Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Planning by the Week

I have tried all kinds of different things when it comes to weekly planning.  Each year, I make my own planning sheets, tailored to what we're doing that year.  I have tried programs like Olly, Google calendar, using my iCalendar, and more. I usually settle on a homemade planning sheet I print each week and hand write the assignments on.  But it was getting tedious for me this past year, AND, there was little record at the end of the year of what we'd actually done.  Keeping grades has not been a real priority for me yet, but in the coming years, it will be.  So that's been in the back of mind as well.

Sometime in the fall, I read about Lessontrek. I've always avoided those monthly subscription kind of planners where everything is online, but they were offering a four month free trial, so I figured, why not? I can get a good feel for it in four months, and for nothing!

I've gotta tell you, I love this planner.  It makes it so easy to create classes and regular assignments, to set a weekly routine that you just fill in the blanks, to move things around, and to keep grades, not to mention, having a page for each student and navigating back and forth super easily. I can also save a PDF of each week plan, as well as print it out, so I don't have to stay tied to my computer.  Entering things on the computer goes so much faster than handwriting out a schedule for me.  There's usually a sale going on for a year subscription, and I got mine for $30.  I figured I'd spend almost that on a planner anyway, so justified the expense. :)  It has become staple in my planning.  I also use a separate print out to help me organize Tapestry readings, but then enter it into Lessontrek to work from through the week.

I organize my Lessontrek into four blocks:

- Morning Time
- Daily Work
- Weekly Work
- Tapestry of Grace

Here's a screen shot or two of my planner:

All the color-coding and boxes to check just make the J-personality-type-heart SO happy! :)

We work through our day in that order.  We always begin with Morning Time.  For this past school year, we have had the following categories in Morning Time:

-Bible and Catechism Song
-Hymn: learning hymns together, as well as how to sing from a hymnal and harmonize
-Poetry: We pick an anthology, and each read one poem aloud a day.  Takes about 5 minutes, no planning.
-Read Aloud: Sometimes Tapestry literature, sometimes a book we're just enjoying together
-Memory Work: M: President Song from Veritas Press, T: Math Facts, W: States and Capitals Songs from Kathy Trowel, Th: Bible memory verses, F: Review all
-Harmony Fine Arts: Picture studies, artist biographies, listening to music, note booking, etc.

Working through this each day takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes, depending on how long we read aloud, and how cooperative the littles are. :)  I try to get the littles busy on drawing, cars, blocks, play-doh, something to keep them occupied, so we can read in peace.  But, most of the time, there are distraction and interruptions. We just plod on and get through it!

Daily Work is next.  The subjects I want us to come to daily are Latin, Math, and Writing, for right now.  So each day, we just spend 15-20 minutes on each of those subjects, and usually in an hour, we're done with them.

At this point, we're usually ready for a break, if not before this!  We take a snack break and have a few minutes of free play.  Then we get back to weekly work for 30-45 minutes before breaking for lunch.

Weekly Work this year has covered:
-Reasoning and Reading: 3 times a week (M-T-W)
-Science: 3-4 times a week (M-T-Th-F)
-Handwriting: 1 time a week (W)
-Spelling: 2 times a week (TH-F)

So we usually have two things we do in Weekly Work each day.  This can take us usually around 20-30 minutes, but sometimes longer if I have unfocused students.  Typically, I can get them going on something like Reasoning and Reading, or Handwriting, and then give them some time to complete it while I work with the littles on Math or Reading, Letters and handwriting practice.

Now it's lunch time!  If the kids have math that wasn't finished in the allotted time from Daily Work, or anything else not yet done, they have to work on this until lunch, or until they're finished.

After lunch, Meryn has been taking a nap, usually going down around 1:30.  While she sleeps, we dive into our fourth block, Tapestry of Grace.  As I shared in my review post, I have really backed off of some of the more time consuming productivity (which can become busy work) that goes with Tapestry.  I have put off lap books until later, if ever.  We don't do much note booking anymore if at all.  Mainly we just sit together and read the history books and talk about it.  This may be because we have been dealing with the modern era this year.  So our reading has been around things like World War I and II, the Cold War, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, the Iraq War and 9/11.  These are deep subjects, which don't necessarily lend themselves to fun art projects like building pyramids. :)  (Tapestry compensates for this by doing a world survey in Units 3 and 4 and bringing in art projects from different cultures, and having a year-long invention project, which looked neat, but we didn't do!) I'm glad this was our fourth year with Tapestry, because the kids are older and were able to handle some of the things we faced in history this year.  All that to say, we have done a lot of reading this year on the couch, all the geography, and most of the literature worksheets.  And I've felt like that is enough.  We have done a few projects , but maybe five or six all year long.  Still, it's been a good year with Tapestry.

Next year, I anticipate Morning Time looking very much the same, with some shifting in the Memory Work we cover.  I also expect our daily work to look very similar, though science may get moved to daily next year.  I do not plan to do both Science in the Ancient World AND The Insect Book study everyday.  Science in the Ancient World covers the beginning of scientific discovery through 1500 AD.  So I plan to use the lessons related to what we're studying in history.  So this book will take us almost through two years of history studies.  Tapestry Year 1 covers beginning to Roman Empire (roughly 100 AD I believe), and then Year 2 covers Roman Empire through Exploration (100 AD to 1799).  I plan to spread out the Science in the Ancient World lessons to when they're appropriate to our history studies.  And on the off days, work through the Insect Book.  We may even start the Insect Book this summer, because it looks like a lot of fun, and what better time to learn about insects than summer! :)

Our weekly work next year will shift considerably.  If science is removed, and Reasoning and Reading, we'll plug in the English Grammar Recitations and Geography there. Handwriting is super quick and easy for us, the kids do 2-4 pages a week, and it takes basically no planning on my part. I just have them open their book and pick up where they left off.  Spelling is also very laid back and easy.  It doesn't take much planning on my part, either.  We tend to cover the new topics in the lesson on one day, and then do review and sentence dictation on the second day.  It takes less than ten minutes both days.  But I admit that spelling has not been a struggle with my kids, it has come naturally to them, and been easy to pick up. I know it's not that way for all kids, and some require a lot of time with spelling.

I hope this is helpful to understand how in the world we get it all done.  Honestly, many times, we don't! :)  And other days, we finish it all so fast, I don't know what to do with the rest of the day!!  But for me and my house, I like to be busy and have a routine and a plan.  The less down time, the better.  We do really value outside time, and free play.  They get plenty of that! :)  I have found that for us, having a faster moving day where we have short lessons on a variety of things makes the day move faster, we cover more ground, and it hasn't resulted in a lower level of mastery for us.  For me, my big rocks are Bible and character training, Latin and Math, and writing, because it's teaching beginning thinking skills.  The rest are the small rocks that we fit in and around, and leave out if we have to. 


  1. I love my old- school lesson plan book, haha. During the summer, I make big- picture plans and goals but week by week, I write out what the kids need to do in my lesson plan book. It wouldn't make sense to anyone else, but it works for me.
    I like your morning time ideas and I think our day could be improved by adding something like that.

  2. What lesson planner do you use,Jessica? Is it like an actual teacher's lesson plan book or one for homeschoolers? :)

  3. It's a teacher's lesson plan book. It costs between $4-6 and every weekend I write in what the kids need to do for the week. I know it isn't the most modern system and probably wouldn't fit everyone, but I love writing in it and checking it off. It has enough room that I could write in what I need to for all four kids when everyone is school age.