This has been one of the more chaotic years of our lives.  I have been juggling working as a medical transcriptionist with homeschooling as well as a lot of uncertainty for the immediate future.  In spite of that, it has also been one of the best–perhaps the best–year we have had as a homeschooling family.  What made the difference?  Planning!  Now, this is totally against my natural tendencies, but we have gotten so much more accomplished this way.

Until this year, I have always planned our years fairly loosely.  In some subjects, I continued that method this year.  Math, for example, is planned like this:  Do the next lesson.  Repeat.  On the other hand, when we were doing modern history and literature last year, I planned as we went along, choosing the next work of literature with each child as they finished the last one.  It worked fairly well, but this year has been better.

Now, if you are using a planned curriculum provider, you probably don’t need to do much of this.  In fact, that’s probably the major advantage of using a planned curriculum provider.  If, however, you’re doing what I do (the reinvent-the-wheel-and-hope-it-doesn’t-turn-out-octagonal method), as the children get older, planning substantial periods in advance becomes more important and just makes things run more smoothly.  The major improvement for us has been this:  It keeps me from just calling off homeschooling on a beautiful or crazy-busy day.  It’s just too much hassle to rework the schedule to make up for the missed day.  Also, since I work from home and homeschool (a combination that is not for the faint of heart but can be done), it makes it possible for the kids to keep going even on days when I am only minimally available.

Basically, I spent a large chunk of time over the course of a couple weeks last summer planning the whole year for every child and every subject using an Excel spreadsheet.  Until I did that, I didn’t know it was possible to run out of columns in Excel, but it is!  In case you’re wondering, I started to use Homeschool Tracker.  In fact, I spent many, many hours getting it all set up.  In the end, though, I just didn’t like the layout compared to a good old Excel spreadsheet.  I think it is a very strong program with excellent customer service (they were Johnny-on-the-spot anytime I had a question); however, it just wasn’t for me.  I also considered using some other neat resources like Donna Young’s forms.  These too are great, and I highly recommend her articles on planning.  I’ve used some of her forms in the past as well, and I gained inspiration from her forms for this year’s mega-planning spreadsheet, but these still didn’t quite do what I wanted.  What I did want was one huge color-coded spreadsheet (with a color for each child) with the ability to print the week’s work for each child and the ability to make changes as needed (in case I had wrongly estimated how long it would take my 14-year-old son to read The Odyssey, for example).

Here’s how I did it:

Starting with a blank Excel spreadsheet, I entered each week (i.e. week 1, week 2, etc.) at the top of the page.  I used the “merge and center” tool for this.

Next I pulled out a calendar and planned out the days and weeks we would be taking off.  Since my husband is a school teacher, we planned our vacations to line up with his.  I then entered the dates across the top.  This can be automated fairly easily by entering one date and the using “=that cell+1” and then copying and pasting groups of date.  Excel automatically enters the next date.  I did not include the dates for weeks we would be taking a holiday.

The first page going down was my page.  I used this for subjects that don’t happen without my direct involvement.  For my 6-year-old, that’s pretty much every subject.  For my 16-year-old, it only includes a couple things.  This page also includes the subjects that several or all of the children do together so I could easily make sure they were getting done.  Down the left column of each week’s page for me is the subject and the child with whom I do it.  Some things were done daily.  Here is an example of one of my pages:

Mom/Everyone
Week   27
03/12/2011 03/13/2011 03/14/2011 03/15/2011 03/16/2011 03/17/2011 03/18/2011
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Mass/Italian/
Movies/
Chores/
Notes
8:15
Leave for Mass/Italian; Laundry
11:00
Leave for Mass/Italian
Bathrooms Co-op   Mass & Party
8:15
Writing
SICC-B   DVD SICC-A   DVD
8:15 Joy of Science Watch   DVD
9:30
SOTW
Ch   28 Empire Gladiators
1:00
Read Aloud
Finish The Forgotten Daughter
J – 100 Easy Lessons Half   a lesson Half   a lesson Half   a lesson Half   a lesson
M – Spelling One-third   of a step One-third   of a step One-third   of a step One-third   of a step
A – Grammar One   worksheet One   worksheet One   worksheet One   worksheet
JP – Spelling One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step
E – Latin Roots Next Next Next Next
J – Math One   Lesson One   Lesson One   Lesson One   Lesson
A – Spelling One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step
J – Spelling Next Next Next Next
M – Mult review Next Next Next Next
M & J – Bible Next Next Next
Theology A   – Faith & Life Narration M   – Faith & Life Narration
Check Work

 

Each of the children then had a page going down after that, going from oldest to youngest.  One thing that I found helpful was to fill in the oldest child’s first.  After that, I was able to copy several subjects to the younger children.  Here is a sample week for each of the children:

E
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15
Watch
SICC-B
Start   assignment
Biology Parts   of a Cell (second 6)
Piano 30 minutes 30 minutes 30 minutes 30 minutes
Latin   Roots & Spelling Next Next Next Next
Algebra 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson
Computer Typing
30 minutes
Gamemaker
30 minutes
Typing
30 minutes
Gamemaker
30 minutes
History Ch 11, The Consequences of Alexander’s   Conquests.  Enter dates in timeline and answer checkpoint questions.
Arts & Crafts 3:00
Story of the World Craft
Illustrator Plan   Story of the World Craft Paint,   Scupt, or Draw
Theology pp.   207-209 pp.   210-213 pp.   214-216 pp.   217-218
Literature Watch   Odyssey Lecture 3 Read Odyssey Book   8 Read Odyssey Book   9 Watch Odyssey   Lecture 4
JP
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15
Watch
SICC-B
Start   assignment
Piano 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes
Biology Parts of a Cell   (second 6)
All about   Spelling Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson
Geometry 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson
Computer Python
1 hour
Typing
30 minutes
Python
1 hour
Typing
30 minutes
History: Old World and America Unit III, chapter 1
Computer/
Philosophy
Microsoft   Tutorial Microsoft   Tutorial Microsoft   Tutorial History   of Philosophy
1 Lecture
Theology: Introduction to Catholicism Prepare ch 22 questions.  Read chapter and answer circled questions   in complete sentences.
Literature Watch   Odyssey Lecture 3 Read Odyssey Book   8 Read Odyssey Book   9 Watch Odyssey   Lecture 4
A
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15
Watch
SICC-B
Start   assignment
Piano 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes
Analytical   Grammar Next Next Next Next
All about   Spelling Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson
Math 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson
Religion & Logic Thinking   Toolbox Chapter 23 Bible
Computer Typing Gamemaker Typing Gamemaker
Literature Read third quarter of The Wanderings of   Odysseus
Science: Astronomy Astronomy Lesson 8
History: Old World and America Unit III, chapter 1
M
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Start   assignment Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15   Watch SICC-A
Piano 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes
Mult.   Facts Next Next Next Next
All about   Spelling Next Next Next Next
Science Astronomy Astronomy Astronomy Astronomy
Religion Faith & Life   1 Lesson Children’s Bible   with Joseph Children’s Bible   with Joseph Children’s Bible   with Joseph
Math Mammoth Next Next Next Next
Map Skills/Fred Map Fred   Butterflies Map Fred   Butterflies
Literature Explore   http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/art/greekart.htm
Arts & Crafts/Typing 3   PM Story of the World Craft with Elizabeth Typing
30 minutes
Art Typing
30 minutes
J
Week 24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
All about Spelling Next Next Next Next
Math Mammoth Next Next Next Next
Reading: 100 Easy Lessons Next Next Next Next
Handwriting Next Next Next Next
Explode   the Code 3 Butterflies 3 Butterflies 3 Butterflies 3 Butterflies
Flex Math   Fact Children’s   Bible with Mary Children’s   Bible with Mary Children’s   Bible with Mary
Flex 3   PM Story of the World Craft Fred   Butterflies Math   Facts Fred   Butterflies

Unfortunately, all the pretty colors aren’ts showing up in the post, but each child’s page is a different color.  Also, just in case you’re wondering, on Fridays, we have a co-op for part of the year.  When that’s not going on, Fridays are considered a catch-up day.

That’s about it for the nuts and bolts.  Next, I’ll talk about how I went about planning the various subjects.

Advertisements