School Prep Time

Hi Everyone!
After a three month siesta from blogging, I am ready to jump in again. It is amazing how busy homeschoolers are during May through July, and I am no exception. Since it is too hot now to be outside long in Texas (over 100* daily through August,) I find more time to “relax” and do special housework and organizing. Plus, it is the perfect time to begin to work on scheduling each child’s schoolwork for next year.

We still do light schooling most mornings in summer (maybe two subjects) to reinforce skills in math and finish last chapters of other texts that weren’t done in time. We still wake early to enjoy the cool weather in the morning and have a leisurely breakfast, chores, and playtime, too.

Yesterday, some friends came to visit for the afternoon, so each boy was finished with his room, math, and chores in plenty of time before they arrived. They decided to play outside in the heat for a while. All came in unscathed except my youngest who was stung by a wasp. My immediate procedure for this is to soap and wash off the site, pat dry, and apply a paste of silver water and baking soda. Then apply ice over that and give him ibuprofen and some ice water to sip. It never swelled but is a bit red today so am still doctoring it today. Since this was not a computer day for him, some new library books have taken his mind off the “terror” of it.

Today, early, I first caught up on all the laundry and dishes so I can concentrate the rest of the week on school prep time. After checking the boy’s room and chores, I was free. I began by sorting through the shelves to remove last year’s books, worked on some final grading for my oldest for his transcript, and started gathering school supplies from their storage places. Luckily, my large table is a great spot to spread things out so I can be near and available to everyone…for the usual number of interruptions! This process will take at least a week or more to complete. I have found that it is much better for me to prepare now for the whole year so I can eliminate some stress later and have more time then for other important tasks.

First, today and tomorrow, I make sure each child’s notebooks and papers are organized properly in the right folders which I label with their name, grade, and subject. Then they are grouped and placed in boxes, labeled, ready to go to the attic. Any books that won’t be needed next year which won’t fit in other bookshelves are also boxed and labeled with the grade level for easy retrieval from the attic.

Next, I get to gather each child’s “new”(reusable) textbooks and place them neatly in the assigned shelf. Last year was the first year I only had four children in school, so I only needed four of the six shelves for their books. The other two are finally available for keeping my teaching/ grading supplies more handy. I am also more inclined to grade things in a timely manner. (This year, I am determined to do even better at grading more often!)

Gathering our supplies, to see what I already have, is just as fun, especially when I realize there is not much left to purchase. This year is a particularly frugal year, so creative use of current supplies will be of essence. For one thing, that means reusing last year’s notebooks and putting the ousted papers together in “books” with labeled cover pages. By letting each child use his notebook twice some years, we have saved countless dollars and space, and sometimes they begged to use their favorites again anyway because we generally buy cheap, solid-colored notebooks and let them personalize them. It is hard to give them up sometimes. Last year packs of paper were so much more expensive anyway than the spiral-bound paper, so we could buy five or ten spirals for the price of one pack of paper. I just remove the paper along the cute little perforated lines for their notebooks. I may only have to buy a little college-ruled paper for my senior.

After checking all the supplies, like pencils, rulers, scissors, new glue and sharpeners, I put them into one bin in the garage to bring in on the first day of school. Getting to choose their own is a highlight of that morning. I usually don’t let them look in their “new”shelf of books all those weeks of waiting, not even if they beg, until that first morning, so they are eager to begin school. (well.. sometimes at least!) We make it a relaxed first day of leafing through them, discussing ideas and the school rules, too. In addition, we usually try to celebrate back-to-school somehow with friends, when possible.

Once the schoolbooks are arranged and supplies checked, I can start entering the subjects and pages which will need to be covered daily into their planners. By dividing the number of pages by 180, I get an approximate number of pages to cover per day. If the subject will have tests, I divide by 150 instead, since the other 30 days will be a study day and test day for about ten tests, except spelling which has 36 tests (one each Friday at 11:30 every year for each child!) For the other ten days in each subject, I adjust backwards so that I can insert 7 – 10 “catch-up” days sporadically when I think that topic or a chapter review lesson might need more time. I always do a lot of counting just to be sure, before I write it in, that we will meet our May deadline to finish school. I schedule a bit heavier in the winter months until Christmas, and then in February and early March so we are not hindered indoors as much when spring fever hits. During the year, they really like putting their own special mark on each subject completed so we can plan to be outdoors more when I see they are on track.

It may seem like a lot of work, but it is so much easier to have a prior plan like this. It would be hard (and time consuming!) for me to sit down every week and write out lessons for four students in nine to ten subjects each (36 in all every week.) Cruising through a whole year’s planning in one sitting is more efficient for me. I feel prepared for problems, too, because their special mark will show me exactly where they are in each subject. Thus, when interruptions to the schedule occur(and they will!), then, I can see at a glance how to adjust their work to fit the need. I also feel more assured that if any emergency comes up, then someone else can take over and know what to do without guessing. Another big advantage is that I sleep better at night since I am ready for lessons each morning. If I don’t feel well, or I’m helping another child, then they already know what to do and can even help each other as needed until I am able to get to them. Plus, knowing in advance what they are studying, and when, has helped so much in choosing books at the library for topics of interest, book reports, and research papers!

Even if you use the classical method or the Charlotte Mason plan, at least some written form of planning ahead will help you accomplish your goals, too. There is plenty of time still left to try and write out and finalize ideas. Pray and plan. Plan and pray some more. Since none of us know what trials God will allow in our lives in the months ahead, it would be wise to prepare while time is available.

I hope all of you will be wise and frugal in planning your school days. Joy is closer each day when you have the peace of mind that accompanies a written plan.
For God’s glory,

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