Monday, June 29, 2015

Planning in July

"Traditionally" I have taken the last two weeks of July and spent about an hour or two each day to lay out our next year.  For many, many years this was the only way I could ensure we could stay on track and I could hold all four kids accountable.  It kept all of us organized.   

Though I will readily admit I have strayed from this path the last two (maybe even three) years; we are going back to it for this fall.  Going from 4 students to 3, and then almost immediately from 3 to 2, scheduling and "keeping" track became much easier.  I didn't have as much "need" to be so organized.  Then came this spring.  Let me refer you to my last post titled Busy, Busy, Busy!

When we get extremely busy, and we anticipate that we will be, extensive planning just makes life easier and keeps us on track.  It makes us think and plan ahead so we can proactively address needs.

So while I plan to "plan" our next year I thought I'd share some of the tools I've found useful over the years.

1. Donna Young has a FABULOUS site with a plethora of tracking forms all done for you and FREE!  I've used many of her forms over the years.  Please don't feel like you need to use them all or even 25% of them, just take what you need.  She has TONS.

2. Don't feel like you need a form to track everything.  I subscribe to the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid.)  Use the Table of Contents to note grades if you like.  When I was busy with many students at home I didn't have time to correct, let alone log grades.  What I did was simply note the grade they got for each chapter test in the margin of the table of contents by that chapter.  If you have more then one activity or type of test you want to note just do that.  At the end of the year, if I was giving grades, all I had to do was look at all the table of contents pages before I filed their work away.  Even now that I do have more time with only 2 students I still use this method for many of the subjects.

3. Excel can be your greatest tool.  If you are familiar with Excel or another spreadsheet program don't be intimidated out of creating sheets for your own needs.  Each year I created a spreadsheet for each of my 4 tailored EXACTLY to them and our needs.  Once you figure out what you need and like you will use the same sheet year after year making occasional tweaks. 

One of our schedules from a few years back
4. Make a daily schedule and try to stick to it (at least most of the time.)  You will be amazed at what this one consistent habit will allow you to accomplish.  I recommend "scheduling" your various subjects into your days/times.  Don't forget to put in other "non" school things like chores, working out, devotions, music practice etc....  Post this schedule on your bulletin board, refrigerator and give each of your students who can read a copy for their binder or desk.  Here's a blank for you to start with.  (Here it is in publisher.)

5. I alluded to this above...have a written plan (week by week) for each student.  This helps you and your student see if they are on pace to finish when you want/need to. It gives them some accountability.  Here's the one I used from Donna Youngs site.  

6. A note...what if we really mess up and get way behind?  Won't it just depress me to see how behind we are?  To solve this problem I highly recommend "project" or "catch-up/get ahead" weeks.  You simply schedule in weeks (perhaps one per quarter) slated as "project" week.  This can become a "fun" educational project of the students choosing (as a "reward" for staying on task) or it becomes "catch up" to get back on track with no harm done to your scheduling.  

So as a final note, why end of July for my planning?  For me it gives me a good month to decompress from the school year and I'm generally pretty rested and tan by then (AKA, have spent enough time lounging by the pool that I'm ready to begin thinking about it.)  Also, we generally like to have a "last blast of summer" the end part of August before school starts and I want to have it done before then.  Something different might work for you but there you go, there is my reasoning.

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