The Back to School Post (After Everyone’s Already Gone Back to School)

*I’m going to do a short “Time and Balance” series on productivity.  I’m starting with our back to school planning just as a jumping off point.  I know everyone is already back in the groove, but maybe this will be helpful to someone down the road.

So a while back I had a few people ask me what it looks like around here as we go back to school.  Well, we’re six weeks into the semester and I’m finally getting around to writing this process down.  I am not an expert at this and there are countless women who are far more experienced and gifted in some of these things than I am.  Also, I’m typing this while under the influence of a serious ragweed allergy and feel like I just downed about half a bottle of Nyquil (even though I haven’t had any), so take this with for what it’s worth.  🙂

Our “back to school” process truly begins early in the second semester of the previous year.  As we work our way through the year, I see things that aren’t working, or need to change or be improved upon or added in or whatever, and so I start my list of curriculum or skills or activities for the coming year.  Some years I will go to a home school conference to look at curricula and get ideas, other years it’s just more cost-effective to order on-line all that I need.  I typically like to have everything in hand by early July.

This year, at the end of July, the three older girls were all participating in an all-day day camp.  So, in an effort to help Ellie have a more fun week without her sisters and provide myself time to do some data-entry, I farmed her out two of the days (one day with each grandmother) and hunkered down with the girls’ school books and my laptop and entered all of our assignments for the year in Home School Tracker.  Typically I would encourage someone to only enter a couple of weeks, or maybe a month, to make sure what you are doing is going to work.  I was pretty confident, though, about what we were using and how I wanted to break it down throughout the year, so I went ahead and did it all.  Also, I knew I wouldn’t get those two full days again and I wanted to use them for all they were worth.

We started school on August 2.  I almost always start back to school after any kind of extended break on a Tuesday.  I do this because I have found that Mondays are naturally hard anyway, what with catching up from the weekend and everyone typically being tired.  Also, it’s nice, that first week back, to have it be a short week.  Starting the school year on a Tuesday works really well for us.

Each of the girls has a clipboard on which she keeps her assignment chart and a copy of our daily schedule.  The schedule was new this year.  I’ve tried a systematic schedule before but have never been able to make one work.  But, with the girls being older this year and knowing that a couple of them need real help staying on task, I spent a considerable amount of time creating one and then continually revising it until about two weeks ago when I think we finally came up with one that works.

I also have a clipboard with another copy of all of their assignment charts for the week.  (These charts are printed directly out of HST.)  Yes, we go through a lot of paper and I should probably be recycling it.  Someday.  On my chart, I keep track of points on graded work and mark off what has been completed.  At the end of the week, I go in to HST and enter points earned, mark work completed, make necessary changes to the schedule, and then print out the assignment calendar for the next week.  I will typically spend an hour and a half or so over the weekend updating HST, typing out questions for Grace’s work, and copying tests and non-consumable pages, but then I’m good for the week.

That’s kind of the nuts and bolts of my back to school and weekly planning.  Soon I’ll post on what we’re using this year.

~  Sara

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