In the previous posts in this series, I have discussed much of the intensive preparation I do before the year ever begins. I describe my planning as intense because I like to plan down to the last detail. So, it may appear that I am a supremely structured homeschool teacher with timed schedules. It is quite the opposite.
Instead of a boot camp atmosphere, the surprising result of all my planning is: freedom! The planning allows me to stay on track with where we are in our school year. I can keep the big picture in mind while I walk through each individual day and week.
In this article about my week-to-week planning, I am going to share the realities of our homeschool. The details of our days are what most people ask me about. All the previous posts in this series are absolutely necessary to this post. So I hope you will go back and read through this series. It really does matter!
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Weekly Upkeep on the Big Picture Plan
Planning the year in April has its advantages. I can have a peaceful summer, knowing the year ahead is planned out. But if you remember from my Big Picture Planning article, all the items on the plan are just placeholders.
As we walk through the year, I have weekly monitoring of the plans for us through weekly prep sessions I call Prep Rallies. (Yes, indeed, I am a nerd!)
The Prep Rally includes:
- review of the week before
- writing out the agenda for the week ahead
- considering modifications
- time to pray to and praise God
- shopping the shelves
- gathering necessary materials for the week ahead
I think the best way to explain my week-by-week planning is to detail what happens in the Prep Rally. As always, if you have questions along the way, please ask. Since I have gotten so used to doing this, I don’t think about the questions others may have about my process.
If you don’t have time to walk through the steps right now, be sure to pin this post to your homeschool boards and return to it. Or if you are on the go, I discussed my Prep Rally process with Jamie from Homeschool.com on this podcast.
Prep Rally Step 1: Reviewing the Week Before
Each week, as I begin my prep rally, I take down the agenda from the week before (detailed in Step 2) and evaluate how we did. Are there books we didn’t get to? Are we ahead or behind in some areas? Is it still possible to get all the work done for this term by the conclusion of the term?
If there are things we missed from the previous week, I determine how to “catch up.” Do I need to shift the reading schedule for a certain book back a week? Should I double up this week? Keeping in mind the workload I want my kids to carry – how can we “catch up?”
The term “catch-up” is tricky here. Remember everything on my schedule from my Big Picture planning is a placeholder. So moving that placeholder around a week or two is no big deal. Generally, I only refer to catching up when talking about our Charlotte Mason readings. I do not work on “catching up” when it comes to Saxon Math or Spelling or any workbook-type program. If we didn’t get to these every day from the week before, we just pick up where we left off.
That said, we have created routines for our school days in which we miss math or spelling or any workbook stuff infrequently.
Prep Rally Step 2: Agenda for the Week Ahead
We settled into a simple homeschool routine after homeschooling for two and a half years! It may have taken us a long time to settle in. But once we got our routines down, we really got them down. Part of our simple homeschool routine is reflected in our agenda for the week ahead.
I print out a month’s worth of agendas at the beginning of each month and I fill out the agenda each week during the Prep Rally. Filling out the agenda is not simply a transcription of my placeholders. I can review the week ahead for our home as well as our homeschool to determine which days need to be lighter. Based on outside-the-house events I can modify the schedule to make our school days work for us for the week ahead.
As I mentioned in step 1, I also evaluate if we are tracking on our schedule and make adjustments as necessary.
Prep Rally Step 3: Considering Modifications
The evaluation part of my Prep Rally covers a number of areas. Yes, I evaluate the schedule; but I also evaluate how the curricula we have chosen are working for us. I consider switching the way a book is being read to a particular student. Also, I notice the books which are not connecting with my kids and consider how to deal with that.
As I have mentioned before, I try to figure out if we can finish early for the term. There is something so nice about not having to do school in December. Each year, even though I lay out the terms in 12-week segments, I try to figure out if we can do it in 11 or even 10.
This is also where field trip opportunities come into play. Shall we take a day off of school for a particular event? Or shall we “car school” that day as we head out to the field trip?
Prep Rally Step 4: Time to Pray and Praise God
Wow! This part is SO necessary to homeschooling for me. Even more than I realize, I need to spend some time praying to God about each of my kids. Asking for patience to deal with each of them in the way He would have me deal with them. Seeking forgiveness for the times I fail to show my kids God’s mercy and love. Requesting the Holy Spirit’s help in my heart and in the hearts of my little loves. These are so necessary to my week.
Also, taking the time to praise God for what He is doing in the hearts and minds of my students. Often we forget to “raise our ebeneezers” and say “hither by Thy help I’ve come.” I can trace the tracks my kids are walking down and notice their progress each week as I pray to and praise God for what He is doing in our humble homeschool.
Another blogging friend of mine came up with a 52-week challenge encouraging me to pray for my homeschool. I just signed up and I am excited to walk through it with her. You can join, too!
Prep Rally Step 5: Shopping the Shelves
Once I have my agenda set and I have prayed over our week ahead, I head over to our homeschool shelf in our living room. I shop our shelves for the books we are going to be using in the week ahead. Once I have gathered them, I put them into a bin I place on the dining room table (aka. our primary school worktable).
Our book collection is vast and ever-growing. So, I have some book organization tips for homeschooling that have helped me:
- Designate a shelf for all homeschool books for the current year/term.
- Label the books used from year to year with washi tape on the spines. I have a color-coded system where I can glance at a book’s spine and know what year it is used in our home.
- Have a weekly book bin to put the books for the week ahead.
- Return books either to the weekly book bin or the homeschool shelf at the end of each reading on the agenda.
Prep Rally Step 6: Gathering Resources for the Week Ahead
A number of systems in our home are in place to promote simple homeschool organization. The majority of our homeschool is reading books. Once I have the books for the week ahead in our book bin, that part of our week is prepared.
The other portion of our homeschool learning comes from our chosen math curriculum and our chosen Spelling curriculum. To prep for these each week I simply follow the systems I have set in place for those two curricula. I recently added our Essentials prep to the resources I gather each week.
You can read more about prepping for Saxon math in the early years here. A couple of years ago, I created some Teacher’s Companions to make Saxon Math prep a breeze. I am still using them every two weeks as I prepare to to teach my younger math students. You can read about prepping for Saxon Math in the upper elementary years and beyond here.
Of special note regarding my prep for Saxon Math is my simple strategies for staying on track. You can read more about that here.
All About Spelling
Prepping All About Spelling each week is super minimal. The systems I created at the beginning of our AAS journey have made teaching it a breeze. I simply print out the spelling sheets necessary for the week ahead. I made spelling sheets for each of the levels of All About Spelling. You can find them in our shop.
We are currently in our first year of Essentials with our eldest student. My prep for the week ahead requires me to read the Essentials of the English Language guide for the week before we go to class. I take notes as necessary. Then, I print out the charts we are going to be reviewing in the week ahead. Super simple.
All Other Curricula
The rest of the curricula we use in our homeschool are open-and-go resources, which do not require prep. In this list are our PAL program (which actually required prep once at the beginning of the year) and First Language Lessons. I highly recommend both of these programs for early elementary learning!
Why Prep Rallies Work for Me
Prep Rallies work for me because they help me to keep focus throughout our year. There is a LOT of learning going on around here. And there are a lot of voices in our home. I can get overwhelmed and distracted very easily. The Prep Rally I do each week helps me to regain my perspective on the overall plan and look ahead to the details of our week.
I sincerely hope the Prep Rally idea has sparked some inspiration in your mind of ways you can streamline your homeschool planning. Happy planning!