It's all about the prep.
I have learned that for me, a key to having a great year is all about the preparation I do before our year even starts.
You see...I am a dreadful procrastinator.
Yes. It's true.
And this horrible trait can carry into my homeschooling routine if I let it. Don't even ask how many times of the years I've been frantically printing off the material I need for the lesson we were supposed to start 10 minutes ago.
So I learned something wonderful...spending the three weeks prior to our first day of school going through all the proposed curriculum for the year, and preparing FOR all of the subjects and projects in advance...makes my life so much easier.
I have found this especially true for the younger grades. In the K-3 years, it seems like there is a lot more to be cut out, printed off, looked up, and borrowed from the library. This is especially true if you are using a program like Five In A Row, My Father's World, or anything else with a Unit Study system. Even if you are using a different style, there is still a good amount of prep work to be done--even if just planning out the work for the week.
I have learned now, that if I go ahead and lay out and prep for at least a month's worth of curriculum, I will have a much smoother school routine. One of the best investments I made was a big box of file folders from Costco. I usually get a box of the plain manila folders AND a box of the colored folders. With 100 count per box, these two boxes have me set for anything I need!
So how do I organize?
Well it depends on what child I am putting together stuff for and what curriculum I am using.
Little Britches is doing a lot of independent work this year, so my folders are by SUBJECT this year and I've tucked into them odd ball things that I want to work on. We are reviewing Super Teacher Worksheets right now, so I have a lot of them printed off and tucked into the folders to use as supplements for our main curriculum. For our history, we will be doing some notebooking, so I have printed off pages that I want to include for each chapter.
With Little Britches working on 4th grade level stuff, I just don't tuck very much away for him. But Baby Britches is starting Kindergarten this year. I have a LOT of folders going on for him!
We will be using a plethora of curriculum for him (more about that later), and I have folders for each. We will be doing a lot of unit studies through My Father's World and Five In A Row (FIAR), so I have every unit study labelled and I immediately print and file anything that goes with what we will be learning. If I find a cool printable about France, I tuck it into our Madeline FIAR folder. A craft idea about kangaroos? It goes into my Kk-Kangaroo folder for MFW.
I also have subject folders for Baby Britches since I am going combined studies for history and geography this year. If it's something I think might work, I tuck it in the labelled folder.
By doing this method, I can keep myself from having to do that last minute hunting and printing. I even put books into the folders so I don't have to search for them later.
So where do I keep these folders?
I purchased a TON of the plastic crates Wal-Mart gets in this time of year, and then filled them with the hanging files. I labelled each hanging file by subject or curriculum and insert my file folders in them. These crates are then stored in our big cabinets that my husband got for us last year.
Okay, so that's the paperwork. But what about the planning?
Well I have found that I can make about 3-4 weeks of lesson plans in advance. Any more than that and I find we end up throwing half of it out the window. So I work through lesson plans and figure out how much I want to do each week and jot it down. THIS year I will be plugging it into my Homeschool Planner program--so that Little Britches can log in and print off his lists each morning. If that doesn't work out, I will be going back to the My Student Notebook routine which worked well for us too.
Once the first weeks are laid out, I try to set aside time every Sunday evening to pull all the file folders and papers that I'm going to need for the week. This method saves so much time! I started it at the beginning of the year last year...but then fizzled out. I am determined to stick with it the whole year this time!
Paperwork. Planning. What about those stinky craft projects or science experiments that pop up?
Well, as I am planning, I make note of any of the materials that will be needed and try to gather what I can in advance. I store them in a Ziploc bag or manila envelope in the file they belong. This lets me just grab and go, rather than scramble and delay. Experiments and crafts become MUCH more feasible this way. I do the same with things that need laminated. If I think "I need to laminate this" and then don't do it right then...well it doesn't get done. So while I am going through everything, I get that laminator hot and ready! You can read all about why a laminator is on my list of must-haves for a homeschool mom in a post I did early last year.
Supplies! Let's not forget supplies!
As I am prepping all the files, I also inventory my supplies. I am notorious for buying things we really don't need each year---just because. This year, we aren't buying new crayons. Why? Well over the course of the previous school year we bought two new sets and everyone has new crayons still! We also aren't buying any pencils. Why? Because I hit up Costco last year and purchased a large supply of the Ticonderoga yellow pencils--we have PLENTY of them left.
But there were things we did need. Glue, colored pencils, thin line markers, pencil case, ruler, notebook paper, and composition notebooks. But because I had actually gone through my inventory BEFORE going crazy at the school supplies sales, I didn't spend more money than I should have. I store all the extras in a nice plastic three-tier drawers set.
A supply that is so important that I tend to forget is my ink and paper for my printer! I usually have paper on hand (thank you Costco!), but the ink I do not. (Actually, I think I need to order some before the year starts!) It is dreadful to be in the middle of printing and run out of either of these things!
My Teacher's Binder is my best friend.
Once all of this is done, I put together my binder. It has lesson planning sheets for each child for a week at a time. I note on these sheets if I need to check the files, or if I have already gotten together the materials I need. I rely heavily on this binder and it's my go-to every Sunday night as I peek at what the week will bring. You can read more about my lesson planning routine in last year's Back to Homeschool Day 4 post that I did.
Long story short...a successful low-stress school year really is all about the prep!
When I stay on top of my weekly preparation, things just go so much more smoothly. This is especially true when we are also reviewing curriculum for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. If I have it laid out in advance, it eliminates the forgetting that all too often happens. This year, I think I will especially need to stay on top of it, since it's my first year with full time TWO students doing school. So tonight, you will find me working through our pile of curriculum and pulling everything that needs to be filed, printed or laminated. This is what my next three weeks is going to look like in preparation for the first day of school on September 7th!
Well that's day 1! I hope you will check in later this week for more of my posts during this Back to Homeschool Blog Hop! Now I encourage you to visit some of the other homeschool bloggers participating this week! You can find the full list on my anchor post...or you can try some of these lovely ladies:
Marcy @ Ben and Me
Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Amy @ Homeschool Encouragement
Missica @ The Open Window: An Autism Blog
Misty @ Year Round Homeschooling
Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
Clarissa @ Counting Our Blessings
Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Monique @ Living Life and Learning