Monthly Archives: June 2009

TOS Crew: 2009-10 Schoolhouse Planner

The new Schoolhouse Planner is available, and it’s even bigger and better than last year’s generous helping.

Summer days, lazy days, sitting on a blanket in the shade or by the pool while the kids splash (our community pool is only 8 blocks away and we budgeted for a summer family pass this year), thoughts of autumn are far away.

…until I realize that tonight it’ll be time to flip the calendar over to a new month. Summer is whizzing by!

If you stick to the traditional school year, now’s a good time to do your planning! Get it done in the next few weeks, and you can relax the rest of the summer knowing that you’re ready to jump in when it’s time to take up the books. If you’re a year-round schooler, well, you probably take planning breaks periodically during the year. In either case, now’s a good time to consider the 2009-2010 Schoolhouse Planner!

For homeschoolers, by homeschoolers

The Planner was put together by homeschoolers, for homeschoolers, with a plethora of forms–40 more than last year’s Planner–for household management as well as academic planning and record-keeping. Flexibility is built into the system. You pick and choose which forms will fit you and your family. Some of the forms (like chore charts, student assignment pages, and grocery lists) appear in more than one format. Some of them will fit right in with what you’re already doing. Some won’t apply, and you’ll skip past them with barely a glance. And some–you’ll look at them and say, “Where have you been all my life??!”

Easy navigation

The Planner e-book is huge (375 pages in PDF format), and takes some time to load when I open it up. However, navigation is easy! The Table of Contents is interactive–that is, you click on an entry and the next thing you know, you’re looking at the page. On my computer I can use Adobe Reader’s navigation features (bookmarks and thumbnails or little tiny images of the pages) to jump instantly to any page I want.

Personalize it

One of the best things about the Planner is that you can personalize it! You can type right on the pages and save the information. (I choose the “Save as” option and give it a new name.) I haven’t been able to figure out if you can change the font, which is set to “Courier” (old fashioned typewriter style) as the default, but when I do, I’ll let you know. Edited to add: Nope, sorry, Courier is the only font available.

Bonus features!

The Schoolhouse Planner is not just a planner! Yes, there are four years of at-a-glance calendars, plus monthly calendars that go from July 2009 to June 2010, plus blank planning calendars and other planning pages that you can customize to suit your needs.

Every month has a theme, complete with a helpful article written by a knowledgeable author (such as August’s article on teaching math from Math-U-See’s Steve Demme) and a reference page (since August is focusing on math, a multiplication chart is included, ready to print out for reference or a child’s mini-office–more on that in another post), plus a page of links at the Schoolhouse Store. Each month includes yummy recipes from the TOS Crew and TOS staff, just the sort to inspire you when you find yourself serving spaghetti for the third time in a week, or hitting the drive-through window too many days in a row.

Monthly themes touch upon a variety of areas in the home and academia, including math, Language Arts, history, social studies, science, Bible, lapbooking, even disaster preparedness!

There’s also a section of “Miscellaneous Educational Information” that pulls together all the reference pages from the 2008-2009 Planner, lots of good stuff: composers, artists, historical documents, U.S. Presidents, states and capitals, conversion tables, and more.

If you’d like to see the six-page Table of Contents, click on this link, thoughtfully provided by Traci of the TOS Crew. (Thanks, Traci!)

The Schoolhouse Planner is available at the Schoolhouse Store for $39.00, and if you order before July 12, you’ll get a free 2008 Excerpts e-book with all the articles and recipes from the 2008-09 Planner (a $9.95 value)!

2008 Schoolhouse Planner Excerpts

The Excerpts e-book reads like a list of greatest hits. Like the articles in the 2009-10 Planner, these excerpts span a variety of homeschool topics. Some of those I’ve found most helpful include tips for bringing history to life, planning for high school, and teaching writing. As for the recipes… some of these have been added to our list of favorites over the past year. (mmm, Maggie’s Easy Chicken Enchiladas. Fast and Yummy Lasagna. And for breakfast meetings, Amish Breakfast Casserole!)

To see other TOS Crew reviews of the Planner, plus screen shots of some of the pages, check out the TOS Crew blog!

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Three sick children

Aargh. Summer is here, with warmer days and occasional sun (supposed to rain all weekend, though). There are strawberries begging to be picked in the U-pick fields not far away, and special events at Fort Vancouver, and get-togethers with other families to plan…

…and all three of the girls are down with this nasty fever-and-cough bug. I hope it clears up soon or there are going to be a lot of long faces around here.

How’s your summer going?

(Okay, it’s not technically “summer” until the weekend. But the public school summer break started this week, and there are kids around all the time, with all the associated blessings and problems. More on that in another post.)

Summer Schedules

Our first year homeschooling, we made several mistakes.

Well, okay, we make mistakes every year, but hopefully we’re learning from them and not making the same mistakes over and over again! (Like Eldest likes to say, “I might make lots of mistakes, but I don’t make the same one twice.”)

One mistake was to do school-at-home. We ordered an entire 2nd grade curriculum from a well-known Christian curriculum company. We tried to do everything in the Teacher’s Manuals. We tried to stay on schedule, a lesson a day in each subject. We were sitting at the kitchen table from just after breakfast until well after dinner. We were exhausted!

At least we didn’t go the whole route and buy a little school desk for Eldest, and set up a schoolroom with chalkboard, flag, etc. I know homeschoolers who’ve done this but it seemed kind of excessive for a single child. Also, considering we abandoned the textbook route some time later, we saved ourselves some expense, when you consider the cost of a teacher’s desk, student desk, chalkboard, flag, etc.

When summer came, we took the summer off, just like the schools did. (Our second mistake, did you guess right?)

We had worked through the previous summer (i.e. the summer before we started homeschooling) because that was our test: Our dd had gone all the way through first grade and couldn’t add 1+1. I researched and settled on (Happy Find!) a math curriculum that sounded good. It was advertised for struggling learners and gifted learners and everyone in between. This was the test: If I could teach Eldest addition all the way up to 9+9 over the summer, I could continue homeschooling in the autumn.

By the end of summer, she’d learned not just up to 9+9, but she could add six-digit numbers and columns of numbers and do word problems like adding up all of a family’s menu items at a hamburger place and being able to figure out the bill!

However, we took the summer off after our first full year of homeschooling. We needed it. She did. I did.

When autumn rolled around again, she’d forgotten a lot of what she’d learned.

How most math textbooks are designed

Sometime during this period I heard a homeschool dad talk about math. He said that math textbooks (specifically a certain brand, popular with homeschoolers, but those from other publishers as well) were designed in a way new homeschoolers (who tend to go through a textbook from start to finish) didn’t understand.

The first third of the textbook would be review of the previous year’s material, counting on the fact that the students would have forgotten a lot during summer break. The middle third of the textbook introduced and drilled the new material for that grade. Your average math class didn’t get more than 2/3 of the way through the text. The last third of the book was for advanced classes so they wouldn’t run out of material if they went through the text at a faster rate. This material was repeated in the first third of the next year’s textbook.

Thus, this father opined, you really only had to use the middle third of the book, if you never took a break longer than about two weeks! His children went very quickly through that whole math series as a result. Only if they struggled with a concept did they work the “review” lessons in the first third of a book.

Breaking free from convention

It wasn’t until our third year, I think, that we decided to break free from the institutional school schedule and keep on through the summer. We modified our schedule, to be done by 11:00, and let the neighbor children know not to knock on our door before then.

We cut back to the bare bones: Bible reading, half a lesson of math per day, and fun-but-educational readaloud, things like the Burgess books (Bird Book, Animal Book, Flower Book, Seashell Book, Old Mother West Wind, etc.) and Hillyer’s history and geography books.

We read aloud on a blanket in the front yard, and what do you know? The neighbor children began to join us for our readaloud time! They liked our fun-but-educational books just as much as we did!

Benefits of not taking the summer off

Benefits of keeping a modified schedule through the summer:

– better behavior
– no boredom
– less fighting between siblings (we started homeschooling an only child and added two more along the way)
– easier to ease into a heavier academic/activity load in the autumn
– able to add special activities like swim lessons or swim team, or take a week off here and there for camping

We haven’t started our modified schedule yet. The Parents in the household (yes, dh and myself) have decreed this week a clean-up-the-house week. Our house has gotten pretty trashed from the busyness of the end-of-the-year madness (recitals, plays, Outdoor School, and the like).

Let’s hope we can get it done in a week…

Summer Reading Splash!

summer-splashYour children don’t stop reading just because it’s summer, do they?

(Perish the thought!)

In our family, it’s anything but… we follow a more relaxed schedule in the summertime, which means more free time. (Yes, we still do some academics during the summer–more about that in a later post–math, for one.)

More free time means more time for fun reading! (Along with all those other summery things, like setting up a lemonade stand, swimming at the neighborhood pool, riding bikes, inline skating, teaching the dog new tricks, camping, and more. But I digress.)

We’ll be signing up for our library’s summer reading program today, but with the way our girls read, they’ll zip through the reading logs in just a fraction of the summer. The way the reading logs work, you get to fill in a shape for every 30 minutes you read. After every 10 shapes you get a small prize. After about 40 shapes you’re done! I have to say that 20 hours of reading is something one of our girls could do in a week, and another could do in less time than that, even.

Though I try to keep them busy and active during the day, there’s always reading by the light from the hallway after bedtime, or in a pinch they can fall back on that old standby, the flashlight under the covers. And even during the day I’ll find them in various corners, curled up with a book. After all, there’s just so much inline skating a person can do!

The Old Schoolhouse is sponsoring an online reading contest this summer. I read through Splish’s blog just this morning, and found giveaways and book lists submitted by readers (parents, too!).

The Summer Reading Splash is a 10-week program, and at the end there’ll be a great book giveaway! (Someone said you can never be too rich or too thin… I’d add to that to say you can never have too many books… can you?)

Anyhow, even if you’re planning to take a long summer vacation, don’t let your brain (or your students’) dissolve into dust and blow away on the wind–pick up a good book or two along the way. You’ll be glad you did.