July 22, 2009

Homeschool Teacher Talk

Today's random post will begin with... "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round". Why? Because that's what my kids have been singing to the baby for a few days now, and it is stuck in my head like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth. Morgan drew that cute little picture on Paint one night earlier this week. I just had to share it.

I've been absorbed in a planning mode lately. The first week we had planned to do school didn't happen because we babysat a friend's daughter during her dad's surgery. This week we made some drastic changes to our school schedule for the year that allowed us a bit more "organizational time" instead of academic time: we reclaimed our Mondays for the school year. I had set the schedule up so that all Mondays were half days (which really extended our school year - July '09 through June '10). After meeting with my friend who was going to co-op with me on Mondays, I discovered that the amount of work we'll be putting in for the co-op will be enough to call it a full school day. That means less days of school for us this year; or at least it gives me a lot more leeway as to teacher in-service days I can take for organizing and goal-overviews... and just time to have fun playing hooky with the kids when the weather is perfect.

This week, I've been doing more planning than schooling. So our official back to school breakfast may have already happened, but we're still gearing up for the academic work to begin. After I got our schedule ironed out and our plans for when the year would begin and end - what holidays we were taking off, etc... then came the co-op plans. There's a lot of work to planning a school year. Good thing I find it fun!

In fact, tonight, I think a friend of mine is going to spend the night to stay up late fleshing out history plans from Genesis to Christ. We did American history last year (we covered states and regions and Revolution to the Civil War). We'll be covering Ancient history together with friends every Monday for a few hours and doing reading assignments throughout the week on our own.

Another friend of mine is planning our science and poetry co-op for Fridays. After we get all the details ironed out, I'm going to enter my assignments in to Homeschool Tracker and print assignment lists off for the kids every week. I can't wait to get that all done. Last year we manually entered assignments as we went and I created my own assignment lists. It was too much work and too easy to get behind on. With a baby in the mix, getting behind isn't an option. I have zero free time during the hours everyone is awake now... so I'm hoping our new system will work like clockwork.

The thing we're doing different this year is our school-box system. It is something like the 'workbox system' that I recently discovered online through blogging friends and facebook friends. I tried to do something similar to this back when we were in Arkansas but fell down on the job of keeping ahead of the kids in filling the folders for them every day. There's no way I could use actual boxes in my house for school subjects. My husband would freak out if I used up that much bookshelf space with plastic bins. My school boxes are mere file boxes with hanging file folders. What is similar to the 'workbox system' is that I am going to fill them each day with the next day's work.

We had a lot of trouble last year keeping things where they needed to be. Lots of time was wasted and books were lost. It was a serious hindrance. This year I want the kids have their work ready every morning and their supplies and books handy so they don't have to go looking around the house for things. The books and texts needed for each subject stand neatly behind each folder in their file box. The cool thing about my school box is that it is mobile. I do a lot of on-the-go schooling when we have to get out and about. This way the kids don't have to run around the house gathering things to take with us... we just grab our school box and go.

Today we are working on organizing our school boxes. Eventually, when we're finished tweaking them, I'll share photos and a detailed description of how it works for us. So far we have these folders: Bible, Math, Grammar, Spell/Vocab/Write, Type/Software, History, Science, Art/Photography, Italian/Blogging, Individual Learning, Narration, Piano, Reading, Home Ec & Chores. My problem is that we don't do everything on every day. Blogging, for instance, is once a week for the kids. So it has to fit inside their Italian folder because they do it on Tuesdays during the time period that they normally do Italian. They do Italian three times a week, blogging once. That same time period on Fridays is spent at the park with our local group-co-op or at home doing Science co-op - depending on the week.

The cool thing about homeschooling is that you get to pick your own schedule and curriculum... set your own yearly calendar, and decide what priorities and goals will be accomplished. I hate it when the best plans we have fail, but I love the fact that we can keep learning together despite our failures. My friend Cindy said she likens homeschool teaching to Thomas Edison. We may find a lot of things that don't work... but if we keep trying, we'll eventually find what does. It's all in the attitude.

Now that the children are older and more independent and I know my limitations a lot better, we are giving the school box system another try - with a few twists. I'm looking forward to having them work on their box system with an assignment sheet in hand... and praying that baby won't throw too big a wrench in to our routine. It feels good to start a new year out. We're excited to have friends to keep us accountable in History, Science and Poetry, too.

This school year is going to be great!


Karen said...

Sounds like you have a good plan in place to implement. It was hard last year for us to keep any kind of routine with having a baby in the house. And I'm afraid that the lack of routine is making it harder to get into a routine now. I so much would like to have things flow on a somewhat regular schedule this year so we can know what to expect, when to do things, etc. It's going to take some self-discipline both on my part as well as my older daughter. Our little baby is now a toddler so it's going to be a different phase this year. At least she now is typically taking her naps around the same time and going to bed around the same time. We may have to plan some school work for after she goes to bed in the evening. I don't know. But that's the great thing about homeschooling...you can be flexible that way and find what works best even if what works best changes often. :)

I look forward to reading more about how you're planning your school year and so forth. I'm a planner by nature and I enjoy reading about how others plan their school years and plan their school days.

Take care,

Karin Katherine said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who is spending more time planning than teaching right now.

I'm really enjoying reading how everyone is planning out their school year. Its one of my favorite things to read---I like getting a peak into another mother's homeschool life.

Marilena said...

Hi! I found your blog from googling Konos and I'm so glad I did! I am using Konos for the first time this year and I am so excited. I have always homeschooled my kids and they will be 9,6, and 3 this coming year. A few of my friends and I are also starting a konos co-op. Just like you, I love the planning phase! I'm having so much fun just planning the year. I have a question for you. What do you use to teach Italian? My husband and I are both Italian and I grew up speaking it in my home but I don't think I can teach it properly without help. I kind of speak slang italian ;) I really want my kids to learn the language because we have a lot of family in Italy and my parents still speak Italian to us.
Thanks so much!

Kathy said...

We're trying out our own version of workboxes this year too. I have to keep it in boxes for the things our youngest will be doing. His boxes will be a mix of Occupational Therapy things and educational things. I also found a site called "Tot School" which gave me lots of ideas for our youngest. Now I just need to keep all of that fun stuff hidden from him until we start our school year. I plan on surprising our older two with fun items stuck in their boxes too. Maybe slip in a piece of paper that says "grab your brothers, run outside, and jump on the trampoline for 10 min."

LOVE planning, it's the best time of year!!

Kathy D.

My Boaz's Ruth said...

When (if?) I start homeschooling, I think I want to come over to your house beforehand and see how it works. How you plan, everything. Because this is ALL so overwhelming, even just seeing you discuss it.

Be careful about making sure books get put back. That's what my friend who homeschooled always had problems with. The kids couldn't do their work cause the book was "missing" and then, when it was found, never at a good time for catching up on work!

My Boaz's Ruth said...

(Sorry for the quotes, I don't remember EVER losing a school book growing up. And yes, we did take the school books back and forth from school to do homework.) But it very well could be that is different.

I'm not naturally well organized myself, though I can generally keep a organized system going once its set up.



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