Last month, I explained how I do my Weekly Planning + Pre-Reading, all in one session before the week begins. If you haven't read that post yet, head over and check that out first -- I'll be referencing some of my planning steps as I explain this second pillar of my weekly process. (You can also take a look at this year's general scheduling notes here for context.)
Today I'm going to talk about the second of my two weekly checkpoints that keep our homeschool humming along: our Weekly Meeting.
In the past, I was correcting and looking over assignments as they were finished. So multiple times a day, I was stopping what I was doing to have a conversation about their work. For a while, that wasn't a problem to anyone but me and my own addled mind. But once I added a fourth student and started spending quite a bit of my time juggling between those two Form I kids, the Year 5 kids were often coming to me while in the middle of a homeschool task with the younger ones. This not only disrupted my train of thought and action but also my young students'. I also couldn't fit in those conversations during naptime, which was now primarily dedicated to Form I read-alouds. There is nothing that gets me more frustrated as a teacher than a older kid coming in an interrupting my reading with a new student-narrator. I treat those sessions as fairly sacrosanct and it throws off my rhythm. But it wasn't my kids' fault, because that was when our check-ins had happened in the past.
I also needed a better way of keeping up with the needs, attitudes, challenges, and questions of my older students. As we moved closer and closer toward independence, I found that we had fewer daily needs but more weekly needs -- and those needs were likely to fall through the cracks since they weren't as pressing. My fifth grader wasn't sitting next to me to do his copywork anymore, but he still needed me to look it over, to talk about technique. Another example: he was often narrating in the car on the way to the beach or while I was making dinner. I'm mentally ready to hear at those moments but not necessarily mentally ready to discuss -- but I didn't want that part of the narration process to fall by the wayside just when they began to need it most. I needed a way to manage those to-dos, something on the calendar to make sure my Year 5 students and I were getting the time together we needed. But I also needed it to not take up bunches of tiny bits in my everyday, when they felt like interruptions rather than opportunities.
That is the story behind the Weekly Meeting, which I have found to be a very powerful tool in our homeschool. It is such a simple addition, but it has made a huge difference for me in striking that balance between staying connected to my independent students and keeping the variety of grades I'm schooling from taking over my life and mind. ;)
Here's how it works, in process form:
First, we started a new paperwork system to mimic our new plan: my Big Kids turn all work into my tray. It's just a paper tray by my "command center" that has been made the landing spot for everything: grammar worksheets, math notebooks, drawings from my kindergartener, paper crafts from my origami lover. Each day, I have a scheduled time when I make corrections to skill-based work. Some gets sent back to my kids for correcting, and then gets turned in again. Then I pop those papers as well as any work we need to discuss together (like written narrations) into my Weekly Meeting folder, which holds my planning sheet, notes from pre-reading, handouts, and all the other bits I need to go over.
Here's a zoom-in on that, just focused on that middle section:
On the left of the list are the items I need to complete before Weekly Meeting. I like to do the actual correcting beforehand to use our hour meeting time more efficiently. Year 5 keeping gets done usually on the weekend, when I do my pre-reading. So these items get spread throughout the week prior, but I do a quick check to make sure they're complete before we meet.
My kids also collect items to bring to Weekly Meeting. They have a list in their binders to make sure they arrive prepared:
On Friday afternoons when all schoolwork is done, the Big Kids and I sit down and go through our Weekly Meeting list:
:: We share our keeping for the week. That means not only do I look over their century charts, maps, reading logs, and commonplace books, but I also show them mine. My hope is that there is a shared sense of educational eagerness in our home, and this is one way I work toward that.
:: Either they or I read through their written narrations, usually aloud because they like to hear each other's. They do two weekly, one for science and one for history, and this term they have an additional written narration for their chosen biography. During this time, I have a chance to comment on content and correct grammatical and spelling errors, as well as note particular issues they are having so that I can consider those during dictation selection. (Note: at this point, we do not edit their narrations to completion. These are just quick notes and fixes.)
:: We also look through all their other written work: math, Latin, Italian, copywork, and so on. They go through any lingering mistakes from the week, sometimes with my help and sometimes on their own depending on what it is. But by the end of Weekly Meeting, all written work should be ready to turn in or put away.
:: I choose a few Big Questions from my own notes to discuss, and they share any that they have. They also can ask other questions -- for example, they are both keeping presidential charts on their own, so they will ask me the name of a president's spouse or his year of death if it isn't mentioned in their readings for the week. They can also bring concerns to me: maybe they're having trouble making capital Qs in cursive, or they are almost done memorizing their poem and need help choosing another. They also let me know when they need refills of copywork paper or pencil lead or new supplies for a handicrafts project. These are the kinds of questions and concerns that it's helpful to condense into meeting time.
:: They turn in last week's checklists and I give them their new ones. We also go over any adjustments to the schedule and look over plans for the coming week: lessons, exercise, menu, and such.
Then everything gets shelved or filed and we can head into the weekend. And I can head into my pre-reading session for the next week with a clean slate on Saturday.
A few more thoughts on the advantages I've seen:
Most weeks it looks like the process I outlined above. But on weeks we are busy, we have the option of making this a correction-and-question session, then filing everything and moving on. So ideally it stretches out to about an hour with chat and sharing, but it can also be a 20-minute affair when needed.
During our meeting, the kids handle any lingering assignments so we can put away the books for the weekend. That's a relief for me because I don't like my schoolwork spilling into Saturday, which can sometimes happen if a student is dawdling over math corrections or something. Instead, we do timed correction sessions through the week and then I help the student during this "study hall" time. And then it's done.
Another real benefit to our Weekly Meeting is that it meets my need to compartmentalize and mono-task (is that a word?). I tell the kids to bring all their questions (about our readings, about our calendar and upcoming events, about various to-dos or concerns they have) to Weekly Meeting. So instead of getting hit with all kinds of random complaints and queries day by day, I can deal with them all at once. (Ideally. Some kids are better at this than others.) I literally have them write these on their checklist. They feel heard; I feel sane. It's a win-win.
Obviously, a Weekly Meeting is not essential for most families! Like a Morning Basket or a Pre-Reading Session, it is one way to organize a chunk of your homeschooling tasks. For us, with the particular students and schedule I have, it has been a great addition.
Do you do a weekly check-in with your older students? This is new to me, but I know it isn't new to veteran mamas who have been doing similar daily or weekly check-ins for years. I'm grateful for any ideas you'd like to share as I plan our format for next year!