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    Lesson Plans and Record Keeping: Because You Asked

    May 15, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    Mystie wrote:

    Brandy, how about a post on how/if you do lesson plans? 🙂 Kindergarten for me was “pull out memory work and recite” “pull out copywork page to trace” and “pull out book stack and read a couple pages of each.” Now I’m looking at my piles of books for next year and am wondering how to put it on paper.

    The state of California doesn’t require a whole lot of records for private schools {we are, technically speaking, a family-centered private school}. However, any place you find homeschooling legal advice, you will be told that keeping records is a must if you want to be easy to defend in a court of law. Now, we all pray something like that doesn’t happen, but it is helpful to be prepared.

    And preparation helps me get more done, while record-keeping helps me see what we’ve accomplished in a year.

    My thought was to combine the two. I had done a test run in kindergarten, which is not legally required in California. This means it was the perfect opportunity to play with record-keeping without it being a liability to do them poorly or not keep up with them or something.

    What I learned about myself is that it isn’t reasonable to think I’m going to sit down at the end of each day and type up what we did. {I have dinner to make.} In fact, when I have a newborn, it isn’t reasonable to think I will remember it all thoroughly. And if I wait longer than a day, I will remember even less. What I also learned is that it is tempting to believe that keeping records is a substitute for learning. It is sort of like filling up a Dayplanner. If it’s packed, we feel like we’re good, productive citizens, even though a full schedule doesn’t actually reveal much of anything about the soul.

    Spending time on records doesn’t do much for the soul of school, so I try to keep paperwork to a minimum.

    All of this is to say that I devised a very thorough, specific plan. I planned everything I could for the entire year, and then I perfected each term {we have three in a year} during the week prior to its commencement. My binder has three sections which are labeled: Attendance, Circle Time, and Ambleside Time. Things that don’t fit into this binder are math, art narration, copywork, nature study, free reading, and books read aloud. I try to keep records about these things, but generally I just assume that we will do one worksheet of math each day, one of copywork each day, one art narration per week, one nature study per week {unless you count spending way too much time watching our pet ducklings play}, and hours spent reading both alone and aloud as a family. One thing I do regularly is to jot the titles of books we have finished reading aloud in the margins of my pages along with the date we finished reading it.

    Is this boring? I feel like I could fall asleep typing this.


    In the name of laziness, I culled my own archives and found a couple samples of CircleTime: DecemberTerm and a sample week also appeared in my Defining a Bare Minimum post.

    As far as Ambleside Time goes, we followed the Weekly Schedule for Year One for the first two terms. Then, my son made a developmental leap and was able to handle a greater bulk of narration at a time without getting overwhelmed. So now we are going through the same schedule in the same order, but at an accelerated pace. I didn’t bother to change my printed pages. I’m simply writing in the dates we accomplish each assigned reading/narration as we go.

    I will say that I actually went through all of the Ambleside readings in advance and noted how long each chapter or section was. Then I tried to divide them into days according to how much time I thought we’d have and how much he could handle. This was really helpful for me, for I wouldn’t have instinctively known that Aesop’s Fables are a mere paragraph while a Parable from Nature could take almost an hour.

    Because I love you I will show you what the first two weeks looked like for us:

    Week 1
    An Island Story: chapter 1 “The Stories of Albion and Brutus”
    Aesop’s Fables: “The Wolf and the Kid”
    Fifty Famous Stories Retold: “The Sword of Damocles”
    Aesop’s Fables: “Tortoise and the Ducks”
    Parables from Nature: “A Lesson of Faith”
    Just So Stories: “Whale”
    Paddle to the Sea: chapter 1 {introduce blank map}

    Week 2
    Fifty Famous Stories Retold: “Damon and Pythias”
    Aesop’s Fables: “Belling the Cat”
    The Adventure of Missionary Heroism: chapter 11 “Among the Indians and Eskimos of Hudson Bay”
    Fifty Famous Stories Retold: “A Laconic Answer”
    Aesop’s Fables: “The Eagle and the Jackdaw”
    Burgess’s Bird Book: chapter 1 “Jenny Wren Arrives: Introducing the House Wren”
    Paddle to the Sea: chapter 2 {color blank map}

    Math Mammoth is our math curriculum, and I didn’t plan anything in advance at all for this. I had tried to choose sections based on his interest. So, for instance, when he began measuring things on his own for fun, that was the next section we studied. In general, I give him a page per day unless it is embarrassingly easy, on which occasion I give him two. This puts us slightly behind on math, however, as far as the curriculum itself is concerned, but I consider that an asset. There is nothing worse than a child who is done with elementary math before having the physiological maturity of the brain to handle algebra. I love math, but I don’t love going too fast with it at this particular age for this particular student.

    This is the extent of my organization. If I didn’t have Ambleside’s schedule, it would have taken me a lot more time, plus I wouldn’t have known that some of the works match up, historically speaking, or they allude to each other, and so knowing one story first will aid in comprehending another story later. However, the easiest way to go about it is probably to break each larger work into manageable chunks and then spread them throughout the year or week or month at will. We have some works that lasted us the year, while others lasted us only three weeks. It has been nice to have a blend of consistency and novelty at the same time.

    Have I mentioned that I love Ambleside? What a treasure trove of the best that the Western literary tradition has to offer children! I will be forever in their debt.

    Anyone Else?

    If anyone else reading this has examples posted somewhere of your lesson plans or yearly schedule or whatnot, please feel free to link them in the comments. As we finish Year One, I am already beginning to contemplate Year Two, and I always appreciate the inspiration of what others have done. Besides, it isn’t like any of these ideas are my own. They are simply my modifications of the things other folks have already done!

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  • Reply Brandy May 17, 2009 at 5:40 am


    I look forward to finding out what you end up doing. I have recently heard many good things about Mystery of History. A year or two ago there was another text that was popular for families trying to cover history with multiple ages and that was Tapestry of Grace. I would love to hear how it all works out.

    My older two are almost three years apart, and my oldest is very advanced in comprehension, so I have trouble seeing me do a whole lot for them together. However, my daughters are very close in age and the younger one seems quick the way my oldest was at that age. If that keeps up, I would love to try and do things together for the girls. And they would enjoy that, too, I think.

    I have wondered about Ambleside for my daughter A. because there are so many battles and wars and she is very sensitive. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about it for a couple more years.

  • Reply Wendi May 16, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for a look into your planning, Brandy. You may remember that you inspired me to try out Ambleside with my oldest – we are now starting the 2nd term of year one and we’re really enjoying it. I am not sure, however, how far we’re going to go with Ambleside ~ I do love the lit selections and the schedule, but as I prepare to add my dd5 into our schoolday, I think that I’d really like to teach ds7 & dd5 together, at least for some of the subject areas (history, read alouds, science) and I’ve read that they may be hard to do with Ambleside because of the content of some of the selections. So I am fiddling around with combining Ambleside with some Sonlight selections and maybe adding Mystery of History into the mix – not sure what we’ll end up doing – still in the thinking mode 🙂

  • Reply Mystie May 15, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I’ve never heard of anyone holding their kids out from public school. “Ready for Kindergarten” sorts of birth-4 stuff is pretty big. The compulsory age thing only comes up in hs circles as “you don’t have to file until your child is eight.”

    I’m adjusting the tweaks on my schedule to ready it for publishing, then comes the big picture plan. 🙂

  • Reply Brandy May 15, 2009 at 6:04 pm


    I am glad it helped! I know I love finding people or blogs where the students are exactly a year older than my own.

    With that said WOW on the compulsory age being eight! Bravo! I thought Nevada was wonderful for saying seven, but eight is so much better because it is a more traditional age. Of course, I wonder how many folks actually hold their students out, but still it is nice to have the freedom, especially with more rambunctious children.

    As far as how much to plan to do, I personally tried to stick with Ambleside’s guidelines strictly for the first term, especially. After that, I began adding things that I thought we were ready for. For me personally, it felt more successful to hold back in the beginning instead of planning too much and then being constantly frustrated by what we were not able to do. Of course, I had a newborn at the time, which was big incentive for keeping it simple.

    Now, of course, I look forward to you sharing your plans because I have more future Year One students than I have past! 🙂

  • Reply Mystie May 15, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you, thank you!

    Washington doesn’t require records, but I do feel we should probably be prepared to defend ourselves if things change. Also, Washington’s compulsory education age is 8, so we have two years yet to go before we notify the state of our status.

    Again I come back to the “How much *should* I do?” and the “How much *will* I do?” quandary. 🙂 I am always tempted to spend way too much time creating paperwork that I never actually use after it’s all printed and pretty. 🙂

    Thank you again for taking the time to type all this out. It is very helpful. And I’m just weird — I didn’t find it boring at all. 🙂

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