Friday, September 13, 2013

How We Homeschool: Organizing Curriculum

I'm not going to tell you how I organized things in the past, because they didn't work. I loved the idea of weekly files but we were "behind" by week three and I spent the rest of the year trying to find things, which drove me crazy. I've learned enough to know what will hopefully work for next year, so that's what I'm going to share.

I have several systems that are going to keep us organized and on track next year. That's the plan anyways. I've found some excellent resources through Pinterest. One of which is the Pinterest Unit Planner that was posted here. I'm a bit Pinterest obsessed so I loved it instantly. I printed out lots of copies (in the future I would skip the "brainstorming" page as I'm not using it). I have two different notebooks, one for history and one for science/math. They are both 1" standard three-ring binders that I found on sale at Walmart. Bonus that they are fun colors!

I used removable Post-It tabs to mark the first page of each unit and labeled them accordingly. I found that a fine point sharpie worked really well on the tabs.

My history units are in order chronologically as we will study them. Some of the units will be longer than others but I wasn't paying attention to that, I simply need to have ideas, resources, and lists organized so that I can easily access them. History and Science are the only two subjects that I will be pre-planning units for this year. Most of the other subjects will compliment these two areas with projects, and notebooking.

One thing I did learn from my attempt with weekly files is that files really are immensely helpful. I will still be using my filing cabinet as my go-to storage this year, it's just organized a bit differently. I have a hanging file folder for each month of the year where I can file ideas, activities, and printables that are season or holiday related. I have several hanging folders for science and several for history. These hold a separate manila folder for each of our unit topics and are labeled to correspond with the units in my notebooks. As I find printables that I am going to use, I print them out, make a note under the corresponding unit in my notebook, and file them. I also have a library list for each unit with recommended reading material.

I use the Pinterest page at the end of every unit to put in project ideas, videos, and experiments. This makes it really easy to find what I need via Pinterest when we are ready to do something, the picture in my notebook matches that on my Pinterest page, plus I can see at a glance what a project might involve.

I also have letter files (A-Z) for A's alphabet notebook, several files with math topics, and six files that are in the very front for our current six week cycle. All of these files are in the top drawer of my cabinet and would be what I consider "working" files, meaning I access them frequently. The bottom drawer houses files for various subject areas and I stash materials there that I plan on using, or reusable materials like laminated math games.

I already told you about the awesome planner I found here! I use the month at a glance pages and weekly planning pages to keep things moving along. On the Monday of each week I write the history and science subject we are covering, plus anything else theme related. So one week might say "King Arthur, Water Cycle, C". This tells me that we will be focusing on King Arthur for history, the water cycle for science, and A will be working on his C pages in his alphabet notebook.

 I am focusing on six weeks at a time for planning. My unit notebooks are an ongoing process as I come across new material. During our week breaks I sit down and focus on the next six weeks and what they will look like. The one below is pretty detailed because it is for the first week of school and I got a little over zealous. Generally in the future I will probably just note "history - notebooking page" "history - art project" etc.

I did not purchase any prepared curriculum this year. Crazy I know! Everything we're using will consist of living books, hands on activities, and free printables. That doesn't mean that we won't spend any money, but it will be minimal and since our move and major organization projects, I can find and make use of all the great things we already have on hand.

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