Monday, August 30, 2010

How We Structure Our Year

We currently live in a state that does not have a law regarding the number of days or hours that we homeschool.

Still, it seems helpful to me to know that we're not trying to fit in "too much" or doing "too little".

Every spring, I use a calendar to map out a 180 school-day calendar.

Last year I actually wrote down which days we would be doing school, knowing that it wasn't absolutely set in stone (family things come up, kids get sick...). We actually stuck to it pretty well, beginning August 1 and ending May 19. It was a good plan.

This year we're trying something a little different. I did short review (often fun review) sessions throughout the summer to keep the kids current on their skills. I counted these toward their new 180-day school year (so I guess this year we technically are doing school year-round). I wrote down only how many days per month we would be doing school. It works out to about 4 days per week.

Each year I also try to map out the materials we'll be using for each school subject as well as how many days per week we should be doing them.

Our subject areas this year include Reading, Writing, Grammar, Phonics, Vocabulary, Other Language Arts, Math, History, Science, Religion, Logic, Art, Music, Dance/Theater, PE, Computers/Keyboarding, Latin, Spanish, Life Skills/Character Education, Community-Based Learning, and Hobby/Interest Areas.

Celebration Books

The Celebration Book Box falls under that category of "Educational Rewards". These awards have an inherent educational value to them. They are "gifts that keep on giving" (and they are one of my kids' favorite rewards)!

I collect very good quality books from yard sale and thrift stores. (When I was in a classroom I also collected the "free book" points from the book clubs to use for ordering books.) I keep them in a special place, but you could certainly keep them in a decorated box if you have the extra space.

I keep books with a variety of subject matter, trying to keep in mind the kids' current interests. (Of course, sometimes a new topic inspires a new interest.) I also keep books of different levels and look for books of a certain series currently popular with the kids (Magic Tree House, Jigsaw Jones, Encyclopedia Brown, Arthur, Arch Books).

I most often use these when we have reached a reading goal. For six months during the school year the kids are involved in the Book-It Program through Pizza Hut. For some of the other months, we use the Celebration Books.

It's also handy to have some of these books around for the end of thematic units in history and science. A homemade "Certificate of Completion" and a great book on space are often welcomed at the end of a fun unit on the solar system.

The Well-Utilized Reward

I'm always looking for ways to encourage my kids to do their best and achieve their goals. While it is important that students feel an internal sense of pride for work well done, it is also nice for them to sometimes have rewards from the outside as well.   

In this section, I'll post some ideas for a variety of rewards, as well as a few thoughts on when rewards can fittingly be used.