We start the school year off with shiny, new curriculum, perfectly organized planners, and the determination that this is the year when everything will go smoothly and according to plan! By the time January rolls around, life has happened. The new grammar workbook doesn’t work for your 4th grader, algebra is giving your freshman and run for their money, the toddler has caught every stomach bug and cold known to man, and you haven’t even looked at the planner in the last few weeks…
This is where it’s tempting to just chuck the planner and call whatever happens to get done good enough. Truthfully, most of us do better with at least some kind of structure to work with. How do you achieve that though when you are so far off track?
I’m going to give you four strategies that have been invaluable to me over the years.
1. Figure out where to start today.
Don’t worry about “catching up”. Figure out what point you’re starting out at right now. Decide what’s a reasonable amount to get accomplished today, write it in your planner, and then do that. Keep your goals manageable. Now is not the time to try and jam eight spelling tests into one day. Do the same thing tomorrow. Progress does add up, as long as we’re consistent about making progress! Keep your planner or to-do list on your desk, table, countertop – anywhere that you’ll see it often and be reminded to work on the next thing on the list.
2. Decide where to go tomorrow.
You’ve checked off your tasks for today, now you need to figure out where you’re going tomorrow and beyond. Sit down and determine what truly needs to be finished by the end of the year. Again, don’t try to cram in a bunch of assignments right now so that you can be “caught up,” but figure out how much you need to do each week, then break that up into daily assignments. Write out your lesson plans accordingly. Don’t forget to look at your family calendar and plan around any events, appointments, and the like. Add in a few buffer days, too, so that when something unexpected comes up, you aren’t completely thrown off schedule. Two tools that help me adapt and adjust are using the online My Well Planned Day planner and using erasable pens when I work in my paper planner. My Well Planned Day makes it easy to adjust our lesson plan schedule as needed, and writing plans in my paper planner using erasable pens means that I can adjust there too without my planner looking messy.
3. Take a quick look at yesterday.
I know that I’ve been telling you to focus on today and plan forward from there. We do need to take a tiny peek backwards, though, to get our record keeping up to date. Basic academic records are important whether or not you’re required to report attendance and grade transcripts to an umbrella school, organization, etc. These records will give you a picture of how your child is progressing and areas where they may need some more help. If your curriculum includes tests, writing assignments, or any sort of graded project, you’ll want to record all of the grades for those. If your curriculum doesn’t include those, then just make some notes about what your student has learned and how they are doing. Don’t overcomplicate it! Just get the grades and notes written down.
4. Make regular planning appointments with yourself.
Schedule a weekly record keeping appointment and a monthly evaluation and planning session. Keeping your records up to date every week is far more manageable than trying to do it only once or twice a year, and it helps you keep a better handle on your child’s progress.
Monthly check-ins have become a wonderful tool for my own planning, and I actually look forward to them. Sit down with your planner and a notebook. Make sure that you have all of the appointments for the upcoming month listed in your planner. Then, look at the progress that’s been made over the past month and jot down what you have gotten done. Take a close look at what worked and what didn’t so that you can adjust your plans for the upcoming month accordingly.
No matter where you’re starting out today, you can make progress and move forward. Stop worrying about what you haven’t gotten done and decide what you’re going to do today. Write it down and then go do it!