Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Preparation for 2016-2017 School Year

All this preparation has had me busy as a bee these last two months or so!

While I wish I could retreat for one solid week and focus all my attention on planning for the new school year, my vocation doesn't allow for that. There are still all the daily duties to do, so I seek out every spare five minutes I can. I'm sure my family is fatigued of hearing, "Hold on, I'm just going to do some more school planning!"

I'm certainly not the only one planning. Here in North Carolina, students enrolled in homeschool exceed those enrolled in private schools. The NC Department of Non-Public Education just released its latest statistics, which are so interesting to read (here). I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that there are 5,607 enrolled homeschools in my county alone. And why do they estimate only 1.6 students per homeschool? That seems awfully low!

In preparation for the new year, I've been trying to pursue my own "continuing education credits," so to speak. I must always learn more in order to continue to do this job, which just keeps getting bigger (more children, more advanced grades to teach).

I have been listening to many podcasts--mainly during exercise and while cooking--which I find now are an easier to way to learn new information than reading on the computer because my computer time is very limited (not that you would think so based on this blog). I've been listening to many podcasts from Institute of Excellence in Writing to learn about the trivuum and quadrivuum, teaching methods, writing, use of technology (or not) in education, etc. I've been devouring all the archived podcasts from Read-Aloud Revival to learn more about making one's home a reading culture. Next on my list is to incorporate the podcasts from Center for Lit.

I've been watching the 12-DVD set by the Institute of Excellence in Writing that teaches the teacher how to teach all and any of IEW's programs. Next is the Center for Lit DVD seminar.

Of course, reading, I'm always reading new pieces on the subjects of home education, homemaking, the feminine arts, and organization.

The lamination machine has been humming, our sharp scissors snipping, Chris has gone on a journey to Fed Ex to spiral bind books for me, and my book shelves have been organized anew. Children's desks have been cleaned off.

This year, I am trying, for the first time, to use a computer-based (more properly, online-based) planner for school. Without tremendous comparison, I chose Scholaric, which was made by Catholic, homeschooling father (a computer programmer) whose wife found the computer-based planners too complex ("I have to enter 13 pieces of information into each assignment!") and requested something simpler. Therefore, learning how to use and navigate this computer program (and I still have a ways to go) has also consumed much of my time this summer.

I had previously been writing out all my daily plans in each child's spiral bound notebook--a system I still love--but it is time-consuming with three lists and it limits me in planning ahead over the year. With Scholaric, I've experimented by planning the first two quarters, until Christmas break. Every single day is planned out! This helps me coordinate units that should be coordinated, space things out well, and plan out distant hopes (such as a particular catechism I want to cover next Advent).

When creating assignments, Scholaric allows me to "share" classes with various students so I enter the information only once. If we have a sick day or field trip, Scholaric allows me to "bump" my assignments forward (a feature I have yet to figure out how to use).

Each week, I will print out the daily to-do lists from Scholaric, which aren't as pretty or friendly as Mama's cursive handwriting, but I can still write encouraging notes in the margins and put cute stickers on the lists.

I will try to report back on my findings after I've been using Scholaric this year.

This school year involves my learning to teach several programs entirely new to me: IEW's writing, IEW's grammar, and Beautiful Feet geography. I hope I'm up for the challenge! It feels exciting to be adding some new curricula to the mix, but that also leaves me on unsure footing each day, whereas there is comfort in knowing all one's curricula backward and forward, the 'boredom' of a good routine.

I'm about as ready as I can be, squeezing in new learning in the cracks of my life. I can dream of going away to a weekend or week-long continuing education conference, but the truth is that I'm learning as I go, hanging on as best I can.


  1. I was considering using Fix It Grammar. Does it require much learning on the teacher's part? I was hoping it was more open and go.

  2. Priscilla: I will have to get back to you, but I think that most of IEW's products are not open-and-go, but require study to learn how to use them. I was just talking to Jennifer C. about this, as she has used IEW over the years. She was telling me about how radically she shifted curriculum choices around having 5/6 kids (now 10) and that she had to learn to be practical. Mostly that means totally independent work, but she said some programs that are the most practical "have a steep learning curve for the teacher, but it's worth it," and she was talking about IEW Grammar at that moment. The program is designed for a teacher to teach, one specific level per grade, a little bit each day. She tweaks it by gathering together three children, teaching them all out of one level, and teaching a week's worth at once (30 minutes), which is about four sentences of grammar correction.