After much trial and error, I found a (relatively) quick and painless way to schedule in advance and keep records in our homeschool. If you’re a seasoned homeschool mom, don’t laugh that I’m just figuring this out after three years. I might get it all together one of these days!
1) I use a Word document. Writing everything out by hand takes forever, especially if you’re keeping track of more than one child. I found blank Tapestry of Grace assignment charts in Word format, and made one customized for each child (at left is Hannah’s chart from this week–here’s a link to a PDF if you want to see more detail). I added in blocks for bullet points, because it makes it easier to check off what we’ve done.
2) I keep as much as possible the same from week to week. Another perk to using a typed form is that I don’t have to write out “spelling page” five times each week, but it also works to keep the same structure in other subjects. For example, every week we do the same games and activities for Latin, and only change the lesson numbers. If you’re using textbooks or long books as spines, you can leave the titles in and just change the page numbers.
3) I copy and paste from one child’s chart to the other. We do history, literature, science, art, geography, Bible, and Latin together, so once I get the first chart done I copy and paste into the other child’s chart, only leaving differences in writing assignments and math. I find it easier to do most of the work together, and then use the writing assignments to differentiate by level and ability.
4) I break work down by what our week looks like. Tapestry of Grace breaks each week down into readings by subject, and then you have to decide which things to read and how much per day and which activities and assignments to do. I can look at my calendar and see if I have a work meeting that week, or if we have a field trip or doctor’s appointment or what have you, and make sure to put fewer assignments in that day. On days when we will be at home, we have more time for projects. Actually writing activities and projects into the schedule makes me DO them, rather than just thinking about them. When I used to keep records by only writing down what we had done every day, I never seemed to get around to projects.
5) I give myself some breathing room. By looking at the whole week plan in advance and scanning the assigned books, I can easily tell how much room we’ll have for activities and which books we should attempt. We’re doing most of the Lower and Upper Grammar lists from TOG, including the supplementary stuff, and most weeks (well, we’re only six weeks in) that has been a great amount for us, but a few times I’ve decided to cut something because of redundancy or overload. It’s so nice to be able to do that in advance rather than halfway through a book! It also keeps me from flying by the seat of my pants too much (“wait, we have a book on that–y’all go see if you can find that one about the Egyptian shipwreck and come back so we can finish school”) and generally makes our days go more smoothly.
Now that I’ve adopted this system, I would say it takes me about an hour to go through our week plan and scan the books, type in assignments, print out the charts, spelling and handwriting pages, and maps. One hour a week planning time! That’s way less time than it took me to write things out by hand, or to write things out as we went day by day.
This is just the thing that’s working for us for now. If you have another method of planning and record keeping for school, please share it in the comments!