Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Why & How of the Homeschool Trimester Schedule

Scheduling our homeschool year is something I love doing, but has always been a struggle.  Do I plan out the entire year at once?  Should I plan monthly?  Weekly?  Just let it happen amidst life?  Ah, NO! Definitely not the last one.

The struggle comes from having so many awesome ideas, and wanting to fit it all in.

I once heard of a mom who booked a hotel room for one weekend in August and planned every detail of their homeschool year.  Every lesson was was given a date.  Workbook pages were torn out and stapled together by week.  Holiday crafts, morning read alouds, individual chapter books correlating to history lessons were all decided upon and given a specific day for completion.  Wow!

I tried that for a semester once, but life happened and I ended up discouraged that my well thought out plans were falling apart.  It felt like we were always behind, trying to catch-up.

My way of homeschool planning has evolved over the years.  When our three oldest were in the primary grades, the planning and schooling looked very different than it does today.  And if I learned one thing over the years of homeschooling, it's to be flexible.

Since we homeschool through our local school district's virtual learning program, I had to turn in grades for my highschoolers according to the trimester schedule last year.  I was not prepared to give grades by mid November.  We were working with the semester schedule at home.

2 semesters = 1 credit
2 trimesters = 1 credit

So, I was all confused as to how to give a grade for math if we were stretching it over the entire year.  Did that mean they received and extra half credit?  Did it look like we were slacking off so it took us all year to complete something that should've been completed in 2/3 of a school year?

Fast forward to 2nd trimester - I was a little more prepared, and had settled my mind on the fact that we'll do what we do, how we do it.  I'll assign grades for the district and not worry about semesters and trimesters.

Midway through trimester 3 and I thought this would be a great way to plan for next year.

Why am I using the trimester schedule this year?

Basically, because breaking the year into 3 trimesters rather than 2 semesters allows for greater flexibility.

Now for the HOW.  This is the fun part if you like planning and organizing your homeschooling year.

First, I grabbed a notebook and wrote down the months of our school year with some space between.  Our year is September - May.  That's nine months, which easily breaks down into three 3-month trimesters.  I've had 7 babies so I'm good at the trimester math thing!

Trimester 1

Trimester 2

Trimester 3

Blue ink and pencil are original.  Black ink indicates changes in progress.
In the blank space under each month I numbered from 1-5.  Focusing on 5 subjects/books/projects each month sounded appropriate and manageable.  Using the trimester schedule means every core subject won't be on the schedule all year.

I made up a page in my notebook for each of my kids I'm homeschooling.  This year I have one in 12th, 9th, 6th, 2nd, and 2 in Pre-school.  Yeah, Emily graduated so one less plan for me this year.

I already had our curriculum choices made, so I made piles of textbooks, science project kits, novels, art kits, workbooks - really anything I intended for them to accomplish this year.  I started with Nick's pile, dividing it into 3 smaller piles - one for each trimester.  Then I assigned each pile a trimester and started writing in the subjects and novels in the appropriate month.

For example:  his focus for trimester 1 is Algebra 2, Chemistry, and reading 5 novels/biographies (all historical).  He also takes 6 credits at our local technical college.  Any extras can be added in the extra blank space.  Extras for him include scheduling ride alongs with police officers, weight lifting, and preparing blinds for hunting.

Amber's pile was the next to tackle.  Nick and Amber are teaming up on Chemistry this year so I had to plan accordingly.  Besides Chemistry, her first trimester focus includes:  Algebra 1, U.S. History, Stories of the Saints, and various novels.

Once all the piles were assigned trimesters and then divided by month and written in the notebook, I was done.  The year was loosely planned.

Once the school year got started I had a trimester 1 conference with each child.  We planned out the details of what needed to be done by the end of September and wrote it on the master plan.  For example:  Nick and Amber need to complete 2 chapters and 2 labs each month in order to finish their chemistry in 2 trimesters.  Amber needs to complete 2 saints per month.  Sam needs to complete 4 steps in All About Spelling in September.

We only wrote in the details for September because like I said, life happens.  We get interested in something and end up spending a morning reading books about nothing on our list.  Or, perhaps the van needs a tire rotation and possibly some brake work, but turns into a multiple day stay in the shop and requires some creative carpooling to get everyone where they need to be, therefore, keeping me away from home more than I'd like.  How is that a school problem?  Well, even the most obedient and diligent children get off track when Mom's not around and then schoolwork doesn't get done the way it should.

Anyway, this trimester scheduling is working well for us this year.  I love the flexibility it offers, and to be honest, breaking the school year into three bites instead of two allows for 2 do-overs instead of one.  Because, let's be real now, sometimes the most researched curriculum and well-chosen read alouds turn out to be duds.  And I typically don't realize it until nearly the end of the first semester; I only have one more chance(semester) to get it right.  But, the trimester schedule gives me two more chances to get it right.

I made a much prettier version of my Trimester Planner to share with you.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up #1 {leaves, stomp rockets, spiders, chemistry}

Today I'm sharing a Weekly Wrap-up.  Mostly it will include homeschool pictures I've taken throughout the week.  Sometimes it might contain affiliate links.

This is my first time linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers for the Weekly Wrap-up.
For a peek into more families' homeschool days, visit the link-up.

Want to be the best mom ever?  Of course you do!  Grab the kids and a couple of rakes and do what comes naturally.....rake a pile of leaves.  You can call it life skills class or physical education class or community service if you really feel the need to define it, but we called it plain old fun.

A child size rake makes it that much more fun.

We pulled off the leaf raking in between walks on the cranberry marsh.
Another super fun outdoor activity is Stomp Rockets.  My kids are ROUGH with their toys.  This toy has stood up to tons of abuse.  Yes, the fins on the rockets are mostly missing, but that hasn't stopped their fun.  I like that Joseph gets lots of jumping with this toy.  It helps strengthen his leg muscles and loose hips.  They also get tons of exercise running to collect the rockets.  Again, I could categorize this into a school subject, but I don't.  We just have fun first and let the learning come naturally.

I shared my low tech way of keeping track of preschool activities.  This thumbprint spider project was written on one of the notecards.  It didn't go quite as planned.  The idea was to divide up their paper into 10 sections.  Then make black thumbprints in each section according to the number in that section.

1 = 1 thumbprint
2= 2 thumbprints
That went pretty well.  Joe loved dipping his thumb in the paint.  Once their prints dried, I wanted them to pen 8 legs on each thumbprint making it a spider.  Peter gave it a try, but it was too much to stay on task for all those spiders.

While waiting for the prints to dry, we spent time with the Animal Encyclopedia (favorite animal book ever - the cover has been torn off more times than I can count) reading about spiders.


This year Nick and Amber have been working through Focus on High School Chemistry.  

It's geared for mixed level highschoolers, which makes it perfect for the homeschool setting.  The chapters are broken into manageable sections making it easy enough to complete a chapter and questions in 1 week.  Then after correcting the review questions the next week, they complete the lab.  The lab manual is laid out well, and they're doing a fine job completing the labs.  Today's lab #3 has been the most fun; they finally felt like they were doing real chemistry - splitting H2O into O2 and H2.

Here's the basic setup for splitting H2O.

Look at those smiles as they write up their results.
More Weekly news:  we finished cranberry harvest, had a harvest pizza party, had the van repaired again, ordered a shelving unit for the little ones' bedroom, and picked up reading lessons again.

It's been a full week, but what week isn't full?  Anything you want to share about your week?  Share in the comments.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

One Last Cranberry Harvest Tour of 2016

We are officially done with cranberry harvest 2016.  It was a fantastic harvest - great fruit quality, dependable harvest crew, mostly decent weather, and only 1.6 million cranberry leaves scattered from the garage to the basement to the bedrooms.  I'll be vacuuming those until Christmas.

I wish this picture was in landscape mode - it would show the rest of the story.  Warren is backing up the dump truck, and Joe is guiding him in.  That pointer finger above his head is moving a mile a minute beckoning him in.

Tools of the trade in the foreground.

Working together to corral every last berry.

Dad and son working together, placing the boom just so.

Love this picture.  The swirling shades of red are so impressive.

Cranberries falling from the conveyor belt into the dump truck.

Peter had a chance to pull on the hip boots and trudge into the cranberry bed to try his hand at raking the old fashioned way.

Always a helper - raking up leaf trash.

Freshly raked cranberry bed - fruit is floating, once the water is higher it will be boomed.

Did you know we buy Bumblebees from Michigan?  They're trucked here and we place them around the marsh for pollination purposes.


One of the most fascinating sights on a cranberry bed are the strands of cobwebs formed on a lightly flooded bed.

As usual, have a CRANTASTIC day!
I'll be back with a few fun ways to use dried cranberries.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Rainy Cranberry Harvest Day

Not all harvest days are those perfect fall days - sunny, yet not too warm; breezy, yet not too blustery.

Some are just plain old miserable.  We've only had a couple of rainy days.  This particular day was quite chilly along with the rain, but unless there's thunder and lightning, harvest goes on.  Rainsuits are donned and the soup is on.

Hats off to this crew who can smile through it all.

You might like:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Can Pre-Schoolers Cut the Grass?

Last week I shared my low-tech way of keeping track of all the cute and educational ideas I find on Pinterest.  Notecards are my friend.

Peter is always asking to do a project.  

"Mom, can we do a puzzle project?"
"Mom, can we do an art project?"
"Mom, will you print coloring pictures so I can do a project?"

Mom, Mom, Mom......project?  project?  project?

It's his mantra.

These little notecards come in handy; one quick thumb through, and I find the perfect project for the day.

Last week we had a couple beautiful fall days - sunny, warm, low humidity, slightly breezy - just gorgeous.  So, in between walks on the marsh, Peter and Joseph did this fun grass cutting activity project.

The card read - Grab scissors, cut grass.

Simple enough and fun in its own way, it also offers some skill development for Joseph.  His hands being on the small side, they're a little weaker than the average kid's hands.  I'm always on the lookout for ways to strengthen his hands to improve his pencil grasp.  Scissor work offers plenty of opportunity for strengthening his dominant hand.

Peter gets to practice perseverance.  I told him to cut all the long grass around the big rock.   And cut he did.

This SIMPLE project freed me up for a while.  What did I do?  I swept thousands of cranberry leaves off the garage floor because those thousands of leaves were finding their way into every nook and cranny of the house.

Have a great day.  What kind of projects do you hope to accomplish today?  this weekend?