|Where the learning happens...(and no, I didn't chose the paint color)|
I decided to wait until Labor Day to begin (and we actually began on Labor Day, so as to get in a full week's work). However, although we didn't begin school until this week, I spent a lot of time over the summer getting ready for this year. First came the planning stage, which involved considering what hadn't worked and what had worked and why, figuring out what I wanted to cover and researching curriculum, mostly over on the Well-Trained Mind Forums and talking to friends. I made lists and checked them twice, reviewed them, and dithered.
Whenever possible, I tried to review curriculum items that sounded good either in person or on the web, before ordering something blindly, but ordering came next, whether blind or not.
After actually getting my hands on the books, I took the bold step of actually flipping through everything, considering how long I wanted our days to be, what I wanted to teach when, and making notes about the length of books and how long I wanted them to last -- also taking into consideration the fact that I have one child who speed reads (with excellent comprehension), one child who dawdles over everything and one child who complains that all assignments are too long and too hard. I started creating lesson plans and schedules for the first quarter, including typing in books that just require you to do the next thing. I know after four years of doing this, that if I don't write it all down, I won't remember even those things. I would have loved to plan the whole year at once, but things change. People get sick. Books are reviled. I didn't want to make that much commitment to anything, so I stuck to a quarter and will carry on planning as I see how things are going. In the spirit of sharing, although these will probably be too particularly specialized to be valuable to anyone but me -- here are my mostly finished grade 5, grade 3, grade 1 and Morning Circle Time plans.
Besides planning everything and putting it in writing, I also got each kid a three-ring notebook divided into nine sections with their weekly lesson plan inside as well as all worksheets to be completed each week. In the past, I have often spent time every morning finding, copying and printing worksheets or other necessary paperwork. This year, I did the work beforehand, so there is no more searching around. And to further save time during the school day, I bought each child a milk crate to keep all their particular books in. Books are returned to their place in the crate after they are used (or when I find them lying around the house in strange locations) and the hunt for missing math books seems to be some what tamed.
Finally, to get ready for the year, we cleaned, edited and rearranged our school room (which is also our family room). Thus far, I am much, much happier with the new arrangement of things.
So far, so good. I hope the rest of the school weeks continue to go so smoothly.