Friday, March 9, 2012

Planning out a school schedule

It's an odd time of year to be thinking of how to plan out a school schedule but a friend recently wrote me saying she was dissatisfied with how her schooling was going.  Scheduling being something I really enjoy I thought I'd put my thoughts together here for her and for any others who are finding themselves mired down in winter discouragement and could use a fresh start.

Making a School Schedule
  1. I start with a list of the basic subjects I plan to cover:  Math, Science, Music, etc.
  2. I break these down further.  For example science could include text and projects.  Art might include art appreciation, doing art, and crafts.
  3. Now I put a number by each of these subjects showing how many times I'd like to cover them per week.  Science text - 3x, science projects - 1x, music appreciation - 1x, music practice - 5x, hymn singing - 2x, math - 5x etc.  I highly recommend including nature walks and art and craft projects into your plans.
  4. Next I make sections on a page labeled for each day of the week I will be schooling and begin to list my subjects under them, arranging them so that they are listed the number of times I have prescribed for each subject.  Use a pencil or work on the computer so you can easily rearrange.  Things that are five times will go under all five days, things that are only once or twice can be scattered evenly over the days.  You may want to have a pattern - perhaps you know that one day of the week is difficult so you can make that an easier day or choose more of the subjects you most enjoy for that day.  We have often used Friday as an art and music day - we have an easier load that day and include a nature walk.  Sometimes we write letters that day for writing.  It puts a nice ending to the week.  Or you may want to divide having M,W,F for some classes alternated with T,Th for the things you want to do twice.  This makes for interesting diversion as you switch classes every other day.  Maybe Mondays are difficult for you, or you have a day that typically includes appointments - put less classes on that day and leave out your most difficult subjects.
  5. Now I decide which things will be done together as a group, which things I will be available to help them all as they work individually (at our house this includes math) and which things I will expect them to work on individually with only occasional help (I can be working on my own projects during this time).  Determine the order you want for these ways of working on each given day (it's easier to remember a routine if it has a familiar rhythm).  You may want to have them get a start on their work while you do a few household chores so you could start with their individual work.  Or you might want to start the day together as a group, then move to individual lessons where you are available and finally give them their personal assignments and send them off to finish.  You also may want to schedule in time to work with each individual student while the others work independently or older students tutor younger ones.  This will all depend on your personal preferences and your knowledge of how your children work best.  If independent work is difficult for them yet, you may want to start with that and then move to the easier together times. If you tend to get distracted with other projects and have a hard time pulling yourself back to schooling, start with together time and then when you are done schooling you can be free to focus on your own projects while they finish their own individual school projects.
  6. Decide if you want to set times for given classes or just an order of topics.  Even with topics it is nice to have a ballpark idea of how long you expect a given class to take - 15 min, half hour or perhaps an hour.  Assign a time frame to each subject.  Remember that especially at a young age, classes are best kept short and varied as the brain tires in one area you can move to another topic and feel fresh.  I try to keep most of our academic pursuits during the morning hours so that we have time in the afternoons for rest, free reading, housework, outings and creative pursuits.  You may want to schedule your afternoons with days for particular pursuits - times with friends, a sewing day or a deep cleaning day, a shopping day, library day or perhaps your nature walk or science experiments that might take too long in the morning.  
  7. Each day should now be broken down into four time periods:  group class time, supervised individual work, independent study and your afternoon projects.  At this point you can arrange your daily subjects under these headings.  Charlotte Mason recommends varying the lessons as much as possible, using different areas of the brain so that they don't tire as much but stay fresh for each new class.  Follow math with a creative subject, follow a reading session with art, music, or handwriting.  If you use a lot of text books, you may have reading for  many of your subjects, but you can intersperse this with their writing, math, music, art, drill work, or a quick work-out with a few exercises giving the reading part of your children's brains a rest periodically. Also if they are reading, vary the topics as much as possible.  
  8. Finally, you are ready to put it all down in order writing out your final schedule and it only remains to try it out and tweak it to fit your family's needs.  Make a copy to keep post or keep close at hand the first couple weeks until you are familiar with the new routine.  
I use a similar method for scheduling household chores - listing daily and weekly jobs then assigning them to particular times often connected to meals.  Spread your weekly jobs over the days.  If everyone has a chore or two before and after each meal a lot can be accomplished.somewhat effortlessly.   

Happy scheduling!!

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