Saturday, January 15, 2011

Three Cheers for Homeschool Planners!!!

Don't fret, Nana! I have a draft saved of our post unveiling the completion of Operation Waterhole. Bird and I just need to make some finishing touches - we'll have it up for you soon!

I must take a moment, however, to shout from the rooftops how incredibly excited I am about our new homeschool student planners! There are many planners available online. Some are free printables, others are reasonably priced spiral bound, on up to crazy expensive versions not made specifically for homeschool students. There are many, many ideas floating around out there. I've always had a planner for myself, but I'd never really considered giving planners to the children. I just wrote their assignments on the white board every week. We only got mixed up occasionally, and they did just what I told them to do. So why should I start thinking about giving them planners now?

After I'd already been plowing ahead with the planner idea, of which you'll read more below, the other day I was reading a thread online regarding how one survives using more than one Core of the Sonlight curriculum (each Core involving quite a bit of reading aloud on the part of the parent). Although I do not use Sonlight, I do generally follow the teaching philosophies of Charlotte Mason which, like Sonlight include a LOT of reading "real" or "living" books - and I have had a dilemma at times with my younger children when it comes to getting all of that reading done. At this stage some of their assigned readings are simply too challenging for them to read and retain on their own, so those are added to our already assigned "read alouds."

As much as I enjoy this time with the children, it is not always realistic for me to read aloud & be read to for a couple-plus hours straight every day. Not only that, my husband and I both want to train the kids to be self-guided learners who can know what they're supposed to be working towards, plan their own work accordingly, and seek out the information needed as well as persevere consistently through the learning process to achieve success in that area. Obviously this is one of the most valuable traits in successful adults. As a "hands-on" kind of mother, I sometimes struggle to push them to work independently - mainly because I really enjoy the whole process and all the activities and, by golly, I want them to wait for me to "play" with them! 

With our desire to foster more independence in mind, the self-learning philosophy described by Joanne over at was very appealing - yes, THAT is what we want to help our children become. The dilemma was, then, how do I begin to turn in that direction while still maintaining the methods and other priorities that we use currently and also view as important? Can a Charlotte Mason homeschooler also be a self-learner? 

The answer is Yes! Charlotte Mason put a large emphasis on good habits (so does scripture, by the way!!). Habits such as being "regular" (following a schedule/routine) as well as being orderly and being diligent are just a few of the habits she wrote about in her series of books on education. A student planner is a perfect tool for teaching some of these habits to your child (btw, a fantastic handbook of Charlotte's writings on habits entitled "Laying Down the Rails" was compiled by Sonya Shafer and can be found on her website I consider it a must-read for any mother!)

Being the ever-picky person I am, I ended up developing my own planner for my children to use. Even with so much variety out there, I felt the need to tweak several things to fit our unique situation. If you're not up to that, the planner at is probably the best one out there, in my opinion.

Now, we've only been using our new student planners for a week, so I know that it is far too soon to tell what the final results will be. However, I have been incredibly impressed and encouraged by what I've seen so far! All three boys are more highly motivated than ever before. We still spend our read-aloud time together, I am still available for whatever help they may need, and I do still insist on participating in activities whenever possible (I can't miss out on Super Charged Science!!). Yet, all their other work is being accomplished quickly and in a regular and orderly manner, and they all have a new air of confidence about them.

Obviously, the planners have not solved our afore-mentioned read-aloud struggle (Putting my 3rd and 4th graders in the same read-alouds has helped that a lot!). However, self-learning seems to have really helped to streamline the boys' work in other subject areas so that read-aloud time is more of a pleasure than an additional item of pressure - and that is an enormous blessing!

I'll report again when the "new" wears off (and at that time I'll tell more about how we are actually utilizing that resource and purposefully training for self-learning), but I have a feeling that our homeschool student planners are another step towards even more super homeschooling! 

I'd even venture to recommend that other homeschooling families do the same. Children truly are capable of much more than what most of us give them credit for (or give the opportunity to prove!). 

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