Two weeks ago I commenced my planning with the determination that this would be the term we’d correct all shortcomings, and began with the premise that our problems would all be solved by ‘raising our work standard,’ an assumption I continued with until my epiphany moment.
When planning, many factors come into play; your teaching style, the children’s individual learning styles, family logistics, your educational philosophy, all have a role, not only in how you home educate but what resources you select. My personal philosophy and personality also influence the outcome. Two ‘mantras’ that continually run through my mind whilst planning are our family motto, “we desire books that feed the mind and nourish the soul” and my personal mantra,”there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Our academic goal is also in the forefront of my mind, “we desire to have independent thinkers who can express themselves well orally and in the written word.”
As I select, I enter my chosen titles into an excel spreadsheet. I’m blessed that PC who is a genius with excel data bases and pivot tables, has valiantly managed after great frustration to teach me the rudiments of spreadsheets. I now love excel, though I’m well aware I’m only utilising a tiny portion of its capabilities. Once the books are chosen I find it useful to work out the finer details in a post on my learning blog, then the longer version is translated into a shorter, more concise form back on the spreadsheet. As I wrote my planning post I made a couple of interesting observations; each year my planning ‘nuts and bolts’ plans follow a similar pattern, I always begin with book lists and as I worked on the finer details of planning I realised my end result wasn’t that dissimilar from previous years, my plans essentially haven’t changed for several years now and the standard was already high. This was the moment of my epiphany, it wasn’t the standard of work expected that was the problem, the problem was in the execution.
In the past we’ve tried a variety of spreadsheets for the children so they can clearly understand their expectations and to record their progress. Their preferred approach is more the overview approach, they want their sheets to show all the work expected for a week or a term, they enjoy the flexibility of choosing what to complete, when. After my epiphany moments I decided a new approach was needed as our current method isn’t working satisfactorily. We had thought the children could manage the macro method themselves but obviously we’re needing to teach a few steps with clarity. Previously I’ve seen other homeschool lesson plans with far more detail than I’ve ever written, I haven’t understood why the breakdown and have dismissed these plans as micro managing to a level we didn’t need and truthfully it seemed like too much planning detail for me to organise. I’m referring to plans that clearly tell the student how many pages/chapters are to be read for the day. I’ve always been a little more loose which hasn’t always resulted with the desired outcome. Trying to visualise how to ‘spell it out’ for my children I thankfully remembered Jen has generously shared her plans, her visual helped immensely and thus I began my own plans, though in excel. The first teen took a long time as I had to channel my mindset and decide on layout, after the first plans were concluded I was able to cut and paste various parts for the other children and the pace picked up. The work set is all achievable if worked at in in increments. I’m only planning a week at a time to keep my ‘finger firmly on the pulse’.
My previous ‘finger on the pulse’ method has been to ‘meet’ with my independent ‘students’ by the week’s end, if not prior too. In this ‘meeting’ we look over work accomplished and discuss their ‘highs and lows’ and potentially ‘nip any problems in the bud.’ On a good week our meetings are productive, sadly some weeks our meetings are far briefer than preferred. Upon reflection I realised leaving our meeting to the week’s end isn’t working effectively enough, if the children are in a muddle or have been slacking in some areas, both they and I are too tired to really address the issue and we role it over for the following week but then the issue can snowball. In my renewed bid to ‘keep my finger firmly on the pulse’ we’re meeting mid-week after dinner with PC present as well. This meeting is beneficial for several reasons; the children are keen to show Dad and receive his accolades, for others it’s highly constructive for them to be accountable to someone other than Mum, PC enjoys the opportunity to be more involved and I benefit from a little more accountability too;)
day I meet individually with each
child from the oldest down. As each child received their pile of books and their sheet we discussed what was required and the change in expectations. I assured
the children that even though their sheets now covered two pages it wasn’t
necessarily more work, just broken down easier to follow. One child dramatically declared he would “be worked to death, working forever with never a spare moment,” his sister
after listening picked up her pile of books and performed a staggering, lurching ‘dance’ around the room before collapsing from the ‘weight’ onto a nearby
lounge. They do amuse me.
child had some more genuine concerns which manifested in tears. She’s at a tricky stage, wanting to be independent in her studies not grouped with her younger brothers but not yet reading to her
grade level. However she insisted she didn’t want to be listening to the history,
science, geography and faith readings I had selected as she wanted to be doing individual work. Thinking flexibly, remember my mantras, I realised the more important goal at this stage is to encourage her reading independence not to read xyz book. Focusing on that we began combing our bookshelves for books of larger, non-intimidating print that enabled her to have a book for each subject so she could continue in her studies independently. She joins us for a few Language Arts lessons otherwise she is happily working independently.
Last week was truly a successful week with an impressive amount of work achieved, it continues to amaze me how the right ‘tweak’ brings about massive improvements.