More on One Note Planning

It’s been a few years since I posted about planning with One Note. Although I still use and love One Note, my methods have changed a little over the years.

One of the big changes is that I find it easier to plan out each day’s work, and for me it works better in a visual grid. (We might adjust from this, or at times I might say, “Well, we’re doing Thursday’s work today because of changes,” but generally our schedule is pretty consistent week to week and this works well.)

I have a rough schedule to begin with–the top row is group work, then Bible, other readings, and additional activities. Generally I want to read Our Island Story on Monday, Little Duke on Tuesday, etc.  (Note that the Bible is different from Year 2 because we are all doing the Year 5 readings together.) I create a tab for each term and then within it a page for each week. I just copy the week’s work from the Ambleside Online site onto each page and then paste the relevant readings into the right slots. Much of the work is consistent from week to week so it’s only a bit of copying and pasting. When I have the week’s schedule done, I delete the pasted-in text at the bottom and it’s ready to go.

Grid picture--year 2

My schedule for Year 5 is different–their readings are very consistent from week to week, so I am creating a single schedule for each week of the term and printing out the bookmarks with each assignment on them. They thought this would work better for them and it’s less printing. I actually created two of these schedules, since I have two students using the same materials, in hopes that they will both alternate their work better (last year they got in the habit of doing all their readings at a gulp and then all their computer or writing work) and still not fight over the materials (or, more likely, computer).

Grid picture--year 5

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Halfway

Actually we’ve finished Week 20 already, but it took me awhile to sit down and write things up.

The big change since the beginning of the year is that we have started our own law firm. That means my other work has gone from busy to insane. Fortunately DOB’s brother, who is living with us, is able to supervise school when I have to be at the office and usually four days a week I am able to get school done in the morning before needing to buckle down to work-work. Still, days are long. Hopefully it will slow down once we have things running a bit more smoothly.

So we’ve needed to streamline a few things. The big one was math–working through MEP Y5 just involved too much referring back to the lesson plans to make sense of the worksheets. We jumped ahead to MEP Y7, which seems to cover pretty similar ground but is designed for more independent work. So far that’s going pretty well, as they can work on it mostly independently while I work with the twins or am gone to work.

George Washington’s World has been especially good. They read one section each day; they don’t love them all equally, but generally their narrations are pretty good. Deux has developed a real interest in politics; when we read Abigail Adams Duchess will give a narration with all the Adams family news while Deux will rant about the stupid thing Parliament just did. We also started Plutarch and it’s challenging but going OK. For Shakespeare we are reading Twelfth Night and Deux naturally volunteered to be Sir Tobey Belch while Duchess again insists on being *all* the girls.

They don’t love Madam How and Lady Why as much as I would like, but I think they’re starting to get something from it. One rainy day they came in after checking out their fort and noticing the way the mud flows and water drips had made formations similar to those described in the the chapter about volcanoes; then they drew it up and wrote notes in their nature notebook.

The twins are still doing great with narrating and enjoying all the books (especially Just So Stories), but reading and math are still coming slowly, and I find I have to mix it up a lot. I also need to split them for reading instruction. I wound up printing off phonogram cards and letting them make up a game with them each time. Then we do a very short bit of reading, plus possibly some word building. Right now Dot is working on an Inch and Rolly book and Dash on Frog and Toad.

For math we tried doing MEP worksheets for a while, but they were way too abstract and writing-heavy. So we are just rotating through various activities: Cuisenaire rods, board games, blocks or legos, or just making up questions. I’m focusing on getting them solid on addition and subtraction to 20, with a little bit of multiplying and dividing in small numbers. In both math and reading progress seems slow but we have definitely moved ahead since the beginning of the year.

Six Weeks’ Mark

We have made it halfway through the first term, which is the point it seems right to pause and look around and see what is working and what is not and give myself a tiny pat on the back for being well begun. We’ve stayed on track so far, and if we keep that up it should get us done before Thanksgiving week, maybe even with a day or two for exams. If we do stay on track, I’d like to go ahead and do a couple of weeks of Term 2 before Christmas so we don’t drag quite so long into the summer.

Working with four kids is hard work. Really hard work. It’s working, but the days are intense. Dot and Dash are enjoying the readings and are, thankfully, really good at narration. Reading and writing and math are proceeding acceptably, but it is kind of an adjustment to me to do slow and steady instruction in reading.

Our group times are going well. I am rotating the various memory subjects so we only do two or three a day, then a language lesson (Spanish, Latin, or grammar), a Bible reading, and some days an extra reading, either in history or a picture book chosen for a special reason, or art or music. The whole thing usually takes less than half an hour, and as they usually draw or color during it, it is relatively smooth.

Then I set up the big kids with typing and their assigned independent read, while I take the twins’ AO readings and reading lesson materials off to the bedroom. (We lost the schoolroom with DOB’s brother moving in–on the other hand, we gained an in-house piano teacher, which the older two are taking to very well.) In theory the big kids should only interrupt once, to narrate and swap typers, but they usually interrupt a few more times than that with various problems. Still, we’re working toward independence. That’s about another half-hour chunk of time.

After this we sometimes go straight into snack, although we are supposed to do copywork first. Also sometimes we are all ready for a break by then. Or we go for a walk. On Mondays it’s an official nature walk and they have to add something to their notebooks. Then we return, do copywork if we haven’t already, and then math. (Occasionally the big kids will have done their math the night before at the dinner table with DOB–Duchess prefers his explanation style to mine.) The twins and I are working through the Arithmetic Primer, but I think I will slow the pace down as we get closer to the number 10–they still need a lot of concrete work to get the ground very sure under their feet, though Dash sometimes moans in protest, “This is TOO peasy!” The big kids are getting more independent (with a little instruction) in MEP Year 5.

Finally there is one more reading to do with the big kids–this one we generally do together, though I am working towards having at least a round-robin reading. Wednesday we only do math and Shakespeare for the big kids, plus some singing in the car during errands, and copywork and usually one reading for the twins.

To my surprise, Deux *asked* to do dictation and likes it much better than copywork. I will usually work with him to do this a couple of days a week. He is painstaking and slow with it, but absolutely accurate and legible, and his flow, proportions and confidence have improved markedly since the beginning of the year. He also has occasional days where he can just sit down to his readings alone without a great deal of difficulty settling himself, though there are still plenty of the other days. Duchess is doing written narrations from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (her choice) and I plan to have her add a typed narration from one of the assigned readings next term. It is rather strange listening to them narrate from independent readings–they tell such completely different things from the story you would think they were reading different books.

If we start by 9:30 we can usually be done by 12:30. We don’t usually start quite that early, but on the strength of the snack we usually delay lunch until we are done. And after that I am feeling very done. My work has picked up a lot this fall and between that and school my days are very full and quite exhausting, but most satisfactory.

Almost Time

I firmly believe in school starting after Labor Day. The only trouble is, that means the very first week messes up my beautiful five-day-week schedule. So, if this week is not too intense, I’m hoping to start on Friday.

I don’t think I’m ready for this. This year the big kids move up to Year 4 (which has a rather ominous aura in AO legend as being a stage where many new studies are introduced). And the twins are officially beginning Year 1. So I’m jumping from 2 to 4 students, and at a higher level.

Meanwhile, things in life aren’t really settling down. I still need to work as much as I can, and though things have been quiet the first part of this year, I really need to bring in more one way or another. DOB’s health continues dicey, although we are hoping that things will get better when the weather cools.

I’ve simplified the schedules somewhat to leave us plenty of margin and flexibility. The new Y4 subjects are these: Shakespeare, Plutarch, dictation, written narration, grammar and Latin. No wonder people are intimidated. So I’ve worked out a way to ease us in. Duchess has already done written narration and dictation; she’ll continue with the dictation. I’m going to have both of them create “Reading Journals” in which they can record what will be written narrations of whatever books they want to use. Deux will have more flexibility if he wants to do more drawing, but he *is* starting to write more on his own initiative. I probably won’t have him do dictation just yet; we’ll see how copywork goes. Real Shakespeare is something we are all excited about; I will blend it with the retellings read to the twins. First up is Midsummer Night’s Dream–we’ll start with the Bruce Coville picture book and then I’ve purchased a graphic novel version for the big kids to follow along with the real text.

For grammar I’m going to try using Simply Grammar (on the shelf)–just keeping it very simple for now. For Latin, we’ll start with English from the Roots Up (also on the shelf)–I want to try Getting Started With Latin someday, but I’m not buying anything extra right now. Each of those should only taken 10-15 minutes a week for now. For Plutarch, I’m just going to wait awhile. If it seems feasible, we might add it in next term, or we might wait a year or two. Worst case scenario, we’ll start by the time the twins do Y4.

I purchased a good quality Robinson Crusoe on audio, so the big kids can listen to it on their own. I’m blending some of the history to give the twins a stronger emphasis on American History than Y1 usually has. That will let us do a bit more together.

The other thing that’s intimidating me is that the twins still don’t read. All the pieces are there–they know the letter sounds, they can sound out a word, they can memorize a sight word–but it hasn’t clicked yet. I didn’t have to teach the big kids, so this is new territory. We’ll be doing actual reading lessons, trying to do them CM-style with learning all the words in short passages and poems, then doing word building based off that. We’ll see how it goes. They are getting pretty eager to read, I think, and Dash is particularly interested in doing math. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do math together with them or not. Dot is going to be more excited about the stories, but Dash does seem to be reconciled to the idea of listening to stories after being very averse for a long time.

I’ve received a lot of requests to do more art. I got better watercolors and brushes and we’re going to try to take that more seriously. Nature notebooks and walks have been getting more enthusiasm. I’m really excited about the big kids doing Madam How and Lady Why–not only do I think they will enjoy the earth science topics, the way it approaches science is exactly what I have always wanted to see them taught–a great respect and joy in science, with an acknowledgment of its limits.

Almost Time

I firmly believe in school starting after Labor Day. The only trouble is, that means the very first week messes up my beautiful five-day-week schedule. So, if this week is not too intense, I’m hoping to start on Friday.

I don’t think I’m ready for this. This year the big kids move up to Year 4 (which has a rather ominous aura in AO legend as being a stage where many new studies are introduced). And the twins are officially beginning Year 1. So I’m jumping from 2 to 4 students, and at a higher level.

Meanwhile, things in life aren’t really settling down. I still need to work as much as I can, and though things have been quiet the first part of this year, I really need to bring in more one way or another. DOB’s health continues dicey, although we are hoping that things will get better when the weather cools.

I’ve simplified the schedules somewhat to leave us plenty of margin and flexibility. The new Y4 subjects are these: Shakespeare, Plutarch, dictation, written narration, grammar and Latin. No wonder people are intimidated. So I’ve worked out a way to ease us in. Duchess has already done written narration and dictation; she’ll continue with the dictation. I’m going to have both of them create “Reading Journals” in which they can record what will be written narrations of whatever books they want to use. Deux will have more flexibility if he wants to do more drawing, but he *is* starting to write more on his own initiative. I probably won’t have him do dictation just yet; we’ll see how copywork goes. Real Shakespeare is something we are all excited about; I will blend it with the retellings read to the twins. First up is Midsummer Night’s Dream–we’ll start with the Bruce Coville picture book and then I’ve purchased a graphic novel version for the big kids to follow along with the real text.

For grammar I’m going to try using Simply Grammar (on the shelf)–just keeping it very simple for now. For Latin, we’ll start with English from the Roots Up (also on the shelf)–I want to try Getting Started With Latin someday, but I’m not buying anything extra right now. Each of those should only taken 10-15 minutes a week for now. For Plutarch, I’m just going to wait awhile. If it seems feasible, we might add it in next term, or we might wait a year or two. Worst case scenario, we’ll start by the time the twins do Y4.

I purchased a good quality Robinson Crusoe on audio, so the big kids can listen to it on their own. I’m blending some of the history to give the twins a stronger emphasis on American History than Y1 usually has. That will let us do a bit more together.

The other thing that’s intimidating me is that the twins still don’t read. All the pieces are there–they know the letter sounds, they can sound out a word, they can memorize a sight word–but it hasn’t clicked yet. I didn’t have to teach the big kids, so this is new territory. We’ll be doing actual reading lessons, trying to do them CM-style with learning all the words in short passages and poems, then doing word building based off that. We’ll see how it goes. They are getting pretty eager to read, I think, and Dash is particularly interested in doing math. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do math together with them or not. Dot is going to be more excited about the stories, but Dash does seem to be reconciled to the idea of listening to stories after being very averse for a long time.

I’ve received a lot of requests to do more art. I got better watercolors and brushes and we’re going to try to take that more seriously. Nature notebooks and walks have been getting more enthusiasm. I’m really excited about the big kids doing Madam How and Lady Why–not only do I think they will enjoy the earth science topics, the way it approaches science is exactly what I have always wanted to see them taught–a great respect and joy in science, with an acknowledgment of its limits.

Term 3

By hook or by crook, we have wrapped it up. We are all very ready for a break. We dropped the last few weeks of math and writing and doubled up on readings for awhile, and finally I decided to just call it quits. We did finish Marco Polo and The Landing of the Pilgrims, both of which it would have been a shame to quit before the end. (And both of which held their interest right until the end.) We said goodbye to books we have been working with for years: Pilgrim’s Progress, Parables from Nature, Lamb’s Shakespeare. Although Pilgrim’s Progress was seldom a favorite, except when Pilgrim was battling Apollyon, they expressed interest in reading the sequel next year, the “off” year before the twins are scheduled to start it.

We didn’t quite finish Jungle Book, but we read all the Mowgli stories and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” and I have hopes that we will dip into the others over the summer. I decided to shunt off a few chapters of history–they can probably survive if they don’t read about the founding of New Hampshire or the Black Hole of Calcutta just yet. We haven’t listened to as much Handel as I hoped, but we have done some and I caught them playing a CD of him on their own volition one night. We haven’t looked at all the Rembrandt prints I made but I will try to cycle through them over the summer. We finished off Peterkin Papers as our free read and loved it. Longfellow poems were a hit, even for the twins, though we didn’t read quite all of those scheduled. Spanish pretty much fell off the radar and we didn’t do all the memory work I had lined out.

It was a difficult term for me because of everything else going on. DOB’s health remains doubtful and we are not sure what life or school will look like by fall. But it was still a good term and the end to a good year with a lot of progress. Deux drew a snake in his nature notebook with only the smallest of prompts. Duchess started written narration and did quite creditably–easily doing a legible, coherent paragraph.

Because I apparently find it hard to let go completely, I signed them all up for Khan Academy math and they are excited (ok, begging) to do that. (Duchess jokes that it is where you learn how to be the Kahn. I said I hoped she would be Kublai, not Genghis.) I figure on them doing three days a week, with a half-hour of free reading for the big kids and a brief reading lesson for the twins. (I really think they should be able to read. I kind of suspect they *can* read, but don’t realize it or don’t want to admit it yet. The other day a lady from church was reading to Dot at some length and protested because every time she missed a word Dot would point it out, yet Dot continued to insist that she could not read.) Those will be the days they get computer time, and then they will have a few extra days a week without computer time. Deux is finally starting to enjoy reading independently, and I’d love to solidify that over the summer. I suspect his eyes are finally adjusting to his glasses.

Term 2

We have finished up Term 2. We have also finished moving. So we are running a little slow for the year, just starting Term 3 while everyone else posts about winding things up. Looks like we will have a very short summer.

Still, we’ve accomplished a lot. The clipboards continue to work very well to organize independent work and give them a chance to get started early. The basket isn’t as essential now that we have a designated schoolroom, but the organizational scheme has carried us through some very hectic weeks. (We did wind up taking three weeks off during the critical part of the move.)

Children of the New Forest was very well-liked. Sort of the Boxcar Children writ large, with more perspective on the English Civil War than we ever hoped to know. In history we continued with our existing books, focusing mostly on the English Civil War and the early settlement of Virginia. They read biographies of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth, already two favorite figures. In science we finished Pagoo and started Secrets of the Woods. Honestly, nature readings are never their favorite, but I think they are enjoying Secrets of the Woods a little more.

They are starting to get the hang of doing worksheet math finally. Deux wants me to write some of his answers, but they are beginning to work more independently. Some of it seems too easy, but since they’re still getting used to doing it themselves, that’s probably a good thing. Not sure what I’ll do next year, but we’ll see how they are doing at the end of the year. I may want to skip a year, as there’s a lot of repetition at this age and they are usually complaining that it’s too easy (except when they find something novel, then they complain the other way).

I am not having much luck getting Deux to read on his own. There still seem to be some eye fatigue issues, though he can read and comprehend any of the texts. Apparently he has not been wearing his glasses enough for his eyes to adjust, so we just need to keep pushing through. Meanwhile, I’m still buddy-reading with him, or if everyone is getting along very well he and Duchess will read together.

In our new house, we have lovely dirt roads through woods and fields for nature walks and have been doing more of them just as a nice break mid-morning in school. Also we have actually made some nature notebook entries.

The twins are still hanging on the periphery. With Term 3 I am starting them on the Burgess Bird Book. Dash is not impressed with being required to do anything, but he clearly understands. Reading lessons have been very hit and miss. They seem quite close but we just haven’t made it a regular thing yet. They both did very well with their AWANA books this year, and have amazing verbal memories.

Another change in the new house is having the piano handy instead of in an outbuilding. I don’t want to try to do formal lessons yet, but we are playing around with some basic things, and maybe trying some online lessons. Just getting them familiar with the instrument.

Honestly, I’m a bit worn out at this point. I’d love to call it quits for the year and pick back up in the fall. But school is providing some much-needed stability for our day, and there are some exciting new books in Term 3.