I've had a few questions regarding how I plan my homeschooling week themes. So I thought I'd give you a little rundown on how planning works for me.
So when do I do my planning?
Thanks to the glorious smart phone I can do planning anywhere. Most of the time it happens in bits and pieces throughout the week during moments of free time, but I suppose the most productive planning time happens during Tabitha's nap/Ransom's rest time. I think I've said before that planning is my jam and anything that involves my planner is like a calming meditation so you could say I was MADE for Homeschool planning....now homeschool carryout...that remains to be seen! haha!
How did I get started?
First I brainstormed my weekly themes. I jotted down 12 topics-I gave myself a running start by using the creation story: Planets, Garden, Water, Birds, Dinosaurs ( not mentioned in the creation story...so that's where we got off track) and then I just went into topics I thought would be interesting and informative to Ransom ( and Tabitha too!)-things like hygiene( teeth, germs, washing) and safety ( think firemen and police officers)...and then I also looked to the calendar for inspiration Fall, Pumpkins, Thanksgiving...Topics are really pretty free flowing at this point.
Once I've got my list of topics I wrote in about 6 weeks ( USE A PENCIL!) worth of topics at the top of each week in my planner so I would know what was coming up. Why 6 weeks?! Well because that was how long I had till my due date-and that's the point in which all homeschooling will end for the foreseeable future.
THEN I made a pinterest board for each theme. Some of my boards are still empty but I'm using them as place holders and also if something crosses my path that DOES fit into one of those themes I can toss it where it belongs-vitually speaking.
How do you use Pinterest for your planning?
UMMMM almost entirely. People, the wheel has been invented, I repeat, the wheel has been invented! There is NO NEED to come up with your own activities unless you are just somehow inspired. But honestly, even when I have technically made up my own activity I usually saw SOMETHING on pinterest that gave me the idea. It is the greatest resource eeeeevvvver!
So most days "planning" involves me typing in a topic in the search window: "dinosaurs kindergarden theme" or "dinosaur picture books", I usually try to hit all the different subjects during the week so if I'm light in one then I'll search more specifically "teeth math games kindergarden"-yes, that is a search, and yes, you will get results! I'm telling you, it has ALL already been done!!!
I focus on the next two weeks to make sure my boards are pretty full of options. I am not partial and if something seems even remotely useful I'll stick it on my board.
When do you prep? Do you do your planning the weekend before?
Yes and no. As I've said before the planning is happening throughout the week before, as I gather resources. But usually on Friday or Saturday I start to hash out my plan for the upcoming week. On one side of my planner there is an open space for "To-Do lists" and I use this to list out the 4 or 5 activities from my pinterest board that I want to do- like I said I usually have all subjects covered ( usually!)- but we don't do all subjects every day... I then make note of anything I'll need to prep/buy so I make sure I have everything together. However, I don't always have it all done by Monday.
Monday morning I find it incredibly calming to write in ( IN PENCIL*) each one of those 4 or 5 activities into the days of the week side of my planner. Then if I have an activity that I want to do, but I don't have together yet...it is probably going on Thursday or Friday. I also find it calming because, even though its Monday and the week is stretching endlessly in front of me- at LEAST we have a plan!
How do you pick your books? Do you browse at the Library?
LOL. Anyone who has even one mobile child can tell you that "browsing" at the library also looks like child neglect. Now, don't get me wrong, I do browse a little at the library-but that's because I already have two kids and I'm pregnant with the third and so I'm immune to the judgmental eyes of librarians and mom's with one small toddler ( that was me once, bless my heart)...I just let my kids run around while I throw books that "look good" into my bag-sometimes you luck out and get a winner/sometimes it is a mega failure....this is why I have memorized where particular prolific authors are located in the library-when all else fails another Skippyjon Jones or Angelina Ballerina or Bernstein Bear book will get grabbed up as I head for the door.
All that to say, when it comes to getting books in a particular theme, I had to come up with a new system. LUCKILY, we live in a city with multiple libraries and a pretty great online catalogue. This means, that every Wednesday I open my pinterest theme board for the coming week in one window and my public library online account in another and I get started on making my "Place Hold" list for the next week. I basically go through the books that look good to me that I've found through other awesome moms and teachers suggestions on a particular topic and I search them in my library's system. If I can find it, I place a hold on it through my account and MAGICALLY by the next week all my books have miraculously made it off the library shelves at several different libraries and made it onto ONE SHELF with my name stuck in them by the front door of our library. And here's the great part:
When my kids and I arrive for story time on the following Wednesday, my kids happily deposit last weeks books into the return slot and I walk two feet away and pick up my stack of books for the week. GLORY GLORY AND ALL THE ANGELS SING!
Usually I've only chosen 4 or 5 books for our theme, this gives my kids the opportunity to pick out books too-which is important-even though I H-A-T-E those Lego Easy Reader books with a the same fiery passion that my son loves them...sigh.
Now, sure, this system isn't without its faults-I am not getting to look through the books like I would want to and sometimes when I go to pick them up, I can take one look at a book and know it'll be a flop. I also wish I could have my themed books on Mondays when I start the theme, but story time is on Wednesdays and I have yet to master having library books for two different themes going at once. So yeah, half way through the week is the best I can figure.
Now, you may have noticed I only have picture books as our themed books-but we are also reading chapter books with Ransom ( the BEST way to help any kid with reading is to read to them!!)...because those take longer for us to get through (obviously- they are rarely on theme)
Mom Tip: Pick a magic number of library books and stick with it EVERY WEEK SO HELP YOU GOD. We always get 10 library books. Never more, never less. This way when we are rushing out the door to the library I can count the books and immediately know if we are missing one. Also it goes without saying that library books should be kept in a special spot that is different from your other books, but my children clearly didn't get that memo....double sigh.
* I can't tell you enough how important the PENCIL is to this process. Give yourself the freedom and permission to scrap everything as your week/days/hours progress. I made the rookie mistake of writing in pen my first week and my calendar looked like an ink pen had leaked everywhere because of all the scratching out I had to do. NOT PRETTY.