Teaching school every week of the school year can really get overwhelming at times. Do you ever feel like you are trying to eat an elephant all in one bite, or was I the only one? Occassionally you come to feel like you are “drowning” and not getting much accomplished in any thing you are trying to do. Do you sometimes feel like you and the kids just need a break from it all? That all you are doing is existing day to day? So, what can you do?
After many years of experimenting, and studying how colleges and successful private schools ran, I finally“molded” a formula that gave our family less pressure and stress and brought with it a couple of added bonuses: we were more refreshed and organized and we were having fun again.
It's called - “The Six Week Plan”
First: I wrote out a simplified outline of the goals I hoped to accomplish for the new school year. Over the summer I noted what interests the kids seem to have right now, as well as what “busyness” were part of their daily schedules – cub scouts, mutual, music lessons, sports, etc. (I also included any of my own that might take priority during the year – holiday preparations, a new baby, canning season, etc.) Most importantly, I asked them what they wanted to learn about this year. I kept all of this in mind as I worked on my outline.
Second: I set up a file box filled with file folders, one for each month. Then behind each month would be 6 folders, each labeled – First Week, Second Week, etc.
I divided our school time into six-week increments (small bites).
We studied the basics every day of the week. Grammar/English, Math, Reading/Phonics. As the kids got older the english was divided as well. The mechanics or grammar was a constant learning experience. We would start with spelling words from their lists on Monday, use the words they struggled on during the week in our writing, as well as the new ones we would be learning about in our other studies, and then “tested” them on Fridays. English would also be divided into so many weeks of poetry, vocabulary building, mythology, literature terms, speech, drama, etc. Some topics would be 6 weeks, 8 weeks or even 12 weeks while others were only 2 weeks, like the study of Aesop's fables. I went to the back of whatever math book they were in and divided up their lessons to fit into our schedule. Typing/Keyboarding can easily be added as the need arises.
Mondays and Fridays have slightly different schedules from the other days of the week. After the weekend the house needed it's “matter re-organized”. So on Mondays, since caring for our home is also a part of our learning, we did our basic subjects listed above (on kind of a shorten bell schedule), then armed the troops and generally conquered our house duties in a short time. After that if there was time we might do some of those lighter subjects like music appreciation, computer study, an extra art lesson, or perhaps a fun PE like activity like Soccer. This schedule also would allow time for those in charge of Family Night to get prepared, leaving the rest of us free to take care of the evening chores and meal in a timely fashion so we could start Family Night on time.
On Fridays we might slip in a co-op learning experience once a month, whether with a formal group or by invitation. We might decide we are learning about a certain thing in science that would be more fun sharing with a group of kids than just us and would call another family to join us. Or we might schedule in a trip to the library, a field trip, nature walk, or a Konos day where I might turn the living room into the rain forest we have been studying about. The list of possibilites is endless.
THIRD: Now for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
SCIENCE * HISTORY * GEOGRAPHY * MUSIC * ART
Now I have tried doing certain subjects on certain days and that was okay but we REALLY enjoyed and learned the most from studying with this approach:
2 weeks Science
1 week Geography
2 weeks History
We often mixed in Music & Art Appreciation/Instruction several times a week and worked in other opportunities in our lessons as I enjoyed teaching these subjects often as Unit Studies.
Studying these subjects this way allowed us to really get “into” what we were studying. I found the kids really enjoyed learning this way. They could do all sorts of fun projects and really explore their interests.
FOURTH: What about the 6th Week? This is YOUR week and a break for your kids' week.
Use the week:
- To get prepared for the next 6 weeks, make a list of things to get, library books to take out, copies made and time to look over what you will be teaching. Place all of this into each appropriate week in your files. (The nice thing about this is that you still have your master plan and you know what you will be teaching. IF you should happen to come across some really cool treasure to go with a future study then you already have a place for it and you can just “plop” it into the correct month file and forget about it.
- To catch up on a much needed cleaning project
- Catch up on some home improvements or repairs
- Do your own personal studies
- Work on a special creative project
- Relax with a favorite book
- Work on a favorite hobby
- Catch up on your mending, ironing or sewing
- Work on a few extra freezer meals for those really crazy days
- Go to lunch with a friend or even a date with your husband!
For the kids:
- They can work on their scout or Young Women's projects
- Their favorite pasttimes they don't always have time to persue like building with Lego's, making puppets and putting on a show or playing hard outside
- Extra time to practice their music or favorite sports
- Together activities: Special field trips, picnics, nature walks, star gazing, making play dough, or building something awesome. It is amazing what this week will give you!
The rules are simple - they can't sleep all day or play electronics. I encourage them to read and challenge their imaginations and to get plenty of fresh air and sunshine.
The 6th week gave us the “down time” we all needed, yet still gave us the feeling we were still “working” on important things. It was a week “off” of our daily routine and the atmosphere at home was much more relaxed and enjoyable. Isn't that something we are all after?
So maybe we don't have to eat that elephant all in one bite. It's okay to jump out of the daily “rut” and give ourselves a little break. I promise you will still accomplish all that you need to get done and probably more and that you will look forward to the school year and enjoy the journey together. Have fun!
You can leave your thoughts, comments or suggestions here on my feedback page. Thanks!