Thursday, September 09, 2010

The First Week of School

Where the learning happens...(and no, I didn't chose the paint color)
Pencils scratch across paper. Pages flip. Science experiments, Latin songs and watercolors start becoming routine. It's been a busy week in the house. Usually, I begin our school year at some time during the summer when it is hot as blazes and no one wants to go out any way. This year, I didn't have the energy to even think about it -- I had a baby in July, if you recall, and we went on a long trip in August.

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.


melissa said...

Lovely. :) One day at a time, remember? (reminding myself of the same)

Take care.

Diane said...

Melissa's word - lovely - is exactly what I thought as well, for the plans and the room! Honestly, as I've gotten older I've discovered that if I have a plan figured out and written down ahead of time, even when things later go crazy, everything works out better than if I didn't do the pre-work.

How do you keep the littles otherwise occupied while you are supervising school?

Anonymous said...

You did a lot of hard work! I studied your plans, in awe of your organization. I may just borrow your Circle Time calendar for our own.

A and I worked through the constellations and D'Aulaire's Greek Myths this summer, and then I let him read the Percy Jackson books for a fun comparison.


Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith said...

I am in awe of your circle time plans. Our school room is on the corner of our playroom. I also used the milk crate organization for my oldest daughter and I love it!

Jordana said...

Diane, if I new something brilliant to keep the littles occupied, I'd probably also have a million dollars. Mostly, they run around and make too much noise and lots of messes.

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