Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bullet Journaling for the Homeschool Mom

Yes, yet another post about planners and organizers.  Obviously, I have an ongoing struggle with how to organize myself.  And sometimes a system will work for a season, and then things change, and I need a new system. 

So, at various times I have used Planner Pad to keep track of my to-do list and appointments.  It's an excellent weekly planner.  Off and on this year, I have used it, and it has been helpful.  However, I have had some problems using it.  One problem is that I need the electronic reminders from my phone/google calendar.  And there was too much redundancy in the system.  The second is that my schedule is too complicated and full right now for a weekly layout.  I really need to focus one day at a time. 

So, I looked at daily planners and couldn't find any that I felt would suit my needs.  I did make a custom planner online, but it was going to cost me around $60 to order. The term "bullet journaling" kept popping up, and I decided to look into it. 

Basically, you log your day in bullet form, using different symbols for events, to-do's, facts, and memories.  You can create more long-term and monthly pages as well and keep notes from meetings.  An index page is used to keep track of important pages. 

Some people go insane with their bullet journals, creating all sorts of elaborate and artistic layouts, while others keep theirs very simple. 

The great thing about it is that you can use supplies you have around the house to make it, if you have a spare notebook.  Or you can buy a very cheap notebook.  People sometimes use expensive ones, but they are still cheaper than many traditional planners. 

I like the ability to customize and the lack of wasted space.  I can stop using it for a while and then come back to it.  So far, I'm not using it so much for logging my kids' homeschool but for keeping up with my insane daily schedule.  Having three kids at very different stages as well as my volunteer work at church and a night class I take makes my life very complicated.  I am grateful to have such a full life and so many things that I am passionate about, but it is messy and crazy and extremely difficult to organize. 

Helpful links for learning more about bullet journals: 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tweaking our Planning/Record Keeping Yet Again

I am forever changing our planning and record keeping.  As my boys get older, I feel like it is more important to keep good records, but it doesn't come naturally for me.

I started the year with The Ultimate Homeschool Planner.  I really liked it at first but found that I didn't keep up with it well. 

I have found that a monthly calendar with a subject checklist for each day works well for Bug (4th grade).  I leave extra time on Fridays in case we don't get everything done the other days.  So that's our plan, and I can retain it as our record of attendance.

For Bee (8th grade), I tried using an weekly extensive checklist by subject for each week that I made in Google Drive and that he could check off online . This worked for a couple of weeks, and then it didn't.  He just stopped using it, and I couldn't seem to get him to start again. 

I have now printed out a monthly grid for him and am simply filling out a "reverse checklist" with what he accomplishes each day.  I typically only write the subject done, so not too specific.  He is doing math and Spanish daily, and we are blocking history, science, and English for the remainder of the year.

I will continue with a version of this system for as long as it works, tweaking it as needed.  Both grids are up on the fridge where I can remember to fill them out/check things off frequently.  And I only have to print them once a month! 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Homeschool win with Nature Journaling

I have struggled to do science well this year.  We have had some successes, but have been struggling to get into a good flow.  And then today Bug suggested that he go look for things outdoors and learn about them.  I had already been thinking along these lines, so I was more than happy to agree. 

For some reason we then had a long argument about whether he should be required to take a photo of whatever it is that he found.  I insisted that he would need to take a photo, identify the plant, animal, rock, or other object, research it, write about it in his own words, and cite his source. 

Bug was able to do this really well and is making his nature journal in Google docs.  He chose our neighbor's ornamental cherry tree for his first entry, and I am so pleased with the result.  It was good writing and research practice as well as science learning.  And it was very much self initiated with just a little guidance from mom. 

A scattered mom homeschooling a scattered son

We deal with attention issues in my family.  I don't write a lot about it because, even though this blog is kind of anonymous, I feel odd about blogging about my children's medical issues and what treatments we choose to use.  There is a lot of judgement in the homeschool community towards those of us who take a medical approach.

Anyway, I have attention issues and so does my son Bee.  Sometimes I really struggle to make a schedule for him and get him to stick to it.

I have been trying a new approach this week, which is to use more of a block schedule, to have him do math and Spanish daily and one other subject.  So, we are going to finish social studies, then geology, then writing, but not do them at the same time.  We are going to try a more block approach with subjects that lend themselves to it and see how that works to finish out this school year.

I just absolutely can't believe that Bee is going to be finishing up the 8th grade in May.  Eight years of homeschooling.  I'm really proud of what he's accomplished and excited for what is to come for him.

Next year, I will just be his mom and facilitator because he will be taking all of his classes either at our co-op or online.  I think it will be really good for both of us to have someone else create the structure for his learning.

Next year, I will just be homeschooling Bug (who does not have attention issues) and raising Dot (who will be 3).  Big changes. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

DreamBox Math for Homeschool: A review

I decided to let Bug (10 years old, 5th grade, gifted) try DreamBox math for a semester and see how it goes.  With a toddler in the house, I have been really needing programs that take the teaching load away from me.  About two months in, I am extremely pleased with this program.  It is completely game-based and designed to be used indepedently.  He seems to enjoy it, and it has identified some areas that we had not worked in sufficiently (mainly geometry concepts).

It is common core based, and it "forces" children to learn and use a variety of strategies.  I think it's developing his number sense and mental math skills, so that is great with me.  It does a good job of assessing his level in various concepts and keeps track of what standards he has completed.  I will be able to print out a graph at the end of the year for his portfolio to show what work he has done.

It's very visual and uses a lot of virtual manipulatives.  He can work at his own pace and doesn't have to repeat things that he already knows.  I'm happy to use this program through middle school if he continues to enjoy it. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Time4Learning: A Secord Chance

In my last post, I wrote that I was trying to find more independent learning options for Bug.  Years ago, I had tried Time4Learning for him and decided that it was kind of bleh.  Since then, I've known so many people who use it and really like it that I decided to give it another go.  I still don't like it. 

Bug tried the math and the science, 5th grade level. They were okay.  It was a lot of reading dry text and answering multiple choice questions.  I just don't see how that is learning.  I did a lot of that in school and got excellent grades and remember nothing. 

So, we are going to give Clever Dragons a go when January comes around.  We are mostly on break because we started the school year in July. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some Drastic Changes

Well, in my 8th year of homeschooling, with a 13-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 2-year-old, I reached my breaking point.  It's been a difficult few months.  I have seriously considered sending one or both of my boys to public school and have investigated online some private schools as well.  I have found keeping up with everything to be nearly impossible this year. 
I am making some changes, and we'll see how they work, and if they work, and what other changes need to be made.

I have put Bee into an algebra class.  I am signing Bug up for Time4Learning, where we will be using the math and science sections, for now.  I am letting Bug quit Spanish because I don't have the energy to make him do it.  We are taking a break from foreign language for the year for him, with the tentative plan of starting Latin next year.  Oddly, for the first time, both boys are really enjoying "homeschool days" at museums, so we are doing a lot of those. 

The boys are fine; all three kids are fine; the truth is that I am not fine.  Homeschooling is hard, exhausting, and thankless.  So is being a mom to a teen, tween, and toddler.  I am taking care of myself; I am getting some long-overdue therapy; and I'm looking forward to a more balanced lifestyle in the future. 

UPDATE: 2/28/18 (4 months later)
I'm doing WAY better, due to therapy, self-care, new friendships, and increased involvement in the larger community (mainly my church).