At Home with the Editors: Planning Daily Lessons
I’m definitely what you would call a planner, but I am not a rigid planner. If I didn’t make some kind of homeschool schedule, I would wake up each morning and begin focusing on random stuff. Maybe it would be educational, or maybe I’d clean the house, or maybe I’d exercise or write. I wouldn’t waste the time, but since we have specific goals we’d like to accomplish, I have to make sure I make those a priority and do them first. I save the random stuff for late afternoons and weekends.
My system for planning daily lessons has evolved over the years until I landed on what seems the simplest way to do it for me. It may be too simple and/or kind of messy for you. I take notes in different places for different reasons, and it's a little different from Amy’s bullet journal, but since we all have to figure out our own way of doing things, I’ll tell you what I do.
A Master List
I keep one “priority list,” which I made during the summer, on what I’d like to accomplish this coming year with the boys. It’s a general list and not in any order. I note a few of my curriculum choices, but not all of them. I don’t need to know the details because I’ve already figured out the books and curricula, and I keep them in stacks around my room, so I can grab what I need when I need it.
As you can see in the photo, I have a list for each boy. (I’ve covered their names for privacy.) I also have a list of lessons that I do with the boys together. In the bottom right hand corner, I’ve listed the things they’ve told me they want to study this year, and we’ll probably add more to that later.
This list is simply a reminder to me as I plan our daily lessons: “Shelli, don’t forget to use News-O-Matic. Or that new cursive workbook.” “Don’t forget that the 8-year-old wants to do more science experiments.” I keep the list right on top of my desk, which is crucial to remembering to use it.
The Daily Lesson Plan
As far as planning our daily lessons, I am super sophisticated. (NOT!) I keep a stack of blank scrap paper that I’ve cut into small squares (recycled from odd prints outs that I don’t need anymore) on my desk, and every morning (or — if I’m really on the ball — the night before), I make a list of what I hope to accomplish that day.
(I also start off the year by making a “I hope to accomplish…” weekly schedule too, which tells me that it works pretty well if I, for example, do math on Mondays & Wednesdays and writing on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I usually stop referring to this after I get into a groove for daily planning.)
This agenda is not set in stone, but I always put the most important item first. As you can see in the photo, “Music Theory” is at the top for Monday because in the afternoon, my son has his piano lesson, and I don’t want to forget to have him do his theory homework. We may or may not get to our Spanish lesson, and that’s okay. Spanish will rotate into a higher “priority” position on another day. (See my post: Our “Order of Things.”)
This little list of our “daily plan” gets thrown away at the end of the day after I’ve recorded what we’ve actually done on my homeschool chart.
The Homeschool Chart
The other item I keep on my desk is a chart I created for myself so that I can record what we’ve actually done that day. Our day may have turned out a little (or a lot) different from my plan, and that’s okay. I use the chart to note what happened, and it’s used for record keeping and attendance. With the chart, I can see what we’ve already worked on this week, which helps me decide what the priority will be the next day.
By the end of the week, these charts can look pretty messy. I use a lot of abbreviations that I’ve created for myself, and most of my notes are brief enough to fit into the boxes, or I might spill over into another box. I don’t worry about being neat because I’m the only person who will see these charts. (Note: The chart in the photo is from this summer when we were going lighter on lessons, so it’s not nearly as messy as a chart from mid-winter.)
These charts get filed into my boys’ yearly portfolios (3-ring binders). (The portfolios are where I keep loose worksheets, fliers to museums we visit, receipts for classes, and the items required by law in my state.)
This system is working well for me right now, and it helps me not worry about finishing any particular curriculum in one year. We can slow down and focus on areas that need more attention, or we can skip those things that don’t seem necessary, which becomes apparent as we move through the year. As long as I can see that the boys are making progress, I’m happy.