28 October 2012

Donna Young's V Planner (V2.5 DT)

*** Note: The version I'm using is from early 2012. There was an update to the file done in September 2012, but my school year began before that, so I'm not using it yet.

For years I have been using Homeschool Skedtrack for our planning and record-keeping needs. While I loved just about everything about that program, including the quick customer service, I found that year after year I would not stick with it for the entire year. I would do really good for the first month or so, and then I would fall behind with keeping it up to date. 

What I really wanted was a spreadsheet--something like Donna Young's Grades & Attendance. However, unless I wanted to do a lot of tweaking, since we don't follow a traditional 2-semester 36-week school year, that really wasn't going to work for me either. So, instead, I spent the money to get her site CD instead, which included the V Planner

I played around with it during our summer term, just to get a feel for it rather than keep track of anything, and now I'm using it for my planning and record keeping. We are almost through our first trimester, and so far it is a really good fit for the way I operate. I'll go through and explain some of my favorite features and why I like them. 

Separate sheets for each subject: Each student has up to nine sheets to use for their individual subjects. This is where you enter the lesson plans, the grading scales and subsequent grades, and any notes pertaining to the assignment. You also use this sheet mark whether or not a particular assignment has been completed. 

Grade Scale: I like that I have complete control over how I handle grading. There are two standard grading scales already programmed in, but there is also a blank one, so that if you want to set up your own scale, you can do that quite easily. Setting up weighted grades is also easily done within each subject. For example, for Math U See, I like to set it up so that 20% of the grade is daily work, 30% is tests, and 50% is the unit test. When daily work/test/unit test is done, I just have to make sure I put the grade into the correct column. The worksheet automatically calculates the current grade for the class. 

In addition, I love that if I choose not to grade a particular assignment all I have to do is leave the grade cell blank for that day. I can still mark the assignment as complete, and if I need to know why it wasn't graded, I can leave a note in the Teacher's Notes column. (I tend to not grade review lessons that come the day before a test, for example.)

Attendance: There is a separate sheet in the file to use for attendance. It is the same sheet that you use to mark the days that you designate as school days. To mark a student present for a particular day, you just put a Y in the row for that day (or click on the cell and use the drop down) under that student's column, and it gets counted. A total attendance count shows up on the report card when you print one out at the end of each term. 

DP-S-T Planner: I like to use this planner (DP-S-T, not DPList. It's at the bottom of the page). I print one out for each student, and it shows them what work is expected to be completed by the end of the week. If they complete everything on the list by the end of the day on Friday, they get to earn a school prize. This is a very easy way for them to see what still needs to be done.

There is a bit of a learning curve when using this file, more so, I would imagine, if you were not familiar with Excel. However, if you just play around with it for a while, I'm sure you'll find it's pretty easy to implement. You just have to get the feeling of where things are at. In addition, there are many wonderful pages on Donna Young's site that show you how each of the sheets operate. For me, it was completely worth the money I paid to obtain it from the site CD. 

H's New Literature Program

Last week H started a new literature program, Moving Beyond the Page. We're using the Tornado unit to start with. At first, she was hesitant when I gave her a piece of paper and told her to draw a tornado. "But I want to draw hearts." "What if let you draw hearts first, then give you a new piece of paper to draw a tornado on?" "Okay." Of course, a heart made it into the tornado picture, too. :)

Once we got the hearts out of the way, she really seemed to like the lesson. I had offered to write her sentences about tornados down into her journal for her, but she insisted I write them on the white board for her to copy. So, as time-consuming as it was, she happily copied all of her sentences about tornados, which makes me a very proud mama. When it came time for her to jot down her made-up schedule of what her day would look like if she lived on a farm, she decided to let me copy it down for her.

All in all, I think this program is going to be a good fit for her.

06 August 2012

The New School Year

Today is our "official" first day of the new school year. I say "official" because my girls convinced me to start their new materials a week early.

K is going to be using Moving Beyond the Page for her literature studies this year, and when they arrived in the mail, she just couldn't resist them! So far, we are already four days in on this unit. She seems to really like it so far. The approach is right up her alley, especially the journaling part. After each chapter, she is supposed to write a quick summary of the chapter and add an illustration to go along with it.

New for H this year is Sequential Spelling. (We are also going to be adding Growing With Grammar and maybe Winning With Writing, but we haven't yet.) I think the allure of this for her is the fact that her sister uses the program. For some reason, whatever her sister is doing always looks fun for her. I'm hoping that this approach to spelling will allow her to feel free to start writing more. She usually doesn't like to write things because she doesn't know how to spell much. She just can't stand for anything to be spelled wrong on her work!

Well, so far so good. The day has gone smoothly, despite the fact that I'm also dealing with a sick baby today. I'm really looking forward to this school year. I think that for the most part, we are over the hump in regards to strong resistance. H needs a little more work, but she is beginning to see the importance of school.