The hardest part of homeschooling last year was planning... lesson plans, scheduling, getting everything done. My strength has always been organizing things but it falls apart when it comes to maintenance. I tried several different systems that I either came up with myself or "stole" from other homeschool moms. Nothing stuck, nothing made life easier for me. When I started using workboxes it made me be more organized but by the end of the school year which also correlated with the end of my pregnancy I couldn't keep up with filling the boxes each night and that fell apart as well. So, much thought has gone into what I can do differently this year. Now with four little ones to manage, it is important for me to get this under control.
There are some lessons I learned as I look back over the year which I hope will help me as I gear up for this school year:
1. First and foremost, I MUST commit each day to God and allow Him to direct my path. There is a direct correlation between whether or not I spend time with my heavenly Father each morning and how much yelling I do during the day. When I get up early, before the kids and spend time in His word, God gives me the strength and patience to deal with what comes my way. I have come to realize that the kids are pretty consistent, but it is my attitude towards them that can make or break the day.
These last few months I have made the excuse of lack of sleep to stay in bed a little longer... and I do know that God understands when I have been up all night with the baby... but how many times do I use that as an excuse and miss out on a blessing God may have had for me.
2. KISS- Keep it simple Sistah!- as much as I love to create elaborate systems of how something is going to work, it only works if I can then use it consistently. At this stage of my life the less I have to do to keep a system going, the better. It also works for the kids if the routine is uncomplicated and easy for them to learn and follow.
3. The schedule is there as a guide and is not written in stone. Last year I had a pretty strict schedule when we started but because I hadn't planned for it to be flexible, I felt like a failure each day that we didn't stick to it exactly. As a result that schedule went out the window about 2 weeks after we started and for us the pendulum swung completely to the other side. This also left me feeling like a failure because I had to think on my feet all day. Things came together a bit with the introduction of workboxes in January. They forced me to be more organized but still without the right balance of schedule and flexibility, I was constantly fighting against feeling inadequate as a homeschooling mom. I also didn't keep it simple with the workboxes and I began to find the planning and filling of them monotonous. Through it all I learned that for us, having a schedule is better than the absence of one, but the BEST one is a flexible one.
4. My children, especially the oldest, love routine. They thrive when they know what is coming. I, on the other hand like things to change up and I had been trying to manage their day based on my preference. It occurred to me late in the year that it is okay with them if we do math the same time every day and even though I may get bored of that, they won't. I had tried to make each day different but I now see the value in having a big part of the day the same.
So what does this look like for this year and what does Google have to do with it? I am using Google Calendars! Did you know that you can create many different calendars that can be viewed all together? They are colour coded and you can view or hide which ever calendars you want.
I had been using a Google calendar for our appointments and day to day events but at some point this summer it occurred to me that I could use one calendar for each child and plug my lesson plans in there for each. I would then have a snapshot each day of what each child should accomplish which I could view by day, week or month. It would also be a record of what we did each day if I needed to go back and refer to anything. Using the things I learned that I listed above, I created a daily routine for each child and although I assigned a time to each(since that is the only way to add it to the calendar,) only the order needs to be followed. For example, Micaiah's calendar has math from 10:50 to 11:30 and then reading from 11:30 to 11:50. He will do those things in that order, but we will not be a stickler for time. If there is something he doesn't get to for that day because he took more time than we alloted somewhere else, that's okay, we will catch up another day. This way everyone knows what is coming. I will probably still use schedule strips for Eli and Eden so they can have a visual, but Micaiah will have access to his Google calendar and will be able to monitor where he should be.
Because I can view all the calendars at the same time I will easily see when there are conflicts or appoinments that will get in the way of school time.
I have even added a calendar for meals that I have been using for my meal planning. I print that calendar out each week and stick it on the fridge so that anyone who wants to know what's for breakfast, lunch or dinner on any given day can see it. Again, I can view it with all the other calendars so I can see which days I don't have time to cook a big meal or if we will be out of the house at lunch time.
Here's a snapshot of what a day looks like. It may look like a lot on one calendar but I can hide as many or as few as I want at any time. I like being able to see everything at the same time...
click on it to make larger
I am really praying this works for me. It seems simple enough to use and maintain and with God's guidance each day I feel confident that it can work!
I have always been good at starting but often not so good at finishing... especially if it is taking too long to finish, or if something else catches my attention. I am easily sidetracked (oh, THAT's where my kids get it from:)
I got excited when I saw this mission of the month idea over at Mama Jenn's blog. It's simple, blog about what I want to accomplish with a deadline for completion and suddenly the fact that it is out there in cyberspace for anyone to see (and the fact that I am performance driven :) should motivate me to complete the task!!
So I am joining in. For September I have 2 projects that are presently half done. A set of bean bags that I am making for Eden and I am re-purposing some building blocks for a sight word activity for Eli. I can't wait to share them both with you but I have to finish them first... by September 30th.
If you see me feel free to nag me err... ask me how it is going! As soon as I am done I'll be back here to let you know!
Eli's birthday is coming up soon. It is hard to believe but he is going to be 5! As with any child, he is super excited about his birthday and for months he has been asking the question....
" How many days until my birthday?"
As we have gotten closer, I was going to help him make a paper chain to count down the days like we did here but instead I had another idea. I had just made a new batch of homemade play dough (strawberry scented...yummy!) so I shaped a blob of it into a little cake and stuck 10 candles in (his birthday was 10 days away at that point). Each morning he gets to remove a candle and count how many are left. He was so excited, the first morning he was up at about 6:30 asking if he could take a candle from his cake! It is a great way for him to count down the days until he is five.
That's what works for me! For more Works for me Wednesday, head over to We Are That Family.