Planning Ahead; School Supplies Are Like Narcotics

The school supplies aren’t even out on the shelves yet and I’m already getting high off the fumes! It’s kind of crazy and over the top, my love addiction with the smell of new paper and fresh crayons. I have to be careful not to go overboard on spending but if I do it right I can get enough of a high to carry me halfway through the school year before having withdrawals. 😉

Yes the pencil & planner has been out all week as I’ve been scribbling, researching, narrowing down and planning. I am already in love with my Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner. Call me old fashioned but I love putting pencil to paper, even when I have the ability to put it all on a computer screen. Filling in all the blanks in my planner is like another high. Smell the sweet aroma of joy wafting through your computer screen?

I should probably back up though, because the planning session really began with a new book I bought – at the recommendation of my friend Michelle Pendergrass. I devoured the book faster than a box of chocolates and I’ve been re-reading and re-digesting parts of it all week. The book? How Your Child IS Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning by Dawna Markova.
If you are a teacher, a homeschooler or a parent – THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. In a nutshell it’s all about tuning into how your child learns, teaching them to learn how they learn, and not putting children all in the same shaped box. The book is geared for anyone who is teaching or caring for a child for any amount of time during the day. And it’s really good.

Actually, this all probably started even before that! Lately I’ve been growing more and more dissatisfied with our current school year. The kids are doing well, they are learning.. but we aren’t enjoying it as much as I really think we could be, and it doesn’t look like I’d really like it to look like. I want our school to be more like the talented and gifted classes I was in during public school – hands on, alive, adaptable, fun – and not like the tedious classes I was in where the teacher was less than enthusiastic or the material less than interesting. Learning *can* happen under those circumstances. But from my experience, learning happens best (and makes the most impression) when learning is interesting and alive. Between juggling a dozen things and trying to find the best way to get the 10yo through a full course load, we ended up in Boringville. And the kids have NOTICED.

Princess asked me if I could make school more fun.

So between the growing feeling of dissatisfaction gnawing at my insides, the hunger for new information from a great book, and the delicious candy of a brand-spanking new planner that’s going to help me juggle a few of those balls that seem constantly in the air… I’ve completely reformed my thinking for the upcoming school year. The results, I hope and pray, will better meet each of my very different children in their unique learning styles while fostering their natural curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around them and the God who made it.

How? How am I going to meet these incredibly lofty sounding goals??

We’ll begin our day by studying the bible together – which we’ve done inconsistently in the past, and for which I’ve attempted to use various bible curricula or teaching tools.

This year, we are all going to read through the whole bible together, chronologically, using the ESV Children’s Bible (complete and unaltered text, simply more child friendly font size, etc.) and this chronological reading plan. At only 3 chapters a day, we should be able to handle that, but if we need to slow down and take longer, we will. The main goal is to read the bible together.

To avoid *sounding* boring, I will practice good story telling, make use of re-enactment, coloring and projects to reinforce and help them remember what we learn. Most importantly, though, I want them to learn about God and memorize scripture and that’s what I want them to take away the most.

Stick to the basics, for The Basics – but with curriculum that is a good match for their learning style.

The 3 R’s can be a little tedious. That’s the nature of learning how to form letters, add and read. The biggest factor in making the basics a little less tedious is making sure that the material is being presented in a way that is compatible with your child’s learning style. We eventually caught on that our oldest was having trouble visualizing her math and that she needed help making it all concrete. We started using plastic hair clips to show her how to count and add and when that worked, we ordered a curriculum that was centered around hands on manipulatives for her first grade year. And that worked wonders for ability to “get it.” Had we continued with the same things, we’d have all ended up very frustrated indeed.

For math, reading, writing, spelling and grammar the girls will each get a complete, purchased curriculum that will cater to their learning styles and the son, since he’s only four and kinesthetic, will learn one on one with Momma when he wants to by working on his dry erase board, playing with blocks and playing games.

Teach science and history to them as a group, incorporating elements that will meet each of their needs.

I’m sure that sounds harder than it is. But I’m sure it’s still going to take some work. Since it’s easier to level material down for younger learners than the other way around, I’ll be purchasing curriculum on Princess’ level and teaching it to all three of them together.
Another thing: no more spending a little time for science and for history every day of the week. Imagine instead, two days a week for science, and two different days for history, and the block of time for both being used on the one subject for that day so that there’s enough time to learn a lesson and do an experiment or project without getting behind for the day. Doesn’t that sound like a win/win?

We’ll incorporate visual aids (for Princess), audio aids (for Drama Queen) and hands on manipulatives (for Little Prince.) Each lesson may or may not incorporate each of those equally, but each week they will get some of each. There will also be hands on activities and experiments which incorporates all three.

I’m also hoping to save money in the long run, since I’m buying one history curriculum and one science curriculum instead of multiple, even if spend a little more on learning aids.

Stick to a schedule. And Schedule plenty of breaks.

We actually had (and stuck to) a really good schedule for a little while this spring–but we let ourselves get out of the schedule when hubby complained I was getting up too early (to get a jump start on my day) and waking him up in the process. =\ So I’ve redesigned my schedule with a slightly later wakeup time so that we can compromise. The beauty of the schedule we followed was that for the first time – EVER- I planned in multiple, regular break times for the school day. The kids responded well to the way it broke up our school load and they actually worked better after the break was over. Of course they did – wouldn’t we all??

So I’ll be bringing that back in because breaks, and routine, is always a good thing.

So all week I’ve been planning and getting giddy and we haven’t even finished this school year. (We go year round and since we took a little extra time earlier in the year, we’re not likely to have much of a break between the school years this time.) There are some changes that I can go ahead and make to the end of this school year, with what I have on hand. But I really can’t wait to get everything we need and get into the next school year.

I know that it’s going to take a complete change, almost a change in lifestyle, definitely a change in teaching style. And I know that it’s going to take work. But I really feel committed to making this change – and that sort of thing tends to make the work worth it.

Over the next few weeks I’ll start ordering books and in about a month I’ll be picking up extra school supplies at Wal-Mart. I’m likely to be seen sniffing new books and cuddling art supplies until about the beginning of September. I can’t help it, it’s a thing. But I predict that this year the arrival of new books and supplies will be even more intoxicating, with the adventure and excitement they bring for the new year ahead. I’ve got my explorer hat on and I’m ready for what waits around the next bend!

Related Post: Teach a Kid to Learn.

Photo Credit: Marisa Torres

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Jeni
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Jeni

It sounds like you’ve really put a lot of thought into this, Amber! I need to read that book that Michelle recommended. It might help me in our schooling strategy.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets overzealous when it comes to school supplies. The smell of crayons, pencil shavings, glue, all of it is wonderful. And don’t even take me in an office supply store unless I leave my wallet in the car…

Amber
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Amber

Jeni – I HAVE thought about this a LOT. Some of this is stuff that I’ve thought before, I’m just cementing it all together into a good plan with a lot of new information and good planning. I DO think you should read it, I think every parent should read it, even if they don’t home school. My thinking is this: I can teach my child how to add and she can do it for the rest of her life. Or I can teach her how to learn (AND add) and she will be able to learn anything she puts… Read more »

Ryan
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Ryan

I love how much thought and effort you put into planning! It is so amazing to see how passionate you are about making sure your children get what they need. Thanks for sharing!

Amber
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Amber

Ryan – Thank you! And for what it’s worth – the “Drama Queen” is really doing well with her 2nd grade Horizons Math! The “Princess” is going to be trying out Lifepac for Math and Language Arts, after doing Switched on Schoolhouse this year. I’m REALLY looking forward to it!

Ryan
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Ryan

Awesome! So glad to hear it and thanks for your enthusiasm!

Michelle Pendergrass
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Michelle Pendergrass

I’m sorry you two–I am the office supply queen. Did you not see my post about the pens alone? http://bit.ly/buubju

The book was a recommendation to me, but I cannot remember who told me to read it. It was many years ago, but has still remained the top book of all homeschooling books I’ve read (and it’s not a homeschooling book. It is for everyone.)

I’m not good at the sticking to a schedule thing. I NEED to get on that!!

Amber
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Amber

Michelle, Nu-UH!! I’ve been writing about office supplies for YEARS. 😉 Ya know, there’s “schedule” and there’s “routine.” We’ve done both. We’re better at sticking to routines than schedules based on times. But there are just some things that need to have scheduled times – ya know? Like bed time. And time to start school. I find things work better that way. But when we added some scheduled times to our school day routine that made an amazing difference. I didn’t plan down to the minute, but I planned a start time, a break time, a lunch time, a snack… Read more »

Dawn
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Dawn

I love school supplies and new curriculum and PLANNERS!! 🙂
I too have done some re-evaluating of our school day schedule and have made changes to it. This coming year will be different, again, but better. And our current schedule is now working well for us. I love that we have the ability to change and tweak what ever needs to be… but why don’t we DO THAT when we first notice a problem? Great reminders Amber!!

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[…] has put together a great carnival.  You’ll find things for mom (like a post titled “School Supplies are Like Narcotics” LOVE that!!) and for dad (like learning math with the […]

The Family
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The Family

I have been awaiting the school supplies to hit the shelves since about April, that is when I am ready for something new. My wait is almost over, they come out here the end of July! Enjoyed your post :o)

Bonita
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Bonita

I feel the same way about new school supplies. I think it helps recharge in one way all of us. I have been giving the children and I a summer break. We will restart the first week of August. I have been working on some unit studies with the good Lord’s help to hopefully keep learning fun for all of us. I really enjoyed your article.

Jamie @ See Jamie blog
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Jamie @ See Jamie blog

Looks like a fabulous plan!
(And I, too, share the addiction to new notebooks and such!)

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[…] we have all those school supplies! Along with a little planning, they should help any homeschooler get through the year, as A Classic […]

Summer
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Summer

I ♥ school supplies too! I love to buy them and I usually buy waaayyy toooo many! Toys R Us has their BOGO on Crayola products this week, I have GOT to get there. :p

Your blog is beautiful! Your heart must be shining through.