soon start to dread every trip, consumed with worry that you’re falling behind, with the feeling that you’re failing your kids’ education, and generally succumbing to serious stress. Don’t do it. Thoughtfully consider where your and your children’s time is best spent, and spend it there–not in the car.

5. Take time for yourself.

I know, I know, this is trite, and everyone says it ALL.THE.TIME. But you know why? Because it is pure and simple TRUTH. You must take some amount of time away. This can be very simple and functional, as a weekly grocery-and-necessities shopping trip. It can be a monthly book club, craft evening, or Bible study. It may be a daily exercise regimen, or a once a year trip to a homeschooling conference. Maybe you go have hot chocolate by yourself at Barnes and Noble for an hour twice a month. But whatever your preference for spending time with yourself (and other adults), do it. It is not a luxury, it isn’t selfish; it is necessary to have the small breaks that give you the oomph to return to your day job.

Caitilin Fiona is a homeschooling mother of six children, ranging from sixteen year old twins down to a five year old. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include language and languages, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.

Creating an Electronic Home Binder

by Megan Danielletablet

I remember a couple of years ago, I watched this video on creating a home management binder.  I thought it was a great idea to have everything you needed in one place. Plus it was so cute.  If you know me at all, you know I love the cutesy things in life, but I do not have a cutesy or crafty bone in my body.  So whenever I see something cutesy, I decide I must. have. it.

Pros of having a home management binder:

  • Once it’s out of your head, you don’t have to remember it.  Much less stress.
  • Everything in one spot.
  • Cutesy!
  • Easy to organize.
  • Easy to change and adapt.

However, this method didn’t really last very long.  Knowing me, that’s not very surprising.  It was a pain to lug that huge binder everywhere. And when adding something like this to your life, it takes awhile for the correct habits to form.  You have to remember to check your binder often.  You have to look for the binder often. You have to remember to carry the binder with you. You can see why it didn’t work so well.

Fast forward several years and I got a super handy thing called a tablet.  Squee!!  Oh my heck, this thing was amazing.  It had a calendar, so I could immediately record important events and appointments.  It had a sticky-note-type-thing app so I could take notes and not lose them all over the house.  It had a homeschool planner app so I could record our lesson plans and attendance.  I could go on and on. This thing was amazing.

So when I discovered an ebook that promised to turn a tablet into a Home Management Binder, I knew I had to read it!  It’s called Paperless Organization by Mystie Winckler.  At only $3.99, it has been worth every single penny.  In this book, she teaches how to use free apps (on both the Android and iOS market) to help with all the organization of your home, school, work, life, etc.

I don’t use it exactly as she does.  A friend showed me this website, which teaches how to use Evernote as a task manager.  If one uses this method, one of the apps from Mystie’s book is unnecessary. So today, I’m going to talk about how I use Evernote as a Home Management binder and a to-do list.

So what is Evernote?  Simply put, Evernote is an electronic binder.  You can create “notes.”  Groups of notes are put together into “notebooks.”  Groups of notebooks go together into “stacks.”  It was easier for me to remember that it compared to a physical binder like this:

Stacks=binders

Notebooks=tabbed dividers

Notes=pieces of paper

Before I found Evernote, I’d come up with the idea of using a spiral notebook for some of our subjects.  Story of the World is an example.  I didn’t want our lesson plans to be so strict that I planned the entire year beforehand and we could never deviate, lest the plans become discombobulated.  No one likes discombobulation, even though it’s really fun to say.  But I couldn’t just fly by the seat of my pants with the SOTW Activity Guide.  There were too many craft items and books to gather before hand.  So in my spiral, I put the chapter title at the top of each page and went through the Activity Guide writing down all the craft supplies, books, and any other items I would need ahead of time.  Then when I browsed Pinterest or other blogs, if I saw a fun idea, I could write it on the correlating chapter page. I’d take a picture for you, but that notebook got lost.

So then, I had the brilliant idea of using a three ring binder.  I could put multiple subjects into the binder (Artistic Pursuits, SOTW, Elemental Science) and use it in the same way.  Then when I planned my homeschool week, I wouldn’t have to take out each book and go through the teacher’s guides, it would all be written down in that 3 ring binder.

I’d love to show you a picture of it, but alas, it is also lost.

Do you know what does not get lost?  That’s right, my tablet!  It’s practically attached at my hip.  I’ve been YouTubing and tweaking and YouTubing and tweaking all over to get my Evernote organized just the way I want.  I’ve had many people ask me how I do it, so here’s a video showing you how I use it.

I forgot to mention some of the benefits of the Web Clipper.  Pinterest just copies the URL and pairs it with a picture.  The Web Clipper actually saves a copy of the clipped item, even if a change was made to the clipped site.  So there will be no messed up links, no links that take you to spam, and the information will always stay in your Evernote even if the site is taken down.  Also, everything in Evernote is searchable, even the text from a clipped article.  So if you can’t remember exactly what the project was, you might be able to do a search for it and find it that way.

To use Evernote as a to-do list, The Secret Weapon (TSW) has a series of tags.  As you have projects come to you, you tag each note with the corresponding time frame of when you think you’ll actually get around to it. As you work through the projects, you change the note’s tag and move other projects up higher on your priority list.  To be honest, I haven’t experimented much with this system; I’ve been busy focusing on getting the binder side of Evernote set up and running.  But last week I did remember that I was in charge of part of our Relief Society Activity.  I used Evernote to come up with a list of everything that needed to be done and I spread that work out over the next few days.  As I thought of new ideas or when I completed tasks, I updated my Evernote so I always knew exactly where I stood.  The day of the activity, I was busy, but I was not stressed. I had done as much work ahead of time as I could, I did what needed to be finished (checking off my to do list as I went), and I brought everything I needed (also on a checklist).  That was the most pain-free project I have *ever* done.  Here’s a brief video clip of how I used Evernote for a task manager.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments.  I’m not anywhere close to being the world’s tech savviest person, but I am a mean Googler and YouTuber.  For more detailed descriptions of how to use Evernote, please see The Secret Weapon and Paperless Organization.

Megan Danielle  is mom to three children: Pigby (boy, age 7), Digby (boy, age 4), and Chuck (girl, age 2).  She loves history, ballroom dance, and crocheting.  She made the decision to homeschool when her oldest was 3 and they’ve been on this journey ever since.