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 do...like 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 them....as 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 yet...you 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 lovetolearn.net, 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!**

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