Okay, this is going to be a long one ... but hopefully you'll find it helpful!
Here is part 2 of my planning process - The Year, The Weeks, The Days: the File Crate System
(Part 1: Curriculum is here, in case you missed it)
My Planning Process: In a Nutshell
- Outline the year
- Plan our weekly rhythm
- Come up with the basics of what I want us to do daily
- Finally, plan out the lessons week by week - keeping our yearly, weekly, and daily goals as guideposts
Okay, back to my humble, simple system.
- file crate
- hanging file dividers and file folders
- curriculum (and any books needed to go along with it)
- blank paper for planning
- 3 blank notebooks (1 for each kid)
- colored sharpie markers (1 color for each kid)
(Very Cool Sidenote for OM Third Graders: I recently found the lesson plans of another family using Oak Meadow for third grade and she is generously sharing her plans online: Oak Meadow 3 Lesson Plans ::: Hawai'ian Dreaming)
I like to spread out on our bed and have everything where I can see it
(pre-steps: fix a mug of your favorite beverage, play some nice music, put on your jammies even, and spread out and get comfortable. If you're doing this exactly as I do, you'll have some chocolate on hand, too. It takes me about 2 hours to plan a single week, so carve out a chunk of time. Relax, enjoy the process - you're getting organized!)
1. Outline the Year: I make an outline of the year, including any family events, birthdays, vacations, festivals, and scheduled time off. This is not the space for details, just an overview of the year ahead.
I pick a start date and then a general end date for the school year. We're starting the week before Labor Day this year to allow for more time off in December. I'm planning to take some time off in April (a.k.a. "Crazy Time" at our house as it is Tax Season and Daddy generally works 80 hour work weeks)
I folded my paper into 12 sections and then outlined the year
2. Our Weekly Rhythm Our weekly rhythm of activities has been the same for years now, so this is an easy step for me. (note: much of this comes right out of Little Acorn Learning) I include our colors of the day in this as well.
Monday - Cooking/Baking, Purple
Tuesday - Painting, Red
Wednesday - Coloring, Yellow
Thursday - Fine Motor Skills activities, Orange
Friday - Practical Life, Green
(Saturday - Library/Errand day)
To this I'm also continuing to do our toy rotation (an idea from Steady Mom) and we have weekly book baskets according to our Little Acorn Learning themes, too.
3. Daily Goals
Each day my goal is to have:
- a Morning Circle and Calendar Time (together)
- 4 workboxes for Jillian (Math, Social Studies, Science and Nature, Language Arts)
- an activity from our weekly rhythm - cooking, painting, etc. (Little Acorn Learning)
- a nature walk and time outside
- free time in the afternoon for reading and handwork projects
Week by Week
Okay, so I have my year outlined, I have a weekly rhythm, and I have daily goals. Now I'm ready to plan out the individual weeks one by one.
To give myself flexibility, I plan week by week with a general "Week One" "Week Two" label rather than going by exact dates on the calendar. This helps when the inevitable week-long flu bug hits and wipes out my plans. This way I don't have to shuffle every thing around according to specific dates (I learned that lesson the hard way) but I can just grab the next week that we're ready for.
Give yourself flexibility for "sick days" and family emergencies, because they WILL happen.
nothing fancy, just a simple system
Okay, here's the nitty gritty:
I go through one child at a time and plan for a week at a time (note: some things, like circle time and crafts will overlap. More on that in a moment)
I go day by day through the syllabus or themes, making notes as I go.
Step by Step:
- Each kid is color-coded in a different sharpie marker.
- Into file folder I put anything specific to them for the week's lessons
- Each file folder goes into the week's hanging file folder divider
- Also into the weekly divider goes anything else relevant to the week including library lists, Circle Time plans, etc.
- I write up details plans (noting page numbers, etc) on a separate sheet of paper (Monday to Friday) and that paper goes into the hanging file, too.
Clear as mud? Well, maybe this will help to make it a little bit clearer:
Each divider has 3 files (one for each kid) + weekly plans and lists
So, what exactly goes into the individual file folders?
- any printouts such as color pages or worksheets
- any workbox activities: lapbook materials, instructions for a lesson, copywork, etc.
- chalkboard ideas for specific lessons (this one mainly pertains to Jillian)
- notes I've made on workbox fillers or book basket tie-ins
- handwork patterns (again, mainly related to Jillian)
So .... for example, I take the Little Acorn Learning materials for the week and I look at my weekly rhythm. Then I grab a blank sheet of paper and write across the top:
Monday/Baking Tuesday/Painting Wednesday/Coloring Thursday/Fine Motor Friday/Practical Life
Then I fill in either the Little Acorn plans or, in the case of Thursday's Fine Motor Activity, I add in my own:
Monday/Baking - soda bread w/ honey butter
Tuesday/Painting - watercolor with reds
Wednesday/Coloring - tree bark rubbings
Thursday/Fine Motor - Lego Quest challenge
Friday/Practical Life - caring for wooden toys w/ beeswax rub
With the kids' individual files, the process might look like this:
I know that I want Jillian to have work boxes every day for Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science and Nature Study. We also have a Bedtime story as part of our learning with Oak Meadow.
So, I take a piece of paper and I divide it into five days (Mon - Fri, using the front and back of the sheet) and under each day I write:
Language Arts -
Social Studies -
So, in this example we'll use Math. I go to the Oak Meadow third grade syllabus, and I see that we have an OM math lesson 3 days this week. I want her to have some math every day, so I fill in the Math workboxes spaces accordingly:
Monday Math - OM lesson
Tuesday Math - 30 min. Workbook (Jillian LOVES workbooks!)
Wednesday Math - OM lesson
Thursday Math - tangram puzzle play
Friday Math - OM lesson
I go through each subject and do that. If there isn't an OM lesson that we're using, I fill in an idea for review or for fun exploring that subject further.
Into the file folder for Jillian that week I then place any instructions, worksheets, etc. that she will need. The sheet of paper with Jillian's weekly plan gets added to the other sheets of paper (Max's plan, the weekly rhythm, the library list, etc.) and then it ALL gets filed in that week's divider.
I think you get the idea. And then it all goes into the purple file box and I grab the next week :-)
As we're working through the year, if we don't get to everything we need to in one week, I can just take it out and put in the next week's folder. This is why I LOVE this system - very easy to make changes!
Last year the purple crate lived on this desk, beside our printer, but now that I've turned this room into the dining room, it will have to find a new home ... stay tuned!
In the Purple Crate
You may have noticed I mentioned binders and blank notebooks are in the crate as well. These are in the purple file box along with the weekly plans.
The binders are for compiling Jillian's third grade work. I'm going to create a divider for each subject and just hole punch her papers and add them to the binder at the end of each day.
Yes, it is something a little bit different from how we have been keeping our work and not exactly a main lesson book, but it simplifies the process for me - our work for the year ends up in binders at the end of the year anyway, this just skips a few steps.
The notebooks come from a tip I learned from Melisa of A Little Garden Flower: keep a notebook for each grade and update it often as the school year goes on. You may think you'll remember from one year to the next, but you won't. There are nearly five years between my oldest and the next kid in line, so I'm pretty sure I won't remember everything about teaching third grade by the time it rolls around again.
(The notebooks are also good places to write down funny things the kids say and to journal about our days, too. These homeschool days are precious and won't last forever - make memories!)
Links I've Found Helpful in this Process:
- The File Crate System ::: By Sun and Candlelight
- Waldorf Homeschooling with a Kindergartner, Third Grader, and a Baby ::: Parenting Passageway
- Discovering Waldorf - Planning for the Year Ahead ::: Donna Ashton on The Magic Onions
- Preparing for the New Homeschool Year (podcast) ::: Organizing Your Way
- Planning 101 ::: Mama Acorn
- Time Management for Homeschoolers ::: Simple Homeschool
Next Up: I'm working on Organizing Our School Room
(whew! okay, I need some chocolate now ...)