Sunday, August 23, 2015

simplified planning:: mapping out our homeschool year

The days are rolling by and we are in the throws of the newness of the school year. My Challenge A student experienced his first seminar this week and my Foundations kiddos will leap into cycle 1 next week. The ball is rolling and we are jumping on board!

I thought I would pause for a few moments and share some ways that I go about planning for our year. If you don't have a plan or a guide as you begin your journey, the road may be bumpy and full of frustrations.  Having a plan in place gives structure to our days and I have found gently guides our homeschool on the rails of routine.

Over the years my thoughts and processes have changed, honed in a way. I went from trying to fit our homeschool into the "school model" I was exposed to and taught in to fully embracing the freedom of the grammar stage of the classical model. Especially in the last year I have purposed to plan and teach from a place of rest that actively seeks to discover truth, goodness and beauty in all we study. And that approach has changed the way I set out to plan and schedule our year.

I greatly desire to leave room in our days for discovery and contemplation. This is one of the reasons that we began having a Morning Meeting {click the link to read more about how we use this time in our day.} This is still very much a part of where I am gearing our studies for our new year. In addition to purposing times in our day for this search, there are two goals that I keep in mind before I begin to plan. They are simplify and integrate.

Simplify::
I want to plan less so that we can do more. Sounds like a contradiction and yet it is so full of truth. If I want my children to have a broad and deep education I have to remember that true depth comes from going deep into a few things and not just dabbling in many pursuits.

Integrate::
I seek to plan our studies in a way that makes things count double. Reading aloud to my children books that contain science and history correlations. Creating scientific drawings for art and science. Copying CC memory work for handwriting and copy practice.

So with all this in mind, how do I actually set out to plan our year?

Here are 5 steps that I take when planning our year:

1. Set up a Planner & Plug in dates 
The first thing I do is set up my planner {see my planner post for more info}. Pick a start and stop goal date then block off any vacations, breaks and holidays. I then add in CC community days and breaks to complete our basic schedule. The framework is now in place and ready for the details.

2. Select Curricula 
Ok. I admit. This step can take awhile. It can be something we mamas sweat over. I am so thankful that Classical Conversations is the spine of all we do. This helps me frame out our studies based on our current cycle memory work. I believe that if we work the classical model we will have success. I plan in our daily review, classical note booking and correlated reading. I add in our math and language and the rest falls into place.

3. Create Classical Notebooks
I love to use binders for my Foundations students to keep our memory and copy work organized for our year. I use 24 tab dividers and load work such as History Sentence copy work, geography maps, Latin and English pages for each week of the cycle we are on. I use resources like the cycle at a glance sheet from Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood for quick reference while I plan. Then I sit down to spend several hours pursuing CC Connected for downloads and worksheets. Thank you all you CC mamas for creating some wonderful resources!
I also use Pinterest to plan out ideas for extra activities to complement our weekly memory work. Check out my Pinterest boards divided into weeks for cycle 1 if you are looking for some ideas.

4. Plan Reading Lists
I start by combing through books we already own that will complement the current cycle and our studies. I make a list of wants {it is usually fairly lengthy;)} and decide what I want to purchase and then I start searching our local library holds. Books are really important for our studies. I want to make sure we have readers, references and read alouds for each topic we study. The book lists from Half-a-Hundred-Acre Wood are a great resource.

5. Grab a book and dig in!
I finally sit down with our math and language curriculum and stack of post-it notes and dig in. If I am not familiar with the guides and curriculum then I will not be very effective in planning our days, right?  I use the post-its to summarize the goals of lessons, make notes of things we may need and then add that into our Planner. I can move post-it notes around before making the final decision on where lessons will fall in our weeks.

Ultimately I offer all of this planning up to the Lord in prayer. To realize that I don't need the perfect list of books or to over think math. I purpose to prayerfully consider the materials we need based on my goal to educate my children well as I seek to raise them to know and serve the Lord. That by loving God, I am loving them.

So if you have already begun your year or are just about to, remember to plan your days in a way that reflects the goals you have for your homeschool. Allow time for your pursuit of truth and beauty.

Blessings!
~Heather

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