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

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to School We Go

After one last lazy day off (well, lazy for the girls anyway), we go back to school today.  The grumbling started already on Sunday with murmurings of “hating” school and how boring it is and not wanting to start.  And Satan wasted no time hitting me in the heart with those words, discouraging me, defeating me before I ever started the battle of second semester.

As kids were sent to rest for Sunday afternoon, I fell onto the couch next to Matt and asked for wisdom, encouragement.  We talked for a bit and then he shared a wonderful illustration.  Matt does construction for a living.  He helps others make their homes more livable, more beautiful, more valuable.  But he does remodeling, not new construction, so every project begins with demolition.  And one day, in the not too distant future, someone else will come through and tear out all that he and his crews have done.  Everything he does will one day be destroyed again.  But in this daily task of raising children I am partnering with God to build something that will last for eternity.

And I make the point that therein lies part of my fear.  I feel I’m walking blind in this day-to-day adventure we call home schooling.  I grew up in a traditional school setting and teaching is not even remotely close to being one of my gifts or skills, and yet this is what I feel called to trade my days for.  And thin-skinned as I am, I admit that it hurts when they say they hate it.  So how do I know that what I’m doing with them isn’t just wood, hay, and stubble that will be burned away?  How can I know that I am trading my days  for things of eternal value?

Honestly, a lot of days I don’t know.  I walk on in faith.  I seek Him daily and ask Him to fill my cup to overflowing so that I can reflect His love and grace more fully to these children who often times seem set on destroying me.  😉  And He carries me on with glimpses of grace, hope in a desert land.  He shows me the oldest gently playing dolls with the youngest.  He shows me 2011 goal lists that include desires to “read my Bible daily, even on weekends” and “be kind to my sisters”.  He shows me the child who volunteers to carry in groceries or clean the kitchen.  He sends hope in their words and actions.  He shows me laughter when I would normally want to scream or cry.  He shows me my own growth and theirs.

And it is on these glimpses that we carry on.  It is by clinging tightly to these things and God’s promises that we embark on the next sixteen weeks and really every day that lies ahead.

What about you?  What daily challenges are a walk of blind faith?

May you be encouraged today as you face those challenges.  Let us remember Romans 5 which tells us, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame.”

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Endings and Beginnings

Tonight the routine begins again.  Back to twice a week ballet and schedules that must be kept and ordering my days around others’ commitments.  It is the ending  of summer and freedom and laziness and the beginning of new goals and challenges and dreams.  This one has hope of going “on pointe” this fall and others have hopes of their own.  Here’s to a year of growth and hardship and wonder and beauty.  May we all reflect His Son even more when we welcome summer again.

“Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

~ Joshua 21:45