You know the old adage "Failure to plan is planning to fail." I have found this to be increasingly true as my children get older and they really need more structure and guidance to help them stay on track.
In this post I will lay out a bit of how I go about planning for the school year, with an emphasis on planning for Tapestry of Grace.
In the terms beginning with July 2013 and ending in May 2014, here are our goals for both students. My son will be 12 in August and my daughter turned 8 in May.
My first step is to lay out all goals for the school year, both the reasonable and the unreasonable ones. Then I have to plug in the activities that the children and I do outside of the house. It all has to fit with a bit of margin. I do not "do" the soccer-mom mentality well at all. I like to be home a lot, I need time to think, to write, and to hang with my family. I cannot function without some wiggle room, so I have had to pare back a bit. For instance, I had hoped to include latin and a public speaking course for my son this year. However, with the amount of time that TOG will take, not to mention all the other areas of study and activities, it is just not realistic to think that we can do all of that and still find time to buy food or wash clothes, so I let those two things go (the latin and public speaking, not food and clothes!) Even without them I have set the bar pretty high for my son, but since we plan to plug away at this from July through May with time off when we need and a long break at Christmas, I hope to keep it manageable and interesting. The activities we need to work around are CrossFit, AWANA, art, and this year, Civil Air Patrol (if my son continues to express interest in joining, and from all I can tell he has made up his mind.) These are lifestyle choices and we make our them very carefully.
Health and Fitness (also known as leading a healthy lifestyle)
A major part of our lifestyle is our choice to eat "clean" and work out regularly. Together we are constantly discussing nutrition, healthy living and fitness. We read and discuss topics from a wide variety of sources. We go to the box and kick some major butt doing CrossFit together. This is a huge and unmovable priority in our lives. In some ways it determines where all the other pieces of our routine fall into place because meal prep, family mealtime, eating clean and exercising at least 3 days a week takes a lot of time and energy. This must be weighed heavily when considering how much we will include in our schedule.
Math, Writing and Grammar
The first priorities in the academic realm are to make sure that math, writing and grammar are planned, because without these one cannot make much headway any other subject.
- Matt will finish MUS Pre-Algebra and begin Algebra 1.
- Molly will finish MUS Gamma. Multiplication facts should be memorized.
- Matt should complete season 2 in Analytical Grammar, Writing With Skill level 1, IEW Narnia, Caesar's English 2, and he should be working through Phonetic Zoo level C.
- Molly should memorize the parts of speech and work through First Language Lessons level 3. I am not yet settled on which spelling to use with her. We will either work through Phonics Road 2 or All About Spelling 3. She needs to strengthen her reading skills, so I am leaning toward PR 2. This will necessitate a review of PR 1 this summer. Phonics Road is her favorite. It is not my favorite to teach, however, so I may just have to suck it up this time.
TOG: Literature, Worldview, History and GeographyClose behind Math, writing and grammar, I consider literature to be the next priority. My kids and I have covered so much good literature, and if I had to make a choice between studying history or literature, I would choose literature, hands-down. History facts are important, but literature is the stuff of life told by people who are experiencing and interpreting it in real time. I do consider some historical fiction to count as literature sometimes, but if there are stories, legends, novels, plays, poetry or epics written and told by real people in history, I choose these for my kids. Thankfully, TOG has done much of this hard work for me by providing excellent choices of books for every level.
Following literature my next priority is worldview studies, though arguably this could and should be at the top of this list before all other areas of study, but I am looking at things from a purely academic perspective at the moment, and the study of literature bumps up against the worldview studies. Perhaps I should say they go hand-in-hand. This is where we tackle the history of religion, comparative religion, famous thinkers, philosophy, doctrine and theology. I believe it is essential that worldview is examined with parents in the home to ensure a healthy grounding in the beliefs that a family holds. I do not believe it is wrongful "indoctrination," "brainwashing," or otherwise when families to teach their own children why they believe in God and how to worship, as well as how other people throughout the world believe and worship. This is traditional the world over, and has been for millenia, and it gives children a secure framework and a means to deal with the world and its challenges. I also feel that a solid foundation in the study of logic is part of this area of study.
Following worldview come the more fact-based areas of history, geography and science. We enjoy weaving the subjects together, believing them all to relate to and affect each other, so history could be compared to the loom that holds it all together. We engage all our areas of study within the context of history.
- Matt will be working through the history, literature and worldview readings for Year 1 (Ancients). He will complete the assigned map work each week. He will be expected to read and prepare answers to all of the accountability questions for history and worldview so that he can participate in the weekly socratic discussions, and each week I will select one or two of those questions to which he will write a written response. He should also complete the literature questions each week.
- Molly will be using Story of the World (Bauer) which TOG assigns as an alternate text. Since I have the SOTW series, activity books and audio books, this will be very appropriate for her. I will read the worldview selections for her grade level to or with her as well as her literature selections. She will be doing some lower grammar and some upper grammar level books. I choose these based on her reading level, as well as the quality of the story. She has a very rich literary mind and enjoys stories written at a higher level, though she cannot read them independently yet. I will provide selections from both levels. It is my hope that I can get some hands-on projects done with her this year from the SOTW activity guide, but I have to confess that I am not the best "craft mom."
- Matt will be covering The Fallacy Detective with our co-op.
- Matt will be working through Apologia General Science and doing discussion and experiments once a week with a group of friends that we co-op with.
- Molly will be working through Apologia Swimming Creatures and doing weekly discussion and experiments with the co-op group.
In part two, I will discuss how I assemble the TOG notebooks and plan quarterly and weekly.