Monday, July 28, 2014

Planning the year: a system that works even if you have 102 children

Keeping things organized when you have one child can be hard at times. Finding a system that works and is simple for keeping plans for multiple children from being stacks of " I know I put that somewhere" and shelves of "put it there, we'll figure out what to do with it later" chaos is mind numbing to the point that you spend hours upon hours upons hours (did I mention the hours?) of scrolling through blogs and Pinterest checking out what others do and how it works for them. I am here to save you the time you do not have. I mean really, go take a shower instead...seriously. Bookmark this page so that when your two year old unplugs the internet modem and your computer you will be able to find this blog again.

I'll wait.

Hum dee dum dum dum....

Okay saved? Go refresh yourself.

Didn't that feel good? Now get a piece of about that one right over there that your five your old drew what looks like a purple duck but is really a "pretty magical pony that flies and is a ballerina princess". You can write on the back or in between scribbles. Just be ready to take notes.

Remember, this is a system that works FOR ME. If there is something that doesn't work for you skip it, tweak it, spit on it, it doesn't matter to me. (well, maybe not that last one, spit is gross) just make it YOUR system not mine.

Here we go.

Remember in my customized planner post how I only put a month worth of lessons in my planner at a time? No? Well, go look at that later in my post about planners.
Anyhoo, this is all about where the REST of the plans go.

It starts with a box. Preferably one with a lid and the capability of holding hanging file folders,and one that is liquid and smash resistent - for those times when your four year old (holding a cup of hot chocolate that isn't suppose to leave the table, let alone be near the computer)is using it to stand on and see over your eight year olds shoulder while he plays on the computer and then is RUDELY bumped by the two year old that tries to climb up because she wants to see too!- no joking. It. Will. Happen. Don't go for cardboard. Go for plastic with a secure lid- like this one:
It's safe to say that if you really have 102 children,
 you will need several more boxes!

Then you need 36 hanging file folders- or the equivelant number of weeks you normally have school in your academic year, and regular file folders to go inside.

Here is where your preferences come in.
You need a file folder in each week for each category/child that you plan for. For example:

Last year I filed by levels. Upper Grammar, Lower Grammar, Dialectic, Preschool and everyones's planning sheets went into our homeschool binder. I had one student in each level, except for upper grammar, there were two towards the end of the year. (To keep items separate that needed it I just paper clipped them together).

Are you thoroughly confused now? Keep reading it should begin to make sense.

This year it is by student, and I have one as well.  I reused the same folders from last year but added as necessary.
So in each of my hanging folders are six regular  file folders. I have my tabs color coded with labels, but you could write names if you wish. If you are at a stage like I was once and you teach all your kids the same things or use unit studies, you could just have a folder for each subject. Whatever works for YOU. However you would like to organize the various printouts, worksheets and other papers in your lessons.
In this close-up you can see some white tabs with numbers-those are the weekly hanging file folders,
and the regular file folders with colored labels.

Once that is all put together this is how it works:

Print out your planning pages for the year. Put one (if you plan weekly) in each weeks correct folder- either yours or students if they have their own or both, whatever system of planning you are using. I am trying out daily planning sheets with a week at a glance sheet for me this year. You can learn more about what I used in my other post linked above.

The next step takes the longest. Assuming you have your curriculum and know what lesson you are going to use, begin printing, creating, tearing out of workbooks, copying all of the pages that will be used each week and place them in the appropriate week in the category or child's folder that it belongs with. You do not have to do this for the whole year! But getting the first couple of months done is sooo helpful, as long as you set aside time to do it again to keep yourself ahead of schedule.
For example:
A child is studying the Oregon trail and pioneers. They will be filling in maps and making a lap book. Print the maps, and lap book pieces then divide into the weeks they will be studied and put the lesson packets in the child's folder for each week needed. If there are tests or quizzes, put those in the week they are needed. If you know of a game, project, or recipe that will work well with a lesson jot it down on a sicky note and stick it to one of the pages you file so that when it is time to fill out your lesson plans you will remember. (Can I just say that I love sticky notes!)

Keep it simple. Work on one child at a time one subject at a time. Once you get in rhythm it will go quickly. And just keep reminding yourself that all the effort you are putting in now is giving you more time to cuddle up and listen to your six year old read aloud this winter with a cup of hot cocoa, (it's okay because you got the plastic box! right?) instead of trying to gather all the materials needed
for lessons tomorrow or next week.

Once that is all worked out and you've had your last lazy days by the lake getting burnt to a crisp because you put sunscreen on all 29 of your kids but failed to remember yourself, and it is time to gear up for your first week back to routine and educational bliss you will do the following.

Get out your glammed up planner that was made especially for YOU.

Open it flat on your desk,floor, table,bed, roof....wherever you plan best. There is one mom that I know of that loaded up all her lessons planning materials every saturday morning and she headed off to the library for time alone to plan while hubby stayed home with kids being task master of saturday cleaning chores. That amazes me. It sound so T.V. perfect family that while I day dreamed about it for a fraction of second-it is something that would just never work for us. Maybe it will for you!

Get your file box- should we name it? I feel like I should. It serves me so well. Almost better than having a personal assistant. I think I'll call mine....PABLO (Personal Assistant Box of Lesson Organization). Wow, I am impressed with my brain power, I just pulled that right up. Proof that I do have some brain cells left.
I got a little excited with this and put the name on the box lid
with scrapbook letters and contact paper!

Okay get PABLO , but don't strain your back, you don't want to start off the year teaching from the couch, (although it's comfy and that is probably where I will be because pregnancy #7 is rough on a lady). I much prefer utilizing the still nice weather and sprawling out with our books on the trampoline or in the TeePee. There I go again keeping you from getting your planning done by rambling away about my day to day life-sorry.

Open the lid to PABLO

Pick what or who you will always start with. I start with my planning page, then my oldest child I need to plan for. Take out the lesson packet for the first week. Look through it, remind yourself what the lesson was, if it is coming from a book or other planned out resource, have that next to you so you can scan directions, materials, books etc. Then fill on your lesson plan page accordingly. Such as: Monday: read 2 chapters of Little House on the Praire, math lesson 1. Spelling list A,Begin lap book by glueing folders
Tuesday: read 2 chapter LH ( I usually abbreviate everything in my plans). M2, Sp- write in sentences, LB cut pieces for ch 1&2

And so on and so forth. I am hoping you have filled out a lesson plan before, but if not the New bee homeschooler has great illustrations to help you along.

Just keep plugging in the plans for each child and subject for that week. Stick the packet of materials in the front pocket of the divider to await lesson day. (My planner has dividers with pockets that divide the 4 weeks I am planning.)

Do the same thing for the next week(s).

Tah dah! A month of lessons ready to go. Open, grab and teach!

When one week is done pull it out. Archive it. (this is a tabbed section in my notebook right behind the weeks. Again it is referenced in my post on planners) Move the other weeks forward and add a new week to the back.

Work on the planning the new week ( which should be three weeks ahead of you) on the day you deem good for planning, like on saturday morning while you hubby takes charge of the household--it could happen, it has been done (just not by me)! This is so great because you have the perfect amount of time to reserve the library books you want and pick them up while taking your twelve year old to soccer. And also make the list of needed items for the science project so you can buy them at Walmart when you run out of bread. Everything will be there ready to go when that week reaches the front. Isn't it wonderful?

But don't give me credit for it. I pieced this together from all the treasure of ideas I have gleaned from my hours upon hours upon hours of sitting at the computer until the chair was molded to backside and my eyes resembled a zombie like stare. I tried to give credit to those that I know for certain authored the advice or product, but there are many more that are only a picture in my mind of something I saw or read about once. If you recognize any of these ideas as your own--Thank You, for sharing, I wish I could give you the credit you deserve!

Happy Planning!

10 Principles every Homeschool Mom should Remember

I was really excited to see an article in the  August 1014 Ensign ( an LDS church magazine) about learning at home. The article is titled "Home the Heart of Learning". It is mostly talking about how we need to make sure gospel principles are being taught at home and that the lessons in church are in support of that. At the end of the article is a list of 10 principles every teacher should know as pertaining to teaching gospel lessons at church. I was inspired to tweak it a bit to give guidance to us homeschool teachers. You can read the original list and article here.

#7 "Keep Lessons Alive"
Here we are having an indoor picnic and a read-aloud,
 when the weather was un-cooperative for an outdoor one.

10 Principles every Homeschool Mom should Remember

1. Council with The Lord. Ask Him how He would have you organize and teach in your homeschool. Go to Him with specific questions. Both for the family and each individual. Keep a Notebook near by to write down the inspiration you receive.

2. Be led by the Spirit. Don't let schedules and lesson plans that have already been noted get in the way of the powerful teaching that can come from the Spirit. Let Him guide your day.

3. Teach children not lessons. "Put the little minds of children out of your thoughts. Children have just as big minds as we have."-Charlotte Mason

4. Focus on gospel principles and core subjects. Everything else will fall into place as needed or when interest spikes. 

5. Pick out one or two key topics to focus your lessons on. Many small meals are easier to digest then an all-you-can-eat buffet. "Be faithful in the little by little, day by day approach of reading from great books."-Karen Andreola (A Charlotte Mason Comapanion)

6. Learn as many subjects as possible together as a family. Less prep for mom, more learning for kids.

7. Keep lessons alive with hands-on projects, acting out or dressing the parts, read aloud exciting stories, create memorable note booking pages. Turn your dining room table into a tent on a rainy day to liven things up!

8. Find ways to tie in gospel truths to the other subjects of study wherever possible. Science is full of Gods amazing creations, History is packed full of life lessons and God -fearing heroes. There can always be something found to bring it all back to Him.

9. Create a house of order. This doesn't mean sparkling toilets and a perfectly regulated day set to alarms. Simply, have a routine and a plan for the day with Christ in the center of it and do your best to carry it out. "Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." -A.A. Milne

10. Don't dismiss the importance of life's every day lessons. Achedemics are important, but how well have you prepared your child for a life of success if he can do trigonometry but doesn't know how to wash a load of laundry or fix a flat tire? So much is taught on a day to day basis just by involving your kids in the needs of the household. A great little book about teaching kids how to help out is called: From Pampered to Productive by Debbie Bowen. I found mine for my Nook here.

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." -C.S. Lewis

Happy Day!

For more information on The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints you can go to

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Planning the year: creating a customized planner

To anyone who hasn't already found a planner for the upcoming (or already started) school year:

I am a VERY visual person. I like to be able to see what I am doing, make notations, and check things off. So having a paper planner I can hold is very useful to me. I did try a computer program once...but found it to be way too much work for me to sit and put in all that we were doing, and it called for things that I didn't really traditional grading. Other planners that are all put together tend to have more (or less) than what I find useful. So for me, it makes more sense to build my own.

First I start out by  making a list of things I want to keep track of in my planner. Then I decide how I want to track those things. For example, do I want to see our weekly plans on one page or do I want a two-page spread, do I want the subjects and other information already filled out or do I want to write it in to fit our needs better?
See the love notes my daughter left for me?
It always makes me smile to find long as its on paper and not a wall.......

In the same way, I plan out what is needed for our student planners. My oldest kiddo has different needs and can fill out her own planner versus my 9 and 7 year old who still need some assistance, and really just need a checklist of things to accomplish. I also have an 11yo but he doesn't like filling out planning forms-so just a schedule works fine for him. He also uses the POD board (Plan of the Day), which is just a white board that we write out our plans for the day so we can easily see our progress, cross it off, and mom can write notes and reminders. I will make another post some time about our day to day organization, once the year is up and going.

Once I have an plan sketched out I start looking online for resources. Here are a few that I have  bookmarked or pinned.

7 Steps for a Customized Planner (from New Bee Homeschooler)
AKA: Tina's dynamic homeschool plus ( I am not sure which she prefers to be called so hereafter I will refer to these sites, because there are two that are linked together, as NBH, just because that was the first one I was accustomed too.)
This site has some good steps and ideas for someone new to making their own planner and not sure where to begin. It also provides lots of FREE downloads for planner pages. I used several from here this year. 

Donna Young
This site is a favorite resource of mine for more than just the FREE planning pages. If you haven't been over to her site really should visit it. This is usually where I go to fill in the gaps when I am looking for something I can really tweak to fit my needs. A lot of work has gone into this site giving is many options for a variety of pages. She even has a computer program type planner that is compatible with Microsoft Excel.

Large Family Mothering
A mother of MANY children shares her tips and I sites on organizing a large homeschooling family. I am uplifted often by her commitment and success!

Wild Flowers and Marbles

I really enjoy reading on this site. I look to if a lot for inspiration on organizing our learning spaces, but she also has great ideas for using appealing materials for organizing- it is important to like what you see when you are working so hard! I utilize her 'Morning basket' idea in my own little way. Maybe I will share that in another post sometime.

Moms tool belt 
This is not only a homeschool planner but a household planner that you can purchase and download. I purchased it two years ago I believe, and it has been a pretty good resource for all kinds of pages I use to organize. Some are editable which is nice.

Simply Charlotte Mason
There is a planning tool on this site that can be purchased and downloaded to help you plan out a year. It is a simple step by step process that breaks down the planning process into smaller pieces. I now use these forms every year when planning. It is great especially when you don't know where to start. This would be useful for every homeschool style- not just CM.

Love to learn
This is a site that got be going in the beginning. When I finally became committed to homeschooling my internet research brought me to this site. I use a few of the curriculum so recommended here but also the very first homeschool guide I bought was the one written by this mom. It's plain and simple. It got me going and gave me confidence to start with the basics and not worry about everything I thought needed doing. I highly recommend it to all of the new homeschoolers I talk with and this is the book I lend out to friends who are thinking of homeschooling. It gives a simple layout of what homeschooling life is.

I am sure there are gobs more I could list and many I even used as a resource this year but have forgotten. But I also know that if you are a seasoned homeschooler just looking for new ideas that you don't need my entire list, and that if you are new- it would just be super overwhelming. So I will stop here and hope you find some new treasures as you explore these sites.

And onto my planning journey.....

This year is bringing some changes to our homeschool. The organizational and planning tools I have
used the last couple of years really help me, so I am adapting it fit our needs for this year. I am happy that things are going smoothly for the planning part of the transition so far.

My oldest has used her own planner for a long time. However, in the past I still planned out her
lessons and then she transferred them. This year she is taking several online courses. I am going to
guide her only in her time management and helping when she comes to me with questions. Because of the added responsibility she will be taking on, she needed a planner that would make it easy for her to manage her time wisely and to record information in an organized (and cute!) system.

Here is a quick look at the super cute planner we put together for her. I should note also that whenever possible I involved her in choosing which pages to use, after all she is the one who will be using it- I want her to like it!
I have a Pro-Click that I use to bind things like this. The  85 sheet binding spine was  just the right size.
It will be tough to add any pages, but she shouldn't be adding much maybe a chart or two which is explained below.

 I decided rather than making a calendar section and planner section I would just combine the two. So her planner is divided by months and behind each tab is a calendar page with a note page on the back, weekly planner pages (one for each week of school for that month printed front and back). I used colored copy paper for the divider pages. They are thin and keep it from adding bulk. The divider tabs are ones you can stick on that I had hanging around. The note
page on the back of the calendars is a lined
journal page with a cute border she picked out
from Donna Young. I totally expect her to doodle, write notes, quotes and generally mark up any blank spaces available!

Behind the Month tabs are three more tabs: Notes, Charts, and Directory. The notes section is just that-pages for her to write anything she needs to. She picked out a variety of pages from some of the sites mentioned and some I had downloaded already. They are printed front and back in random order to keep it fun. The chart section is for basically anything useful to her such as conversion charts for math. I found a few by looking for free printables for the specific chart I was looking for on Pinterest. She will add to it as needed. This will be a good study help area. The last section, directory, has a web address page, and a 'Friends contact list' page. The latter will be fun for her to keep track of friends she meets at our various homeschool and church groups. Both of these forms were found for free here. There are also some options for similar forms in the Moms Toolbelt mentioned above.

Now for planning my notebook......

Cover page from N.B.H. and a pretty scrapbook
page I had make it fun. I plan on writing favorite
scriptures and quotes on those stripes!
I am picky. I like certain things in my planners but I also like simple. I like to be able to quickly find what I am looking for and I don't like to write things repetively. I
want it cute, colorful and cheery. I have found that a three ring binder works best for me. I have spiral bound my own before and it had its perks: compact, secure, easy to file away, but it also had downfalls for me: it was a hassle to add or take out pages, I didn't have a way to have folder or pocket to put temporary or "I'll get to that later" pages. The NBH mentioned above recommends when building her planner to have it professionally bound and she really discourages using a three ring binder. But that is the beauty of making our own- we can determine what is best for us. I love free resources- and the recommendations that come with them, but more often than not I pick and choose only the things I need, and then implement it in a way that works for me. Trust yourself. I have too often in the past worried that I wasn't doing it right if I didn't follow all of the recommended steps and do you know what it got me? Stress, wasted paper, ink and time; feeling guilt for not using what I prepared, and ultimately feeling unorganized in the end.
Last year I was pleased with a new system I adopted.
This year I am ecstatic with what it has become!

Let the Planner-that makes-me-have-a-Happy Day tour begin!

The first page is a schedule in a page protector.
This is a type-able schedule available on NBH. There is also one titled 'student'  that I plan on
utilizing as well.

I have several different sets of tabs in my notebook. The first set is for quick reference needs: Calendar (divided for year plan and months), Activities (for field trips, library calendars and such), websites (for accounts used by the kids and I that require passwords that need remembered), and finally a contacts section where I can keep track of important info for the various leaders and mentors we communicate with. That way when the power goes out I can still call and say I am running late-or not.... because the phone won't work when the power is out and I don't get cell service at my house. But whatever, it's always good to have a hard copy of important info.

The second set of tabs is for our weekly lesson plans. This is the exciting part. I have it labeled as follows: This Week, Next Week, Week in Planning 1, Week in planning 2 and Archive.
There are four weeks worth of plans in my binder at all times, 'This Week' is for the current weeks plans and so on and so forth. When the week is finished it gets put in the 'Archive' section and the rest of the weeks move forward. I then add a new weeks worth of planning pages from P.A.B.L.O.(Personal Assistant Box Lesson Organization). A system that you can learn about in an upcoming post. I will try to remember to come back and link it for you.

These tab dividers have handy pockets that are a must for this system. I use the pocket for any worksheets or instructions that need to be given to my students for their lessons that week. These should mostly be ready to and pulled from PABLO as well, but sometimes as I am planning I add extras found later. I usually paper clip the packets together with color coded paperclips for each student. Nice and easy to see what belongs to who. Whom? (I am no grammar buff)

You guessed it- another set of dividers! All of these sets are different because I just happen to have them and put them together in a pleasing way. You could certainly use one set that has the number of sections you need, but I think this worked out pretty good. This set has sections for other important things I need organized for everything from planning to records to book lists. I won't name them all because this is not needed for the lesson planning system I am sharing about. It is just simply other stuff that needs a home. A few specifics are curriculum lists, long term planning notes, and receipts that need saving. 
Fill your notebook with the tools that will best assist you!

And last but not least- the backside of my notebook- just as important as the front.

I thought about making it cute-sy like the front but then opted for placing our family rules there instead. I really love this simple little rule program, The 21 Rules of This House that I purchased from, Every challenge we face on a day to day basis in behavior is covered by one of these rules. An example of one that is reminded often is "we do not hurt others with unkind words or deeds". Another favotrite is " when we get something out we put it away". I admit I have slacked a bit, but I am bringing it back full speed because it is so easy to correct with these rules! No nagging necessary and more often then not the kids finish quoting it as I begin while they go ahead an correct the behavior! It's great. 
Did I mention that I really like it ? I do, I really do!

Happy Planning Day!

**Coming Soon: Planning the year: A system that works even if you have 102 children!**