I'm taking a computer break this week. Jenny has written a great kick-start to lesson planning and since I'm knee deep in that right now, I'm grateful to have her share some steps with us.
I watched with keen interest last year as Elizabeth planned her learning year using the Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer. I even signed up for the free trial, which is a fantastic way to see if it will work for you and your family. But I never used the resource due to one faulty component...Me.
I lack the necessary discipline to organize our learning day on the computer. I may have the best intentions in the world of just turning on the computer to get our plans for the day, or just getting on the computer to check off the pages we have read, but that’s not how it happens in reality. I am weak and easily fall into doing the browsing I don’t wish to do. So I have to avoid the computer during our formal learning time all together. (Can anyone sing, “Easier, easier said than done!”)
But the Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer is an awesome lesson planning tool doggone it, so what’s a weak willed momma to do? Plan our learning on paper using the book Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education.
These past weeks have found me buried deep in books lists, books, spirals for note taking, and lesson planners. I have followed the easy to use and very understandable chapters on lesson planning. I have jotted notes for each child, I have scribbled books for family read alouds. Along the way, I have learned a thing or two about lesson planning:
1. Find Your States Homeschooling Laws (& Review Them Every Year in Case of Changes)
I live in one of the easiest states to home school and yet I was over schooling my children. Everyone knows there are 180 school days per calendar year. But as I read this year I was surprised to read that only 175 of those days are for instruction. The other 5 are “Teacher In Service Days.” Woo Hoo! I just gained 5 extra wiggle days in my schedule.
2. Figure Out How to Divide Your Days into Smaller Portions
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The thought of 175 days of school can seem intimidating. I gave the children a couple of choices as to how our school year could look. We decided on nine weeks on, one week off. That gave us four, forty-five day terms with a summer break.
3. Get Out Your Calendar & Mark It Up
I started counting days 1-45. As I counted, I payed attention to the times we wanted to take a break other than the one week off between terms. My husband is a hunter and we camp with him during hunting season. No matter how many times we lug our books up there with us, we never crack ‘em. We’re too busy exploring nature and snuggling down at night to a family read aloud. So this year the weeks we are camping, we are officially taking off school.
We also decided which days to take off around Christmas. And we’re trying something new this year. At the suggestion of a veteran homeschooler, we are taking a break the week after Easter. This does not coincide with the local school schedule, but it makes sense liturgically. When we take off the week before Easter, we are in Holy Week, not really a great time to watch movies or bake sweets.
Next, I took out a green and yellow highlighter and marked up the calendar. Green means “go to school,” yellow means “take a break.”
4. Decide What Resources Will Be Used & By Whom
We are memorizing Scripture, catechism questions, prayers, and poetry together as a family. Artist appreciation, and famous composers will also be a group activity. Using a history textbook as a spine, we are going to study the early exploration of the New World up to the present day. This study will cover lots of ground and I want everyone to enjoy it. I scoured book lists (The Charlotte Mason Book Finder and Serendipity web site were invaluable resources) for complementary books: picture books, beginning readers, chapter books and longer novels. I also found some DVD’s at our library I plan on borrowing related to the various time periods.
5. Break Your Books Into Smaller Pieces
I now have a beginning date, scheduled breaks, and an ending date all nicely divided into four terms. Next I needed to grab my resources and fit them into the plan. Remember, I have four, forty-five day terms. I looked over each book and decided how much we could realistically read per day or week and then wrote page numbers or chapters down on the individual plans or family plan. I know, this seems daunting. But each book was easier to assess than the last.
6. Start Filling in the Blanks
Each child has their own lesson planner. I filled out the months and days for the year. The I went back and filled in the blanks (with pencil) for out first nine weeks. Just putting “Read from family read aloud” does not work for me. So I needed to put something more specific like, “Read chapters 1 & 2...” This will help keep me consistently moving forward at a steady pace, rather than days of reading a page here and there and then three chapters all at once and then skipping some days.
Above all this planning though, I need to keep a sense of the sacred. Meaning, I need to plan with God, instead of around God. I am the primary educator of these souls, but they belong to Him. There will be days when all my planning will come to beautiful fruition. But there will also be days when I serve Christ most by tending to one of His little ones.
How do you plan your school year?