I’m taking a bit of a different approach to record keeping and planning this year. I’m trying to find a balance between taking advantage of the flexibility of homeschooling and making sure that we stay on track and don’t slack off too often. Last year I tried to use Google Calendar to estimate the progress I wanted to see throughout the year but it was difficult to quickly see how we were doing. This year I found a year-at-a-glance type calendar that can fit on a single Excel page.
I found it at www.donnayoung.org. When I found this year-at-a-glance calendar, the website offered free downloadable files. I think most of them were not editable. (However, now as I put this post together it looks like the files are only available with a subscription. The website is a gold mine of files so it may be worth a subscription.) I decided to make my own because I prefer to have a digital copy of my planning documents. I also like the option of customizing it to better fit our needs.
I took the layout and recreated it in Excel with some modifications. There is a column for each month of the year from August through July since we started our current school year in August. Each line is labeled with a day of the week and it repeats down several times to cover the number of weeks in the months. I used a fill color to highlight our weekends. The column under each month is numbered for each day for that month. In those date squares, I used another fill color to highlight the holidays. As we plan vacations, I will fill those days in with a different color.
Last year I tried to catch up over the weekend when we didn’t accomplish as much as I had planned during the week. That didn’t work all that well because weekends are busy too. This year I am planning on working in planned time off during the year. If we’re not behind then it will just be an extra vacation week. Perhaps planning something special for those days will provide extra incentive. If we have gotten off track then we can use that week for catching up. I’m expecting that we’ll have to do some catching up but then can enjoy a few days to relax. I used a different fill color for these weeks. You’ll notice that not all of these chunks of time are full weeks. Instead of doing a 2 or 3 day week because of a holiday, I just designated those days as catch up days. Because of this, it’s not a clear six weeks on and one week off schedule as many year round homeschoolers plan.
In the row just under the months heading, I added space to note which week I expect to be on during the first week of each month. This is based on our Bookshark curriculum (history, science and LA) since it is the only one for us that uses a weekly and daily schedule. All of the other programs we use have a less structured approach. Each lesson, step or chapter may take us one day or several days. It is hard to predict where we will be in these lessons. Instead, it is my goal (at this point anyway) to do 4 days a week of math, reading, spelling and handwriting. In the bottom note section of my calendar, I’ve left room to note how many days we missed that goal for each subject. This will be how many lessons we need to do during our catch up days.
At one point, I thought we’d do school year round. I’m having my doubts after this past summer. There are so many fantastic opportunities for kids in our city during that time. The downside to taking a week off for vacation or catch up several times a year is that it can easily turn a school year into 12 months. That is fine if that is your intention but I’m not sure that’s what I’d like for this next year.
This was a really eye opening project! It’s an easy way to illustrate how fast time will fly. I’ve included 3 catch up or vacation weeks in addition to one week each for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Five weeks total of potential time off (including holidays) will put us on schedule to finish first grade during the first week of June. This is right on target with our local schools. These five weeks that I planned won’t be true vacation days since we’ll need to use at least some of the days to catch up. It seems like the regular school kids get so much more time off. I haven’t compared their actual schedule but aside from the usually holiday and spring break vacations they also seem to have many days off sprinkled throughout the year for other reasons such as teacher in service days. I remember seeing a lot of Facebook posts from my public school friends about all these days off.
On the other hand, this schedule is based on the goal of 4 days a week for many of our subjects. Some weeks we’ll get in 5 days and some weeks we’ll miss our goal. As we move through our other the year, we’ll be able to better gauge if 4 lessons a week will put us on track to finish in early June. It’s hard to tell now since those subjects aren’t laid out in a clear one lesson per day format.
This is a great way to lay out the year in a simple one page document. A digital version allows for easy customization to meet our ever changing needs without having to start over with a clean print out of a template. I can see this being a really handy tool for us this year.