Monday, January 10, 2011

Gettin' Organised :: How I Was Bitten By The Scheduling Bug

Last time, i mentioned something about my funky school calendar. After giving it some considerable thought, i figured i should do some backtracking about my quest for organisation.

This is the gory details of how it all started. Hooo hoo hoo ha ha!

Rewind to 2002: is there any time that a woman of the modern era who is about to give birth even thinks about homeschooling? Getting ready for a baby is stressful enough. I was getting ready to have Cookie Monster, and at no time did her schooling cross my mind during my pregnancy. If someone had told me that i'd be homeschooling then, i'd have begged their pardon. I was clueless.

Fast Forward to Spring 2007 where Moose and i were feeling pretty defeated because we knew our kid was ready for Kindergarten, however couldn't find a school that was on board with taking a 4 year old into a class. On with preschool it was, but i had some tricks up my sleeve then too.

By Spring 2008, our kid had been in Pre-kinder all year, and it seemed that just as kindergarten evaluations were being giving was when the teachers learned that Cookie Monster could read (she could read by the time she was 3.) So, that is about the time Moose and i figured we'd try looking for a school where we could move C.m. up into 1st grade.

By Fall 2008, we couldn't find a school that would oblige. So into kindergarten she went. It was a waste of a year academically, but she had fun. During that year is when we decided we'd had enough. She was far ahead in enough subjects that we figured 1st grade in public school would be the nail in the coffin of her potential. So we decided we'd homeschool.

But what does that look like if you are a completely not so well organised person in other areas of your life. Well, from our State of the Homeschool addresses last year you can pretty well was utter chaos. Sure, i had a basic idea of what subjects needed to be covered, but i had no plan. By summertime, the need for help was very evident.

Our family attended the local homeschooler's fair last summer and a speaker gave me tons of insight in how to organise lesson plans for school. From the minute i saw the first excel spreadsheet, i was hooked. It was a simple form that broke school into subjects and broke subjects down by months. These are what they look like for us:

A word of advice: fill these out in pencil, because you'll need to change them during the year as you go through your lessons incase of illness, laziness, or overzealous overachievers that can't have just one math lesson a day. That last catagory we would know nothing about no matter how we wish we could. :) What i learned from having these organisational tools was that without them, you'll never know **exactly** how far behind or ahead you are in your schedule. This year, because i have this form filled out, i can see that when we are a couple lessons behind in math but one ahead in language, i can schedule a day where we do an extra lesson of math in favour of our language lesson. A **huge** help when it comes to staying on track! You will want to take a photocopy before you change anything though, so you'll have a baseline.

After those were made, i used my trusty school calendar to map out our year of school. In my funky school calendar is a roadmap of July 2010 - Sept 2011. I isolate the school months, center 36 weeks of school around the Christmas holiday (18 wks on each end), and then total up the number of school days in each month.

Also helpful, is a grid of the months in the year. I use this page as a quick reference for yearly appointments or renewals.

Monthly calendars: Beside each calendar is a page for important dates. This is where all the birthdays and anniversaries go. Then appointments and field trips can go in the grid. When a friend asks if we can play, i have an idea of what the schedule looks like right off the bat. Before homeschool, everything would have been kept in my head. I don't know how i ever did that now!

On the back of the calendar page is where i keep notes of supplies or errands that need to be tackled for the month. I keep detailed lists in here for everything like this but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those both have their own separate files i am working on. It also has an expenses/income page. Being a SAHM, homeschooling mom, you'll notice the income column is desperate for an entry. :) However, the expenses curiously never have enough room to write everything. :)
Now, enough of this backtracking. On to how we get organised for the week.
These are the blank weekly calendar pages, which i love.
Every Saturday morning during the school year, i now take it, an insanely heavy bag of school books, and my organisation-starved little hiney to the nearest coffee shop for a few hours. For good measure, i throw in a couple cookbooks too.
First thing is to consult the calendar and identify dates we have late night activities or nights Moose works late. Then it's time to plan dinner for the week, depending on our schedule. Cookie has dance lessons at our normal dinner time on Tuesday, so i know those days i need one of three things: leftovers, a quick and easy dinner, or Moose needs to cook. :) If Moose works late, i need to know that Cookie Monster will be expecting a girl's tea and movie night for dinner so i can plan the grocery shopping accordingly. :) After that, i identify days that may zap my energy where a "no recipe required" dinner may be the ticket. These are the days that have a commitment in the middle of the day, or a committment that we might not know when it ends, like a playdate or field trip. Then there are usually 2 days in the schedule where nothing extraordinary occurs, so i'll plan nice, big dinners. Not 4 courses or anything, mind you, but maybe lasagna or pastitsio. Once dinners are planned, they are written in pencil next to the day they will be served. From there, a grocery list can be concocted. Don't forget to plan your lunches too and include those items on the list.
Once nourishment for the week is tackled, then school scheduling can begin. Our schedule for school is fluid, but i list what we need to accomplish for the whole week, filling in the calendar. Sometimes we're right on track; sometimes Friday is a very, very, extremely long day. :)
During the course of school planning, i find that i require an "immediate action" list. This is the list that keeps refocusing my efforts for a smooth week. If i need to remember that there is a snowstorm predicted this week, i write it down. :) The math lessons that need a special tool for the lesson, i make notes of. Any thawing of meats, library duties, etc...anything specifically unroutine that would make life easier to know ahead of time gets written on this list and i place it near my computer. Then i can free up brain cells to remember a new favourite song or something. And i don't look like such a hot mess in front of my kid when we need a weather chart for math or science and i'm digging around in the recycling bin while she's patiently waiting to begin her lesson. :)
This is what's helped us so far. Hoping something here might spark your imagination if you are looking to get more organised. Don't forget to check out LH in the 'Burbs for more ideas on how to get your life organised. If you have any other ideas, please share! We'd love to hear them!
Next up: Burnin', i mean, breakin' down the house.

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Thanks for taking the time to read my silly lil musings. Hope you have a wonderful day!