Saturday, August 5, 2017

What's in a plan, zooming in (Lesson Planning part 2)

Summer is wrapping up, isn't it?  My daughter just confided to me yesterday how facing the last week of summer break coming up here, she feels supremely challenged to squeeze every last ounce of fun out of it that she can.  Me, on the other hand, having FINALLY finished lesson plans this past week AND copying/prepping for our launch day and first day of school... I am looking at all the items on my bucket list I didn't get to.
  • Cleaning the Garage out randomly kicked this one out in 3 hours yesterday when we managed to sell a few big items taking up space in there!!  Scored school supply money AND a tidied up garage (though hubby STILL needs to unpack his work area from when we moved in 2 years ago!!)
  • Organizing attic storage 
  • Paint my 'study'/office work space
  • Help hubby finish house repairs from hail damage we got last year
  • Go on localish adventures
  • Tend yard and garden
  • Back-log blog articles
  • Read more
  • Breathe more
Bum ankle from a messed up ligament, crazy hot days, and hubby's new weird work schedule all seem to cramp plans.

However, we are moving along.  I, too, am bit by the 'gotta cram it all in this coming week' mode.  While I know it won't ALL get done, I'm gonna do what I can!

As for now, I promised some Lesson planning details last week and I am aim to deliver before I shut down my computer and grab scrubbers and paint brushes to liven up my work space today!

Why I write out my lessons...
I'm a crazy list lady.  I will list everything and anything... mostly from pen to paper, but sometimes on the computer with fancy bullets to-boot! I love sitting down and writing out what the kids will be doing for the year.  It's my 'thing'.  Maybe writing out lesson plans is daunting to you.  Maybe you are good at winging it or you have a great pre-made lesson plan.  I'm mostly none of that.  Instead, I have a bad memory and a bucket-full of good intentions that, if I don't write them out, I will loose them to the abyss of yesterdays.

Because I am a list maker and, admittedly, a recovering control-freak, I also don't typically just follow the dotted lines of provided lesson plans (on the rare instances I get curriculum which has them).  Nope, I am the take-the-fat-crayon-in-my-fist-and-scribble-outside-the-lines kind of person.  Or, grab a felt-tip marker and doodle in the margins!

I also have often hodge-podged our curriculum or, as alluded to above, bought textbooks without getting the pre-made lesson plans.  I had to corral all the great ideas and good intentions somewhere...

Hence, lesson planning season.

How I lesson plan...
I actually start by determining our school year.  The picture above is a photocopy from my bullet journal I tried to keep this summer!  I drew out the school year so I could begin fielding our schedule.  Normally I I print a computerized one but this worked good too. I kept it on a clipboard with some paper for quick notes and scribbles.

Some of you do year-round or just work until it fizzles out.  I think those are great ideas.  For us, we have 3 June birthdays with the kick-off one coming early, on the 6th.  No one likes to do school on their birthday (in our house, it is a 'holiday' everyone takes school off for!).  So instead of juggling the multiple time off at a time of year when (they were younger) the laughter of neighborhood kids is drifting in our windows because these sprightly public schoolers heard the last bell ring for their school year... we decided to always be done by that first birthday date. 

With that in mind, I plan out how many weeks and days with floating breaks at various points in the year.  I have also learned to plan for sick days!  This year I am trying to cram 36 weeks of curriculum into 33 weeks (especially since I may still need to travel back to Chicago to help my dad through chemo and such).  I scheduled our fall time off (Thanksgiving week, Christmas, etc) but I am leaving the spring open with floating weeks off this year so we can take them as we need them.  I'm hoping this works better than how I have done it before (scheduled spring and it often didn't jive with our life!)

Then I field the subject.  History was my heaviest this year because we are Hodge-podging it with a base in Abeka's World History for high schoolers and picking up over halfway through the book, weaving in living books (can you see my Charlotte Mason influence?) and other outside resources and research opportunities.

With younger kids I was always advised: With math, plan 2-3 workbook pages (I always did 2) and with all else, 20-30 minutes of sit-down time with breaks in-between.

For new homeschoolers this may be a trial-and-error situation with a lot of grace for yourself and your kiddos.  Figuring out how long it may take you to read out a lesson or text and approximately how long it will take them to do their end of the deal.  I will admit to some trial runs on my own to gauge out timing!

With older kiddos: I plan 45-60 minutes for the main classes (history, science, math, Language arts) but I have also learned to work one section at a time for better retention.  This means they may finish sooner.  When I want to add in special research projects and such, I usually try to schedule an extra day on top of any text learning so they have plenty of time to complete.

Now, and this is where you who are leary of this whole process may really get weak in the knees (sorry!).... I look through their text and calculate how many sections it has.  For history, I skimmed through and observed where each end-of-section question area was.  On particularly long and meaty sections (especially with maps I know I will want them to copy) I make tally marks of how many extra days I think we should plan for. 

Once the tally is taken, I compare it to how many projected school days we have.  If there are more sections then days I begin to observe where shorter units can be combined or others can be skimmed or skipped altogether.  (I hate having to skip, but even public schools do this)

rough overview of history (left page has more on back)
I draw this out as I go on a notebook paper... a sort of rough outline, and I reference it as I zoom in for the details..

I use a lesson plan sheet I designed.  Once-upon a time I use to coordinate all my subjects to intertwine and draw them out in a legitimate lesson planner.  Then something would come up and we would only get a half-day in or someone would be sick and we would go NO day and next thing I knew, my lesson planner was all off kilt and not even on schedule.  So, I split the subjects.  There is still some intertwining with some of them.  But for us, the split works well.  And instead of blocking out my lesson plans, I list them out.  I tend to hope they are being done by certain days and I will even notate that in the margin, but I hold even these plans loosely because life can and often does get in the way of my best intentions!

This year I typed of History as well as Brenden's Speech and Devotion Writing class.  The texts were meatier and I wanted the ability to quick-adjust and re-write as I combed through the details.  Then I printed them out.

With the list planning, I just start down the line with each lesson in order.  I begin with their text book, skimming each section, noting headings and where extra material might fit in (like maps in history).  On my lesson plan page I label "1" for chapter 1 and ".1" or ".2" and so on to indicate each section of the chapter.  If I split up a section I say "1.2a" etc. Some texts, like their Algebra, already label their sections like this, in which case, I simply follow the text's labeling. 

I add a title, usually the section title, to help me when I reference back to the material later in the year.  I can tell, without opening the book , what topic we will be studying when. 

Under the Materials section I add descriptions of what we will be doing in that lesson and any quizzes or worksheets, etc, I may need.  I often notate in the margin as well with "Ⓒ map p 213" so I can even more quickly scan and have supplies ready before hand.  I also put the page numbers to make it more clear as to where we are in the book!

In the history lesson plan above you see "READ-14" etc, this is a reminder to them and to me (sadly, we are THAT forgetful) to read their literature section of this unit.  The number is what day they should be on in their reading- they are responsible for calculating out what pages to have read by when in order to complete the materiel by the due-date. I have carefully selected 'living books' to go with units in this subject this year.  We will be starting with Oliver Twist.  Consequently, I usually plan about 4 weeks for each literature unit if the book isn't too meaty.  Less if it is shorter. 

I try to be as thorough as I can because I have found, if I am not, we will take the lazy route!

I keep referencing my rough overview as I go, to be sure I am not going too far over my calculated plans.  With math, we have about 22 more lessons than school days so I have a post-it stuck with those plans for keeping tally of days I am able to shave off as I go by combining short units or skipping altogether.  If I get to a pre-determined section of the text and I haven't shaved enough, I will skip certain sections which are either repetitious or I know to be repeating in subsequent curriculum. (like the Geometry and Calculus unit in our Algebra 2 text)

Above is an example of what I do when I DO have lesson plans with the curriculum. Biology only took about a day to organize since I did decide to loosely follow the book's prescribed plans.  You can see the post-it notes I added in margins to indicate extra activities I hope to filter in.  The notebook page above this page shows how I fielded the schedule, using the approximate amount of lessons the book had I could then loosely factor how long I needed to complete the course and where I may need to trim up a bit.

Because numbers don't stick in my brain well, I tend to recount the lessons every so often, compare to my calendar dates, and verify I am not projected to go over. 

math is handwritten because it is more concise
Yes, it is tedious, it is a process and I have learned to do it with many distractions (after all, I am a mom of 4!).  Yet I do enjoy it and the few weeks it takes me (with breaks and excursions) to do the planning in this kind of detail is well worth it when we can sail into our school year and have time to relax and have fun in the off-school hours because I don't have to plan as I go.  Kind of like those cook once and eat all month menus!!

When I am done I file the lessons in my 3 ring binder under subject tabs for reference.  In the past I have photo-copied my lessons for the kids to have in their own binders but, honestly, Ashley only used them some (and she is graduated now) and Brooke used them for her self-paced classes but this year, we have a lot of combo classes and her self-paced ones have the guide right in the book.  Brenden didn't use them at all because I usually sat with him to work out introductions.  So this year, they all go in my binder!

I plan to write important due-dates on the board and have them practice recording them in their planner.  I want to prepare them for slotting out time and being prepared for tests and such in college.

The most important ingredient to my lesson planning is prayer.  I pray before I start for God to guide the plans.  He knows better than I do, the days we need off and the time we will have.  Anytime I started to get frustrated or overwhelmed, I pause and pray.  Sometimes I am trying to schedule too much in one time frame or I am relying on my own sense of time or directive and not allowing God to work.  I become like Jacob, wrestling with the angel.  So I will pause and pray and try to walk more like Abraham and, while sometimes things don't make sense, the way I see the peace of God directing my plans, I trust God and that He knows what my kids need most (and how and when they need it!)

I pray this helps you... either as information and inspiration or as a guide to try your own!  However this article finds you today, I pray God would guide your lesson plans, in whatever form they take, so you might enjoyed a blessed school year ahead!


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