Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Questions About Planning Lessons & Spelling

I had a reader ask:
How do you plan your days? Do you sit down say on Sunday and go over all the topics you want to cover and figure out what coloring pages to print out, what experiment supplies you need etc? Or do you do it the night before? You always seem to have the day planned out so well. Also, Do you work on spelling?

I have used many systems over the years as my style of teaching changes, the needs of the family changes and as I try new things. For the last two years I have used a system that really works for me. I used to have a planbook in which I would map out at least a week or two's worth of activities. This would always get off track as sickness, unplanned events or activities that didn't turn out get scratched out. I would get frustrated as I kept having to erase and rewrite the same things over and over again in different boxes. I briefly went through a phase in which I made plans on pieces of lined paper and then only fill in the planbook as we finished them. Then it occurred to me that I could have two planbooks, and that is the system I use now.

The first one has a general plan of what I think would be the next step in each of the subjects. For example, for history, I write down the things I like and plan to do in the curriculum I use. I don't do everything. I pick and choose what I think they will like, and what I think has enough learning in it for the effort. I hate crafts that don't really teach anything. Anyway, I sketch out in pencil about two weeks worth, maybe three, and this is what I use to plan getting materials, etc.

But as each day comes, I let the boys have some direction in how the school goes, too. I let them know at the beginning of the day the ideas I have for the day, and they usually are enthusiastic about it. Sometimes they have ideas to add or ways to modify or change things. If they seem reasonable, we will make those changes. Sometimes this means that I have bought materials to use and we don't use them. That's okay. It rarely happens, and if they are not perishable, they just go in our general school supplies and usually get used some other time. I wouldn't allow them to make changes if I felt they were just trying to take the easy way out, if they were reducing things just to get out of work, for example. They know that by now and don't really try that much at all. Sometimes they have ideas that are just different because they read something on their own and want to do something more along those lines, etc. We talk and work it out and then we pretty much have the day planned. The day's plans too can include things like baking cookies or other fun things if that is appropriate. Just the other day we were all feeling washed out, so I scrapped the plans I had sketched out a week ago and we baked and rested and played games instead.

That is why I have the second planbook. In it I record what we do actually do. That just keeps me with a sense of our weeks and months passing and that we are accomplishing things in those weeks and months. Sometimes I look back over this second planbook to look for a particular activity. Also, I have this second book because I can keep this one pretty neat as I fill it in after the fact. The first one gets erased a million times and things scratched out and lines going here and there as things get changed or modified. Also, If we take off a day I hadn't planned...say a sick day or an unplanned, last-minute field trip, I just start up where we left off so something that is in the MONDAY column might not happen until TUESDAY or WEDNESDAY. In this way the planbook gets really off in terms of the days of the week. I just don't pay attention to the days of the week in that one, just one day after the other.

Life isn't as neat as we plan either. That's okay. In that way, I guess I lean toward the unschooling camp. The second book just shows what we did, day by day. It really isn't a PLAN book at all. It is a short few words journal of what we did. I tried to do without it at first, but since the planbook gets so crazy, I need the second book to feel a sense of order and progression. It is also good to show any review board or whatever your state might have to show what you have done as well.
So, I don't print out pages or whatever until we have had our morning day planning session. After we plan our day, I print out pages and while I am doing this, they have a few minutes to chill out before we start school activities. It works for us.
To answer your question about spelling....I work on spelling with my seventh grader. He was a horrible speller but since we have been using Sequential Spelling he has been doing a lot better. I recommend it but it's down side is that it starts out with really simple words and a lot of kids, especially older kids, get offended by that. It works very differently than other programs because it doesn't not rely on memorizing words, but through repetition, the student really learns how the letters combine. My eighth grader is autistic but has savant skills in spelling. I haven't met a word he couldn't spell, so I don't bother with spelling with him. My third grader is severely dyslexic and is still only reading at a first grade level, so I haven't started him on spelling yet. He is struggling too much with reading right now. Although he has just recently started with Explode the Code Online and that seems to have a spelling component too. My Kindergartner isn't doing spelling yet.
Hope all this helps, and that I did not ramble too much about things that don't apply to you or your questions. : ) I do tend to go on when talking about my favorite subjects...schooling and kids!


  1. Thank you for such a great post! I have taken your advice and have gotten to sets of plan books, I think this will really help me get organized : ) I have been using paper with sugject boxes on them to write what I have planned and then just checked off what we did but they are all over the place and messy....
    Thanks again!

  2. yes, like I said, I did the sheets of paper to for awhile until I discovered the two planbooks method. Hope it works well for you, too.

  3. Anonymous3.10.10

    Very good ideas Phyllis. It's so nice to be able to plug in to a system and use it, for me anyway. Without that I find myself feeling so scattered, it's my 47 year old brain it wonders. LOL.


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