A number of friends have asked what our school clipboards look like right now. In the last month I have been asking a lot of questions about technique and planning tools in our online homeschool community. I have benefitted from a lot of very good advice from those conversations. I think that our current clipboards are a reflection of some of the wisdom I have gleaned, so I am more than happy to share them here in case they help someone else.
I have really struggled to find a planner for myself that is as flexible as I need it to be while also being as intuitive and thoughtful as it must be if it is going to be helpful at all. I will probably be changing planners every season for the rest of my homeschool career. As we joke in Symposium at Parnassus: #infjProblems.
For this season, this is what my planner looks like. It helps me track things of my faith, it helps me to manage my morning reading, it gives me a landing pad for our school time, and it keeps me focused on the domestic things that matter most. I made it in Pages (my Mac word processing software) and print it as a two-page spread for my coil binder. Instead of a printed monthly calendar, I just use a Google calendar that my husband and I share and can access from our phones.
From 6 – 8 every morning, we attempt to have a monastery-like atmosphere in our home. The children get up somewhere in that window of time, dress, tend to quiet chores, have breakfast, and begin their independent study. During this time I try to cultivate a contemplative environment for all of us: no talking, quiet classical music playing, a fire going, and no noisy machines or activities. At 8 a.m. we ring the bell and assemble for morning prayer, which includes the reading of Sacred Scripture, the study of a saint or something else from Sacred Tradition, and community prayer. Note that I said that “I try.” Obviously our attempts are perfectly imperfect. It is, however, a worthy goal and one that I am committed to pursuing passionately.
Michael is responsible to complete all of the independent work on this clipboard before he pursues his own interests. Each week I update this template as necessary and then print it as it is pictured below. I fill in the actual assignments during my Saturday morning lesson prep time:
For the Reading category, I have compiled several shelves of books which I consider to be appropriate to Michael’s age and needs. I allow Michael to choose whichever book he wishes from those shelves. He must finish what he starts, he must read at least as much as I assign, and he must narrate every day. If he wishes to read more, that is fine with me. If he wants to jump around between history, biography, science, and literature, that is also fine with me.
In the Science category, we are focusing on pursuing wonder and awe. I have almost three dozen Landmark “All About” science books. Like the reading category, I built the shelf of options. Michael chooses the order in which to read the books.
The Book Club category reflects the reading that Michael has for two book clubs he is in. One of the clubs is at our local Christian bookstore and the other is in our home with some boys from church. I assign this reading so as to help him learn pacing for experiences like this. Right now he is re-reading N. D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards.
The Great Courses category is a privilege. Michael loves The Great Courses Company (as do I – you can read more about that here) and treasures his daily lecture. Presently he is working his way through two courses: Chemistry and Robotics.
For Spelling we are loving IEW’s “Phonetic Zoo”.
My eight year old is responsible to work through her clipboard as independently as possible as well.
My six year old completes his chores and handwriting independently. His reading and math, however, he does with me after our holy hour and my walk. I have taught each of my children how to read in completely different ways. For Jack, we are using All About Spelling. AAS and IEW recommend doing All About Reading first, but my homeschool friends assured me that we could just start with AAS if we were willing to slow down the first steps so that he could master the phonetic sounds. So far I have been very impressed.