This post is only about one whole year late. But since I always document our workplaces for my own future reference…….
For the 2016-2017 school year, I had 2 different work plans, one during GYA16 and one for Spring 2017. Here’s the Spring 2017 work plans. The travel work plans is a modified version that we very very loosely followed.
We try to study English, Chinese, Math, History, Geography, Arts, Science daily with focus on English/Chinese/Math.
In 2015-2016, I started by planning how many times an activity had to happen each week and planned what she had to do every day. So in a way, she ended up with a “todo list” in a grid format, of subjects she was to study daily. She could have choices within the subjects, but the subjects were fixed. This was my way of ensuring all subjects were covered.
When that still didn’t quite work, I severely cut back what she had to do by ended the year by having “must dos” daily and the rest are “do one from this list. So English she must do All About Spelling, then choose amongst Story of the World, Writing with Ease, or writing a diary.
That didn’t work either because she never got to her choices. I don’t remember why. But maybe because we only homeschooled at home 3 days a week and everything else took so long. Plus she disliked the work she had to do.
In Spring 2017, I saw a FB post by the author of家就是國際學校 Our Home is an International School and had an epiphany, I need to spell out the exact work that week on paper and severely cut back.
So now, the work plan is 2 pages. On the front, I list the specific thing she needs to cover that week for that subject. On the back, it’s the same o’ checklist. She still must do one thread per subject (Explode the Code in English and handwriting Sagebook characters for Chinese) then choose one thread. For math, she was supposed to choose three thread a day.
Daily she does 2 English threads, 2 Chinese threads, 3 Math threads and one item from the subjects
Giving time limits to certain subjects. I planned for about 20-30 minutes max per thread. It’s not listed on the work plan itself, but when I gave her worksheets for the week, it’s not a thick packet anymore. Just enough for doing it once that week. This really went against my idea that kids should get to do a thread for as long as it interests them or takes them. But since our problem in the previous year was lack of time to cover everything, having less expectations and giving her a time limit on read out loud for example, ensured that we covered a bit more than before.
It also cut back on the complaints that things are boring and she refuses to do them. For example, for Explode the Code, she had to just get 6 badges. I no longer told her she can do as many as she likes. This ensures when she’s bored by ETC, she still gets 6 done. This is why we were finally able to finish the series at the end of the year.
In general, I cut back on my expectations and tried to think that in public school, kids probably work on each subject only 20 minutes once instruction is done. It was a huge and yet very hard mental shift.
Spelling out the specific work required on paper helped in getting them covered more often and also helped her work more independently.
What Didn’t Work
She still was not getting her “choice” threads done. Because I did not prep as often as I should and also was not specific enough. For example, in math, I would write “multiplication by a unit worksheet”, but I’m usually scrambling Monday morning to find those work sheets for her, and also sometimes still giving her too many worksheets.
I guess I was feeling guilty that we already weren’t doing a lot of homeschooling time, and subconsciously thinking she couldn’t learn it working on a thread just once a week.
She also never got to her history/science/geography. By the time she was done with the other items our 3 hour work period was done. This is due to the fact that she always chose to do violin practice first. We don’t specify how long she must practice, but she inevitably ends up practicing an hour, then snack and rest time 15-30 minutes after. If we started school at 9:30, which is also often, it’s really only 1 hour of work a day.
In 2015-2016, Astroboy had a “must do” list and the rest were his choice. But he often did not want to cover his “must do” and I would let him because I still wanted him to follow his choice. In Spring 2017, I changed the formatting so that it’s clear he has a “must do” in each subject area, and that he must do them (by marking X’s on the grid daily).
He had a zhuyin and a math class where I invited 1-2 other child to study with him, because I felt he would be more motivated to work with another child. I marked X’s on those days so we can visually see he will get that subject covered.
Every day, I would ask him to choose 3-5 things he will do that day and number it, because he likes numbers.
It really helped Astroboy that he could see visually with the X’s which threads or subjects he needed to cover that day with the rest being choices. He was able to more often cover his “must do” than before.
What Didn’t Work
But he still did not want to choose items he must do daily. I know, I just said he covered it more often. But since having the X also helped me, I’m sometimes able to convince he has to do them, because the X says so. However, tthis is why we did not cover All About Reading much even though it was on the workplan daily. He didn’t want to choose them despite it being a must do and I didn’t want to force him.
The reason? As with Thumper, I did not prep as often as I should and also was not specific in what work he had to do exactly. So I’m constantly being asked by the two kids to tell them what they need to do. Going back to All About Reading, since I didn’t prep, I didn’t know what we had to cover exactly. So I got lazy and didn’t cover them.
What I Learned About Workplans
Other than cutting back on work in general and tighten the specificity of work needed, my biggest take away was that it’s okay to change my work plans to suit my needs. In fact, I probably need to change it yearly to reflect the children’s maturity level anyway.
This year, I became more at peace at how long it takes me to reach my vision of how I would like my classroom to flow. Apparently I don’t do well with one massive change, it works better that I incrementally improve, one little step and habit at a time.
So 2014-2015 it’s the idea of following work plans, 2015-2016 was narrowing down choices and cutting back a bit, 2016-2017 was cutting down even more and setting time limits. Let’s see what changes I will make in 2017-2018.