One of my goals for this year is to work on my organization system for planning and record keeping. Last year this was my system... I wrote down what I did with the kids...sometimes. Oh, and I had lists in no less than 4 notebooks of things I would like to do with the kids. I cleaned out those notebooks today and I found 5 lists of materials I would like to purchase. I also found 2 lists of which sandpaper letters I had presented to Caleb already...and they didn't even kind of match each other!
One of the challenges to a Montessori approach is the lack of a commonly defined scope and sequence. There are many websites and companies with suggested sequences of presentation, but the method is naturally very fluid. It ebbs and flows and doesn't always follow a linear progression, content and facts weave together to create a vivid educational picture. This, in my opinion, is a strength of the approach. This method of learning allows knowledge to easily and naturally build. Although the lack of a widely accepted scope and sequence is an obstacle or concern to some homeschooling parents (and probably some classroom teachers), I find it very freeing. It frees me to truly follow the child and meet them where they are at, and then plan accordingly. Sometimes, it can be a lot of waiting the boys to make a connection on their own before continuing to the next topic!
The challenge to me comes in that it can be difficult to plan in advance when I don't know exactly how long the kids will need with a certain material before feeling ready to move on. The only way to know what to plan is to have a system for keeping observations/records of what they are doing and how it is going. Then to have a system for planning and presenting lessons that allows for plenty of individual practice time and regular lessons in all of the subject areas.
This is the system I have come up with...
Each day is assigned a subject area. This is the focus for my individual work with each child. The days are similar for each boy, but not the same because some of what they are covering is different.
- Monday- Language
- Tuesday- Math and Geometry
- Wednesday- Botany (Science)
- Thursday- Aidan, Geography & Caleb, Geography & Culture
- Friday- Aidan, History & Caleb, Sensorial
When I'm planning I first look at what subject is called for on a certain day, then I look at what we covered the previous week, and what the boys have covered during their work periods that week. Then I look to Montessori resources for the next progression if I'm unsure of where to go. I don't usually have to go far though, because I'm a little spoiled by Tim in that department! I use him as a resource probably 100 times in a week on everything from environment, to presentations, to content!
I found a cheap planner in the Target dollar section and it is actually working perfectly for us! Each blank week is on two pages with 6 vertical columns. Each boy has 1 page/3 columns for a week. Since the weeks are unlabeled, I could easily use an extra page so I can use the same layout with more children. In the first column for each boy goes the lesson I will present for the day. The second column is for follow up..this includes notes to myself on things I need to make, purchase, or check back with the kids on. The third column is strictly for observations. I write down a straight list of which work each child chooses during the work period on a given day.
This might sound complicated or like a lot of work, but its actually very quick. I simply leave my planner out on the counter and make a note when they move onto something new. I don't write anything about how they do the work unless it needs a follow up. For example, I noted that Aidan was counting something incorrectly while completing a bead chain, so I put a note in the follow up column to review the teens board with him. When I'm planning I just run through the follow up column and do a quick review of what they have been working on to see if work is needed on something before moving on. What they have been working on also helps me see if there are interest areas that I could be supplementing topic study on. My goal is to stay 1 week ahead at all times. Some subjects I can move farther ahead when there is a defined sequence (such as the early counting work that Caleb is doing now).
Aidan also does some of his own planning, but that is probably for a different post! I'd love to hear what other homeschooling moms use (or plan to use) for record keeping and planning. My system is definitely a fluid organism and I'm always looking for ways to improve it!