31 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday - July 31, 2013

Before pictures of the school room shelving units:

Wordless Wednesday on Only Passionate Curiosity

21 July 2013

Planning Methods, Part II

If you missed the first part of my planning system, here's the link. Once I get my lesson plans written onto my six-week planner sheets, I put them into our V Planner, which is an elaborate Excel spreadsheet. We will be using V Planner V3 this year. It's different from the one we used last year, and I'm still trying to decide if I like it better or not. It does give you the option to record a semester class, but all of our classes run throughout the entire year, so that isn't something I necessarily need. However, it's not so different that it's going to turn me off from using it. I'm just used to the look of the version I'm using now.

Below is a screen shot of what part of a subject page, or S Sheet, looks like. The planner allows you to use either a date system or a number system. I prefer the number system, so I just put all the assignments in without regard to the dates. For example, if I were putting in history assignments, which are only done two days per week, I would just list the assignments out with no blank rows in the planner, just like I did for math. 

V Planner V3 S Sheet

As you can see from the example above, I use the same worksheet for both my planning and my record keeping. I love this feature! I don't do grades for all the subjects, but my girls love getting their grammar and math graded, so I grade all their daily work and tests and record them in my V Planner. I can also print out a report card at the end of a term.

After all of my lesson plans for the six-weeks are planned out, I take the assignments and transfer them from the subject file folders where I was keeping them organized to the assignment box. The assignment box is a plastic file folder box that holds legal-sized folders. 

Assignment Box

I have 30 hanging file folders that are labeled with the numbers 1-30. These represent the 30 school days within our six-week term. Each hanging file folder currently has two legal file folders in it. The one with the left tab is for K and the one with the middle tab is for H. (Once J gets to school age, if I'm still using this same system, he'll have the right tab.) When I'm putting the assignments into the folders, I make sure that I put them into the folder with the number that corresponds to the number on the planning sheet. For example, if I have #4 X'd out because it's a co-op day, I don't put any assignments into the #4 folder in the assignment box. 

Each day, I take all of the assignments from the daily folder and put them into the girls drawers. These are actually different from the workboxes that I used to use. I had an opportunity to purchase rainbow drawers at Sam's Club, and since the drawers were a bit bigger than what I was using, I switched. 

There is no rhyme or reason to which assignments go in which drawers. I like to loosely follow a routine for our school day, but my students don't always want math at math time, so as long as they are working on one of their assignments, I give them some leeway on their individual subjects. 

After the six-week session, I take any unfinished assignments and assign them again at the beginning of the six-week session. I also use this time to reassess what is working and what is not working. I can plan to spend more time or less time per topic for the next six weeks, or I can plan to double up assignments or skip lessons that I think are already mastered. 

18 July 2013

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

17 July 2013

Getting Prepped for Science

I finally did it! I finally purchased the Elemental Science (ES) Biology for the Logic Stage ebook! I am really excited to start this program in a few weeks, and I think that K is, too. We will probably have to begin the program without a microscope, but I hope to obtain one soon enough that we only miss one lesson that needs it.

I sat down over the weekend and printed out all the pages. I did the teacher's guide two-sided, but I wanted to do the student guide one-sided, so that we didn't have to worry about anything going through to the other side or smudges getting on facing pages.

It's impressive what 262 pages in a binder looks like!

We still have to obtain the spines, which are the Encyclopedia of Nature by DK Publishing and The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia, and of course, the microscope and probably a set of prepared slides. Then we will be all set to get started on what looks like a magnificent program for my 9-year-old scientist!

11 July 2013

3rd-Grade Mini Office

In light of recent frustration over multiplication facts, I have realized that updated versions of the girls' mini offices may be a fantastic idea! They made some a few years ago and used them briefly, but at the time, they consisted of things like colors, numbers, and the printed alphabet for H and addition, coins, and days of the week for K.

For H, I wanted to include things that she was currently working on, in addition to the things that I hope to include in her studies later in the year. As a minimum, I wanted to have an addition table, Roman numerals, a chart of the colors of Math-U-See blocks, place value, coins, capitalization rules, books of the Bible, and months of the year.

I still had the saved files that contained the days of the week, months of the year, and books of the Bible that were done in Word format, so I printed those up first. Then I began a search for mini offices on Google, where I found tons of great JPG files and PDFs to download and print. I found some great, ready to use files on abcteach.com, and squidoo.com provided links to many more. For math, I was lucky enough to come across this wonderful blog post, where the author had already done all the work of putting together a PDF that coincides with Math-U-See.

Then, it came down to how exactly did I want to do the mini office. I had originally planned on doing one that had the folder flaps folded and then glued together like how we normally do a lapbook, but then I ran across a nice accordion-shaped one. I ultimately decided to go with what I knew, and I think it turned out well.

Armed with the printed materials, I set to work. The result was one folder of MUS references, one folder with additional math references (and the books of the Bible), and one folder with grammar references. I plan on getting these laminated individually before I attach them to one another, but first I want to get a copy of our cursive alphabet small enough to put in the empty space on the grammar folder.

MUS folder including making 10, clocks, skip counting, and Decimal Street. (I'm pretty sure that H already has the colors of the blocks memorized, but I do not, so that chart is more for me than it is for her!)

Miscellaneous math items, including Roman numerals, money, thermometer showing both Fahrenheit and Celsius, Gallon Man,  spelling numbers to 20, and an addition chart. A Books of the Bible list is also included on the right flap. 

In addition to tips for correcting sentences, types of sentences, capitalization rules, days of the week, and months of the year are also included in the grammar folder. The months of the year chart also includes the number of days in each month. The upper left corner will be where the cursive alphabet goes. 

03 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday

The Fertile Crescent 


Modern Day Middle East