As local schools are in the second month of official classes, we are presumably enjoying our “summer” break . We have had to schedule our school year simultaneously with the online classes our high schoolers have begun to employ. Thus, we school from August/September to May/June…or thereabouts.
Here are some of the items on my TO DO list for our supposed school break:
1. Finalize and turn in grades
While the younger children get “pass” or “fail” marks, my high schoolers are assigned grades for transcript purposes. Most of the curricula we have chosen come with guidelines on how to set up a grading scheme.
2. Complete progress reports
Back in Canada, we used to look forward to seeing our Educational Assistant twice a year. Progress reports for each child resulted from her almost half a day visits. The practice of keeping progress reports has become a habit for me. Basically, they detail what each child is doing at the moment for each subject during the time of the visit. This has been a helpful way to monitor each child’s educational route as well as keep track of the curricula we use throughout the years.
3. Evaluate subjects/curricula
We spend time discussing why certain programs don’t work for us. We either look for something else that works or find ways to make what we have work. For instance, we realized third grader was not getting Latin memory work done because she needed something different from our usual Latin cards. My high schoolers have been using Quizlet for some time now and the introduction of this to our third grader’s Latin studies seems to solve the problem for now.
Art is something that the younger kids are only able to do in spurts. Although we owned quite a few books that taught me how to teach art, I realize we needed something that is laid out for me for one school year. Upon our 9th grader’s successful completion of Artistic Pursuits (senior high) last year, we decided to get the K-3 level and give it a try with the younger ones.
We felt our high schoolers needed exposure to math college texts (especially since oldest is thinking about pursuing something math-related) so I devote some time researching in this regard.
4. File work
We keep our work in batches of 4 years (grades 1-4, 5-8, 9-12). Though we started using large 3-hole binders for this purpose (one for math/english and another for science/history), we have found that plastic envelopes work well and are easier to store.
5. Store our books temporarily
We like to keep lower level books out for the younger ones to read and re-read or for reference. However, there are books we can keep away for the meantime. These are either the ones that belong to a far off time period or those with reading levels way out of the younger ones’ ability. We also rearrange the contents of our shelves so that the current resources are accessible.
Then, we get ready for the coming school year:
1. Replenish shelves with books for this year and organize school room
2. Familiarize ourselves with materials we are using for the first time
This is more like an ongoing thing for me since it usually takes using a program (even a few times) for me to really wrap my head around what I’m actually supposed to do. However, I try to look through some of the newer materials we are going to use before we begin the year. Some of the younger kids have had to acquaint themselves to how Tapestry of Grace is set up since they are joining the older ones this year.
3. Make new class plans/grading sheets/high school contracts
For the younger kids, going forward in their studies is as simple as moving to the next level in whatever program they are using. For the high schoolers, we usually have had to review their “high school map” making sure we’re on track with required credits.
A “high school contract” per subject is an invaluable tool in clarifying expectations ahead of time. Grading sheets can then be drawn up from these contracts.
4. Think through our schedule
I was never really into creating schedules (because we hardly keep them). For most of our homeschool career, we just prioritized (did the important things first) and then did the next thing, and the next (we used to have lots of time to catch up anyway with whatever we missed). With more children, however, it can be assuring to have some sort of game plan. The children (especially the younger ones) have also began to find comfort in having a schedule to begin the first few days of school. Basically, I’ve always kept to the principle that the youngest child needs me first. Then, I move up to the next “needy” child. So, we build our days around that principle. My high schoolers are quite independent. Most of what I do for them is try to keep up with what they are doing (so if they ask me a question, I won’t take too long to answer). Other than that, I am looking forward to learning writing with my oldest child (while second child embarks on an Advanced Composition class online this year). Hours spent reading to prepare for Literature and Worldview discussions weekly (assuming dad will still take History this year) make up most of the time in my schedule that I have to carve out for my high schoolers.
Evaluating, researching, deciding, and planning has taken most of our school break. This is probably why, it seems, that I can usually relax more during the school year, when everything is set and all we need to do is work, rather than on our times off when we need to take a moment to check where we are on our course.