We have been through a number of ‘systems’ to try to manage our homeschool. One one hand I need for them to get things done on the other I like to let them loose to discover on their own. Finding the balance is always a challenge.
Early in the semester thing tend to be a little more laid back and just reading, absorbing material, doing experiments. As we get closer to the portfolio times the requirements change to demonstrating the knowledge that they have learned and that is when the to-do lists become more specific.
The first system is more a time management system called Pomodoro. We have modified it slightly for our homeschool. It should be 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off but we do 30 minutes of works and 10 minutes of break. That gives us four before lunch and then we do another four after an hour long lunch. I like it because if we start late or a break goes long we still do the same amount of time each day. It is also the way that I do my housework and other tasks. So I follow the same schedule.
Last year we tried using a systems from my wife’s work called ‘Agile’. It involved a ridiculous number of sticky notes. Basically they had a number of task that should be able to be completed in one pomodoro written out on these sticky notes. They would pick one off the wall and move it to their desk. When it was complete they moved it to my desk where in theory I would record that it was done. I quickly became buried in sticky notes. It ended up morphing back in to a to-do list with large items that they could work on however they wanted.
I do allow them a lot of flexibility. There are term goals which are effectively the portfolio items. There are a number of things that they must do to get to that portfolio item. They can’t write a essay on a book that they haven’t read for example. The weekly item are to lead up to those portfolio items and in the beginning are quite general. How they work during the day and week are up to them. I have seen them spend all day Monday getting their math out of the way.
Their to-do lists are on their own whiteboards. I just have to make sure things are done to my satisfaction before they cross them off.
It is not a perfect system but then what is. It works for us and that is what is important. The time just before the portfolios are due is always stressful but I think it would be no matter what system we used.
We have not yet had our first day of homeschooling. As this is my first year and I tend to be very analytical (Take off the ‘ytical’ is you must) I have spend hours planning out a schedule. I have enough work experience to understand that it probably won’t survive the first day. My plan is to monitor how much time it does take and what books work and adjust accordingly.
I got my curriculum about a week ago. After all the research I couldn’t wait to get my hand on it. When I finally got it all I had a huge pile and a minor panic attack. “I need to read all of this”. After reading the Babycenter Homeschooling group I knew I wasn’t alone. I was reminded of the old joke. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
I opened up each book looked at the table of content and flipped through the first couple of pages. I counted the number of lessons, days, weeks, chapters, or sections and made a spreadsheet. I figured out how many weeks of material each book was given how many day per week I was going to do it. I also guessed at how much time it was going to take each day. The time per day is the biggest question mark.
From that I made up my first week schedule and then my daily plan. I remembered the analogy of putting rocks in a jar. You have to put the big rocks in first so you can fit the little rock around the big ones. If you put the little one in first, the big ones won’t fit. So Student Writing Intensive was the biggest so it went first. Words of Wisdom went next. It is very nicely laid out week by week, day by day. IXL Math and Foreign Language both just have one resource so they each got their own daily time slot. I then filled in some language art spots with vocabulary and spelling. I start social studies with Canadian Governments as I looks like I don’t have much material and I have project plans that require that knowledge. Science we are doing human anatomy. I am using material from CK-12.org as I wasn’t going to pay $80 for a book I hated. My background is heavy in the sciences.
So the plan for out first day. Wake up a 6:30 am. That is my wake up time but I’ll have the kids up by 6:45. Breakfast starts at 7am. We also have to get my daughter who is continuing in the public system ready for the day. She has already indicated an interest in homeschooling next year. She will have the opportunity to choose again next year. 8 am is exercise. My son’s ADD medication takes 1/2 an hour to take effect and we have found that exercise first thing in the morning helps with his concentration. Daddy could also use the exercise. Bible is 8:30 am. Again we found that quiet prayer helps with concentration. Math and Student Writing Intensive are next. This when he is most likely to be most focused. I put the break in the middle of language arts as that is his toughest course. That may change I think it will help but I could be very wrong. We then have Foreign Language and music/art. After Lunch we will have quiet reading. Some of that will be assigned for his course work but mostly it will be his choice. We then have either Science or Social Studies. These are his favourites so I am putting them at the end of the day. The last item is writing. We wants to be a writer so this will be free writing. This is also the time that I will have to go get my daughter from school so he will have no distractions. My toddler and I will be out of the house.
Now that I have a plan I am back to being confident and look forward to getting started. Now my wife just reading this post has pointed out that I only have a four day week and my daughter has a short day on Tuesday and the kids have Dentist appointments on Friday. I knew all of that. I made the dentist appointments. Guess I need to re-plan already.