I should be in bed, but here I am…

Here it is, almost 1 AM on Friday. I have to get ready for work in 6 hours and what am I doing? Writing a blog post! Aagghh! Crazy!

Tonight was a “Mom’s night out” at a fellow homeschooling mom’s house. Since I went back to work full-time, I don’t get to see the moms out here as much as I used to. So it was fun to catch up on our friendships. We had a potluck, complete with dessert, and lots of chatting.

Now I get home, have to put away the left-overs, get school assignments ready for tomorrow (or is that today?) and go to bed. Oh, and check my e-mail, Facebook, and write on my blog! ๐Ÿ˜†

Due to a change in the system I use now for Dragon Rider to assign daily school tasks, I was forced to re-evaluate how we schedule subjects during the week. I am now using a pocket chart with 5 rows of 7 pockets each for his assignments. I have created subject cards and task cards to put in these pockets for his daily assignments. It was clear that he needed a more visual and tactile system than using the web-based assignment program that we have used. Alex Rider is still using the web-based program, as am I, so I can track our schooling in general. This weekend, I will try to post a picture of how it looks with all the cards in the pockets.

The change I had to make in our daily scheduling was due to 2 reasons:

  1. Dragon Rider was obviously becoming overwhelmed with the number of subjects that he had to do each day. He has never been good at transitions, so reducing the numbers of transitions each day seemed like a good idea at this point. I had tried to follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy of short, focused lessons, but across a range of subjects. Not working for this one.
  2. A purely logistical reason was that the number of pockets on the pocket chart only allowed for 7 subjects/day. One of those “subjects” is our evening read-alouds/lessons, another is PE activities 3 days/week, all rapidly reducing the numbers of pockets I had to work with for his assignments.

So after discussing some ideas with fellow homeschoolers on several Yahoo Groups that I am on, I decided to try coming up with a “block” scheduling system that might work for both boys. And I think I have a pretty good setup for starters. I created it in Excel, using colors, and printed it out to share with the boys Tuesday evening.

Here is what I have come up with:

So this way, we have one main block subject each day and a few other smaller subjects to complete. The evening stuff is what I do with them during part of our read-aloud time, which is also part of their schooling but doesn’t involve “producing output.”

(As a note, while the schedule shows times listed, this is nothing that I expect them to truly follow. It just helps me plan out how long each subject should take, helps me keep in mind their PE activities and when those are, and shows me easily how long a day I have planned for them so that I don’t over-schedule. In general, we are not a family that follows schedules. Routines – yes. Schedules – no.)

When I first presented this to the boys Tuesday evening, Dragon Rider loved the idea and Alex Rider was very skeptical. Alex expressed concern that it would take him a long time to get used to another way of doing things when he was doing fine with the “old” way. But I encouraged him to give it a try on Wednesday.

So Wednesday morning while I was at work and the boys were getting started with their new schedule, I started getting pinged on my Windows Live Messenger. Dragon Rider thought he was supposed to have only ONE subject for the day! I calmly explained to him that there was one MAIN focused subject for the day, but that there are still a couple of other things, too. I also had to explain about the Picture Study since we haven’t really done that before. I had created an assignment, complete with Internet link to view the painting, in their OneNote virtual notebooks. Once I told him where to go to find directions, he seemed OK with everything.

Alex Rider was all up “in arms” about the new assignment list! He is still using the web-based Homeschool Skedtrack and was thrown a little by what he was seeing. One thing that Skedtrack does NOT do is allow you to assign more than one task to a subject on a given day. So I have to lump all the tasks for, in this case, History & Geography, together, which makes it cumbersome to read. He also complained about why he had to do Art (he doesn’t really care to draw much but isn’t really that bad at all with it) and why he had to do this new thing called Picture Study! ๐Ÿ™‚ I explained to him about the limitations with Skedtrack, that regardless of our changeover to block scheduling that I was going to add the Picture, Music, and Nature Study anyway, and that it wasn’t as bad as he was making it all out to be. Also, I split out the History assignments into 2 “courses” so that I could list some of the tasks separately and not make it hard to read and follow. (One “course” is U.S. History Activities and the other is Enrichment Activities, a term used by the curriculum, Trail Guide to Learning.) He went off to do his art drawing and I didn’t hear from him for the rest of the day. When I got home, I asked him now that he had been through a day of the new schedule, was it as bad as he thought it would be? He said, with a sparkle in his eye and a grin on his face, no, it wasn’t bad at all and was in fact, easier! Woo hoo!

A couple of pleasant surprises have come from this change to block scheduling which are making it is easier and more enjoyable for ME, TOO! When I am getting things ready for the next day’s lessons, I have fewer subjects to prepare lessons so it takes me less time for day-to-day planning! And this weekend, I plan to get most of the upcoming week planned out ahead of time to make it easier for me next week. (Since we suddenly changed to this in the middle of this week, I had to ad lib.  Also, I am finding that because they have a “block” that I have targeted as 90 minutes, I am able to include some of the “extra” things that I have wanted them to do but never seemed to have the time to do! Now that may be because this week has been our wrap-up week for the 6-week unit we just completed and so there haven’t been as many tasks coming from Trail Guide to Learning, but still, it is so nice that I get to have them to do some “extra” things that will add variety to our lessons! This is SO COOL!

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About Cindy

I am a wife to a wonderful hubby and mother of fraternal twin boys (born 6/28/1998). I enjoy family vacations/travels, my photography and acrylic painting hobbies, and anything else I feel like writing or sharing!
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7 Responses to I should be in bed, but here I am…

  1. Gina says:

    We started doing this same approach with my 12 y/o dd a few months ago and it has been a HUGE success! There is so little time wasted from one thing to another and if she feels like spending the rest of the day engulfed in science or history or whatever… she can. It makes so much more sense to us!
    Good luck and hope it works as well for you!
    Gina

  2. Tracey says:

    Great Cindy~ and if I have time I may go hunting at my local teacher store for the pockets ๐Ÿ™‚ I like your idea alot.. ,, Keep us posted ~ ๐Ÿ™‚ but no rush I know your a busy lady ~ ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. This sounds great Cindy, it sounds like they like the new change. Blocks might work for me. We are routine vs. schedule too. If they are still reluctant about picture study, maybe they can become art detectives. I’m amazed at the things we could see with a magnifying glass and a book light. *I* found it interesting and so did my reluctant 6 yo.

    • Cindy says:

      “Art detectives” – I like that concept! Ideally, I would like to do a Picture Study WITH them so they can see “how” to do it, so this would be a good idea of how to get started! I have 2 Usborne art books, so we can just start looking through them with the magnifying glass and light and see what we can find! Thanks!

  4. Tracey says:

    Oh this was great, I need to read this over again though.. I will share over at AKOL for the members there too Cindy~
    I like your idea of the pockets chart, my 13 yo I think could really benefit from this~ I have also been using the core subject per day as well, it works well if they stay on task. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am curious to see what these look like so I can maybe get started on our while we are on our Spring Break this week, that way I can try it out and start it when we get back to our studies~ look forward to reading more~

    • Cindy says:

      Tracey,

      I will try to get those photos posted this weekend of how mine looks so you can get ideas for yours. I bought a pocket chart from my local teacher store that is “designed” to be used as a classroom behavior chart, hence the 35 pockets. The cards are a little smaller than I had originally wanted, but I love that I can start setting up a week at a time!

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