When Helen and Anna were in late elementary / early middle school, I put all their daily assignments into a spiral-bound notebook, with two columns of check-off boxes down either side of each page, so they could see their assignments, show me what they’d done, and have all my record-keeping done in one book. This worked very well for several years, and evolved the name Anton, after Anton Chekhov, of course.
By late middle school, however, Anton was no longer doing the job. They had more long-term, multi-day assignments, and as a result, I stopped writing things out by hand and instead gave them month-long schedules, typed onto a single sheet with a boxes for a calendar so they could schedule when they needed to do what in order to meet the deadlines.
By high school, I couldn’t fit it all on one page. My computer folder for last school year’s planning and documents has 335 files. A couple of times I found myself massaging schedules that I’d already worked out, a few months before. The computer was great for storing things, but I couldn’t access what I needed when I needed it. If I were really, really ambitious, I’d write out the entire syllabus for each class in the summer, hand each child a schedule for each class with the dates and the assignments, and wipe my hands of the project.
It’s not going to happen. There is no way I can plan out to that level of detail nine months in advance. There’s no room for colds, slowing down for increased comprehension, and if we suddenly take a week off for beautiful weather, what do I do? Write out the whole thing again? No. No. No.
Enter the Anton, Mark II
I found an old graph notebook I’d bought for math, but both girls had rejected. I numbered each page (just the right hand side because otherwise it would take too long). Then I set up a table of contents at the beginning showing what was where. You can see, it’s a mess already, but that was caused on day one, when I realized I was already in the second week of October. I’ve given each month four “weeks” or units, except for December and January which have two each since we’ll be with family, and school never goes as well as it should then. When I finished up with the unit pages, I listed all the courses, saving ten pages for English, three for math, ten for history, and so on. I don’t have to do very much planning for math, since we just follow the book. Chemistry and History are a constant fiddle.
Year on One Page
Then I sketched out the whole year, with my month units down the left side and the courses across the top. You can see it’s the end of October, and I’ve already put a giant sticker over History because I decided to rearrange the whole thing two weeks ago. Math got a sticker too, because we got a bit behind (Already? Yes. That’s why I need this kind of schedule.)
I divided up the lecture courses into the month units, so we cover a reasonable amount each one (we use several Great Courses classes because we spend a lot of time out of internet range, so I need something that’s DVD-based).
When we’re traveling, we can keep watching the lectures, but I don’t want to bring any physical books with me, so you can see the box around December / January history reading – that’s to be Kindle-only, and I’ll shuffle out the paper books into times that we’re at home. That won’t always match up exactly with the lecture schedule, but so be it. Let’s call it planned review instead of just-want-carry-on.
(What’s up with September saying BIOLOGY only? We had an amazing time: a recent biology graduate spent a month teaching Helen and Anna a semester’s worth of biology, and we did a bit of math. This is one of the great advantages of homeschooling. It’s your schedule. You own it. Make it work for you, not some 19th century ideal of the school year schedule.)
A Week on One Page
Here’s what this week looks like. Yes, “this week” has ten days. It’s messy, there are cross-outs, but Helen and Anna can add the details to their personal calendars, figure out what to do by when. It has deadlines and day by day assignments. The lectures, which have to be scheduled on a particular day, otherwise we never do them, are marked on the days of the week. Helen usually writes up a white board for all of us the every night, saying exactly what time we’re going to do each lecture. It could fit in here, too, but we’re all more responsible when it’s on a giant sign in purple letters.
Pre-planning the Following Week
Here’s next week. And this is why the system works so well for me. I have not planned out the problem sets for next week. I’ll work on that this week; I wrote the first Chem test last night, so I can make sure the problems reflect what I’ve done on the test. I’ve written in a few things as I have ideas, find out deadlines, and so on. It will be nearly finished when we turn the page to the next “week.” (This one has eight days.)
I’ve circled Beowulf in the picture – it says Finish by Nov 15, which isn’t for another week (and I’ve added it to that page already), but I know they need two weeks in order to finish it, so they should start reading it now. With literature, I give them deadlines to read the entire book. In History, I often assign reading by parts or chapters.
By the time we turn the page to this week’s schedule, I’m sure it will be just as messy as the previous picture for October #4.
Subject Organization – World History Reading List
This is what the inner pages look like. Here’s a sample for World History. Instead of having all of this information scattered in 335 files on my computer, all my notes are in one place, and since it’s not perfectly written, I feel free to edit, doodle and add things in. On the left, I’ve listed FFA (Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s book The World) and the eight chapters we’ll read this year. Then there three other items I might use. And three movies we might watch.
On the right, I’ve listed all the possible books we may use this year. We won’t use all of them – probably three quarters. I’ve separated out the ones that are paper and the ones that are on the Kindles, so that I can distribute them among weeks that we’re at home and traveling.
And Another Subject Page – Chemistry Chapter Titles
And here’s the Chem Mess. I’m having a bit of a nightmare designing a course to prepare Helen for the Chemistry SAT subject test (basically an Honors Chem class), without overwhelming her with information. There are plenty of AP syllabuses around, and plenty of Basic Chems, but not a lot of Honors Chem.
The top left is the chapter headings in Brown, Chemistry the Central Science. Next to that is Zumdahl, Chemistry. Below that is Tan, Chemistry Matters. Next to that is the chapter titles of the Barrons SAT Chemistry review guide.
On the right-hand page, I have all the lectures for the Great Courses High School Chemistry (basic chemistry, not honors) and the percentages of problem types on the SAT exam. I’m in the throes of lining up chapter material with the lecture list. This page gives me a slight headache just to look at, but it is a lot easier to work with than five separate lists in five text files, or notes on scratch paper that fell off the table, or five books opened up on the table (and blowing closed at an inopportune moment).