Last year I made a few changes which helped me streamline as I’m adding children, but not hours, to my life.
- Instead of scheduling a 36 week school year, plus 3 weeks of exams, I scheduled a 30 week school year. Each 10 week term is divided in half with a “project week” and ends with an exam week. I added the project week because I always have ideas for fun activities and outings during the year, but in my head they take away from “school” days and put us “behind” so it’s hard for me to actually take the time to do them. By scheduling a week for activities, it helps legitimize the activities in my head. It’s mostly a mental thing for me, but it gave me more freedom this year. We did a big collaborative painting one week. We went to the zoo and a museum several times…and didn’t do school when we got home. The last term, we shipped Kids Tres and Cuatro off to their FL grandparents and they had a 10 day project week of kayaking, swimming, fishing, making slime, building styrofoam boats, having tea parties, playing at the beach, and launching rockets. Kids Uno and Dos had less fun–they spent their week helping me with some organizing and cleaning, but they did a lot of reading, some weaving on a new loom, and going to 7-ll for Slurpees. 🙂 Exams don’t take us a full week, but scheduling a week for them gives me more mental flexibility. As far as planning…books and curricula divide just as nicely by 30 as they do by 36. Imagine that! Overall, decreasing my school year by 6 weeks eased a lot of pressure on me to fit everything in, so I’m keeping that schedule for next year.
- I started the year with 4 kids using Ray’s Primary, Intellectual, and Practical Math as their main math curriculum, supplemented by Miquon, Strayor-Upton, and a couple living math books. Within a week or so, I was going nuts trying to keep over a dozen math balls in the air. And the teacher key for Ray’s is horribly incomplete; instead of just being able to flip a page and check the kids’ work, I frequently had to work the problems myself because the answer was not in the key. I just do not have time for that! So I ended up putting the Year 3 and 5 students in Strayor-Upton (which is written to the student and has a full answer key), supplemented by Miquon or living books twice a week and doing Ray’s Intellectual orally twice a week (to keep up their mental math skills). The Year 2 and Year .5 still did Ray’s Primary or Practical with me every day since their math is still all oral. But I limited their lessons to 10-15 minutes daily, which kept my time very manageable, and kept them alert through the whole lesson. The Year 2 also had Miquon 2 days a week, and I Love Math weekly. So the math year ended much less frantically than it began. I’m definitely keeping that format for next year.
- The other positive change was how I laid out the schedules for each term. Luke kindly reformatted them for me so they are easier to read (his word processing skills are much more current than mine). And instead of scheduling every single box to check every day or week, we made some more open-ended boxes. That gave my box-checking mind more breathing room. As I plan 2018, I think I’ll use even more open-ended schedules (more logging and less scheduling). I feel like we have a good handle on a Charlotte Mason lifestyle (outdoor time, nature study, art, music, living books and things, practical skills, etc.) and instead of planning everything in advance, I can just fill things in as we do them as part of life. Serendipity meets Type A, or something like that. 🙂
- Finally, in looking for other ways to streamline, I calculated that I spend about 20 minutes each night writing next-day lists for 4 kids. I think I can get that down to 5-10 minutes if I template a to-do list, print it, and fill in the relevant bits for each kid. As much as I love lists, I’d rather spend less time writing them…and more time blogging about them 😉