How I Plan

The question of planning came up at the Homespun Waldorf forum and I decided to do a post here since I really don't know how to post photos there without using a hosting service such as Flickr.

Anyway, I sit down with my materials and a calendar and plan out the year. Not what we are going to do each day, but the block progression and how long each block will be. This is the chart I did for this year:

This gives me a basic plan to go from. You'll notice that we have a different lesson each afternoon; this is new for us this year.  Previously we had an afternoon/secondary lesson that we did four afternoons a week for two to four weeks; lessons such as cooking, knitting, painting, weaving, sewing, modeling, etc. While I love that format I've found that this year we need the afternoon time for other things such as our PE class.  So now we do a themed afternoon lesson on Mondays; I didn't want to lose handwork so we do that some evenings in a relaxed manner. We're trying it out; if it doesn't work we will go back to doing literature during our mornings and we will devote three days a week to the afternoon lesson.

I also outline each block at the beginning of the year. Since we are using Live Education I just refer to the lessons I have chosen from their materials. Here is the lesson block for Ancient Greece I:

These block outlines are really important for me. I mark days that we have special celebrations and days that Papa has off. Since we aren't doing every single lesson in the Live Education materials I can't just go in order without a plan. Also, if a lesson is taking less time than expected I can decide whether or not to move ahead, and if it takes longer I can decide which remaining lesson we can skip.

We do have to have some flexibility. For example, I planned the above block and since I did that our homeschool group planned our annual trip to the pumpkin patch for this coming Monday. Looking at the lessons I saw that I could combine Topic 5: Lessons 1 and 2 on Tuesday so that is how we will manage the field trip. Practice work, grammar, and new math learning can be skipped for one day; I won't be so rigid that we miss out on doing things.  But I can think like an unschooler as well, practicing math facts or grammar skills in the car on the way to the pumpkin patch, or even just singing seasonal songs.

Typically I sit down on the weekend and look over the week's lessons in-depth (using the outline shown above). I'd like to do this for the month but it hasn't worked out that way yet. I make a note of any supplies that I need to gather or purchase and decide which source books we'll use for each lesson, marking the passages I need to read. If I am going to do a chalkboard drawing for the block I try to get it started before the first day of the block. I also determine if I am going to do any crayon drawings ahead of time and whether I need to look for images or other sources on the computer so that I can print them out ahead of time.

For grammar I print out the sheets from the Daily Grammar ebook we are using; we just go in order so I print about one month's worth at a time. I have the Making Math Meaningful speed sheets printed already. We go through Life of Fred in order so that doesn't take much planning, and I don't write it out as I can't know how many times the boys will need to attempt a bridge before they are ready to move on. Sometimes they nail it with one bridge and sometimes they need to do all five.

For literature we choose one book per month; it doesn't follow our block schedule. I think I may have written before that I am working with the boys on developing a literature class to teach, and since most classes run monthly that is how we are doing it. This month the are reading Rick Riordan's The Son of Neptune. The idea is to teach classic literature, but I hadn't chosen a book to start with and this one arrived so we went with it.

Other than doing my chart and outlines on the computer I don't actually plan on the computer. Having it on paper works for me. I have a teacher's plan book and in it I keep track of what we are doing by subject. I enter planned lesson work as well as things that simply come up (the way an unschooler might record learning). If there is a project I would like us to do I put it on a sticky note and then I move it to the week that I will need to get supplies. Then I move it to the day I might need to do prep work, and finally to the day I expect to do the project. I use sticky notes to remind me of field trips we might want to do, etc.

I used to plan a formal circle, but the boys hated formal circle time.  So we switched to a more organic circle.  I asked myself, what is the heart of circle?  To me a large part of it is the coming together after the separation of sleep.  So we eat breakfast together as a family.  We send Papa off to work and do our chores.  Then as the three of us come together for lesson work we do a few more relaxed activities that bring us into the frame of mind for lessons. We might walk if the weather is good, working on verses we are memorizing as well as reviewing oral math facts.  Or we might stay in the house and sing, working on rounds and harmonies.

I do think that a huge benefit if homeschooling is adapting day-to-day.  If a lesson is falling flat I will improvise.  I've been known to jettison an entire block if it just isn't working for us. I also refuse to worry; it isn't the end of the world if we don't get something done.

My planning takes a lot less time than it looks like from this post. I put in a couple days before the homeschool year begins and then I prep for an hour or so each week.


cypress said…
This is a wonderful approach...I'm grateful that you took the time to share it.

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