Friday, July 29, 2016

K.I.S.S. method for back to school planning

It's that time of year again.  Summer is winding down and homeschool moms start to feel a bit panicked.  Yes, panicked; all this planning to do and school starts in only 4 weeks!  

Traditionally, I have done my planning in the last two weeks of July, so now IS the time.  What that does is get it off your mind so you can truly enjoy the last breath of summer.  I know some of you like to start in August, but for me it's really sacrilegious to start before Labor Day.  Whatever you're start date is, I encourage to employ the method I have used for years, the KISS method.

I'm sure you've heard of it.  Keep It Simple Silly.  Okay, you may have heard another word for that last S, but I know you're a brilliant homeschool mom so I prefer the word Silly!  Because we homeschool moms CAN get silly sometimes.  And we homeschool moms sure can get caught up in buying things we really don't need to help us plan our year!

Over the years, this business of "planning" your year has become a big money maker.  When I began homeschooling you could find a few things people had put out (and mostly free I might add) to help you organize your year.  Now, you'll find more than you could ever use or need.  If you find some of these helpful, by all means use them, but I'm going to advocate for a simple, and virtually free method of planning out your year to help you and your kids stay organized.  And, it won't take tons of time to create either.  

First, set aside some time to work on this.  When the kids were younger I designated a couple of hours each evening (after they were in bed or occupied by Daddy) for a few days the last week in July.  As the kids got older, (and could keep themselves occupied) I would block out about 2 days (probably 3-4 hour blocks.)  Now, this was with 4 kids.  The time you will need could be less or more depending on how many kiddo's you're planning for.  I'd say when I was doing all 4 it would take maybe 6-8 hours.  This year I'm down to one and I expect to have it done in probably less than 2 hours.  This is my planning for the WHOLE school year!

Determine your school days.  Some states have a number of days you must do school.  Like, I know our neighboring state of Indiana requires 180.  In Michigan we have no such requirement.  With this information look at your calendar and plan out your year.  We don't start till after Labor Day, like to take the month of December off and try to be done by the first week of May.  You may have other goals.  Once you've thought that through, count out your number of weeks and/or days you will do school.  Be sure to mark out any vacations or travel if you can. 

Next, Stack the books.  Like every good homeschool mom you have stockpiled the tools (aka books) you're going to use this year.  Now, locate them and make a stack.

Take each book and locate your table of contents.  On a paper jot down how many chapters, tests, pages in each chapter etc.  Break this down into monthly, weekly and then daily size "chunks".

For instance, for Language Art Lexie will be using Total Language Plus.   With this program you chose which titles to do and typically do 3-5 per year.  We do 3 since we also count a lot of her speech writing and debate research as part of her Language Arts credit.  So, take the table of contents which shows 6 units for The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Each of these units has 5 sections (A-E).  The sections include the testing so no need to allow for extra time.  Total Language Plus does however have lots of enrichment's, pen and paper (writing) and projects that you can add in.  We do include these, so I typically allow an extra 2 days per unit for these.  Doing the math, that's 6 units X (5+2) (the five A-E daily work and 2 days for enrichment's.)  So that means I need to allow 42 school days to complete this guide.  I'll do the same with the other two guides we'll do for the year.  Just hang on to that number for now and move on to the next subject/book.

One more example:  Life Science: Origins and Scientific Theory by Master Books.  This will be Lexie's science for next year.  It's pretty straightforward to plan.  There are 17 chapters that each conclude with a test and 4 semester tests.  Again, it's just math.  That means if we do school 28 weeks (which is what I came up with taking out what WE wanted to and be done when WE want to,) 28 weeks X 5 school days per week is 140 days.  When I divide that by 17 I get 8.24.  It works out perfectly.  She needs to do an entire chapter every 8 days and the .24 X 17 will give her the 4 school days for the semester tests.  Because she's in high school,  I will probably leave it up to her how she organizes her 8 days per chapter, but if you have a younger student you might go further and break up the 20-30 pages of reading, discussion questions, test and study for the test into those 8 days.  I do encourage you to start handing over as much of their own schedule to them as you can (a little at a time of course) to help prepare them to handle college on their own!

Do the above for each subject and each student.  Here's where you might want to take a break and do the 2nd part the next day.

The second part is just laying it out for your student.  We typically use an excel spreadsheet, but I've also been know to just use the table of contents (or a printed copy of it) as well.  Remember, Keep It Simple Silly!

To use a Table of Contents just write in the dates by each Chapter.  Next to Chapter One in Lexie's Life science I mapped out above I would write Sept. 5-15 since that would would be the first 8 days of school.  I'd move down to Chapter 2 and write Sept. 16-27 and so on.  She would simply check it off as she did it right in the table of contents and I would record the grade right next to it as well (but that's end of year planning, different blog article!)

Each day your student would need to look in each book or you could take a photocopy of each Table of contents and put it in their binder.

An excel spreadsheet can get a little more detailed and map it out day by day, if that's what you and/or your student desires.  Some of my kids wanted more detail, some worked better with a more general plan.  

A portion of a spreadsheet from last year
You don't have to be an excel expert to do this!  Just put your days across the top and your subjects going down on the left.  Here's a file you can feel free to modify and copy.  Now fill it in using the information you figured out in the first part.  You can look at the picture of a past one I've done to get the idea.

That's it!  You're done.  Now, relax and enjoy the rest of your summer.  Yes, it was some work but nothing like you could have made it into.  Remember, to KISS your school planning and take the stress off you!

P.S. If someone doesn't have Excel and wants a copy of the spreadsheet they could print out and "write in" let me know and I'll make a pdf.  Just comment!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Gina for this easy-to-follow suggestion. It truly follows the KISS method.