Homeschool Planning and Record Keeping

I'm not that type of blogger that normally shows you things in a timely or useful manner. I'm more like "here's what we did for St. Patty's day" three weeks after the fact when it's of no use to you and you probably won't remember for next year even if you do think it would be fun to copy.  And we start our new grade of school curriculum in January (or whenever we finish one book if it's handwriting, math or piano) so I can't even participate in the regular Not Back to School carnival. I still love visiting those because I love all things planning and organizing and curriculum related but I I have a hard time finding motivation to write about something that's 6 months old in my life. But in this case, I'm starting to use my newly designed homeschool planner/hour logger in July so you might actually be able to glean some ideas if you start on a regular rotation! 

Last year I used a weekly checklist that was modified from Elaine who I think modified Celeste's, along with the basic AO one sheet term overview pdf which I used by simple highlighting the readings as I read. The last term I tried adding dates to each reading but the spacing was tight as I felt  my basic record keeping was a little sparse. (Sidenote:  I am in the sorta unique position that I believe in giving the state exactly what it legally requires and not a dot more on a principles level- but I also am involved with the foster care system and while our licensing worker has been nothing but enthusiastic about our kids and their education, I still want to make sure all our t's are crossed in case we end up with a different case worker that is a bit more antagonistic. So, this might be more involved than most people but it works for my peace of mind.)

Then I used a cheap weekly calendar to record what we actually did each day for the legal record and so I could input that into my excel hour log. That all worked. It was simple, which I liked, but in three different places, which I didn't. I needed to streamline. 

I started with the Big Happy Planner. I got mine from Michaels online using both the standard 40% off coupon plus they were having another 20% off everything and surprisingly it let me combine those so I got it for a really good deal. 

It's really pretty. I love it. 

It's my first time using a disc bound planner but so far I'm really liking it. I saw a number of great planners, even self designed ones and thought about doing that and having it comb bound but I knew that I needed something I could alter as I went because I'm not even sure yet when I'll be starting Jonah in Year 1. But last year I found my 3 ring binder to tear up pages and take up a lot of space on our very small kitchen table so didn't really want to go that route again. I got an Arc punch which was a bit pricey but works really well so this is what I added to their basic calendar. 

A couple very simple reading logs to track hours (for our library's program) and another set to list the titles that they have read as well as our read alouds so I can remember what I've already checked out so I don't put a hold request on it again. (Not that I've ever done that ;-)

I'll use the year at a glance to plan our breaks. I normally only do a term at a time and hold it loosely but this time I'm having to be even looser. Notice that week between the blue and green is still a ? I'm guessing we'll be doing school since I've never had a baby come before their due date but I'd actually prefer to be holding my newborn. A pregnant mom can hope. 

Behind that I keep my term overview sheets. I'll start filling these out tomorrow as it's our first day of the term but will continue as we learn things and move on to the next. These are very helpful at 1) exam time because I often forget where the term began and exactly what poems/bible verses are new and 2) when trying to look back on the years and remember when we did different things like handicrafts. It seems like something that wouldn't be THAT hard to remember, but apparently it is.

Then before each monthly's spreads is a paper printout of my excel hour log. I'll fill it in as we go along but update the computer version so it does the calculations for me and then print out a nice neat version to save for our records. As Missouri residents, this is our main legal requirement and its slightly annoying but not really difficult. 

Next is the main planner portion. The left side is an updated weekly checklist I mentioned above. It's basically the same as last year except I've included a few things for Jonah.  This is my messy sheet. I write notes about exactly what we did for nature or our science experiment. I scratch things out or make notes on things I need to look up. It's the working part of the planner. And because of that, and because I don't think the state needs to know what days we went to the dentist, I don't want this to be a part of my official records. Plus I get great joy from looking over these at the end of the term, seeing what things consistently got missed and making notes and then THROWING THEM AWAY. It's the last thing I do after exams and its cathartic. 

 The right side is new. I've always liked to work with each "AO week" being treated like a unit. We do 2 or 3 AO readings a day depending on their length and our schedule that day. With just one AO student and my still doing 90% of the reading aloud, I don't need to plan which readings to do which days in advance. We almost always finish our term + exam in about 13 weeks so we really do make it through about a weeks worth of material in a week but it almost never matches up exactly and trying to do so would stress me out.

This is to replace the term sheet but still allow me to keep working things as a unit, separate from our regular "weekly" schedule. It gives me more space to write the date(s) when each reading occurred. So these sheets, along with the hour log and the calendar pages will make up the official record I'll save in their portfolios for a few years. 

If I didn't need to save/not save them separately, I'd probably print them front and back but I printed on just one side and put a month's worth in front of every month. When I use up either side, I'll move it to the back of the stack ( from where I'm looking at it here, still in front of that month's tab) so I always have my two current sheets together for easy access. 

I also used my arc punch and a spare binder tab to cut out a few bookmarks to keep my place at this spot as well as my weekly work page so it's easy to find. 

After all my additions, we finally get to the purchased planner part. This monthly overview sheet isn't something I'd thought about but I do want to do a better job about the fun/memory part of homeschooling so I hope to use this to set some goals/intentions as well as record our highs (but skip the lows, we can forgot those)

This is the weekly schedule planner I used last year as my legal record book (and source of hourly info for the hour log).  I know how long a lesson typical takes so I write "AO reading" or "copywork" on my record sheet and only indicate times if it abnormal for some reason.

The Happy Planner has a weekly planner page which I'll be using instead. I think I'll really enjoy having the three vertical boxes. I'll probably use them for the same three categories I did last year: Lucy, Jonah, Everyone. I like that is has the weekends unlike a lot of homeschooling record books I've seen because while we don't do regular school on the weekends, we do often have education experiences I can count for our hours.

The planner also has monthly calendar pages. I don't foresee a need for those right now but that if we start any sort of co-ops or group activities in the fall, that might be useful. I also took another plastic tab sheet lying around and punched new holes to make a clear dashboard. I'm not sure how much I'll use this but there were some times that we were doing messier things but I still wanted my planner next to me and it got a bit sticky. So this will allow me to keep it covered but visible during tea times or other messier activities. 

And there you have it! More than anyone ever wanted to know about my homeschool planner. Now it's time to start school tomorrow and put it to use!


Classics Challenge - Jane Eyre

Ah, the re-read. It's always a joy to pick up a book with no worries that it won't be good or that it will be good but you'll still end up emotionally scared (Villette!) or that you'll waste time waiting for the moment when you click with it but that never comes.

I first read Jane Eyre in high school and thought it was okay, a bit weird, not sure why everyone was so into Mr. Rochester 'cuz he was kinda creepy. I think I may have tried again later once or twice but I last read Jane Eyre in 2014 and it spoke to me. While I knew the plot, it really seemed like I hadn't ever really read the STORY before because how had I missed how amazing this book was.

I haven't read it since, partly because I was afraid it would ruin that last reading for me but I took a gamble. Short version: I still really love this book.

When I read this back in high school, I read it the same way I read Jane Austen books - as love stories. Despite what the movies try to convince you, neither of these authors is truly in it for the love story. Now, Jane Austen does have a better happier way of including that part than Charlotte Bronte so if you are reading it for that, you'll have more luck enjoying those but that really isn't the point and it can be frustrating because if you think that's what it's about, you'll miss a lot. With Austen, it's the wit and the social commentary and ideas about education and relationships and principles that get lost. With Jane Eyre, you've got to look at is the story of Jane and her struggles and growth and fortitude. Now add it some gothic elements - the mystery, the awesome setting, the supernatural, plus the rich language and you've got yourself a winner.

Jane Eyre is my Back to the Classics Challenge Re-read. Head over to Books and Chocolate to read more about the Classics Challenge and get other to-be-read pile ideas.


Year 8 and other mason for me stuff - Summer Update

In which I am still chugging along, albeit slowly. I actually really well for a good 6 weeks when my nausea stopped. I completed up to week 22 of year 8 and then kinda went off track. I realized my brain and my body were both pooping out and I needed to start using naptime for not just resting, but actual napping if I wanted to be somewhat helpful at dinner and bedtime. I choose to focus only on reading the few library books I was using before they had to go back. It was still slow reading so I didn't break any cm principles, just narrowed it down a bit. I finished Kon Tiki, Johannes Kepler, Phineas Gage and Napoleon's buttons. I talked about Napoleon's buttons last time and I'm still think we'll be skipping that one but the rest I liked a lot.

 And I'm actually almost finished with A Coffin for King Charles. That one felt really dry for the first 1/3 although to be fair, I had stopped reading Churchill so I didn't have quite as much context as a regular student and felt a bit lost. But once it got going, I really liked it and forced Craig to discuss a few of the ideas when he was trapped in the car with me. Fun times.

I didn't do very much journaling at all. I got a few quotes copied down in there and summarized Kepler's laws on a page but that's about it. I miss it and hope to get back to it but honestly, since I'll be starting my next term with a newborn, that might not happen. Unless the 4th baby miraculously decides to prefer napping on his/her own and not in my arms but that doesn't seem to be the way my kids work.

I did add Latin. After starting Lucy with year 3, I realized year 4 would be next and with year 4 comes Latin so I wanted to brush up on mine. I thought I'd just start going thought the curriculum I used in high school since my mom saved it for me and it was sitting in the basement. I've gotten through 7 of the 16 units in the first level. Despite not doing a lick of Latin in 17-18 years or so, it's really coming back quickly and its making me remember that I really really loved studying Latin. My ultimate goal right now is to finish all three levels (which I own so no excuses!) and get to the point where I can read some original Latin texts. That is NOT a short term goal but I was about 1/2 way through level 3 when other high school obligations called and it got dropped so I'm pretty sure its possible if I take a slow and steady approach.

So my new goals for the summer are very low key.

 - Finish A Coffin for King Charles. Then I'll put aside Year 8 and pick up again after my "maternity leave." I actually normally feel really great after my babies arrive and my brain feels refreshed despite the lack of sleep so I don't think I'll have an issue finishing up the year even if I wait until September/October to really get started again.

- Work on some handicrafts that, not surprisingly, revolve around the baby (Moses basket and sheets are done, still working on the baby nest and I'm working my way through an online mamarazzi photography course)

- I probably won't make any progress in Latin but I do want to go through my current vocabulary cards 1-2x a week.

- Pick a few very light reading books to have so I don't resort to Netflix or mindless web surfing when I'm too tired to get off couch. The Emily books by L.M. Montgomery and re-reading a few Austen novels are probably the top contenders. And I've gotten a few non-fiction reads about foraging and wild plants coming through our library system shortly that I can peruse as well.


Classics Challenge - Kon -Tiki

 This book is hard to describe because it's actually very interesting but as I'm looking back, it's hard to say why. They build a raft to test a theory, get on the raft and test the theory. The sail. They land. The end. You know that they make as it's non-fiction and one of them wrote the book so there isn't even suspense. Except there's a bit more to it than that.

There's the crew. You gotta root for them because they are this mix of ideas and courage and bit of rashness thrown in there. It's like they are all 14 year old boys really - just with a bit more dangerous information to work with. The idea itself - I mean, what? How is that gonna work? The mental aspect - How do they feel on their journey? What do they see? How do they not go insane and start talking to volleyballs. I mean, they have each other but it's kinda of amazing that that doesn't make things worse. Maybe they can give my kid's tips on sharing a room.

It just seems like it's more than the sum of it's parts. But well worth the read.

Kon-Tiki is my Back to the Classics Challenge Travel or Journey selection. For more, visit Books and Chocolate.


Lucy's 8th Birthday Interview

What is your favorite color? White

What is your favorite toy? Art Supplies

What is your favorite game? Playing Store

What is your favorite song? Away Away (from Moana)

What is your favorite animal? Cats and horses

What is your favorite book? The Sword in the Tree

What do you like to snuggle with at night? I don't really snuggle with things anymore. 

What is your favorite movie? Brave and Moana

What is your favorite thing to eat? Pizza and chicken

Where is your favorite place to go? Disney World 

What is your favorite outfit? My pink dresses - my new one with white things on the sleeves and my pink esater dress. 

What do you like to learn about? French

What have you learned in the last year? A lot of things. I learned about Columbus and what he did about the new world. 

What is hard for you? To not fight with Jonah

What is your favorite thing to do as a family? Camping. 

What do you like about Mommy? That she goes on dates with me and I love her.  
What do you like about Daddy? That he goes on dates with me and I love her. 

What do you like about Jonah?  That he plays with me all the time. 

What do you like about Norah? That's she's so silly and laughs and is so ticklish and says crazy stuff.

What do you like about yourself? That I'm a good big sister.

What do you want to be when you grow up? An artist.

Mason for Me - Summer 2018

Well, June snuck up on me. Actually, I knew it was coming but was powerless to stop it just to get in all those things that needed to be done. But I'm here now! (She says in her best Piggie Voice for anyone who's read this book)

Summer is a funny time for us homeschooling parents. I've been seeing lots of blog posts/facebook comments/podcasts about how to manage your kids for the summer and how to survive because for moms of elementary and up students, they suddenly have more kid time to manage but for me, and I suspect many of you, it's a bit of a break. I don't have any lessons plans or books to get through, I send my kids off to play and I can actually do some chores in the morning when I've got a bit more energy and have some free(ish) time in the afternoon, and my brain isn't trying to juggle so much stuff.

Which can make it a perfect time for mother culture. Maybe you're working your way through an ambleside year but not making as fast of progress as you'd like. This could be your time to shine! Or you could be super busy with vacations and running kids to camp and vbs and swim lessons and off your regular schedule and the progress your making comes to a screeching halt. Or maybe you were making good progress but just like you're kids do, you need a bit of a break. All of those options are totally reasonable.

This isn't a podcast strictly for homeschooling moms, but I really enjoyed The Simple Show Episode 130 Grown-Upping the Summer. It was a good reminder on balancing the seasons but still making time to learn and grown as a person. And balancing the seasons could mean the seasons of the year or the seasons of life. My summer will contain a big shift in my seasons of life and put me back in the newborn stage. I'll be trying to get up a post with my Mason for Me plans but the short version is - it's not gonna be full of deep brain work!

If you are up for some deep thinking but need a break from your regular scheduled Mother Culture do check out Brandy's two posts: her 2018 Mother Culture Reading List and her slightly more ambitious 2018 Mother's Education Course. They're be sure to be at least a few books you want to add to your tbr pile.

Or maybe put down the books (for a little while, you can pick them up again soon :-) and try out a new handicraft. Something you can take to the backyard while you watch the kids play or even the pool..if you're in that stage where your kids aren't potentially drowning every 30 seconds. I'm not quite there yet. Cross stick or Embroidery? Crochet or knitting - that would be good because I always get the hankering to knit when the weather turns cold but I've very slow so I finish my mittens or scarfs right about - spring time. Maybe if I start in the summer, they'd be ready for us to use when its still cold!

Or try to up your nature journaling and keeping game. This time of year is perfect for flowers and bugs - especially if you go out and grab them in the morning when it's still cool and draw/paint them inside an air conditioned building. It's not cheating. Not at all. At least, that's what my 32 weeks pregnant body is telling me.

So how are you fitting some of the Charlotte Mason philosophy in your life right now? I'd love to hear from you, whether it's in the comments or using the instagram hashtag #MasonforMe or leaving a link below.

Also, on a small housekeeping note. I can pretty much guarantee that the Fall edition of this will be delayed because I'll be busy with a newborn. I'll try to get around to it eventually. Which will give you a lot of time to feel refreshed and have plans for the fall all ready to share with us! Because despite what if might feel like now, eventually we will be craving pencils and sweaters and stacks of books again. 


Could this weekend have been any busier - Part 2

So the room re-do was not actually the highlight of the weekend. Lucy turned 8! I'll be posting her interview soon with her view on things but from where I sit, she's a pretty awesome 8 year old. She loves creative things - all sorts of art and drawing, story writing and now that Norah's old enough to invade her bed in the morning and loves to snuggle, she's added story telling to her repetoire. That's the gift that keeps on giving because not only does she fill Norah's cup in the morning, it lets me sleep an extra 15 minutes or so!

That's just one example of her willingness to serve. She's a great big sister and helper to me. She and Jonah still have their moments but they have some great adventures together. And right now she's sitting next to me trying to write her story but also letting Norah cover her with tape "band-aids" in her doctor game. When she's not doing that, she's often be reading a book to her or helping her get something so her very pregnant mama doesn't have to get up just to get Norah a piece of paper or find a certain doll outfit she just has to gave. I'm not sure how I would be surviving this third trimester without her help.

She's still my introverted, pensive girl and I love to hear the ideas she comes up with but she's really come out of her shell this year. She loves her AHG troop and trying different sports. She tried soccer this fall, is in softball right now but seems to have found her favorite sport, Archery.  She got her own bow for her birthday and they are building an archery park a few miles away that should be done soon that she is excited to try out.

We didn't really have a full party but we did have cake and ice cream and invited the neighbors. Luckily they have 5 kids so even with just our two families, it feels pretty festive and celebratory!

Lucy wanted a to decorate her cake herself. I think she did good - simple but elegant. 

Then her big gift from mom and dad come the next day - a night away with mom. Which was perfect for both her and me.

We just went to a local hotel. It had dinner, breakfast and popcorn snacks in the evening included plus a pool so it felt kinda like a resort. Of course, we had to take a trip to Target for some girl supplies first (masks, nail polish and some trail mix. No use trying to have a girl's night without some form of chocolate).

She had never painted nails before so I let her try on mine. 

Her biggest request was to spend time doing the art that I normally can't do with her. I'll set things up at home but spend the time keeping the toddler distracted or somewhat contained so it was so fun to be able to sit with her and do the tutorials too (we just found a few on youtube that looked interesting).

We also practiced lettering using some of the new art supplies and books she had received for her birthday. I do not like my handwriting so I think with a little (or a lot!) of practice, I'll enjoy letting and using it on my bullet journaling and planning papers but I can't say it's coming naturally to me. Lucy was confused for about 10 minutes but they took off and is already free-hand lettering all sorts of things. This is pretty typical of the two of us. I'm always trying to learn some art technique to teach her but she ends up passing me by very quickly. But at least we both enjoy learning and spending time together!

I know I'm biased but I think both her painting and her lettering are pretty awesome.