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    On Weekly Schedules

    July 26, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    During the rush of school planning, we might as well talk about the process and the content. After all, that is what is on our minds these days, no? In talking with other moms, I have found that some of them think my weekly schedules sound like a mystery. Since I’ve been working on them, I thought I might as well share and demystify.

    What I plan this time of the year is what I call my “skeleton plan.” This is because I only print one week at a time. During the school year, I find it helpful to spend some time each weekend preparing for the coming week. That prep time is when I flesh it out for real. I cannot know when I plan today that a child will have a dental appointment on a Wednesday in October. But I can prepare the bones of a workable schedule so that my weekly planning doesn’t take much time.

    One thing I must confess at the outset is that I only plan four days of formal lessons per week. The fifth day is for more hands-on activities. We might go on a field trip, do our nature study, or head to a friend’s house for handicraft instruction. Typically, this is on a Friday, but not always. This is yet another reason I find it helpful to only print one week at a time.

    Each child gets their own Excel spreadsheet {or should I be calling it a workbook?}, within which each week is assigned its own separate page. I have found this to work best for me.

    So here is a sample of what I have so far for E.’s first week of Year Four (please ignore the second page; Excel was giving me a hard time):

    Year 4 AO Sample Weekly Schedule

    Note that this is not complete. This is what I mean by skeleton. I haven’t yet printed out the poetry, but basically I’ve decided to give him one poem to read each day from the assigned poet for the term. Once I have those printed out, I’ll plug the titles in for him.

    For math, I usually just type in how many pages he needs to complete. Because I haven’t printed out the new chapter yet, that is also blank.

    Typically, when I’m doing my pre-term planning, my goal is to have all of the Ambleside readings sketched out for the entire term. Some books need to be manually broken up {such as my Robinson Crusoe, which does not have chapter breaks}. In addition to this, I try to at least create a row for each activity that my student will complete in a given week {unless it is a part of Circle Time}.

    In week four, for instance, I planned a book Son E. is to read to Daughter A. I coordinated that on a day when they both have light reading on their schedules.

    Most of E.’s work this year will be sans Mom. Unless something changes along the way, I plan to only work with him directly on Minn of the Mississippi and Bulfinch’s Age of Fable. In addition to this, I still need to figure out exactly how we are going to do Shakespeare. Studying his lines for our Shakespeare night, as well as regular Latin lessons, will go on the schedule eventually, though they will likely both be done in the afternoon {my goal is for everything but piano to be done before lunch}.

    As time goes on, I’ll fill in our open days, too, with whatever activities I have planned by that time.

    Here is a similar schedule for Daughter A., my Year One student. The only difference here is that every. single. thing. will be done with me, for she is not yet a strong reader {and I love all the cuddle time Year 1 affords me with my students!}:

    Year 1 AO Sample Weekly Schedule

    For the first week, I’m combining math with penmanship, to make sure she can write her numbers. We’ll start our regular plans a week or two later after she’s completed this exercise.

    In the “extra” row, she might have a craft to do from her leftover Kindergarten pages, or something of that sort.

    Both of these children have a clipboard, but Daughter A’s clipboard is mainly for me, while Son E.’s is for him to use. He likes to check things off as he goes along, and I plan to do the same.

    Weekly Preparation
    I try to be as thorough as possible before the term begins so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time in weekly planning. With that said, I still spend one to two hours per week. {This prep time also includes correcting any work–specifically math–that didn’t get proper attention during the week.} It takes me about 20 minutes to update the spreadsheet so that it actually fits our week, and most of that involves quickly typing up cursive copywork passages.

    Next, I print my sheet and head to my favorite chair, because the remainder of the time is spent pre-reading anything that Son E. is expected to read alone and narrate during the week. I know a lot of Ambleside moms try to avoid this step, but I want to encourage pre-reading as much as possible. As the children grow, narration becomes a preliminary stepping stone in reaching the greater goal, which is actual discussion of the ideas contained in the assigned passage. I am not sure how we expect to have those discussions if we haven’t read the material ourselves.

    It is also impossible to hold a child accountable for a poorly done narration if we don’t actually know what is in the reading.

    It is my hope that in reading the material as we go along, I will only need to skim briefly in order to prepare for my other students. The heavy work is done for my first student and I hope it will benefit all of those to come.

    Anyone Else?
    If you have planning posts up on your own blog, feel free to share your links in the comments!

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  • Reply Phyllis August 2, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Your method is very similar to what I do. I don’t think I put quite as much time into each week, but that’s probably just because I have fewer and younger students so far. And now I really need to get working on the summer part of my planning…. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Naomi August 2, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Are you doing all the breaking up of the readings yourself or do you know of a place where it has been done and posted already for YR4?

    I’m headed into scheduling myself this week and would love to save myself some time.

    And thank you for posting all you are doing in preparation for next year! It is helping me think through all I need to do.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 29, 2011 at 3:30 am

    It is totally possible to do what I do all in one swoop and then be done with it. I just really don’t mind the work throughout the year, and I have overwhelmed myself trying to do it all in the summer. So I take the bones approach and add in the final muscle nearer to time. But I *know* that wouldn’t work for everyone, and chances are it won’t even work for *me* when the children are older!

    I really think that pre-reading is key, no matter how we fit it in. I skipped a bit during second term because I was down with a bad cold and treading water. My ability to really teach was markedly diminished when I hadn’t pre-read! That was when I realized what a difference pre-reading made!

    Of course, the AO selections are so pleasant that it could never really feel like work. Or it is the most pleasurable work I’ve ever been required to do! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie July 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Wow. A couple hours every weekend to keep things rolling.

    I think my commitment level is lacking. πŸ™‚ It wouldn’t happen, and then I’d have an excuse for school to not happen, and we would quickly become a rolling disaster. I have found I have to have everything ready to pull-and-go, although I am getting better at not counting Saturday as a lazy day. Sundays we pretty much always are doing something with friends or family into the evening, so that’s out.

    This year I am committing to prereading, though. I have it scheduled on our Mondays-off. Between housecleaning and (cross-your-fingers) a nature walk, though, I might have to use my quiet time for doing it. I’m trying to keep myself upbeat about it by reminding myself that they’re good books, or I wouldn’t be assigning them. πŸ™‚

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