Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Organizing My Back-to-School

It's "Back-to-School"! I do love this time of year. The smell of pencils, the bright rows of brand-new crayon boxes, and markers that actually work (because we can replenish our supply at such a great deal this time of year!) If I were alive 100+ years ago, I would have been a teacher in one of those one-room pioneer schools. Lighting fires of knowledge that would sweep the frontier! Instead, I teach in a 'one-room classroom' in my home to three rambunctious kiddos, lighting fires that I hope will one-day help to shape our world.

We are "officially" starting school on Monday, August 31st. It works around DH's schedule best and I have read a lot lately about how we should work our homeschooling around our hubby and other important portions of our days. I feel peace about this angle.

Planning that start date may have been a blessing in disguise. The local schools started today. My kids were asking to visit with friends this afternoon and seemed somewhat surprised when I pointed out that they started school today and won't be home until later! Perhaps, by next week, my children will feel so displaced without the neighborhood gang that our schooling will be a welcome reprieve!!

I am in the process of organizing the material I plan to use this year. Everything has been torn out and sorted into piles by subject and are just waiting to be put in their 'homes' for the year. We do unit studies because it is best for the types of learners I am raising. It is also a technique I am very familiar with from working with preschoolers for many years.

About 7 years ago I developed a system for organizing our unit studies. I have fine-tuned it since so that it could evolve for its application in the homeschool environment.

I don't know how clear this will show on the net. Each month has 5 lines, 1 for each week (some months have 5 weeks). The small column on the left under each month is for the date range, ie: [August] 3 - 7. The pictures you see sloppily sketched on some weeks are holidays, observances, and family birthdays. I also note when there will be a Monday or Friday off during a week. This helps me to better plan around those events (or with them!)
This approach helps me to articulate focus for each week. I have taken some frequently read advice this year and tried to plan some down or gap weeks for overflow and breaks. Too much planned too closely together seems to overwhelm us and we end up having to drop various plans for lack of time or need of break! I wanted this year's schedule to be more realistic and attainable. After all, I am educating a middle-schooler this year! A task I do not take lightly :-)
Something new we are trying this year is an idea I developed by expanding a system I already used. In previous years I kept a hanging folder in my file drawer with manila files for "week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4". I also kept a hanging file titled, "next month". This system allowed me to file worksheets and other activity ideas according to when we planned to do them.
I still have the weekly folders, as you might be able to recognize in the picture below, but the files within them are labeled per child and are intended to be used for spelling, math, and individualized learning projects this year. Behind the weekly files are my unit study files. This is my new concept.
My plan is: when I come across ideas that I may want to use on a unit, I can pop them into their respective file and find them ready to use when the time comes. This coincides with a web system I have in my notebook behind the above lesson plan sheet. (one web per unit)

Don't my files look under-nourished? That is where the piles on my desk come in (and... shhhh... don't tell, but there are two boxes on the floor whose contents will be placed in these files before the week is out as well!!)
I have had so many disappointments in the past. We get done with a unit study and I go to put things away and find items we could have used but were forgotten because all unit possibilities were not in one place. I am excited to use this system this year!

For those of you following along from yesterday, when I posted pictures of the mess on my desk, the mess is still there!! But this... above... is what I did accomplish. I seem to work by the old adage that, 'it will get worse before it gets better'! I am off to make it get better today :-)
Happy schooling to all!


  1. Thanks for posting this. I have had it open in my browser for several days, waiting to find time to read it!
    I love to read what others are doing in their homes for schooling. I hope you all have a super week this week as you start your schooling.
    We are starting the day after Labor Day. I still have some to do also. I can't wait!

    Blessings and Shalom upon your household!

  2. Thank you so much Jacque. I find it inspiring to see what others are doing as well. I relish the good with the bad on other blogs because it shows that we are all a work in progress (and I am not the only one with the flops!)

    Blessings to you as you prepare for your post Labor Day start :-)