I'm going to start with my Weekly Planning Session, and I'll cover the Weekly Meeting in my next post. Get ready for a bunch of nitty-gritty homeschool talk!
First, let's look again at that sheet I print out weekly for my planning:
I'm going to focus on the top section there: my list of tasks for the Weekly Planning Session.
You could easily keep these kinds of lists in Evernote or another digital form and access with your computer or tablet -- it certainly doesn't have to be printed. I like manually checking off and writing my notes in pen, but I fully acknowledge it's not the most efficient tool. It's just most efficient for me because I like it best, which means it actually gets done. (Know thyself and all that!)
The point is to have a list of things you need to do during your weekly planning session. For me, that's pre-reading and some legwork for our more hands-on activities. This list will vary depending on how many students you have, how independent they are, how you teach your other subjects, and how much you like to plan day-to-day. I don't like to play day-to-day at all -- my life on the daily level is far more unpredictable, so if things don't get done during this session, chances are they won't get done at all that week. So I make it a priority to be consistent.
When I have handle my weekly planning also doesn't matter, though I prefer some time during the weekend: usually late Saturday mornings, but sometimes Friday nights if we have plans all day Saturday. I sit down with this list, my agenda and school folder, a favorite beverage, and my laptop in the dining room next to our school bookshelves. I spend about 1.5-2 hours (with lots of interruptions from small people, though my husband runs interference too!) checking off the items on this list.
This list dictates how I spend those hours. Here's is a step-by-step of my process:
:: The bulk of my time is spent reading through all the independent reading my Year 5 kids will do that week. I started pre-reading consistently a couple years ago, and it has made all the difference in how I feel about my role as a teacher. I go into each week feeling prepared and ready, and I am able to engage with my students much more effectively. I also am getting so much personally out of the books -- I definitely count it as part of refreshing Mother Culture.
I know not everyone has the time to pre-read, but even if you can just manage it for a book or two, it's worth the effort! Perhaps you could pick the hardest book, or the book you're least familiar with...or the book you most want to read! ;) Also, if you're having trouble fitting it in, a week-by-week approach might not be best for you. As students get older, their reading load increases, and it's not possible to read it all in a couple hours on a Saturday -- the mom of a teen student might want to pre-read a couple books daily, in a morning quiet time or before bed. Perhaps summertime works best for you, and you keep your notes by book rather than by week. Maybe you choose a couple books to read and a couple to listen to on audio and skip the note-taking, just aiming for listening and narrating to yourself as you go along. You can homeschool without pre-reading, but I think you'll find that every little bit bears fruit. Consider brainstorming how to make it happen in your home. I guarantee you'll be glad you did!
I read with a place to take notes next to me -- I keep my notes on the back of my Weekly Planning sheet so that I have all my notes handy during our Weekly Meeting (more on that another time).
I have a note-taking code to myself: I star items I want to look up or add to my own keeping (commonplace, century chart, maps) -- things like dates, favorite quotes, names, facts I'd like to check on. I put a Q next to discussion questions I might like to pose to my kids either after their narration or during our Weekly Meeting. At the end of the year, my plan is to scan these notes and pop them onto Evernote in my Year 5 notebook for the next time around. This also allows them to be searchable for future reference.
:: Afterward, I take a few minutes to look up the AO study guides for the books we're reading and my own notes about supplemental activities. That includes both books I'll be reading aloud and ones they're working on independently, as well as assignments for my Form I students. For Year 5, I check a list of some experiments we're doing alongside Christian Liberty Nature Reader (I'd pull the required materials), the Madam How Lady Why study guide (I highlight in Evernote any discussion points I want to raise), any photos I want to view for the Book of Marvels, and so on. I also put a post-it on the illustrations I want to use alongside The Burgess Book of Animals for my Form I kids and check whethere Long's Home Geography has us doing any hands-on work this week.
:: Next I take a quick look at my term charts to see if there's anything of note this week so I can amend the weekly checklist. Often there are weeks in which a particular book isn't scheduled, and I like to update my weekly checklist to reflect that. (For example, here I crossed out Our Island Story for my Year 2 student and added D'Aulaires' Abraham Lincoln, which we'll be reading over the next few weeks.)
:: I also add any changing bits to my weekly checklist: art study, music study, nature journaling challenge, nature study plans. As I add those, I check if there's anything that needs to be prepared: is the art print ready to go? Are the mp3s I need on my phone or do I have a CD handy? Do I need to read a section from the Handbook of Nature Study for our Friday get-together? Is my audio recording for Shakespeare loaded onto my computer? Did I need to request a book from the library? And so on. This is a great time to look over whether the items I need for weekly hands-on subjects are prepared so I'm not left scrambling during the school week.
:: I take a few moments to prepare our Italian materials for the week too. Over the summer, I sorted my Italian bin into some fabulous colored poly folders so that I can access our new and review activities more easily. Each week, I work from a review folder and our current folder. As items get mastered, they move from the current folder into one my my review folders. I cycle through my review folders by changing to a new one each week. My current folder requires some weekly organizing: I look over the materials I have in there and decide what activities to plan for the week ahead. Sometimes I make a checklist of goals for the week and sometimes I just pull a few things from the folder, but at least everything is there at my fingertips. I also choose the week's Italian dictation and written assignment for my Year 5 kids.
:: Then: remember all those starred items in my notes? Now is the time to handle those! I do my own Year 5 keeping, adding entries to my Century Chart, commonplace book (I have one dedicated to "school readings"), and maps.
:: Then: the Q notes? I choose a few of the not-to-miss questions I've pondered and write those on the front of my planning sheet so they're all ready to go for our Weekly Meeting. I also note in the same box any to-dos of particular importance that I want make sure to cover then as well. The notes in that box along with the list above it determine how I spend our Weekly Meeting time.
:: Last is some personal prep work: I do some weekly-review-style brainstorming and troubleshoot any problem areas in attitudes, schedule, or assignments. I look through my calendar for the week and create my menu plan. I make sure my tablet is charged for school readings and go through the week's paperwork in my folder and tray. (More on those "landing spots" during my Weekly Meeting post too.)
Then I put everything away and go about the rest of my weekend, ready to start fresh on Monday!
I referred to our Weekly Meeting several times, and that will be coming up next time. So if you have questions about that process, save them until I get a chance to flesh that out a bit more. But if there was anything unclear about what I have written here, feel free to let me know in the comments and I'll try to elaborate. :)
And others have been chatting about Weekly Planning lately too! Dawn shared snapshots of her planning sheet, which includes both a comprehensive list of to-dos and a focused note-taking page. And Jen Mackintosh has some gorgeous free printables to get you planning in style as well. I so appreciate these ladies sharing tips and tricks and am happy to add my own process to the conversation too.
Happy Planning! :)