Thursday, August 3, 2017

Planning for 2017-2018 Year

Two years ago, I wrote about looking to the future and having a Road Map for your homeschool journey, thinking through goals and tools to achieve them, and having a big picture in mind. I also began being more intentional to plan over the summers so that my weeks and days would flow more smoothly. I found that time spent in the summer to be very well spent. I remember reading something from Brandy Vencel on Afterthoughts blog about the energy wasted by task-switching. I took away that its better for me to pull out all my books for history or science once over the summer and spend several hours planning out the whole year, than to pull those same books out every single Sunday afternoon or evening and spend a few minutes planning the next week.  So over the past couple of years, I have gradually created documents and tools to help me plan over the summer in ways that free me up to do more reading and thinking, rather than planning, during the school year.

This summer, my planner took on a life of its own. I happened to see a planner system called The Happy Planner, recommended on a general life planning website. I thought it was PERFECT for my school planning system, and it got my creative juices flowing. I had been using a weekly planning spreadsheet I'd created a couple of years ago really successfully, as well as some other random forms I'd downloaded online. This summer, though, I took on the project of making all my own matching forms, getting a Happy Planner, and putting together a whole system that will work for me all year (and be super cute while it does it's job).

Doesn't that just make you happy too? :)

Here's a quick look at my planner and how it works. I drew a lot of inspiration from Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill, Mystie Winckler's copious posts on planning and organizing, and several free downloadable planners. But no one system worked just perfectly for me, so I had to get to tweaking.  This is what I came up with! :)

First tab is for Calendar:
I have a year at a glance, where I circle the days we spend doing a full day of school, to keep a record of that for our states requirements. Then I have one page for each month where I can record field trips, service projects, special activities, co-op days.  I also have a quote on each page from my reading journal/commonplace book that makes me smile. :)

Next tab is my reference and notes section:

First up is my Morning Time Master Plan. I use an excellent book called Living Memory by Andrew Campbell to make my morning time plans simple each year.  I spend an hour or two choosing what we'll read from the Bible, what hymns we'll learn, what Shakespeare plays and Plutarch lives we'll read, what books we'll read aloud, what composers and artists we'll get to know, and also what Scripture, poetry, and historically important things we'll memorize together. That all goes on this master sheet, so when its time to plan morning time for the week/term, I just refer to this and see where we are. I have a Morning Time planning sheet by term I'll show you in a bit...

Next in Notes are things for reference: a list to keep track of books read for each child, and a scrapbook style page for recording memories, keeping photos, anything like that. Because the way the Happy Planner works, I can print as many of these as I need, fill them up, and add them whenever. :)

Last in the Reference section is a Goals worksheet. My older two kids and I will work through this the first week of school and come up with a few goals of things they'd like to accomplish this year. I used the basic idea of Pam Barnhill's Goal worksheet, but customized it for our subjects and areas I'd like them to think through, and added a place to ad Action Steps:

I have six tabs of six week terms, and at the front of each term is a weekly prep checklist. I have six weeks of checklists on one page. This is just a place for me to look each weekend as I plan at the things I know I regularly need to do that I often overlook or get too busy to do, but which are very, very important. I need the reminder front and center.

Next are my Morning Time checklist.  It is where I record the specifics of what we're doing each week and check off the days of the week that we read, sang, looked at these things. I pull from the Morning Time master to fill this in for the week. Disclaimer, I do NOT expect all those boxes to be checked. :)  We will not do all of this everyday.

Next up is the weekly assignment spreads. This is my command central. It shows me everyone's assignments for the whole week in every subject. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to fill this out every weekend, because the names, subjects, and blocks are already there. This sis what I needed: something with the form already in place. I did not want to have to write students names and subjects in every week. My time is too precious for that. :)

The math and language sections are pretty easy to just fill in page and chapter numbers.  Science and Humanities is a little more complex since I'm pulling together lots of different resources. So I have Big Picture planning sheets at the back of my planner I refer to to fill these in. More on that later.

Once I have everyone's assignments on this command central spreadsheet for the week, I fill out my older kids Independent Work checklists.  This is the work they are expected to do on their own in the mornings.  We start with morning time, and then the older two take their checklists and planners and books and work independently for an hour and a half. During this time, I do 1st and 2nd grade with my younger two, math, language arts, read aloud, science. This usually takes us up to lunch time. In the afternoon, I go over the independent work with the big kids, and we do science and humanities together.  Here's their independent checklists:

After my six tabs with these weekly spreadsheets and checklists, I have a tab for each subject as a reference section.  This is where I keep my big picture planning.  This is what is most time-consuming about my summer planning, but it pays off royally through they year. For humanities, I'm making book choices, scheduling literature, choosing geography assignments, and hands-on projects...for the whole year. I map it out on a spreadsheet like this, and then each week, I just have to look at the week we're on and the assigned readings and projects. I normally use a laid out science curriculum, but this year I'm pulling together several different unrelated resources to study human anatomy, so I did the same thing for science: listed my resources at the top, matched up the chapters with each other based on the subject/topic, and chose projects/experiments and activities. Here's a look at my big picture sheets: 

I love these sheets, because they allow me to quickly survey the books we need for an entire unit, and how many weeks we're spending with each book. So if we have a busier than usual week, I can look ahead and say, "Ok, we have this book for three weeks, so we can catch up." or whatever the case may be. This is the "big picture" or birds' eye view of the unit and year that is so helpful in seeing where we're going!

Now that I have all these forms made, they will be super easy to adapt and print each year, and just replace in my planner. They'll also serve as a great record of what we've done and accomplished each year. I have really enjoyed making this this summer, and every time I look at it, I know I will be thanking myself on Sunday evenings all year long. :) I'm also thinking of putting these up for download somewhere for a low price. I'd love your thoughts on what you see here!