Some homeschoolers plan their whole year at one time. Others plan by semester or term. That just doesn’t work well for me. I have learned that I do my best planning when I have a general year plan and then do my actual lesson planning one week at a time. For this reason, the monthly planning pages in the Erin Condren Teacher Planner were a point of pain for me. I didn’t want to waste anything in this costly planner, but I also couldn’t plan in a way that didn’t work well for me. Through much trial and error, I have found a way to use them that has improved my normal planning. Forcing myself to wrestle with those pages caused me to grow as a planner and make some changes that have enhanced my homeschool.
Charlotte Mason talks about laying out a feast for our children. Using that analogy, I think that I am French in my “cooking” style. The foods I want to include in the feast will not only be diverse, nutritious, and delicious, but I also want them to be gourmet. For me, this means offering fewer plates in the feast, but putting more care into each dish than I would have otherwise been able to do. In plain English, this means that I do not teach all subjects all year. Instead, I change some subjects by season. As an example, I save Geography for winter when Nature Study is hard to study in the Frozen Tundra. Maybe someday I will do it differently, but for now, this is what is working well for me.
The pictures of my ECTP are from last year’s planner. If you have this year’s planner, you will notice some differences – like the bubbles. Apparently most folks hated the bubbles and wanted them gone. They aren’t my favorite either, but I have learned how to use them.
I am using one of the lined planning pages to map out my Morning Basket resources. There is no magic to this. I look at the calendar, think about the interruptions and outside activities we will have, and try to guess how much content we can reasonably cover in Morning Basket. I like to list not only the resource, but also the chapters or sections that I hope to cover. This helps me to not overschedule because, as I write each thing down, I see the page filling up and remember how much time those things take.
I lead several book clubs, help with a Mad Scientist Club, and a Prairie Girls Club. Each of those monthly commitments requires a good deal of preparation. I am using this page to get myself organized for those enrichment activities.
Because I do have the bubble page, I am using the bubbles to note the habits we are working on. Following Charlotte Mason’s suggestion of laying down the rails, and the Rails Checklist from Simply Charlotte Mason, I am recording the habit for each child and myself in those nifty little circles.
As I have said in other places, decision fatigue is the greatest cause of burnout for me. In an effort to reduce the number of decisions I have to make each week, I am using this planning page to track the books that are coming up next in my children’s school boxes. Because I do not do term or semester lesson plans, I need a list somewhere of the books that I intend to assign. I like to be free to change as we go if necessary, so I do not like planning too far in advance. My solution is to list two or three future reads on this page in each relevant category. What a gift this has been for me! Once a month, on a day when I am energized and feeling creative, I reach for the next month’s planning page and hunt out whatever I need to update the “future reads.”
My eleven-year-old typically reads one chapter per day in each of the living book categories. Most Landmark, Signature, Vision, etc. books have between ten to fifteen chapters. So, for Michael, I need to anticipate about two books per month. My nine-year-old reads at a much slower rate, so I only have to plan one book for every four to six weeks for her. My seven-year-old is still learning to read, I read his books to him. At this time we are just using one larger book (like Childcraft, Nature Anatomy, etc.) at a time and thinking about which one we will read next.
In the lower section of the page, I am more or less ignoring the “dates to remember” section and have converted the “birthdays” section over to saint feast days and holy days.
Since I do my personal calendar planning in my Day Designer, my husband and I share a Google calendar, and I have a large family calendar on the fridge. The monthly calendar in the teacher planner really stumped me. Asking in my favorite Facebook homeschool group, PPPS: Symposium and Parnassus, however, I got some great ideas which I have happily adopted.
- I am keeping track of full days, half days, and days when we have academic enrichment events outside of our school routine.
- I am keeping track of when we start and finish read alouds (school and family time related).
- Some of our outside activities have at-home projects. I am using the calendar to plan those projects.
- Jack’s First Holy Communion prep this year has special requirements and memory work. I plan to track deadlines for all of that in this calendar.
- I lead several book clubs at Cathedral Book and Gift. By marking the book clubs in, it helps me to remember to schedule the reading.
- Our family tries to make a monthly holy hour at our Cathedral or St. Norbert Abbey. It is family culture and on the family calendar, but it is also part of our faith formation. Therefore, I plan to track that on this calendar.
- We love to hike at a few of the local nature preserves. I want to record our hikes here (as well as in our nature journals) so I can look back on our nature study.