I have waited to write this post for what seems like forever because I want to have all of my ducks in a row before I do it. Today, however, I surrendered to the truth that I will never have my ducks in a row. Not even close. So, why wait? I am going to write a post that is less organized than I would like, less informative than I prefer, and less perfect than I had any hope of achieving. But! In the spirit of a homeschool mom screwing her courage to the sticking place to do this for another day, I am going to write something which is more than what I had for the last six months.
First, some disclaimers.
- I use an Erin Condren Teacher Planner because I love it. I really, really, really love it. It makes me happy. It makes me more organized. It works for me. It is not, however, magic or one-size-fits all. This post is not about Erin Condren. It is about showing you how a particular tool is working for me in this season. It is not meant to be prescriptive but rather suggestive of one way of doing things that might inspire you to find your planner peace.
- I have an Erin Condren discount code for new customers. That code does earn me a bonus. If you are a new customer to Erin Condren and sign up through my link, you should see a $10 credit in your cart once you have some products in it. When your order ships, you will then be eligible to use the Order10 code and earn another $10 off of your next order. If you order a Life Planner or a Teacher Planner, you will most likely get a clear pouch in your order that contains a 20% off coupon for a future order. Sign up link here: https://www.erincondren.com/referral/invite/saramasarik0410
- Erin Condren products are expensive luxury items. They are also very intelligently designed with high quality materials. You do get what you pay for. At the time of writing this post (April 2018), the Teacher Planners are 30% off (with a free record keeper gift) and the Life Planners are 50% off because EC is getting ready to sell off what they have and launch their new products for the next year. If ever you wanted to purchase something from Erin Condren, now is a good time to do that. These are tools for my vocation and, while expensive, they are incredibly useful for me. **The Teacher Planner is undated. It comes with a free package of date dots so that you can start anywhere in the year and set the dates yourself.
- I am very motivated by color and beauty. I end up liking products like the Erin Condren teacher planner because it is beautiful, and that helps me to stay motivated. Planner peace has a lot to do with knowing yourself well enough to know what to pay for and what to skip out of.
We homeschool in a relaxed classical way with a deep affinity for living books. We are Catholic, so many of the resources we use are out of print and obscure. (But oh so lovely!) Self-education is the only real form of education so, while we have a daily Morning Basket time, the bulk of my children’s school work is done independently. To that end, I use my Teacher Planner as a command center. In it I schedule my study (Mother’s Morning Basket), our shared study (Morning Basket), our memorization work, any goals we are working on, and I track narrations from each child. I do not keep track of their independent work in my planner. I also incorporate the liturgical observances that we keep alongside our family calendar. In this way, this planner helps me to stay on point during the mornings.
I do have two more personal planners. I have a vertical Life Planner for my goalkeeping, and an hourly Life Planner for my daily calendar. More on those in other posts.
For each child, I created a daily work list template in my word processor (I just made a table) and I update it every week with current book titles. After I refresh those, I print them, then bring them up to my work table with the kids’ school boxes so I can schedule the actual assignments.
Some homeschool mamas are really organized. Jen Mackintosh, for example, maintains beautiful lists of resources for each term with divisions of work so she can plan from lists. I love this and would love to train myself to do this more. Instead of stalling in the hope of perfection, I function more casually. I prayerfully consider our assignments each week and I never think much more than one resource ahead at a time.
That isn’t perfectly true, but it is mostly true. I do have big picture goals, but I try to keep them fluid and flexible.
Instead of having a master list of where I want to be by a particular time, I have a sense of which book series, which shelves in my library, and which book lists are most appropriate to my child at a particular time. Then I just keep grabbing whatever is appealing from that pool of resources until we have exhausted the options or outgrown them.
Example: My almost-9-year-old is starting to be less than delighted with the Childcraft reading assignments. Six months ago all she could handle was a 2-page assignment 3-5 days per week. Childcraft met her needs perfectly for the season she was in. When she finished one volume, I would let her choose another. Now, however, she is complaining, her narrations lack focus, and she is clearly resisting the Childcraft assignments. She is neither lazy nor disobedient. The Childcraft volumes just don’t fit the way that they used to. So, today I am at the computer removing “Childcraft” from her “Science” row and replacing it with the Burgess animal stories that she is finally ready for.
Another Example: My almost-11-year-old is binging on Landmark, Vision, CREDO, and American Background biographies. In particular, he is finding people who appear in the stories of other people and wanting to follow them into their own biographies. He read Father Flanagan, Builder of Boys which mentioned Fr. Duffy. So, he wanted to read Fighting Father Duffy. Because Fr. Duffy knew Wild Bill Donovan, Michael wanted to read The Fighting Irishman. And so on and so on. Because many of these are Catholic biographies, I thought it wise to suspend our Faith and Life studies for a time so that he could read two Catholic biographies at a time and make these interesting connections.
Each week, I sit at the computer with the previous week’s clipboard. I notice which resources are complete and I replace them with something new. I make any changes necessary to the template and then print it out. Taking it and the school boxes to my work table, I schedule new assignments for the upcoming week.
During the week, my children work their way through their clipboards in whatever order works for them. They often break up chores with reading assignments. I am fine with that. At the time of writing this, the only hardship for me is that they want to give narrations immediately after reading, and that means that I am interrupted constantly to listen. I am toying with giving them scheduled narration time every day where we can both be better prepared and better focused.
As they move through their day, they check off some items, come to me for permission to check off others, and when they are done, the clipboard returns to its spot and they are free to play.
The Erin Condren Teacher Planner also has a number of classroom management pages. Homeschoolers can easily adapt some of those for our use. I tend to rip many of them out, however, as I just don’t need a seating chart, or a substitute teacher lesson plan page, nor a parent contact log. I haven’t found planner peace yet with the monthly calendar in the planner. I suspect that this will change next year when my oldest has more time-sensitive studies that I wish to map out. Because I wish to be a good steward of my resources, I hate the idea of not making full use of everything in the planner. While the lesson planning pages are are good enough to justify the investment, I am still determined to find a good use for those other things. Jennifer Mackintosh has some great suggestions that are particularly good for Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers.
One feature I am still trying to harness, but think that I will love, is the monthly notes page.
In the back of the teacher planner are checklist pages. I have been discerning some creative ways to use those, but they require their own post. More to come on that.
Friends have asked if I would share a blank version of my clipboard template. I am more than happy to do that! I created it on my Mac and I am not tech savvy enough to know how well it exported to MS Word, but am hoping that it worked.