Friday, August 28, 2009

My Homeschool Planning and Record Keeping Efforts

I have a system for homeschool planning which includes wrapping up the former academic year. It goes like this.

The first thing I do is write up a summary of work accomplished. I start with last year's plan (written in a word processing program on the computer). Keeping the original document intact, I rename the file with a new name to indicate it is a year end summary. I edit the last year's plan details to show what was done in real life, deleting things out when necessary. This usually means I will have added new things not in the plan, especially new outside classes and events, finished some things we planned to do, and scrapped using one program and substituted it with something new.

To do this I compare my family calendar with my homeschooling records and look at the completed work itself, a finished workbook et cetera.

If odd events or medical conditions or learning disabilities happened I note that also, indicating what happened and how that may have affected our homeschool studies. One example is that a new case of mononucleosis with over 30 days of fevers in six months time and multiple doses of antibiotics and more doctor’s visits for one child did affect his ability to accomplish all the work we had planned to do.

A new learning disability explains the hard time a child had with making progress in a certain subject area and increased time doing treatments and doctor's visits shows other ways we spent our time and why my son's taxed neurological system (due to the therapies) struggled to keep up with learning as per the original plans.

I have a year end goal sheet that I like to do that has things like "will have all multiplication facts memorized". I look at those former goals and look at what happened in real life to see if the goals were met. I think about the former goals and with new eyes and another year of homeschool mom experience under my belt, figure out if those things are still goals we wish were accomplished. If so, they become goals for the upcoming homeschool year.

At that point I have a gist for what I'm disappointed was not accomplished and I usually also feel surprised at the number of other, different things that were achieved that never appeared on the original goal list.

I then make a list of all the subjects and list what curriculums we will use in the upcoming year and note how often or for how long we will do those lessons, i.e. 30 minutes a day of math 3-4 days a week. I don't usually include all of the real books or children's books or living books that we will use, as that would be nearly impossible for me to list out a year ahead of time, partly because some items are found through the year and borrowed from the public library and also because we read so many that to plan it all out ahead of time would overwhelm me. This list is sufficient for skimming the general goals but it usually lacks detail. For example it might say "use math curriculum Teaching Textbooks Math 7 but it won't list the details in that scope and sequence.

If I have time I like to then flesh out that original list with details. In that case, I'd modify the original Word document to list, for example, the scope and sequence for that grade of math curriculum. Art instruction studies may include a list of skills such as "drawing in charcoal and pencil, painting with acrylic paints on canvas". If I have signed my children up for classes at that point in time I write the name of the class, the hours of direct instruction and some details about what will be studied in that class, if known. The more details that are in this document helps me with revising it at the year end. If I failed to write these out, at year end I'll have more work to do if I choose to do that.

I have a lot of plans in my head so writing them down does not take effort. The most time goes into writing out details. This would be helpful for showing our accomplishments to government monitors if we had to do that in my state (which we do not). I like to keep these records for my own purposes and just in case I ever need them (perhaps to ward off a false charge of educational neglect).

Documenting Work Accomplished

I own and have used EduTrack software program to keep homeschooling records. However I find it labor intensive to enter in ahead of time for a nice looking assignment sheet for the kids and me to use, then to edit that to reflect real life work finished. It can become confusing in the system to know if the record was a plan or real work done.

I have resorted to using an old fashioned paper student calendar in a spiral notebook to write my kid's assignments on. They use those to move themselves along with their homeschool studies now that they are a bit older and have agreed and even asked to do that. I wish my older son did this years ago but he refused to comply, wanting oral directions doled out as the day went along. Now both kids want to choose the order they do things in or work ahead on some assignments.

For work accomplished I use a spiral notebook and make handwritten notes. I need this to be portable to be able to be carried around my house. It is not easy to look back on and it can get messy. I wish I had a better system but as I said the EduTrack is not working out. I can't keep jumping up and running to my PC to jot stuff down. I also jot notes in it while I'm "stuck" sitting next to a child doing his homeschooling lesson, while I sit waiting to see if the child needs help. So I am using my time wisely rather than taking time later in the day to sit down and write it out, I write it out in the "in between moments".

No Detailed Schedules For Us

At present I do not have a detailed family schedule for me or the kids to use. The idea of writing one out made me shudder in disgust. I have tried it in the past and it made me feel like a total failure and worse, was not helpful when we lost a day due to sickness or other reasons.

I want my kids to have freedom in the day to do subjects at various times not be told that they must do history between 10:15 and 11:00 a.m. Instead their assignment list is by day of the week with a list of subjects under it like "math 30 mintues" and they must do all they can in 30 minutes without dawdling. If they are near the end of a lesson after 30 minutes they are to sit and finish it up. If they can get two lessons done, that is great, if one gets done without dawdling, that's fine too.

Putting the Stuff Together

The last step in the homeschool prep process after deciding on the materials and buying them, is to assemble them all in one place for easy access. To do this I pick books off this shelf and that shelf, or remove from that stack of books or the other. Actually I usually have just had some in hand for the planning process so they are usually right at my fingertips.

I organize them and get them all ready for use.

To see where and how I store the materials that my children are using right now (not future stuff), see this blog post of mine: Homeschool Stuff Reorg Before & After published in July 2009.

Starting off the Year Organized

When I start the homeschool year off well prepared and with all materials assembled, with a plan and goals in place it feels great. I will admit that not every year has started off this way and that is how I know that to start off with stuff strewn all over the house, with no goals and with just vague plans in my head is not as good for me or my children.

In Conclusion

We homeschooling parents have a lot of freedom to choose an individual homeschooling path. Perhaps reading a bit about my process will help you in some way, even if it is to reinforce that the different way you do things is right and best for you.

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1 comment:

karim said...

Hi,

That was very well written post. Will be very much useful for others.

Thanks,
Karim - Positive thinking