Monday, November 5, 2007

Hey, Who Put the Milk in the Cabinet?

Have you ever stopped yourself just before you put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the fridge? Have you ever caught yourself putting hair gel on your toothbrush or spraying deodorant on your hair? If you have ever had one of those days, you may be a tad bit overwhelmed with the details of your life and desperately need organization.

I have known many homeschool moms, myself included at times, who fill their days with everything but school because there is so much they have to do. We often find ourselves using public school hours to get our errands, doctor visits, dental check-ups, grocery shopping and haircuts done, just so we can avoid the crowds. We vow to get school done when we return home. Yet, do we ever get it done? What about when the phone rings, do you look at the caller id and answer the call even though you know you should wait until later to return the call? We easily fall into these very tempting traps. Yes, I said trap. In order to bring organization into our lives, we must be able to spot the traps and resist them. As homeschoolers, it is vitally important that we put the education of our children at the top of our list. Since we are taking that responsibility upon ourselves when we sign a Declaration of Intent to Home Educate, and legally we are obligated to educate our children, then we must not neglect this part of our lives. Yet, how do we find the time to put homeschooling at the top of the priority list when there are so many things to do?

I have found that if I have too many chores undone, it is hard for me to concentrate on school. I have to get some things done beforehand. When my schoolroom is out of order, my day often follows suit. So, what is the solution? How can you organize your life and keep it that way in the midst of every day living? The hardest way, but by far the best way, is simply to just do it. Set aside the time and do it. People have accused me numerous times of not sitting and relaxing enough. I have to admit, I am guilty of that. Usually the culprit for this busyness is my lack of organization, poor planning or over scheduling. If I think about what I have to do for the day and divide my time wisely, I can safely and efficiently get everything done.

There is so much to do in one day, especially if you take into account the time needed to study God’s Word, pray, exercise, grocery shop, cook, clean, take care of the emotional and physical needs of little ones, and do school. These things are just the basics for everyday life. You know the other things on your plate, which most likely include various ministries and extra-curricular activities. Is it possible to do it all in a neat and orderly fashion without pulling your hair out?
The first thing I try to do is establish a routine. I plan my steps as if they are costing me money. After all, they say time is money, right? If I am on the way to the kitchen, I carry the laundry basket with me. When I am down stairs in my office, I start a load of laundry. If I am getting the mail, I carry a bag of trash with me. If I am running to the store, I go on the days we have play day with our group and I go to the library and the bank while I am out. When I am at the store, I get about four gallons of milk and an extra loaf of bread, because we all know those are the two things that we all run out to the store for mid-week.

In years past, on Monday mornings, I would laboriously sit down at my computer and peck away at the keyboard, constructing a lesson plan for the week. The problem with that technique is that inevitably, life occurred and it would take two hours to make my plan. Meanwhile my children were becoming absorbed in something much more interesting than school and it was nearly impossible to bring them back. By the time I rounded them up, it was lunchtime! For that reason, I tried to do the lesson plans during the weekend, but that was no fun because Dad was home and our time with him is too valuable to spend it on lesson plans. The weekends are always full of visits to the grandparents, church, and other social events, so usually I found myself back in front of the computer on Monday morning again. If you have a part time job, have your house up for sale, as we did one year, or have an elderly or sick family member to care for, this only complicates things.
Therefore, this year, I vowed to do things differently. I ordered my books in the spring and began working immediately to devise a year-at-a-glance lesson plan for each subject. Now, let me interject something here. Some curriculum publishers sell lesson plans for their curriculum, and many people purchase these. I have never found these to be helpful because there is usually more information than I can process and far too many class time exercises to accomplish. I prefer to make up my own lesson plans. I will explain how I made this one-year plan at the end of this article.

How to make a year-long lesson planner:

Create a table in your word processing program. Click the tab at the top that says Table. Insert a table, choosing one hundred and fifty rows and three columns.

The first column heading reads Date, the second reads Assignment and the last reads Completed.

Type Lesson # in the assignment column on row one, copy it and paste it on the rest of the rows.
Go to View, then Header and Footer. In the Header section, type the student’s name, subject name and the school year range.

Click File, Save As, and name the file by the subject or whatever you want to name it.
Go back to the Header and change the name of the subject to the next subject, then click File, Save As, and rename that file. Repeat until you have a file for each subject, for each child.

Make one more chart, if you wish. This chart will have the balance of thirty days. This will help you to keep a record of what your student accomplished on the days you did not have seatwork.
Now it is time to begin adding in your lessons. Take the number of lessons per book, plus quizzes and tests, and divide them by one hundred and fifty days. This plan will give you thirty days for field trips, co-op days and/or catch-up days. Once you know what lessons need to be done on which days, you are ready to fill in your chart.

After the word Lesson # type the number of the lesson. You may choose to write the page numbers instead. This is your decision. You may wish to change the word Lesson to Quiz or Test # on the appropriate lines when it is time for those assignments.

After you have done each step, you are ready to print and place the lessons in your notebook, with each subject in a different section. You can give your child a notebook with the entire year in advance, or just give him his daily assignments. Whatever works best for you and your child is what I recommend. If you decide to give your child his assignments daily, that’s fine, too.

As assignments are completed, the students are responsible for checking off their work. This builds accountability and helps students to take charge of their own educations.