I've written several posts about planning over the years. Maybe readers will see that I tend to change things each year. I suppose that's part of homeschooling, at least for me. Each year there are different circumstances to deal with; new babies, nursing babies, toddlers, traveling, learning difficulties, etc. etc. Around here, these changes usually mean I have to adjust my planning system. This year, back in August, we began with what I thought was going to be a great plan. But by October I was completely stressed.
Part of my October stress was due to the pregnancy. I remembered that when I was pregnant with Beany that "2nd semester energy boost" was non-existent. I suppose when your over 40 and pregnant energy boosts just don't happen. So, I was feeling tired and didn't see any light at the end of the nine month tunnel. That can be a bit depressing, especially as the days get shorter and colder.
Then there was the crazy schedule we had going. Both Night Owl and Jetter were playing football and while it was all very exciting, every weekend was taken up with football games. Night Owl's were on Friday nights and Jetter's were on Saturdays. So my Saturday routines which included some final school preparations, and normally extra cleaning, laundry, and errand running, were pushed to Sundays. That is something I really had a hard time with. Remember, I was already very tired, but now "the day of rest" was used for catching up from the hectic week! I just plain ran out of energy. Not to mention the planning, which I had enjoyed so much at the beginning of the year, just wasn't getting done. This made our Monday mornings less than stellar as far as schooling went. I didn't have my planning done and for me that is like being stuck in the mud. I have a really hard time just "winging things". I need a plan.
On top of everything else, I was feeling a bit burned out. Looking back, I'm not sure it was actually "burn out" but maybe just plain ol' tiredness. I actually cried when our homeschool group decided to have an All Saints Day Party. This is something I normally looked forward too, and my kids love! But I just saw it as one more thing I had to do. Costumes! Ugh! (I'm not proud of my attitude - just tryin' to give you a clear picture of how I was feeling!)
So, I remember thinking, "How on earth am I going to do this?! I'm already exhausted. I have a husband and kids that need to be loved, fed and cared for. I have kids that need to be educated. My house needs to be cleaned. Groceries need to bought. Errands need to be run ... AND this baby is due just before Christmas! I have to get ready for Christmas, like ... NOW! .... " Get the picture? I was wigging out big time!
Then, as a result of clicking through some of my favorite blogs, looking for inspiration, I clicked on a link, that linked to another link, that linked to this blog post:
Springs of Joy blog
Talk about "Springs of Joy"! I could almost hear The Hallelujah Chorus playing in the background! This file system saved the day, and since it's still working, the rest of our school year!
Here are her opening paragraphs - the lines that grabbed me and helped me realize that this is just what we needed:
"Wouldn't it be nice to have a personal assistant in your homeschool? How about an administrative assistant who would hand you everything you needed for the week pre-photocopied and organized by child... including lists for shopping and the library. Maybe she would even hand you a pile of fun coloring pages and games for your littles to do.
Perhaps she could help you get all the things you wanted to do in your homeschooling but never get to because you didn't have time to get it ready. Like what about that FIAR study that you always meant to do with your littles, or the fun lapbook units that pass by your email box."
Yes, that is exactly what I need! So how do I do it?
So I read the rest of the post, realizing that I had already completed the first 3 of her steps to starting this system. I then sat all the kids down and asked them how they would feel about taking an unplanned break from school - probably a week - so I could get a new system into place. Silly question! Of course they were on board, even though it meant that we would have to attach a week onto the end of our school year. They quickly calculated it and realized they would still be done with school before Night Owl, so they were all for it.
The kids started their "Fall Break" and I started gathering the materials. I already had tons of file folders on hand that I recycled for this purpose. No, they aren't pretty, but they are functional which is all I cared about at that time. (If I do this next year I might buy some pretty folders!). I found 2 file boxes and divided the folders in half, so they fit easily. I originally tried getting them all into one file box but they were really tight and getting things out would have been difficult. This way there was a little breathing room. Then, starting with Social Butterfly, I went through the rest of the year's plans and week by week filled the file folders with everything she would need, from grammar pages, to notes regarding papers to be written, to copies of poems to be memorized ... It was actually kind of fun. I was in organizer / planner heaven.
Then I moved on to Jetter, and then Builder. I did not do folders for Beany, although I realize now it would have been nice to put some coloring pages and number / letter worksheets in folders for him. The one subject I did not divide by week is Math.
There are a few reasons why I did not include Math in the fild folder system.
First, I would have had to tear out the pages and the math books are some big books! The thought of tearing them up just bothered me. Also, Social Butterfly's math book is not consumable, so I couldn't tear hers apart anyway.
Second, one of the things that makes the file system work is that if you miss a day, you just keep going. The missed work is quickly done orally, or even not at all. I can't do this for math. As you know, in math, each lesson builds on previous lessons. It's important that the child understands each step or they will find themselves totally lost a little while later (don't ask me how I know!). If we missed a day, I couldn't see just skipping the assignment, so the kids do every assignment in order. Yes, they might have a few days at the end of the year after the rest of the school work is done to finish up math, but it's not usually a problem.
Third, we have a great "flow" to our day and that is something that didn't need changed. Part of that flow is that we do math at the dining room table, all together, while the kids eat breakfast. The rest of our school work is done in the school room. So I just kept the math books and materials in the dining room where they had always been. The file boxes are stored in the school room where the rest of the work is done.
One week later, or really less than a week, the file system was ready to go. It works beautifully with our workboxes and binders. Each Saturday, it only takes me a few minutes to pull out each child's folder and pop the assignments into their boxes or binders. The kids are cruising along with their school work despite the fact that I might be changing a diaper or nursing a baby. Mondays are no longer dreaded ... well at least not much, and I don't have to spend hours on the weekend planning for the week. (Actually, I do still plan a few things but they are the fun things we weren't getting to before, like Lap Books! But that's yet another post!)