The back-to-school planning posts are popping up all over. We don't formally start the new school year until September and I am not in planning mode quite yet, but I thought I'd post a bit about how we do a few things that might be of help.
Historical Timelines - I think most homeschoolers are aware of the benefits of keeping a timeline and creating a visual reference for historical events and people. There are many ways to do this - on a wall, a border going around the room, one notebook for the whole family etc. I have each student keep a timeline notebook that they add to independently several times a week - history events, people, saints etc. They enjoy drawing their own illustrations (did you see Alex's great soldiers?).
Some MODG syllabi give instructions for making one out of a sketch book. Homeschool in the Woods has many tips and ideas for teaching with various types of timelines, as well as a lovely looking "Record of Time" that they sell (see Suzanne's here). I opted for the reasonably priced timeline notebooks from Miller Pads and Paper. These books have 60 sheets/120 pages with the timeline printed in the middle of the page, but we had to decide how to divide and label the pages. As it is quite tedious labeling all those pages, Michael made stickers to put on each page. He printed out small address labels, and these are placed with two on the top of each page like so:
Edited for clarification: The picture seem to be cut off on the side - click to enlarge. Each page has two stickers at the top; when the book is open to a two-page spread you see four stickers at the top. In this example the left page has 1500 to 1509 and the right page has 1510 to 1519.
The spread is greater for ancient history - 500 years on a page until Anno Domini, then 100 years on a page up to the year 1000, then a decade per page up until modern times to fill up the 60 page book.You can download our list of labels - they are sized to fit on 1/2 x 1 3/4" address labels (80 labels per sheet). I suggest printing a test sheet on plain paper.
Keeping the Books - We maintain reading lists for each student every year as part of our state's homeschooling requirements. We print them out at the end of the school year and they are typically usually the first thing an evaluator looks at in our portfolios. The list compiles the title, author and number of pages for each book read independently by the student and gives a good feel for how much reading and at what level and genres the student is accomplishing. It's also fun to know tidbits like Mary Rose read the most books this year (185) while Anna came in with the most pages (34,262). These lists also serve as 'historical artifacts' and the children enjoy looking back at their old lists and remembering things like that was the year I read the Narnia books three times or that was the year of Father Brown and Sherlock Holmes. It's also handy when other moms ask for recommendations like books for teenage boys or first chapter books or whatever I can just look back at the lists and say, well this is what Josiah read in sixth grade - that sort of thing.
Okay, I had this post all typed in and Michael tells me our reading lists are made using his advanced Excel skills. So the following is only helpful if you have access to a friendly tech support programming-loving guy like I do, or if you are Excel-savvy yourself. Sorry.
When we started keeping the lists Michael noticed that he was typing in the same information over and over as our books were read over and over by various students, so he came up with a simple system to streamline our documentation. We have an Excel file that lists of all the reading books we own including the title, author, and number of pages, and each book is given a number (929 so far). We made this list some years ago, entering the books onto the list as the books were read, thus the assigned numbers aren't in any particular order. From the Excel list Michael printed out stickers for each of the books - these are small address labels with the book's number and Ex Libris with our family name. Each school year we start a new Excel list for each student of the books they read that year, and they are linked with the master Excel list. So maintaining the lists is as easy as typing in just the numbers of the books read. Every Saturday (theoretically) the kids give Dad their pile of books read that week, he types in the numbers, and then the books are reshelved. At the end of the year we do the tallies in Excel and voila - a book list for each student.
Tea Time- I often get asked about our afternoon teatimes. This is the time of day when we all gather for tea and a simple fresh baked something. I read aloud from various books, similar to what some mothers call their 'morning baskets', while the children paint or draw independently. We start our days with daily Mass most mornings, and when we get home it's time to get cracking with things like math and English and piano practice. By midafternoon we are ready to relax a bit and regroup before the hubbub of evening activities, and this is the most welcome part of our days at home together. We take about an hour and a half, although if pressed for time it may be short. The reading selections vary - some poetry, something nature oriented, something inspiring or a bit about the saint of the day, and a 'literature' selection. That last category is rather loose - we're currently indulging in some rather light fare and reading the nonsensical Uncle Cleans Up, sequel to Uncle, the millionaire elephant who wears a purple dressing gown, has a penchant for shopping and melons, and though upright and respectable does have a secret crime in his past. We fully realize these books might not be the slightest bit funny if read to oneself, but out loud with the whole family gathered they make us laugh and sometimes even fill us with solemn joy. In any case, teatime is the highlight of our day at home, giving us the opportunity to connect with books and each other while enjoying such lovely pleasantries as tea and cake and painting, all at the same time.
And just for fun I'll show you these mini sketch books I've been making-
So satisfying to make and so handy to tuck into a pocket or purse for when the need to sketch or write strikes. You can leave them plain like the gray one I gave Josiah, or decorate them like I did for the girls so they can tell them apart.
Mine are 3x4", as I used one sheet of 9X12 drawing paper cut into nine pages for each book. Having neither an awl nor a bodkin, I used a very large needle for the sewing. To make the holes I found it easiest to stand the needle on a magazine, place the paper over the needle point and carefully push down on the paper on either side of the needle. Alternatively, you could use a leather needle in the sewing machine, turning the fly wheel very slowly by hand to punch the holes. The instructional tutorial is here: Five Stitch Bookbinding