Saturday, 13 August 2011

Planning and Organisation

Edited to say: I wrote this the week before Idris was born and am now trying to action it with baby in sling!

I hesitate to write about this to be honest..... I have started a planning post many times and then deleted it, for the reason that I don't really know the best way yet to plan for my children. I like the idea of planning a year ahead and collecting resources, books and materials for the whole year then stepping neatly through my plans week by week. The truth is that this just wouldn't work for us at present. One of the main reasons is that my eldest daughter changes her preferred style of learning regularly so committing to plans for a year of learning maths by a certain method would be a costly and time-consuming mistake. Her needs change regularly as well and sometimes something that I've planned out carefully in little stages, she suddenly leaps through!

Up til now I have been planning a few weeks at a time, probably four to six weeks and then fleshing it out on a Sunday night and ordering, printing and making resources then for the week ahead. I would like to plan a little more ahead than this though and reduce the intensity of my Sunday night 'sessions'!!! This allows me to be responsive but also allows me to feed the inner 'organisation demon' that I have within!!!!

So that is one decision made....... plan objectives for a few months at a time.... agreed.

So how to plan and what paperwork to use? My organisation demon hankers after folders and notebooks with neatly printed sheets covering annual, termly, monthly, weekly, daily and lesson planning. But this wouldn't work for the same reasons outlined above.... it isn't responsive or flexible enough and also....... it's a MASSIVE amount of paperwork that I simply don't have the time or inclination (once the initial enthusiasm has worn off!!) to keep up with!

For the last few months I have been trialling a very simple weekly planning sheet that I found online and I really USED, ticking things off, adding notes and to-do lists and having out in front of me whilst we do lessons. It is lots of bits of paper hanging around though and I'm not organised at filing them So I have acquired an academic diary.... A4 size with a week to view and a section for notes. I plan to use a pencil and ruler to section the pages further for the areas I wish to plan for and the children.

Ta-da..... another decision made..... keep it simple with a large yearly diary that keeps itself filed and I will actually use!!

And now...... how much detail should I plan in? Again I love the idea of using glossy pre-prepared curriculae for all subjects and trotting them out day by day as my children enthusiastically plough through them and information burns itself into their brains....... erm..... fantasy land again!!!! I have looked at many on-line and paper curriculae and although many have their merits they just don't suit us...... they have a prescribed route through and contain information that is irrelevant to my children and/or miss out information that is pertinent. They either come across as a list of questions, or they present a detailed 'script' for me to follow which feels hollow to me!

So after considerable thought on the matter I have decided on planning what we should try to cover each day and then fill in the actual content weekly as we go to allow the flexibility my children need. this gives a structure to my plans (did you see the demon pop up again??!!) but suits our needs as a family also. I will detail these subject areas another day I think! I will use a range of resources and sources to flesh out these areas and keep in mind the National Key Stage Curriculum followed by UK schools but not be a slave to it!

And how will the school year pan out? I have decided to follow 'year round' schooling rather than the set school terms here in the UK. I find it easy and pleasant to spend a sunny hour or two doing lessons in the summer when most schools are off. But in the depths of winter it suits us to take a month off to re-charge and have fun around the Christmas period, both me and my husband find we have lower energy around this time and the house is harder work to run in the poor weather so it isn't optimal to be trying to put energy into schooling as well! We also take a week or so off when burnout threatens one or all of us or illness hits us!

I have one final trick up my planning sleeve for the year ahead.... the 'workbox' system! I have always liked the idea of it as a system but couldn't see how it could work for us so haven't used it. So why is now different? Well for two reasons.... I put out all the children's work on the dining table every evening ready for the morning. This works well but the table is then out of action for any other activity and looks messy as we work as well.... we have to shunt things around all the time! Completed work and resources needed are stashed/dumped in these display boxes (see picture below) and I hate it!!! We have one family room in our house (a traditional 1930's semi-detached) and it has to serve all purposes.... we live, learn and I work as a childminder all in the same space. It would be fab to have a school room but it just isn't possible.

The second reason was that I saw the perfect storage drawers to serve as 'work boxes' (see below!!!) they will tuck neatly away in the corner of the room and mean that I can slot each activity and resources needed into a tray and the children can clear them back into the tray when done.... tidier, more effective and oh so pretty in those rainbow colours!! Thankfully there are two pink ones so no arguing on that score. I still have some working out to do to create a simple working plan for the work boxes and I'll share that when I'm done. When I am done.... I am claiming those display shelves back for Dewi and I's treasured possessions!!!!

After all that I'm not actually sure when I will start my simple new system as we are due our baby any time now and I'm not entirely sure when we'll be fully operational after that wonderful event! As a stop-gap I have found some nice workbooks that tie in with the children's current interests and we will continue to ask them to read to us once or twice a day. Watch this space!

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