Monday, March 27, 2017

Our Weekly Meeting

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.

During my Weekly Planning session, I prepare my whole week: my Year 5 kids' work, my Form I kids' work, and my own personal tasks and goals.  The Weekly Meeting, on the other hand, is really just for my Year 5 kids.  They are largely independent in their lessons at this point -- I do roughly one reading and one 15-minute skill-work session (grammar, Latin, etc.) with them each day.  We also do quite a bit of work as a family (Morning Basket, fine arts, foreign language), and I listen to lots and lots of narrations from them. ;)  Everything else they handle on their own, with my guidance.

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!


  1. 2 written narrations per week... when do you hear the oral narrations each day? how do you handle hearing so many - it's difficult to be interrupted so often!

    1. For my Year 5 students, I hear them while we're making breakfast and while they're making lunch usually. They have one reading session every morning right when they get up, and then one in the afternoon a couple days a week. And then the readings that we do together during Naptime School are narrated right then. I have a peek at my daily schedule and you can see them listed there:
      We don't follow this schedule exactly, but it's representative of an average day.

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  3. This feels like a perfect blend of still being engaged with your olders but also allowing independence/quality time for youngers. I feel like I'm constantly neglecting one group or the other in my home... this is so helpful!

  4. Hi Celeste, I just listened to your interview with Cindy Rollins. It was so inspiring, I decided to come on over to your blog, and do a little planning research.

    I am curious is your prose and poetry notebook, history notebook, and science notebook where you keep written narrations? Also, what is the reading log?

    One more thing; In your "Before Meeting" column you have " Do mapwork and century chart" This is one area that I struggle with. Do you do this work with the students right before the meeting, or is it just a reminder that these things must have been completed already?

    Thank you for taking the time to blog about all of the nitty gritty details of planning, I find it so helpful and inspiring.

    1. Hi Patty! Welcome!

      Their Prose and Poetry Notebook is basically a commonplace book. It holds their copywork of choice. Right now they are doing three days of cursive copywork on penmanship paper (slightly larger lines) since they are still perfecting their cursive, and that copywork is from their dictation passage from the week. Then they have one day a week when they choose a selection to add to their Prose and Poetry Notebook, and that they can do in print and is totally up to them. Eventually they will move to only working in their P+PN/commonplace.

      Their history notebook and science notebooks hold their written narrations in those subjects, yes. Their history notebook also has their mapping, century charts, timelines, and other "keeping" they have done this year in history. I have more about it here:
      (Scroll down to notebooks.)

      Their Reading Log is a place to keep track of their free reading. They log author, title, and then whatever other information they want. They have a rating system they each made up. :)

      That "Before Meeting" column is for me. I also keep maps and a century chart, so I need to complete mine before our Weekly Meeing, which we share our work with each other. I usually do it during my pre-reading, but sometimes I let it slide into the week, which is fine as long as I have it ready to go for Weekly Meeting. My kids do theirs on Thursdays -- it is on their weekly schedule.

      I hope that all makes sense! Let me know if you have more questions, Patty!

  5. That makes great sense. Thank you! I just read your post on year 5 in you home. And it clarified my questions as well.

    I think it great that you are doing your own keeping, I hope to do some of that myself this year. I will have two in year 5, and one in year 9 possibly.

    I love the idea of a reading log notebook, I have scattered sheets of reading logs for different years, Do you keep a separate log of the books you are studying?

    Again, thank you for your response:)

    1. This is the first year I consistently did my own mapping and history keeping, and it really was a lot of fun!

      The books the kids are studying "for school" are already logged in my yearly plans, so it's really just the free reads (whether from the AO schedule or elsewhere) they need to keep track of separately at this point.

  6. Hi Celeste! Just rereading this post as I gear up to start school with my kids. I am going to try a weekly meeting with my Year 5 this year. She is so independent in her work, but near the end of Year 4, she was needing a bit more of a guiding hand to make sure certain (less-preferred) items on her checklist were done. I think a weekly meeting will be just the thing to keep her more motivated. Toddler and newborn were kind of hindering the daily checking, but I think I will be able to manage a weekly check. Thank you, as usual, for sharing your organizational tools!

    1. Yes, the daily checking is really hard for me to keep up with at this stage, but the weekly checking ends up being manageable for me. And it's a hard balance to know how much hand-holding to give, how much independence to allow...I find that I have to feel that out term by term. I'm trying to discern what my Year 3 student might be ready for right now, actually, as I get our school plans together for fall. Anyway, I'm glad you found it helpful! :)

  7. Thank you Celeste! This is so inspiring and helpful! I'm facing many of the same challenges that you were, now that I have 4 school age students. I'm going to pray about how to adapt this to our family's needs and schedule for the coming year because I feel like it would be a huge help. Thanks for taking the time to share your ideas.

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful, Heather! Praying for all of us that are planning and discerning for the upcoming school year! :)

  8. Hi Celeste,
    I was just telling my daughter how i *love* your way of planning cos I plan in the same way, thourough and meticulous, the difference being that you actually follow your plans and i dont!! Grrr....., 1 day, by the will of God. Anyhow, I have a question, you say that you look over your childrens' written narrations in this meeting, does this mean that you dont look at them during the week (on the days they do them?)
    Thanks HC...

    1. Yes, that's right -- I hear oral narrations throughout the week, but we save reading written narrations until Weekly Meeting.

      And I love knowing there are others out there whose minds work like mine! :)

  9. Hi Celeste. I just recently started using Charlotte Mason approach and have been using your blog as a main resource. It is very helpful. I was wondering about this meeting post where you say you give your kids the sheet for next week's work at the weekly meeting. Does that mean that you have their schedules planned out an extra week in advance or do you guys make the checklists together? I'm asking because I usually feel like I have to have checked all of their work, talked with them and have time to ponder a little in order to know what to put on their schedules for the following week. Plus since I'm kind of new to all of this, it feels like there is SO MUCH going on in terms of readings, all the daily work, the afternoon arts and handicrafts stuff. This is especially true if they were unable to finish work or had difficulties in some areas. I guess I try not to plan things out more than one week in advance because I don't know how things will go. So I usually give them their schedules on Monday mornings before we start our lessons. But boy would I like to be done with everything on Friday and be free to enjoy the weekend a little! Any insights about this little detail you could provide would be helpful. Thanks for sharing great information on this blog, it is awesome. You have a beautiful family, God bless you all! -Leandra

    1. Hi Leandra! I don't make many changes to our schedule week by week, so technically I can give out the same checklist that I print out each week and we are ready to go. Our schedule of assignments and our timetable/routine stays the same all through the term. This year, though, I have been making some notations on my older students' checklists when I do my Weekly Prep time on Friday nights and handing it to them on Saturday morning. So I do have to adjust here and there. I think you will find it less overwhelming as you get used to all the little parts of the Mason method! It will seem like less to manage and fit together a bit more easily. :) I do think, though, that whatever you can do to give yourself a break from the logistics for Sundays at least would be such a gift to yourself. I find that I need a full day or two OFF from lessons each week to come fresh on Monday morning. :)

  10. Thank you so much, Celeste! I am actually finding a lot of help from your downloadable weekly checklists and adjusting things to fit our's funny because we also have a Vincent and a Xavier in our group! -Leandra