The only way I get school done with three kids of different levels is by planning ahead. When I had preschoolers I used to wing it, and just fill in record sheets of what we had covered in a given day. As my kids have gotten older (not a ton older, but older nonetheless!) I find that having a plan is more and more essential. This is how it’s working for me this year:
- First I read the Tapestry of Grace week plan. You can download a free week plan from the website if you’re interested in how this looks. I read the threads (overview of what we’re covering for lower and upper grammar that week), the reading assignments, the other assignments, writing aids, and teacher’s notes. I just skim all of this, to get a feel for it. I circle back later.
- Next, I check the calendar. If we have appointments or co-op or a field trip, school will have to happen in the afternoon or we need to make other days heavier to make up for it and still finish our week.
- Then I open up Jack’s assignment sheet document (you can click the picture above to see an example). I change the date, and work on down. Many subjects stay the same week to week. For example, he always does spelling, reads out loud, does two pages of math, etc. What changes week to week is mostly history, literature, and geography.
- Using the calendar, I break up the Tapestry of Grace week plan into daily segments. We usually do the assigned reading and some of the extras, so I divvy it up into reasonable amounts, and by topic. I layer in activities, especially art and music, that fit with what we’re studying (Tapestry is great at suggesting these).
- Once I’ve got that plugged in, I shift our CC memory work around to fit, and change out our other memory work (Bible, poems, Shakespeare passages etc) if necessary.
- Once I’m done with Jack’s sheet, I copy and paste most of it into Sarah’s assignment sheet. The only thing she does differently is reading and math, and I leave whatever I can generic so that “two pages of math” can transfer quickly.
- Filling out Hannah’s sheet is a little different. I start by importing Jack’s sheet to hers, since she does all of the Lower Grammar reading and activities with us. But she also does the Upper Grammar work on her own. So I go back through the Tapestry week plan and divvy up the Upper Grammar reading, vocabulary words, and writing assignments on Hannah’s sheet.
- I use the big assignment sheet as a record of what she’s done, but I also make her an independent work sheet. This is the work she does on her own, not the Lower Grammar reading, Latin, and activities that she does with all of us and not the work she does just with me (like dictation). She takes her pile of work and checklist upstairs to her room and works on it during quiet time. She’s amazingly good at getting it done, but I do check her work to make sure.
- As we go through the week, we might move things around or add things. Sometimes I remember a resource that would be perfect, sometimes a book doesn’t come in at the library until mid-week, and sometimes we do a ton of geography one day and none the next. The great thing about the assignment sheets is that they keep me on track–I don’t have to wonder when the week’s worth of work is over–but they are also flexible enough to allow some ebb and flow in our week.
- At the end of each week I write the number of school days we’ve accomplished at the top (our state requires 180 school days, and I’m keeping tight records this year in case it is ever a question) and file the completed sheet in the child’s binder.
So how long does this take?
The first week of this year took me over three hours to plan. Thank goodness I’ve gotten faster. Now it takes me about two hours to do all of the assignment sheets, collect materials, print out copies, and so on. I group all of the papers by topic and keep them in a folder so I know where everything is and can easily find a worksheet, handwriting page, or map when I need it.
To me, investing two hours of prep time each week is worth it. It cuts down on our day-to-day frustration, keeps us on track, and gives me the peace of mind that I’m keeping good records just in case.
If you homeschool, how do you plan? How long do you spend on lesson plans and prep each week?