Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Work in Progress

As always, our home school continues to be a work in progress.  The kids continue to come up with new ways to put snafus in our school days, and I continue to try to get one step ahead of them.  That's just the story of our lives!  I'm sure there's someone out there who can relate. 

My latest "breakthrough" that has alleviated the all-day-school routine, at least for now, is a time-oriented daily schedule.  Now, mind you, I prepare weekly schedules for the entire school year for every child before the school year ever begins.  It's all printed and bound and ready to go.  I even made individual schedule books for each child this year so they had everything they needed with their schedules, including study guides.  But there's always at least one child in the bunch who is unmotivated and marks stuff off that hasn't actually been completed.  And with three kids to teach and monitor, it seems like somebody is always slipping something in under the radar that I'll eventually uncover, but which puts a snafoo in our scheduling down the road.

So my first step in the right direction was posting a dry-erase classroom schedule on the wall.  I found this at Dollar Tree.  It has little clocks for each part of the day, and I filled in the times and what subject should be worked on at what time slot for each child, using different colors for each of them.

This worked fine for me so I could remind them of what they were supposed to be doing at any given time, but they weren't paying it much attention.  This was a new problem....still not quite where I wanted to be.

Then out of the blue, I had a sort of epiphany.  It started out being just for me.  Sunday night, I sat down and started charting out a new type of schedule.  I tried sketching it out on paper first since I didn't have the full picture in my mind yet, and then I tried doing it in Word.  But in the end, I ended up making it a spreadsheet in Excel.  That was the ticket!  Much easier to edit there.

I put all the time slots down the left-hand side, and then made a column for each child.  I wanted this to be one master schedule from which I could manage our school day.  I set up each subject in the appointed time slot and then used their individual schedules to put down what the assignments were for Monday.  When it was all filled in, I added borders to make it easier to read.  Genius!  I used the fit-to-page feature and printed it out as a single page.  Loved it!

Now when I told my husband what I was working on, he looked at me like he was thinking I've tried this sort of thing before, and he face showed the skepticism he felt...nothing much has worked for very long in the past.  That's true.  My children love to challenge me.  But I had a stir of hope in my belly as I went to bed.

On Monday morning, I was ready for my day.  I forced the children out of their beds at the allotted times and set them to work.  I informed everyone they must sit at the table together and somehow manage to focus on their own work while refraining from interfering with anyone else's business.  I sadly discovered that my oldest was behind on some things, despite having had the previous week off from school with plenty of time to catch up if necessary.  Water under the bridge!  Gotta fix it.  So he spent most of his day doing the catch-up work and not being efficient about it, which was making me hot under the collar.  He was totally ditching my time schedule already!  Ugh!  Fine, I thought to myself...I'll trudge on getting everyone else to get with the program.  By the end of the day, he managed to catch up.  He saw how early everyone else got done, and it caught his attention.  Yay!  I called the first day a victory.

Now I took the kids out for ice cream cupcakes from Coldstone that night, so I didn't have my down time to work on the next day's schedule.  But I told hubby it should only take about 30 minutes to crank one out, and I thought it was a good investment of my time.  He show a small amount of hopefulness and offered a bit of encouragement before I collapsed into bed.

So this morning, I got up early, as usual, roused everyone from bed, and set about whipping out today's schedule before it was time to start school.  It took me about 25 minutes to get it ready.  I was happy.  The oldest said he was approaching today with a whole different attitude, and that he really wanted to have a good school day and get done early.  He showed a marked interest in what this curious little master schedule was that I used the day before.  So I had another epiphany...perhaps the children would like to have their own little schedule strip with the times on it to help them be accountable, even without my reminding them what they should be doing. After all, it takes the wall schedule a step further by telling them not only what subject they should be doing at any given time, but also what specific assignment they should be doing.  No need to cross reference with their regular schedules.  So I asked the oldest if he would like a copy of his portion of the schedule.  He said yes.  So I make another copy and cut the three columns into little schedule strips.  I passed them out to each of them as they sat down for school, and everyone got to work. 

I can't tell you what a wonderful day we had today!  Everyone finished by 4 PM, and that's a miracle in my house.  The oldest (13) finished first, then the middle child (8) who normally causes all the delays, and then the youngest (4.5) who has to have me beside him for every assignment.  Now he would normally be finished much earlier in the day, but the middle child has caused so much interruption over the last month that I've had to spend all my time with her and have sadly neglected my youngest.  Therefore he is 3 weeks behind them in his work.  However, he is working diligently with the new schedule at doubling up on his work every day to try to get caught up by mid-September.  He's even reading real words!  Yay! 

So after all this chatter, he is a sample of what today's schedule looked like (keeping in mind that the youngest would normally have half as much work as that...I'm not a slave driver!).

Tell me what you think! All I know is that we had one of the best school days we've had in a LONG time! Hooray for Burgess Homeschool Academy!