Lesson Plans · Organization

The Key is Flexibility!

The path to you-know-where is paved with good intentions, and so it also goes for homeschooling schedules.

I am teaching three out of my four daughters at home this year and had grand plans to begin with the eldest (3rd grade), move on organically to the 1st grader and seamlessly end with a kumbaya as I enlightened our third daughter, who is in pre-k.

Ha! That’s funny, now that I am a week into homeschooling.

With four young children, I am no stranger to plans constantly changing so it shouldn’t have come as surprise when nothing went as planned, as early as Day 1.

I did, indeed, begin with the eldest, but she lasted all of one subject before she was begging for a snack (1 hour after breakfast) and a break. I conceded and pulled her 4 year old sister in to our classroom. The humor in the book assigned by our curriculum Moving Beyond the Page seemed too advanced for her age so I skipped around quite a bit, remembering, the key is flexibility!

My eldest returned after her snack break and we completed her second subject before she insisted on taking a break to play with her sisters, so I grabbed our first grader and was able to complete both of her lessons in one sitting- honestly, they were way too easy for her, which I’m hoping is just a product of the beginning of the school year and not what she should expect for the remainder of the year. Either she’s way brighter than I realized or this curriculum is just way too easy for first grade.

I finally was able to drag our 3rd grader back to the classroom to complete math, which ended up being an extremely long lesson that we couldn’t finish.

By 12:30, I was exhausted but it was time to shove whatever food I could grab down my throat before lying down next to our 2 year old for her nap and popping a couple of Motrin for my headache!

The rest of the week continued much the same, with our third grader only wanting to complete one lesson at a time and eventually, our two year old wanting time in the classroom, too. As always, I adapted. As a Type A person, it has taken multiple children to force my hand at letting go. I like schedules, I like order and neither of those things can exist in perfection when you’re dealing with small children. The key is flexibility!

If you are reading this and have found yourself frustrated either with virtual learning or homeschooling, my advice is to take a deep breath and PIVOT, as Ross from friends would say. Set your goals, yes, but be prepared to change the path at the drop of a hat, keeping the end game in mind: the lessons you hope to teach them, your sanity and theirs. Above all else, protecting the notion that learning is fun!

The key is flexibility!

Lesson Plans · Organization

Lesson Planning 101

Even though I am using a curriculum that includes daily lesson plans, I still purchased a teacher’s lesson planning book in order to keep track of teaching 3 different grade levels for three of my children. In addition, I will be taking on the responsibility of teaching Piano Lessons to our two eldest girls so I needed space to keep track of it all. This is the lesson plan book I used (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/3howwIQ

In preparation for the first 3 weeks of lessons, I organized each daughter’s materials and curriculum into three bins, looking ahead in each lesson to see which materials I would need to avoid scrambling the morning of the lesson to find a random 2 litre bottle, roll of toilet paper, etc.

I also visualized how the day would go, anticipating the need for sharpened pencils (thereby installing a sharpener nearby), quiet workspace (moving a desk into the big’s bedroom), and half-finished work (the use of magazine holders from IKEA).

Although I have a Masters in Elementary Education and am a classically trained pianist, I’ve never actually taught piano, formally. I’ve decided to rely on the Alfred series to guide our piano lessons. They offer free teaching manuals found here: https://www.alfred.com/alfreds-basic-piano-library-teachers-guides/ which I chose to have printed through Office Depot (what can I say, I’m a paper and pencil kind-of-gal). Aurora (age 8) has taken for three years but since we missed lessons in the spring I’m starting her back off at Level 1b with the option to add more advanced material as we go. I ordered her the lesson book as well as the theory book, technic book, recital book, and fun book. You can also find them bundled here: https://amzn.to/2QbVMWq. Harper (age 7 in October) will begin at Level 1a and if Emma (age 5 in November) shows interest, I’ll start her with the prep courses. I also added some really fun Faber Disney song books! I’m using the Primer for Harper and Level 1 and Level 2 for Aurora.

Like parenting, teaching is all about your ability to adapt and pivot. All of my lesson plans are written in pencil for this very reason!! It’s great to have a goal with the knowledge that plans will change. The more we accept this reality, the less frustration we will feel when things do not go as planned.

Organization

Charts! Charts! Get Your Charts!

Lord, the subject of charts can be a touchy one for parents. I must admit that sentence feels rather ridiculous to type but there’s truth in the insanity!

Charts can be effective or (gasp!) addictively extrinsically motivating. Charts can feel oddly freeing for the Type A personality and constricting to those who feel “boxed” in (sorry, I had to).

One this is for sure- there is no shortage of charts in this day and age. And for our family, they have been helpful.

Here are some of the charts we have used:

Morning/Evening Checklist

I first wrote about this chart on my other blog New Leaf Parenting in an article titled Custom Creation. It’s such an effective chart, that it is worth mentioning again.

I borrowed the idea from a blogger named Amy who explains how to create your morning/evening checklist in this article. Here is what ours ended up looking like.

Our girls LOVE their chart. It replaces my need to remind them every two minutes of what they need to do next to get ready and bonus, gives them something kinesthetic to do as they complete each task. They love hearing the “click” of the magnets attracting. These charts have surprisingly lasted three years now! Since we are homeschooling this year, it’s time for them to get an update (read: no book bag necessary). I highly recommend them for both morning and nighttime routines.

Allowance Chart

In the same article I shared the morning/evening chart, I also shared our allowance chart. This worked great for years to motivate our girls. The charts were attached by a heavy duty clip to our refrigerator. Once they filled up their game board, they were able to cash in. As our girls have gotten older, they better understand the value of a dollar and unfortunately, are no longer motivated by pennies 😂.

Every time the child completed a task, they received the associated coin and were able to stick it to their chart. Once they filled up the chart, they could cash in!

Combination Allowance/Daily Task Chart

As the girls aged, I started looking for a new daily task/chore chart and came across this great one. It provides the opportunity to combine both the daily tasks with money-making opportunities.

The Ol’ Fashion

My big girls got a little frustrated with the new daily/chore chart and wanted something simpler. Enter: The Ol’ Fashion.

Aurora unloads the dishwasher, sets and clears the table and makes her bed every weekday to receive $5 on Friday.

Harper feeds and cleans Oreo’s (our bunny rabbit) litter box (yes, he is potty trained- these are crazy times), sweeps the kitchen floor and makes her bed every weekday for $5.

If Emma, the four year-old, begins to gripe about not getting paid, the plan to is to have her open the window blinds (there are actually quite a few) and retrieve the newspaper everyday for $2 a week.

No chart. No stimulating visuals (sigh). Just ol’ fashion allowance!

He’s so adorable, how could you not want to clean up after him??

One thing I have learned, charts are a deeply personal (read that as dramatically as you would like) choice. What’s right for one family is not for the other. It can take a lot of research- I highly recommend a “chore chart” search of google photos or Pinterest but set aside 4 hours to go down that rabbit hole- but when you find “the one”, your life will officially feel complete. Ok, maybe not totally but it does add a little structure to your days and that is worth searching for!