A.k.a., “How I eventually gave up trying to be like Other Homeschool Moms and figured out how I school with a 6 year old, 5 year old, and 1 year old”!
So, I’m new to this whole thing.
Remember when you were new to parenting, reading up on all the blogs and books, sifting through all the vehement, utterly contradictory scientifically-proven Facts (but that’s another story), trying to figure out how you can manage any of this without completely dooming your child to a life on the psychiatrist’s couch?
Or was that just me? ;)
Well, that’s what I did with homeschooling, too. And somehow — SOME how — I just never seemed to be measuring up. I couldn’t plan for the life of me, but I couldn’t manage to follow a boxed plan either. I could whip up a Charlotte-Mason-style weekly schedule, complete with pretty fonts and elegantly-bordered tables, but I couldn’t seem to make a single day follow my tidy boxes. If I got through the boxes at all.
What was wrong with me?? I was in agonies over every gorgeous, failed schedule. Could I just not hack this homeschool thing? Am I just not Type-A enough to pull it off? How did I ever manage all those years of public school, college, grad school with such a miserable work ethic?
Well, step one was to recognize the situation: I have a 6 year old, a 5 year old, and a 1 year old. No, I was not just making excuses about “the baby” even though I’ve had over a year to figure this thing out with him around. Yes, it is a genuine difficulty to try to begin formal schooling a 6yo boy, with his 5yo sister and near-walking brother bouncing around the same two rooms looking for things to do! Yes, not having a yard or a playroom or what-have-you to toss them out in when they get restless is going to impede your progress through a productive day, and the best planning tabulature in the world is not going to make those difficulties go away.
And no matter what kind of a learner I was in my own, thoroughly “schoolish” education, a table won’t turn me into a different kind of mother and teacher.
But how did I figure all this out? The strangest source–I discovered Bullet Journaling.
What is that? Well, you can click on the link if you haven’t heard of it, but for me, it means a hand-written system that isn’t pre-divided into someone else’s logical scheme, doesn’t insist on checking certain boxes in a certain order, and allows me to try, fail, change, and adapt as I go and figure my own self out.
What–a planning system you can mess up? Learning from yourself as you go? All in a pretty turquoise planner with multi-colored pens? Sign me up!
And, I’m proud to say, after one-and-a-half whole weeks (see what a great math teacher I make?) of this exalted system, I’ve finally Figured It All Out.
But really, this thing has actually got me going. I can record what we do, in whatever order we do it, AND still have a checkboxy sort of place where I can make sure we’ve dotted all our i’s and such (and make myself feel all accomplished). Multi-colored motivation for the win!
SO… here’s how it works.
I keep track of my homeschooling (note: not “plan,” but “keep track of”–this is key to my sanity) in two different places: my weekly spread, and my “Homeschool Log” page. I can already tell my Log is going to change to better suit what we do as we go (as you’ll see by the mess that it is currently!)–and the fact that it can change is just fantastic to me.
Also, the fact that I can just log what we do as the day goes by, and refer to my Log chart for a checklist of what-can-we-do-next, means I can adapt our day to the crazy fickle nap schedule of a transitioning baby-toddler, the snack/entertainment needs of a newly-5yo, and the learning and play needs of my new “school” kid. I know what I want to do, because my bookshelf full of friends and head full of plans calls to me daily, but I couldn’t ever manage to do it all with the chaos of a small-but-full home.
Now, I can use a flexible outline of my day, snatch every quiet moment I find, grab a few kids and a few books and plop down at the table or the couch and get to know all our great new friends–Aesop, Beatrix Potter, Jenny Wren, the Saints, the Word and God Himself in all His beauty and truth.
What a gift!
The Homeschool Log
So, here is the Homeschool Log. You can see I’ve got the bottom corner dog-eared for easy flipping between “today” and the Log. (Just ignore
the man behind the curtain all those empty/scattered days just the week before last!)
I use four-day weeks, since we are in a couple of co-ops that meet at various times and I like to have the room for flexibility. (Can you tell I’m a fan of flexibility yet? Lol! I used to think I was a schedule queen!) So across the top run dates of weeks, Mondays-Thursdays, and down the left are my lists of subjects/texts. The color code for each matches up to the general subject-groupings I use in my weekly/daily list (and you can bet those are going to be more effectively grouped for the next iteration of the Log).
Right now the subjects are in a loose order of importance — i.e., the things-that-must-get-done-today at the top, and subjects that rotate or are less frequent as you go down. For instance, I aim to rotate Saint and Bible readings, two each week, so I make a little box for that day with either “S” or “B” in it to keep track. If I end up with three “B”s in one week, though, I can either go with it or lean towards the Saint readings next week. See, Flexibility! I love it.
Some subjects get a box with a chapter or lesson number for reference, and others just need a check to note that we did something that fits the bill. In my daily list, I’ll have a more specific indication of what we did. So, for handwriting I’ll make a check here, then write in my daily list a worksheet printed with a phrase from our literature reading, in cursive or print, or another page in Handwriting Without Tears, or whatever made sense to fit in our day, or was requested that day.
The Weekly Spread and Daily List
One of my favorite things about the Weekly Spread is that it is my one-stop-shop — all my hats in one lovely place. The top is the week of the month — the Third week of March. Below that you have the dates across the top — one column for each day, Saturday and Sunday sharing the last column. The top row is my traditional Bullet Journal to-do list: small bullet for to-do items, open bullet for events, X’d out as they’re completed. At the bottom of that cell I track my water glasses and vitamins and fill them in as I go.
At the very bottom is my meal planning row, lining up under each day. Our breakfasts and lunches are pretty routine, so I just plan out the dinners as briefly as possible.
The largest portion, between the to-do and the meals, is where I list our homeschool to-done’s. That is, I list them as they’re completed, in the order in which we get to them. That means I can check back to the days before to see what went well, and I can do my best to enact Charlotte Mason’s principle of alternating types of activities (sitting-producing vs. listening-narrating vs. active-moving, etc.) within our unpredictable, baby-driven timetable.
No two days have to look the same, but everything I want to do gets done! It’s a marvel.
As we enter into a new subject, I write down what we’re doing on my daily list (i.e., MEP Lesson 34 or Beethoven Lives Upstairs CD) then flip back to my Homeschool Log to check it off on my check-table (a “34” box under MEP or a check mark under Composer Study).
So that’s it! So far (all six days, haha) it’s been working beautifully for us. A definite game-changer!
And, although it’s obviously not time-tested or anything, it’s different enough from all the homeschool planning advice I’ve seen that I thought I’d share it. I hope it helps someone, if only to help you, too, break out of whatever home/school paradigm you may have accidentally boxed yourself into!
Enjoy the ride!