My Planning Methods

I've been putting off this post for a long time, since I know it's destined to be a long, detailed one. However, it's that time of year when the homeschool forums are all abuzz about which planner type to use: computer program, iPad app, spreadsheet, or good old-fashioned pencil and paper. So, here I am, trying to make my contribution.

First of all, we school year round, beginning the first full week of August, which happens to be August 5th this year. My school year is then broken down into six-week segments of school followed by one week for a break. By doing our schedule this way, we end up with 42 weeks of school, or approximately 210 days. (We also take off two days for Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, and most of July.) This works out well, because we don't stress too much if math doesn't get done on a day or if someone is sick for three days or if there's a birthday party on a Friday afternoon. Also, after about the 5th week of school, everyone seems about ready for a break, so if we can just make it through one more week...

During the week off, I plan ahead for the next six weeks. Planning any further ahead drives me nuts, since you never know what's going to happen during the six weeks. Sometimes we take longer on a topic than originally thought, sometimes we are ahead of where we needed to be, and sometimes we decide to completely switch direction with what we're doing. This particularly tends to happen with literature. The new six-week session is like a fresh start. I cannot stand having my lesson plan book all scribbled and moved around and on the wrong date, etc.

Which brings me to my lesson plans. I don't actually use a book. I tried that with K back in her preschool days when we were trying to follow Letter of the Week, and it lasted for like a minute. What I do now not only breaks things up into smaller time chunks, but it also breaks up the subjects. Having things smaller makes them more manageable for me. I think this will be my third year doing my planning like this, and I have made tweaks along the way.

I begin with Donna Young's Six-Week Planner. I made a master of this that has the planning boxes numbered to correspond with our assignment box. (I'll talk more about the assignment box in a later post.)

At the top I jot down any notes that I need for the session, like a list of supplies I will need for science projects or a reminder that I want H to continue working on her addition facts. Then, I cross off any dates that will not be school days. For example, we attend two semesters of co-op during the year, which takes place on Thursdays. Those will be X'd off, since we won't be doing our "normal" subjects on those days. Once I've done that, I put in the lesson plans for the term and staple the sheet onto the front of a file folder. Inside the file folder, I put the actual assignments to keep them all together and organized until I get them into the assignment box.

Once I begin getting subjects all planned out, I will add the assignments into the planner. My planner is an elaborate spreadsheet file created by Donna Young. It truly is the most perfect planner/record keeper I have run across. I will go into more detail about the latest version of this planner in my next post. In the meantime, here is my post about the version we used for the 2012-13 school year.

Next up: Planning Methods, Part II

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