Contributor Amida blogs at Journey into Unschooling
I have a confession to make — contrary to my inclination towards freestyle homeschooling, I love making schedules. For someone who also tries to keep the line between learning and schooling thin, I can spend hours on the computer, making up tables and lists for a running agenda of what I’d like to get done (or more specifically, what I’d like the kids to get done).
I have a Master List, with a year’s worth of work, broken down into assignments to be done and chapters to be completed within specific weeks, and soon, you can have one, too.
To start off, it helps to do a little brainstorming of exactly what you want accomplished.
Gather all the books you plan on using and browse the web for other goodies to add to your curriculum. Don’t forget to dig through your closets for all those forgotten science kits and half-completed workbooks from previous kids — they are totally usable for those younger siblings (and for the record, most little kids love filling in workbooks — I know I did!). You may want to spend a week on this.
The Master List
After you have gathered your supplies, you are equipped to make the Master List.
Make a two column table, labeling the first one the name of the “subject”, and the second one “assignments”. If you are keeping grades, you can add another column for that. You may choose to add a list of all major books and websites you plan on using of this subject. Underneath the subject, put the beginning date of each week of the year.
Now comes the fun part — filling in the assignments! If you’re using a textbook, count up the number of chapters and divide it by the number of weeks in your school year. This will give you an idea of how much (or little) needs to be done per week.
For instance, if there are only 20 chapters in a workbook, you can choose to spread it out over a year and only work on a chapter every other week, or complete one chapter a week and finish within a semester. Don’t forget to add in quizzes or review weeks to make sure they are on top of things.
Alternatively, you can make a list of skills to accomplish each week, rather than chapters. For instance, instead of “complete Lesson 3″, write “be able to write and draw a variety of angles using a protractor”. This shifts the focus to the topics learned, rather than just completing the lesson.
Do this for every core subject: math, science, language arts, social studies/history, art/music. I also throw in school-free weeks here and there to account for vacations.
The Weekly List
I find it helpful to have a weekly schedule that my kids can work from. It’s basically the same list but in a different format. The first column has the dates broken up by weeks (Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, etc.).
Then there is a column for every subject. Within each corresponding cell are the individual assignments (or goals). We work in four week increments, so each table covers just those four weeks. This way, they can see at a glance exactly what needs to be completed for that month. It is a guide and they can speed up or slow down within each subject as long as they complete everything by the last day.
This was especially effective during those final days of school when my son (who had fallen behind on assignments) had a specific workload to complete.
And that’s basically it! Now sit back, enjoy a cup of tea, and admire your new brilliant plan. You now know exactly what needs to get done every single week in order to complete the year.
Photo by photosteve101
Follow it religiously for a week or two — and then realize that it is a totally unrealistic agenda and go freestyle for a bit. When you have a moment, compare what actually got done to what’s on your list and you will have a better idea of a more realistic schedule. Cross things off, add things on.
Use your schedule as a guide to remind yourself every now and then of some of the things you would like to complete, and also how you would not like your kids to spend their days. The first draft of my schedule is always purposely overkill. But I do it anyway. I love editing.
I reevaluate constantly, comparing what actually does and doesn’t get done. I observe how my kids are reacting to it.
Maybe they work well with it for two days out of the week and the rest of the time, we do something else. Maybe eight core subjects isn’t going to happen this year. Maybe I’d rather give up history so they have time to pursue their own interests. It all becomes much clearer after a few assessments. Follow, abandon, evaluate, edit, rinse and repeat. Then move on.
Remember, the schedule is there for occasional guidance (for those days we feel we’ve lost our way). You are not a slave to it so for goodness sake, don’t ever feel restricted.
I love my lists for the preliminary exercise of gathering my thoughts and getting ideas down on paper. It is also a great tool for teaching my kids a little organization and time management, especially for those courses that aren’t directed by me.
It is a fantastic tool for any homeschooler, no matter your style. Try it and see how it works for you!
How do you manage your homeschool? Does your schedule work for you?