March 27, 2008

Old Ways...

This past weekend as I was working, once more, on my son's schedule and program for next fall, I decided to pull out my Teacher Resources binder and look through it. It was fun to look back over the past four years and review the different ways we organized and tracked our progress.

When we first started to home school, one of the things I was most paranoid about was figuring out how to schedule our week. Our curriculum, Ambleside Online, is a free online program and each year has a booklist and 36-week schedule of readings. Pretty much everything you need is available on the website and many families just use the booklist and schedule and work off it each week. The schedule is linear and has weekly assignments in a list format. They make a mark or highlight the assignment once it is completed and are very comfortable with a flexible routine (if they skip math on Tuesday, they just pick it back up on Wednesday).

I tried this method, but found that I needed something more visual, something that showed me in a picture format what we needed to do each week of our year. One of the parents on the Ambleside Online support group took the 36 week schedule and put it into MS Word and laid the assignments out in a 12-week table format. This format works well for parents who want to see 12 weeks of assignments listed by Subject, versus listed grouped into weeks.

I used this schedule and found it a great start towards helping me see "the bigger picture." However, I still needed to see our week at a glance and I wanted to see everything we needed to do on one page only. So I took the 12-week format and then created a weekly schedule using MS Excel. Excel works great and gives me a format that appeals to my visual side.

I have used Excel spreadsheets for our weekly scheduling since 2004. Occassionally, I switch out and use Word or will use Home School Tracker Plus, an automated software program. I have found though that of all the methods I have used to schedule our weekly assignments, Excel seems to fit my style best.

My binder, on the other hand, is a standard 3" with multi-colored tabs for subjects. I keep all the subjects in the front of the binder and then have one section in the back for records such as calendar, combined reading lists, report cards, transcripts and attendance (even though we are not required to turn these items into our county education supervisor, I like to keep them on hand). Behind each tab, I keep articles on how to teach that particular subject. Since we use the Charlotte Mason method, I often print PR Articles explaining how her teachers taught each subject in her PNEU schools.

I keep a bin for all our papers and reports. I have used the bin system since 2004 and it is an easy way to keep track of everything we do. I file away all papers as well as any printed e-books or partial texts once we are finished using them. At the end of the year, I condense these papers down into one file folder and keep them as a reminder of our program.

Now that my son is in high school, he doesn't seem to generate as much paper as he did before. He still turns in some papers to me, but most of his work is completed on the computer and he emails it to me for review. This process actually works really well and enables me to mark up his papers and then send them back to him for corrections. It also saves on paper printing and storage.

It was fun to go back over our method for the last couple years and see that we have indeed made good progress. We are not always the most organized nor are we consistent with our approach. But, when you look at our years as a whole you do so great improvement and forward momentum. I think if anything it gave me that pat on the back to know that we are doing home school well and that we are succeeding in meeting our yearly goals. I am pleased with our progress and know that the next couple years will prove even more enriching and blessed.

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