Thursday, April 29, 2010

Homeschool Planning Notes: Binders!

We've watched The Trouble With Angels so many times that we can't just say binders, with a plain old comma or period. It's always binders! 

This time, though, we don't mean those. We mean 3-ring notebooks, without which, &c.

If things have been quiet-ish around the ol' blog, it's because my days have been consumed with 1) trying to finish this year's school and 2) putting together ironclad plans and procedures for next year. And while we've always used binders to make sure that work got done and not lost, now we're moving to a higher plane of binder-dependence entirely.

I first ran across the idea of a 2-binder system for each child somewhere on the 4-Real Learning forums, in a conversation about workboxes. Someone -- and I now forget who -- described a system whereby each child has a binder for weekly work which, as it is completed, goes into a binder for the year, a "work completed" binder which, at the end of the year, serves as a kind of yearbook of the child's achievement. While I've always hung onto files and folders and workbooks and notebooks, this seems like a neat way to keep things ordered so that the child can go back and look over old accomplishments without having to track them down in the filing cabinet. You can shelve the "year" binders neatly, and there you are.

Of course, the key to all this is that you have to have your weekly work lined up, so that you can slip things into the assignment binder for the child to access at the proper time. As you go, you can put in a fun math puzzle, a coloring page, a form for journaling an indpendent-reading book, a page of copywork, a crossword puzzle, or whatever else strikes you as a good thing for your child to do in a given subject on a given day, but for me, at least, it's essential to have the core work planned out and ready to pop into the child's binder. For the older children, too, the assignment binder has to be set up so that the child can work more or less independently, with everything necessary to sustain life right there at this fingertips (okay, so I haven't figured out how to binderize meals yet, but give me time . . . ).

Many of our next-year's books arrived this week, and I have some ready-made lesson plans at hand, which makes things considerably easier:  I could just copy off the timeline-research project which will be Amicus's history course for next year, 3-hole-punch it, and put it in his binder for him to access. For the youngers, since I'm tweaking a set of ready-made plans, it's a matter of making up daily lists which pull from the lesson plans, with space to add more activities and books as I continue to plan.

Epiphany's assignment binder is the most-nearly finished, so I thought I'd share what, specifically, is in it.  It's nothing exciting to look at, but I did take some pictures which I can't post right now because the zippy computer is all packed up. Maybe later I'll post an all-binder (not binders!) photojournal, though that might be kind of boring. We're aiming for complete here, not cute.

Her binder includes, first, a contents page, so she knows at a glance what's in it and where to find things. The contents right now are:

* a daily schedule for the mini-courses we're doing this summer:  math, grammar & composition, science and history review.

* a booklist for summer reading and independent reading through the year

* a daily summer-assignments syllabus

* Useful forms:  note-taking, book-journaling, etc. I printed her out a number of these, with a note to make more copies as needed, whenever she reaches the last blank form.

*12th-grade course of study  (scroll down for the link to the forms)


* weekly lesson plans with  assignments  blocked in  for all the books we currently have:  humanities, English, chemistry, math. I'm still putting together the half-credit economics course. I'm using the "Plan List" form (scroll down the page at the link and you'll see it), with a big box for notes (I've already put in, for example, contact info for the author of her chemistry text, who welcomes student questions). The form comes in .doc format, so I've typed in many assignments, while I'll pencil in others as I plan. I saved each page in its own file, so that I can easily go back and amend a page and reprint it if I need to. 

With the weekly lesson plans I'll also include printouts of readings, where she's not using an actual book. I've made a workbox/bookshelf station in the hall, near my own work space, with boxes for both Epiphany and Amicus:  their assignment binders, their "completed" binders, and their books for the year, which I'm still amassing. My goal is that no one will have to hunt for anything;  it'll all be right there. At this station I've also made a box (actually a milk crate) for myself, with my big resource binder, the prepared lesson-plan binders for the youngers, our timeline book, and various worktexts whose pages I'm going to be photocopying to put in assignment binders, rather than letting them work directly in the books (for hand-me-down purposes). Meanwhile,  I'm working on a similar station for Helier and Crispina  in the kitchen, where we do most of our school.

I'll post more about preparations for their binders as I finish  them. Currently I'm working on Amicus's year, so that he, like Epiphany, will have a detailed course of largely-independent study at his fingertips. He'll be doing pre-algebra, the World History timeline course in CHC's middle-school lesson plans, grammar, composition, a schedule of literary reading, life-science, and a course in growing in the virtues, courtesy of the Marianists.

But more about all that later. Hm, has anyone had a "planning" blog carnival lately? Anyone want to have one?

Which reminds me that "What I Learned This Week By Opening One Book" will return this Friday. Prepare!

CORRECTION:   Make that next Friday. Helier's First Communion's this Saturday, I'm the First-Communion teacher . . . the book talk, she is not happening now.


Ellyn said...

We, too, have watched The Trouble with Angels" so many times that our standard response to any overwrought family member (well, at least girls) is to exclaim, "Loosen her binder!" :-)

Booklover said...

Thank you for this blog. Now I don't feel so behind. I have Fourth grade outlined and working on Third grade. Once that is all done I can just fill in the weekly and daily plans.

Janet said...

I wonder if anybody uses a spreadsheet or, better yet, a database program for lesson plans. This makes it SO easy to adjust when you get behind, especially if you use a database. And then, you still have a perfectly pristine plan that doesn't make you feel guilty when you mark things out.

My word is readr--must be a sign.


Anne-Marie said...

I use a database called Homeschool Tracker Plus, which I love. My 3rd daughter is just starting the same Precalc course her older sisters did two years ago. All I have to do is select the assignments, saved from back then, and put them onto her calendar. No retyping!

The other thing I really like about it is that if our schedule gets disrupted (illness, working more or less quickly than anticipated), I can easily reschedule assignments, again without retyping.

But as with any system, if you don't have your work planned out in advance, it's pretty useless.

Anne-Marie said...

And Sally, I'm in awe that you are organizing for next year already. I am scrabbling madly with the end of this year and have barely thought about next year!

Sally Thomas said...

Last year I left it too late, and was scrabbling at the beginning of the year. We've had a pretty decent year, but I really want things to run more smoothly next year, and for the olders to be set up to go like a machine the entire year.

I planned through Christmas quite well this year, but then . . . fortunately most things run themselves, in the "do-the-next-lesson" vein, but I wanted to make sure that I had all outside reading, projects, writing assignments, etc, planned in, so that nobody's left hanging, waiting for me. The more planned-out I am, the more challenging work gets done.

I've never used Homeschool Tracker, though have always heard great things about it. When I last looked at it, they didn't have a Mac version. Is that still true? I've used Excel some, and it's great for daily planning, though my older kids tend to think in increments of weeks, so it works for me to write down a weekly list of pages, problems, written work, etc, and let them sort out how they're going to get it done by Friday.

I don't mind scratching out, erasing, and revising. Makes me pay attention. Maybe it's being a writer, and doing that kind of thing to my own work . . .

Angel said...

Would love a planning carnival :-) I feel like I have so many areas on which to focus right now that I am running around like the proverbial chicken, unable to make any progress on anything. Maybe the 3rd trimester nesting urges will kick in soon.

One can hope anyway.

Sally Thomas said...

Not like your life isn't just the tiniest bit unsettled right now, Angela!

But yes, I'd like to do a planning carnival. I like that forum at 4Real, and I know people have all kinds of useful ideas, if only I had time to track them down. I know there's been a "Loveliness of Planning" fair -- I'm not sure I care so much about loveliness when it comes to planning! It's just one of those things . . . though once I get into it, I can't stop. I have to make myself stop planning and *do*.

Anyway, maybe I'll host one sometime soon.

Anne-Marie said...

HST is still Windows-only. :-(

I agree, in homeschooling perhaps more than in any other area of life, the more I plan in advance, the more smoothly school runs and the more gets done. Also the kids are way happier.

Planning and organizing for the upcoming year is one of my major summer projects.