Friday, July 31, 2020

New Work Plan Style

2019-2020 work plans, New style

The work plans/journals the boys used last year were different than those they used in the past.  For about five years they used laminated, card-stock work plans combined with paper clips that they could move from one side of the card to the other as they finished their work.   I wrote a post about this style of card five years ago.  To summarize it quickly:

  • The cards were usually divided into daily and weekly sections.  
  • The paperclips for the daily work needed to be returned to the left side of the card at the end of each day.  
  • The paperclips for the weekly work were refreshed at the end of the week. 
 Here is a photograph (below) of Me Too's work plan as it looked in June of 2019.  

Work Plan:  Old Style

The boys' cards were just for work they did individually, whether independently or with me.  I had my own card like this for the work that we did altogether as a family, and still do.  Their individual work last year generally took 2-3 hours.  I try to limit the work we do altogether as a family to 1.5 hours.  Each year a little more of the work on the family plan seems to slip off and make its way onto their individual plans.  There is also, of course, work that isn't on the plan but would be considered part of the school day if they went to a traditional school:  field trips, music practice, physical fitness, literature, etc.,

This worked well for us for a long time because I am what I call a "thread" homeschooler.  We decide which "threads of inquiry" will be active, I organize my resources, we start, I keep track of where we are, when we decide it's time to stop we stop, the next time we pick up that thread we pick up where we left off.  I've never been the type of homeschool mom who has an urge to fit things into a school year or stop and start things on certain dates.  I own an staggeringly large number of magnetic bookmarks, my favorite way to keep my place.

Out with the old, in with the new

We've liked these paperclip work plans for so long I never thought I'd move away from them.  So why did we?  Kal-El will be considered a high school freshman in the fall of 2020.  Two years ago I started to research what some of the colleges he may eventually consider will expect him to have studied in high school.  Working backward, I had a pretty good idea of a few things he needed to finish before the end of eighth grade.  To that end, there were just a couple of things that I felt we didn't make enough progress on during seventh grade, and we had to make up some lost ground during the summer of 2019.

When the boys caught on to the new idea that I might have some timing goals they quickly expressed an interest in having some control of their own.  They wanted to see "the big picture."  They wanted an idea of what I expected in a year, an idea of how that might break down into a week, and the ability to be ahead or behind within a single year as they saw fit.  I took this to be a good sign that 10 years or so of mostly-Montessori education had done what it was intended to do.

For these reasons, I tried something different last year, and it worked out very well.  I'll admit there was a time around March when I looked at Kal-El's progress and was concerned.  He was drastically far ahead in a couple subjects and significantly far behind in a couple others.  I must say, he sounded JUST like his father when he said, "Mom, I know what I'm doing, I've got this."  And as it turns out, he did. 

I started by printing 36 weeks worth of weekly work plans like these:

They were not very different from our paperclip work plans.  They represent the lines of inquiry that are open, or specific resources we are using, and there are boxes to check that represent the number of times of week something needs to be done in order to make the amount of progress we have planned.  Because our records don't disappear daily or weekly like they did with the paperclips, the boys have greater control over their own ability to work ahead or behind.  As always, what constitutes a "day's work" has been verbally established by mutual agreement, usually over a long period of time.  We do not tend to start a bunch of new things at once.  New things are feathered in, and figuring out the expectations is not a sudden or painful process. 

 All of this went into a  2" binder I prepared for each of them. I bought and made tabs for each week of the year.   Behind each weekly tab went a copy of the weekly work plan, the week's scope and sequence for   subjects that are using multiple resources in a week, and any printables they needed that weren't already bound by subject.  We use Everbind binders because the lay-flat design doesn't seem to crack at the seams like other binders do.  A 2.5" would have been better, but I already had this size.  I also like the sleeves on the front so that I could personalize each boy's binder with their favorite things on the cover (below).  

Five years of tweaking our paperclip work plans had given me a fairly good idea of how much we can accomplish in a day, a week, and in a year. Last year, for some subjects it was as simple as figuring out how many lessons we needed to do in this year and dividing by the number of weeks. I try to never schedule anything for more than four days a week.  This doesn't mean the boys don't have school work five days a week, it just means they don't have every subject every day.  It also makes it easier to leave a day for a field trip or necessary life appointments.   

Some boxes have a line where they can record a chapter number or exercise number.  I plan include a little more of that on our 2020-21 work plans. I keep a bookshelf in our classroom stocked with books that coordinate with our lessons.  The boys recorded what they read at the bottom of the page.  I can put the book names in myself if I have something in particular I want them to read.  This year that will look a little different and be on a separate page because I needed a little more room.

This style lets us keep what we liked about our old work plans:  the ability for the individual child to decide which days to do which works and do them in the order they wish.  The switch to paper plans lets them keep record of working ahead and keeps them aware of when they are in danger of falling behind.   

You may have noticed that there are a couple of subjects that are scheduled five days a week.  Last year was the  first time ever that I used some resources that were both intended to take one school year and have a schedule that had not been prepared by me. Unfortunately some of these were designed to run five days a week for 33-36 weeks.  I am not a fan of this.  It only takes one bad day for the pre-printed schedule to be an absolute mess.  I prefer a timeline that is not tied to a particular day of the week.  I like to call them "day one," "day two," etc., and never schedule more than four days. I also prefer a 32-week schedule. We still work 36 weeks, but we prefer the last four weeks to be lighter so we can take advantage of nicer weather when it comes.  However, if I want these resources to truly only take one school year, the idea of defining the work, dividing it into segments, and completing each segment on a shorter timeline of one week is valid. I knew the curriculum was like this when I chose it, but liked it enough otherwise to choose it regardless.  When faced with this type of schedule monster you have four choices:  ditch the curriculum, ditch the schedule (so you are not confined to a year,) do some extra work (homework, weekend work), or find parts to eliminate so it fits.  The first couple of weeks the boys wound up with the first "homework" in their lives, as they had to spend some of their weekend doing work they didn't complete. We suffered through some long Fridays as they cleaned up work in areas where they procrastinated.  After a while they started to do a little extra on their lighter days and/or remembered not to skip a day in certain subjects.  Due to differences in personality and experience, some kids would have a hard time emotionally not sticking to the schedule.  Some kids just delight in doing Monday's work on Monday and Tuesday's work on Tuesday.  My boys are so used to those paperclip plans that the flexibility is just spilling over to this as well.  My oldest practices his violin many hours a day and finds he would rather do a little work on the weekend to give the weekdays a little more breathing room.  He doesn't even feel compelled to comply to the idea of "week" versus "weekend."

Where applicable, I put one week's scope and sequence at a time behind each week's tab.  Below is one week's worth of Anatomy. The boys put an X in the box when they complete a segment.

Sometimes the scope and sequence was formatted in a way that didn't split up behind each tab, such as the grammar scope and sequence below.  In that case I made a separate tab for "Grammar" at the front of the binder and the boys referred to that when they did their work.  I could have made extra copies of this, cut them up, and put them on a separate piece of paper for each week but didn't want to take the time.

For your reference, I've made a list of some of our resources from last year.  Remember this was the 2019-2020 school year, grades six and eight.  I plan to write a post with the resources we will use during 2020-2021 soon.

Math:  Life of Fred, 4x/week . Montessori presentations 2-3x/week
     Kal-El:    Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
                     Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics
     Me-Too:  Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics
                     Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
     Both:  Montessori second section of squaring and cubing
               Keys of the  Universe album.

     Anatomy:  Guest Hollow Junior Anatomy Curriculum 5x/week
     See Also:  Life of Fred above.  Thanks to Fred we are doubled up on science this year.

     Guest Hollow Beowulf's Grammar.  

      Kal-El:  Writing With Skill, Level 1.  Second half.  Did the first half in 2018-2019.
     Me-Too:  Intermediate Language Lessons, Part 2

Other Language Arts:
      Editor in Chief Level 1(both boys).

      All About Spelling
     Kal-El:  Level 6-7
     Me Too: levels 5-7

     Copywork: The Founding Fathers: Quotes, Quips and Speeches


      Pin it! Maps.
           World and Continents bundle
            USA and US History bundle.

       Herein Is Love, Vol. 3: Leviticus

       Bible verse memory system.

        hymn study (see "music" below)

     Story of the World:   Volume 3: Early Modern Times.

     Beautiful Feet Books:
              Intermediate Early American History just the end, then start
              Modern American and World

     Somos Asi:  En Sus Marcas

      The History of Classical Music.  Beautiful Feet
      Federation of Music Clubs Music Theory Test (level six this year)   Practice tests are available 
     Hymn Study:  All volumes of Hymns for a Kid's Heart.  I discussed these in detail in  in this post.
     American Music:  Sing for America by Opal Wheeler.

     Boyhood and Beyond, Bob Schultz

     Tuttle Twins Series 

     Art Lab 
     Drawing Lab 
     Paint Lab 
     Clay Lab 
     Art for Kids: Drawing, Kathryn Temple

     Picture Study portfolios by Simply Charlotte Mason.

      Shakespeare in Three Steps.  Twelfth Night.

      The Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier: A Readers' Edition


  1. I was so excited to see a new post show up in my inbox!

    I love all of this! :)

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to share. I have missed your wisdom so much!!