Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Monumental Task

Now that all the new books have been ordered I'll need to do the gathering part - pulling books we already own off the shelves. But before I start taking out next year's books, I really need to clean up from last year.  The task cleaning up the school room this time is going to be monumental.  Why, you ask?
Let me give you a scenario to consider ...

Imagine you have a graduating senior and you plan to have a big open house for him.  You finish your school year a bit haphazardly because you become ultra focused on getting the yard ready for this openhHouse as soon as warm weather hits.  You are very stressed because at the particular school your son attended for highschool, open houses are a really big deal and it's customary to invite everybody.  Now, it's a small school - about 200 at the highschool - but since you are inviting more than just close friends and family, alot more, you become filled with anxiety about how your house looks.  So, Spring is spent relandscaping and making lists of everything you want to do inside once you are done with the outside.

Now, plan a trip to happen the weekend before the open house.  Really?  Did I really do that?  Yes.  Part of it was because we had two nieces graduating this year and we wanted to attend their open houses in another state.  Part of it was because my mother hasn't been feeling well and we wanted to go and pick her up so she could come back here to stay with us for a while, and, part of it was because I felt we would need a break from the stress. So we went to Ohio and spent a day at Cedar Point.  It was great!  I didn't think about our open house at all.  How could I with all those fantastic roller coasters?! The next day we had a lovely time at my niece's open house, then we headed for home.

So, back to that scenario...
Now, come home, get mom settled in her room, remember the older two kids will be helping all week at the VBS, remember you are driving your kids and a friend's kids to this VBS all week, look around the house and PANIC!  One week to go and while the yard is looking pretty good, the porches need swept, the windows need cleaned and the inside of the house is, (sigh), not at all ready.  Oh! Remember also that ALL. THAT. FOOD needs to be purchased and prepared.  Then realize, while typically the two older kids are really good at watching the younger kids so you can get stuff done, they wont be here - all week - because of the VBS. 

So what do you do?  You quickly start filling up the room in the basement that has a door you can close.  What room is that?  The school room.  It's okay, at first.  Most of the stuff you are putting down there is school stuff.  You decide things like easles in the sun room and baskets of books in the living room probably wont do for the open house so those get taken down to the school room.  Then, husband decides that chair he needs to fix might get sat on and broken more, so he takes that down to the school room.  Then, when the kids are supposed to be cleaning the other room in the basement, the one we call the play room, they decide to just shove all the toys into the school room.  It goes on like this all week.

Finally the big day comes and the open house is a huge success.  All those family members leave for their homes in Ohio and Grandma goes with them.  You relax for an entire day and then the next day you go down to the school room to get something ...

So, as you may have guessed, there will be no sitting around just waiting for the new books to come.  It's time to clean, again.  I better get started! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Hunting and Gathering Stage

Moving on now to gathering and purchasing materials for the coming school year.  To keep things organized, I create a table in Word with the following column headings:

Subject/ Storage Location
For Whom
Purchase, gather or organize

Remember, this is after I have already done the research and chosen what books and materials I will use for each child.  This table helps me in the "hunting and gathering" of all those materials I want to use. 

The Item column is self explanatory - just the name of the resource.

  The Subject/Storage/Location column is where I will jot down not only the subject but where I will keep the books and where we will use the books.  For instance, we do Math at the dining room table but history read alouds are done in the living room.  I store the books as close as possible to the place they are used.  I note this on my sheet, so as I gather books I can easily remember where to put them as we await the new school year.

For Whom is self explanatory. I write the name of the child the item is for.

Purchase, Gather, Organize  is where I note whether this book is already on our shelves or if I have to buy it.  I also note here if something requires organization.  An example of that would be a lap book of some sort, or even something like All About Spelling.  I try to get things set up ahead of time so that things run smoothly during the year.  This column is sort of a"to do list".

Source is where I note the company I will purchase from.  If I already have the item I can just put "home" here, or something like that.  Notations in this column might change if I find the resource at a cheaper price.

Price helps me stay in my budget. 

Notes is where I put anything I want to remember while I'm preparing to use this item.

Once this table is filled out I write up my shopping lists.  I have done this with paper and pen and also at the computer.  I guess it just depends on the mood I'm in.  I usually have several lists.  Emmanuel Books and Rainbow Resources appear every year.  I also purchase from other companies though so those will each have their own list. 

When everything on my Gathering and Purchasing list has been noted, I take my lists and start ordering, or pulling items off of our shelves. I have to admit I enjoy buying new books, but there is a certain satisfaction that comes from using resources that I already own.


Planning was put on hold last week while we enjoyed some family time.  Last weekend we headed for Ohio where we went to my nieces Open House.  Before getting there though, we spent Saturday at Cedar Point.  What a fun day we had!  Lots of roller coasters and other rides.  Everyone had a great time.  The Open House was also enjoyable as we reconnected with aunts, uncles and cousins that we hadn't seen for too long.

My mother came back home with us to spend the week as we prepared for Night Owl's Open House. That was a very busy week!  It was nice to have her here but I'm afraid we didn't have much time to visit. 

Yesterday (Sunday) was hectic in a fun sort of way as we hosted the biggest party we've ever thrown.  Lots of people, a huge tent, tons of food .... Whew!  Now we're exhausted!  We couldn't be more proud of Night Owl as this time of his life comes to close and college awaits.

Back to planning tomorrow though.  I need to get some books ordered!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Choosing Resources

Choosing the resources I will use to reach the goals I listed in step 3 is one of my favorite parts of planning for the coming year.  If anyone is keeping track, this is the 4th step in my planning process.  I should add here though, that even though I am breaking things into "steps" there is some overlap.  For example, "Choosing Resources" might be step 4, but it is really something I do year round. 

I am always on the look out for new resources for my home school.  Now, I don't actively seek them year round, but if I read a blog post about a great grammar program or hear about a new way to use a history timeline, or whatever, I make sure to note it in one of two places.  Here on my computer, I have a file in my "Favorites" entitled "Curriculum to Consider".  When I come across something I want to look into more, or definitely use in the future, I simply save it in that file.  I also have a handwritten list that I keep in a notebook.  This notebook usually sits on the stand by the couch on which I sit to do most of my reading, or in the bag that houses books I am in the process of reading.  When spring or late winter rolls around and I get into "planning mode" I take the time to really look into these resources.

These two lists of curricula and resources to consider get considerably long by the time I start planning!  When I'm ready to actually plan for the coming year, I take the snippets of time that I have and research each item.  Sometimes I think to myself, "What was I thinking?  That will never do!" and I can cross that item off my list.  Often though, I have some tough decisions to make between several good resources.  Here is where it is important for me to go back to the goals I have prayerfully set.  It makes it a little easier to make a decision when I can ask, "Is this resource going to help me or my child achieve the intended goal for this year?"  Sometimes, it might be a really great book that everyone is raving about and I just love because it has so much visual appeal, or whatever, but, if it doesn't help me reach the goals I took the time to set, it gets crossed off the list (or at least moved to next years "Curriculum to Consider List"!)   So as long as I refer to the goals I set, this process of elimination isn't too difficult. 

Sometimes, a resource makes me want to add a goal to my  list.  That can work okay, but I have to work hard to keep my love of curricula from dictating what our goals will be.  I learned early on that keeping our ship on course means having a definite harbor to reach.  Allowing the various curricula to dictate our course causes our boat to go this way and that way and we never really reach a harbor at all, never mind the one we had intended to shoot for.

For keeping track of all of these curriculum choices, once again, I keep two lists.  One is here at the computer in Word, and the other is, once again, in my notebook.  I do this because I find that I am not always at my computer when I am working on my planning.  We only have one family computer in the house so we have to share it's use.  That means, when I have time to do some planning, if someone is working (or playing!) at the computer, I have to wait.  Having a notebook allows me to do it in both places, and then I can consolidate in the end.  And, to be honest, I actually prefer to use the notebook.  The computer is great because of the tables I can make.  It's quick and efficient, but I really enjoy the process of actually writing things out.  I'm not sure I could ever go "paperless".  So, whether it's a chart on the computer or one in my notebook I include several things.  I label the columns on my charts as: Name (of the person for which the resource is intended), Subject (for which it will be used), Title (of the resource),  Source (from which to purchase), Price, and Notes. 

Once I feel that I have considered and decided upon the resources for the coming year, I take my handwritten list and add it to the list on the computer.    I also make sure to add things to this list I already have.  While the paragraphs above might make it sound like I choose new books for each subject each year, that is not the case.  Some things are tried and true and appear on my list every year.  So now, my list becomes the "Books and Materials to Gather or Purchase for 2012-2013" list.  When adding one of the beloved books that I use over and over to my list, I just write "home" or "have" in the Source column and put a "0" for price.  I also add things to this list that are not actually books, but items I know we will need like copywork notebooks, art supplies, classical music CD's, etc.

I'm not sure I can link to every source of information that I use regarding choosing curriculum, or even to every source I use to purchase the curriculum, but here are a few links to get started:

When choosing curriculum I often look to ~
First and formost, guidance from our Lord and Holy Mother Mary through prayer
then (in no specific order),
The various blogs I read about homeschooling
The widsom from the ladies at 4Real, MODGFamilies, and DYOCCFamilies
My Consultant from MODG who is such a blessing
The Mother of Divine Grace Website
Cathy Duffy Reviews
My IRL homeschooling friends

When purchasing curriculum I go to ~
Emmanuel Books (Probably my first choice for purchasing homeschool books.  I like to support this small Catholic company as much as possible.)
Rainbow Resource (The Rainbow catalog is huge and a bit intimidating!  I try to have my shopping list in hand before I peruse this resource.  If not, I can come away with all sorts of things I had no idea I was going to buy! 
Amazon (I often compare Rainbow and Amazon for the best price)
Cathswap (Buying used curriculum is a real money saver, and it helps out my fellow homeschoolers!)

There are  others that I occasionally buy from but not every year.  There are usually one or two specific things I purchase from: CHC,  Abeka ,Seton, CCMemory, Neumann Press, Dick Blick  Home Science Tools orAll About Learning.

Finally, when I think I've got everything I could possibly need for the coming year on this list, I move on to the shopping step.  That's step 5!

If you missed steps 1-3, here are the links ~
Step 1 - Beginning
Step 2 - Setting Goals
Step 3 - School Calendar