Sunday, October 17, 2010

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Simply Saturday: Simplifying Our Homeschool, Part 2 - Agendas

I meant  for this post to happen yesterday, but my sinuses had another idea.  I'm still calling this a Saturday post, so take THAT, my runny nose and sore throat. 

Thank goodness I have my homeschool week planned out before Monday morning rolls around. 

There are many things I could do without to survive a homeschooling day, but one is essential (besides our curriculum) in getting the following week to work without a hitch: the agenda.

First, let me explain what our agendas are NOT:
  • Our agendas are NOT locked-in schedules. Schedules imply that there are time increments and set amounts of time for each subject. My kids' agendas don't force them into any time-locking capabilities.
  • Our agendas are NOT chore lists. We have a separate space for our chore lists, but my girls know which chores belong to them and on which days they must do them. My oldest daughter's iPod is set to remind her on days that certain chores are due.
  • Our agendas are NOT lesson plans. Not in the formal sense of the word. From my public teaching days, lesson plans included objectives, steps of instruction, practice, and assignments. The lesson plan in a public school is a tool to keep the teacher on track with achieving objectives.
Here are the goals and benefits our agendas DO accomplish:

  • The agendas tell my kids what has to be accomplished in each subject for the week.  This includes telling them when they must take tests and how much reading needs to be done for the week.
  • The agendas prepare the kids for our weekly co-op. The girls are reminded that even though they have a week to prepare for their co-op classes that we take with other homeschoolers at a local church, they will be very busy if they wait until the day before to work on co-op assignments.
  • The agendas tell me what sheets I need to prepare for the following week, including what blackline master copies I need to make for tests, books to have located and ready, and an idea of how much time we will need to work on subjects we do together.
I created these agendas as a tool for my kids, so that they know, and can see, what needs to be accomplished every day.  We have tried other systems, such as Sue Patrick's Workbox System (our modified version), and Managers Of The Home (MOTH) schedules, but we couldn't lock our day down to interruptions by toddlers, animals, and the other pauses that happen inside our classroom.  Simply put, I wanted to make sure the girls got their work done by the end of the day on Friday, and that is the best way for them to plan their own week out.  The agendas are a loose adaptation of my friend Joanne Calderwood's HS Student Planner.  It's a great resource, and wildly popular in the homeschool market.  If you are looking for an all-in-one system, Joanne's planner is the best I could recommend for parents looking to make their kids more accountable and responsible. Click the link above to find out more about her system and self-teaching philosophy. (I say I am loosely adapting Joanne's system because I haven't given my kids as much control over how much they have to do for the week.)

Rather than printing the agenda out every week for my girls, I printed a blank grid on colorful paper with labels for subjects and days of the week.  Then I laminated it for easy reuse. 

Blank agenda:

Agenda filled out for the week:

As a side note, if you don't own a laminator as a homeschooler, I recommend getting one. They are a great way to save on printing costs, and the kids love to use them for various projects.  I can laminate anything on an 8.5x11" sheet, and suddenly, a single sheet of paper lasts for months.  I have laminated blank handwriting sheets with dotted lines to work with my youngest daughter with penmanship, and I use the opposite side (completely blank) when I need to quickly help one of them with math.  Here's a picture of the blank handwriting sheet (it needs to be cleaned a little better, but you get the idea, and you can see it's been used a LOT).

Now, for those people who need a written record of what was done, the nice thing about the agendas is that I can choose to make copies of them if I choose on our 3-in-1 printer. I am not quite that meticulous.  I like to see that the work is done, but I don't need an extra paper record of it checked off for each week.

The girls enjoy crossing out what they have done for the week, and we have found it saves a lot of headaches and arguments when they can see what is due.  If the kids get behind for the week, they have to work on it on the weekends.  They also know that if they choose not to do a certain subject that day, they are only making it harder on themselves as the weekend approaches.  The only drawback to this is when my oldest sees that she'll get extra time to play with friends at the end of the week, and she ends up speeding through her assignments, only to have me look over them and make her redo her work of it because of penmanship that is too sloppy or too many mistakes.

Each week (preferably Friday, after all the current week's work is finished), I take the agenda, and begin filling it out for the following week.  I just write the assignments, one subject at a time, and if something needs to be done with me (rather than be worked on independently), I try to label it on the sheet.   Sometimes I'll make that special mark in a separate dry-erase marker (I've discovered that the darker whiteboard markers erase the easiest).  If we have nothing to do for that subject that day, I cross the day out with a horizontal line. (I see in my filled-out photo that I forgot to add in 2 days of history work in the example.) It only takes 30 minutes to an hour each week, and then I can forget about lesson planning for the weekend, knowing our classroom is ready again for Monday morning.

What are your favorite scheduling and planning tools?  I'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

Katherine Josh said...
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