Lesson Planning: How I Do It

There is no “one right way” to prepare for teaching with Weaver. Each family will use a slightly different approach, be it through the planning pages they use, or the amount of preparation they do, or both. While I’ve been using my current system (outlined below) for over five years now, it may not work for your family. But I encourage you to try it! With each system you try, you’ll find bits and pieces you like — pull them all together and you’ll have created your own lesson planning system!

For me, it all starts at my desk. I am blessed to have three desks in my office: one for my computer, one for paying bills, and one for school. Here’s my school desk:

My Desk

The open binder at the front left of the desk is my Teacher’s Binder. It holds just the unit we’re currently working on. Since my children are grades 7 & 9 (the 12th grader is working independently) I only use the following sections in my binder: Weaver (intro, Bible, vocab & penmanship–basically all the white/multi-grade pages from the unit); Supplement (7-8 section, then a clear page protector followed by the 9-10 section); Student Texts (any pages I’ve copied that they’ll need for the unit); and Resources (the Resource pages from the main volume). The unused tabs are: Teacher Papers (it still holds blank journal pages, blank Romans 12 lists, field trip forms, and any other notes); Language Arts (still has notes on special days throughout the year for creative writing prompts, and copies of pages from Wisdom Words that talk about teaching reading… wow, I need to clean out my binder!); Spelling (holds the current spelling lists for each child); and two blank tabs (one has miscellaneous notes on high school transcripts and the other has all my Ready Reference charts behind it).

The place at the front right is where my children put things that need to be corrected. It’s also where I put my papers for the next day. The back right holds “future papers” as I like to call them. Starting at the bottom, there is my yearly calendar, future weeks pages, logic pages for the next week, blank Week-at-a-Glance pages, and this week’s logic pages (and math test pages).  Center back has the current volume I’m working on and any other books I may need for the unit. You’ll see essentials, like Post-it notes at the back left, and colored pens on the desk — besides those key items, there are two more things I find quite useful:

Essential tools for planning

Colored paperclips — the large kind — and these really cool sticky-tab things I recently found at the store. You’ll notice they are see-through. These are fantastic for marking pages in books because you can keep reading right through them without having to stop and remove the marker!  These are also plastic, so they’re much more durable than regular paper sticky-notes, and they’re reusable, which means I’ll have these for a long time!

The first thing I do when I plan is list all the subjects I need to cover. I don’t remember when I started using graph paper for this, but I always do.

Rough Overview

I list the number of weeks I’ve set aside for the unit, then the actual days. This unit will take us through 8 weeks, and there are three weeks with only four days in them, so that’s 37 days. It’s important to keep track of days off during the week, otherwise you’ll find yourself doubling-up just to squeeze five days into four. As I look over the lessons for the unit, I’ll note how many there are and if I want to teach any over two days instead of one. I’ll split up the vocabulary words, note any field trips ideas, and decide on Bible verses for penmanship.

All our “school days” are based on the yearly calendar I created at the beginning of the year, which marks out what days we’ll have school and what days we’ll have off:

The Big Picture

The calendar on the left is for next year, so it’s still blank except for the days my husband will have off of work. The calendar on the right shows our current year. I first mark down our start day and our end day, then any days off, such as Spring Break, Labor Day, Christmas, etc. Since I have a child taking classes at a local Tech school, we tend to follow the same schedule as the public school system. If any of the children are using LIFEPACs for anything, I jot down when each booklet will be due so they are all finished by the last day of school. I then fill in where they should be in their math books so they get finished as well. We usually finish before the end of the year, so it’s okay to miss a day or two — except it makes my calendar look a bit messier as I rewrite the lessons to push them back a day or two. The left margin shows the unit we’re working on; the right margin shows the number of days we’ll have school that week.

You’ll notice there are multiple colors on the calendar. Anything that is child-specific is marked in that child’s color. (It was really colorful when I had all five children in school!) I use pencil on the yearly calendar for things that affect everyone, but on the Weekly Sheets I use black or blue pen:

Week-at-a-Glance page

Originally, these sheets were designed to be filled out and given to the children so they could see what was expected of them each day of the week. I used a two-sided Weekly Sheet, and a Daily Sheet, for myself. When I was teaching four or five children, I needed more room to write out our weekly plans. Yet, I didn’t want to get distracted with the other days, so I used Daily Sheets to keep myself focused. Now, with only two, I can squish everything onto this one-sided page (shown above) thanks to colored pens. The subjects down the left side will change some years, depending on what classes we do. I’ve started leaving some sections blank for the children to write in, to teach them about planning their own time. The children will get a sheet similar to the one on the right, except it will contain just the stuff that pertains to them.

Bible lessons will always be filled in first. Then I fill in the History and Science lessons on the Weekly Sheets. Here is an example of the sheets for the current unit we’re doing:

The unit planned out

You’ll notice that each sheet has a paperclip. As I plan, I’ll put papers behind the week where they’ll be used. Two of the above sheets already have the vocabulary word searches behind them, and some have grammar and logic pages.

On Sunday afternoons, I pull out the following week’s papers and copy the plans onto sheets for the children. I set aside anything not needed on Monday, and place just Monday’s papers on the clipboard:

Daily Clipboard

In the above photo, you’ll see the Bible lesson, logic sheets, my Weekly Sheet and the children’s Weekly Sheets, along with the paperclip that held them together and the clipboard they will be placed on. At the end of the school day, I’ll only have the Bible lesson and my Weekly sheet on the clipboard, and the children will have put their completed logic sheets on the front right corner of my desk to be corrected. I usually correct everything on Friday nights.

After my teaching time is over, I’ll put away the Bible lesson from this day and pull out the Science papers needed for the next day, as well as the logic puzzles. Wednesday’s papers will include math tests (they don’t usually fall on the same day, but this week they do).

As I look at the above picture and at the actual Weekly Sheet in front of me, I see that I’ve forgotten to include the grammar sheets. They’re still clipped to the group of papers I’ll need this week and sitting on top of the stack at the back right of my desk. (A place for everything, and everything in its place!)

I hope this has given you a good overview of one way to plan Weaver lessons.  Other moms have uploaded their planning pages to the U-Weaver group on Yahoo. If you’re a member of the list you can view and download them to see if they work for your style of planning. Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email if you have any questions!

Am I doing Enough?

Often the question has been asked, “Is there more that I should be teaching in Weaver? The lessons sometimes seem so short.”

I used to wonder about this also some 12 years ago, when I first started using Weaver with my young children. The lessons seemed very short. Was I missing something? Thankfully I ran across some Charlotte Mason philosophy at the same time. That philosophy reinforced for me a great benefit of Weaver. CM philosophy encourages short interesting lessons, which Weaver provides. I had to get out of my head the idea of the 50 minute classroom, teacher-controlled lesson. We all need to unlearn some things when we start home-schooling like unlearning all that we thought was true education, modeled by the public or private school. If you begin to fret and think you have to add extra information and go beyond what the Weaver unit covers it can lead to overload and burnout. Follow some rabbit trails, if you want, but remember that you don’t have to do so in order to make the curriculum complete. You will repeat many of the subjects year after year, although the objectives will not always cover the same information, so you don’t have to worry and ask, “Are my kids getting enough?”.

Now, if you go beyond what Weaver presents for a particular unit you may run the risk of burning out on a topic and when you hit it again your children may rebel. Volume one is a volume for setting the hooks in place for further building. Why does Weaver do that? Weaver prefers hitting many topics yearly in increments and building on them rather than teaching a subject every four or five years.

Also once you introduce a topic your children will become more aware of that subject and you will find them adding their own information to it as well. You don’t have to think you have to supply all of the learning situations. Life is not segmented and compartmentalized, like most curriculums are set up. Weaver plans on the fact that as you introduce subjects your children will begin to take responsibility for their own learning. Their interests will be piqued and they will begin to make their own connections.

Some lessons are short and some are not, as you will see. I would encourage you to trust the curriculum. Yes, you can follow tangents but know that you don’t need to. Your kids will fall in love with a curriculum that does not require fill-in-the-blanks, long sitting, teacher directed and text driven lessons. With Weaver you are invited to learn with your children, in short interesting lessons, so you can spend the rest of your day living and enjoying life, not tied to a school desk! Do I hear a hallelujah?
Even though the lessons are short and there are hands-on activities I still always ask the Lord to help me find ways to make the new lessons applicable and memorable for our family. When you come to a new unit, or are in the middle of one, there is also the wonderful group of home educators on the Weaver loop who has lots of ideas also. There is always a game or nifty introduction which will create an element of delight, surprise and spice things up a bit.

Does My Child Have Gaps?

There’s a great deal of discussion among homeschooling families at this time of year about filling in the “gaps” left by a curriculum–or if a curriculum will leave gaps in a child’s education. With that in mind, I’d like to address three things about educational gaps: what they are, how they can be filled and how they can be avoided.

What is a Gap?

First we need to address what a gap is–after all, you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broke.

Some parents feel a gap happens when their child doesn’t know something that another (younger or older) child knows. Some parents base their “gap knowledge” on the Scope & Sequence of the public school system, and yet others use the Scope & Sequence of the curriculum they are thinking of switching to next year. The basic flaw in each of these thoughts is “comparison.”

If you are comparing your child to a friend’s child, you’ll find gaps. Perhaps your friend raised tadpoles/frogs and you didn’t. Your friend’s child will understand the life cycle of the frog in great detail, while your child may not be able to remember the word metamorphosis. But, there will be things your child knows, like the names of all the cloud formations, which your friend’s child won’t have a clue about. Not every fourth grade child knows their state’s history. Just because someone else taught something in sixth grade doesn’t mean you have to… you can teach it in fifth, or even in third if you want!

If you’re comparing curricula you’ll find many don’t match up, which leaves perceived gaps in the education of the child being taught. Why don’t they match up? Because everyone thinks their Scope & Sequence is best. Most are based on years of research and study by the author(s) of the curriculum. The curriculum is then written to be used from K through 12th grade, with no interruptions. If used this way, there will be no gaps, because everything in the Scope & Sequence will be introduced, taught, and reviewed eventually.

If you are following the Scope & Sequence of a specific publisher, you should be using their curriculum, too. After all, there is no better way to meet all of the objectives than to use the same curriculum. What? You don’t want to use their curriculum? Then why follow their Scope & Sequence? There is a better way!

So, what is a gap? It is a perceived lack of knowledge in a particular subject, or multiple subjects. The question must then be asked, “Does my child really have gaps, or will I be teaching that material at a later date?” To what, or whom, are you comparing your child?

How Can a Gap Be Filled?

Let’s say you feel there is a gap. How can you fill it? This will take work on your part. First, you must decide where your child is lacking. You have to decide what your child should know at this point in his or her life. You’ll also want to decide on basic milestones for the rest of their schooling. When do you want your child to learn about the 50 States, or the Civil War? In what grade should they know the water cycle, erosion, or land formations? When should your child be able to write a research paper? When will you teach exponents?

One way to figure all of this out is to obtain a variety of Scope & Sequences. Lay them out, side-by-side, and see how they compare. Use some sheets of loose-leaf paper (one for each year your child has left in school) to write down major topics you wish to study each year, or goals/objectives you wish to meet. You may decide to follow one of the Scope & Sequences, or you may put them all away and go with your own ideas.  Whatever you decide to do, get it written down. By having each year on a separate sheet of paper, you can spread them out and get a good visual of what you want to teach. You’ll also be able to see if you’re missing anything.

Congratulations! You’ve just written your own personalized Scope & Sequence!

Now look through the curriculum you’ll be using next year. Does it meet your needs? Will you be teaching what you want your child to learn next year? If you feel something is missing, check the Scope & Sequence of the curriculum. Was that topic taught last year, before you started using the curriculum? Will it be taught next year?

You may wish to adjust your personalized Scope & Sequence to allow for flexibility in teaching, specifically if certain subjects will be taught the following year. Or, you may wish to have your child do a short study on the topics you feel he or she should know already, to get them caught up with the curriculum. Either way, don’t stress! Curriculum is a tool, to be used as you see fit. It’s not set in stone–if it were, you wouldn’t be changing curricula.

How Can a Gap Be Avoided?

This will also take work on your part, but the good news is that most of that work is already finished! If you’ve created a personalized Scope & Sequence, as mentioned above, all you need to do is refer to it throughout the year to be sure all the objectives are being met. If you are following a Scope & Sequence from a specific company, you can refer to that throughout the year as well.

What if your curriculum just isn’t working for your family? What if your kinesthetic learner is struggling to get through a textbook? What if your child can’t seem to sit still long enough to fill in all of the blanks? What if you don’t like the world view of your current curriculum? Then, obviously, you’ll be switching–and you’re bound to notice gaps, either in what you’ve been using or in what you’re about to use. Don’t worry! Take out your personalized Scope & Sequence and make adjustments to the curriculum or to your teaching timetable.

The best way to avoid gaps is to be in complete control. Isn’t that why you’re homeschooling–to control your child’s education?  Chances are good your child does not have gaps. You just haven’t gotten to that objective yet. ;-)

I’ve Heard Unit Studies Take More Time….

Often when someone writes in with a question about Weaver, they’ve already asked about it somewhere else (another blog, another forum, etc). Many of the people who answer them have never used Weaver, or don’t care for the unit study method of educating their children.

I spent this past school year using Alpha Omega LIFEPACs with my children, instead of Weaver, and I’ve used the SOS computer programs in the past as well. Do I think unit studies take more time? Not really.

Picture these two scenarios:

1) You sit down with your Day by Day and Volume and spend 2-4 hours planning out two weeks of studies for one unit. During the two weeks you teach this unit, you spend 15 minutes each morning going over what you’ll teach to refresh your memory. After you’re finished teaching each day, you put your books away and go about your other tasks, interacting with your children and discussing things that relate to your studies. Based on the things you discuss, you know whether or not they are understanding what you’ve been teaching.

2) Each day for about three weeks you place a LIFEPAC in front of your child and they work through the required 3-5 pages in order to finish the booklet in the allotted time. At the end of each day, you take time to correct what they worked on that day. Depending on the number of kids you are teaching, that can be anywhere from 5 booklets (for one child) to 20+ booklets (for four or more children). Since you are the teacher, you must judge whether or not your child understood the question and answered properly. (Your child usually isn’t nearby for you to question further.) If you have more than one child, this process can take 2-4 hours! And, if you feel your child isn’t understanding the question, you will probably require he or she re-read the section and re-answer the questions–either than night or the next day, before they can continue on in his or her booklet.

The question I must now pose to you, reader is this: Do you want to spend more time before the lesson or after the lesson? Do you want to know what you’re teaching, and teach it to everyone at once, and have family discussion about it? Or, do you want to try to keep track of who is studying what and reteach what they don’t understand the next day? Two to four hours every other Sunday afternoon, or an hour every evening?

Hmmm… you do the math. :-)

“Can I Do This?”

Can I do this with little ones?

Yes, you CAN do this! Many of us do! But… BUT!… it takes some commitment and some sacrifices on your part.

I’m used to popping in a BJU video to ‘do school’ while I tend to the little ones, housework, etc.

Instead of letting your TV, or some textbook, or even some worktext, “teach” your children, YOU will have to do it! You will have to set aside your housework, just like you would if you were going out to work each day. You will have to find a way to include your younger children, or work around them, just like you would if you were teaching Sunday school class with a few unruly children in attendance.

What many women have found helpful is to have “chore time” in the morning–usually the time right after breakfast. Spend about half an hour getting some sort of house cleaning done, or whatever needs doing (laundry, crock pot cooking, etc). Immediately following this is school. You’ll be distracted by the little ones frequently, but it’s important to get right back to school as soon as possible. Show your children how important their education is to you!

Another trick that is often used, is working one-on-one with the children. While you are working with one, the others tend to the little ones. Then you trade off and work with another child while the first one tends to the little ones. The beauty of homeschooling is that it teaches priorities. The needs of the younger siblings are important, but teaching them to wait, or to be quiet, or to entertain themselves, is part of their schooling. The older students learn these same qualities, as well as discipline to not run off whenever Mom turns her back. (A couple of mine are still working on this trait!)

The ladies who make up the U-Weaver email list are here to support you as you homeschool your children. But, the work must be done by YOU. We’re just words on your computer screen–we can’t teach your children for you–but we CAN pray for you, and we will!

What Exactly IS Weaver?

Just about everyone knows that Weaver is a unit-based curriculum. But, that doesn’t mean much to those new to homeschooling who don’t know what a unit study is. I recently replied to a homeschooling mom who had questions about Weaver…

What’s included in a volume?

Each volume consists of a complete curriculum to teach students in grades K-6. All the objectives and activities are listed, by grade and subject, and the sheets are color-coded:

  • white for everyone/teacher
  • goldenrod for K
  • dark pink for 1st
  • light pink for 2nd
  • blue for 3rd
  • yellow for 4th
  • green for 5th
  • salmon for 6th

The volumes are divided into 9 units, with some units having multiple chapters. Volumes 1-3 are designed to be done within one year each, while volumes 4 & 5 take about a year-and-a-half each. Going through each of the volumes once will cover about 6 years.

Each chapter starts with an overview so you know what you’ll be covering. Next are the For Your Information pages–these provide background info for the teacher, but you can also share this material with your students. Next are the Bible lessons, followed by a Recommended Reading list. Next are the colored pages, mentioned above, for the different grades. The subjects covered in the colored sections are:

  • History (Social Studies)
  • Science
  • Language Arts

Following the colored pages you’ll find a few more white pages:

  • vocabulary list
  • health/safety ideas
  • field trip
  • art suggestions
  • Bible memory verses

Sometimes the chapters have extra materials, like suggestions for character study, or information on mummification, or some other topic you may wish to study more in-depth while you study that section of the Bible. These extra materials are white pages as well.

At the back of the book you’ll find a resource section, with pictures, charts, maps, and various other “visuals” for your use–there is an index for these items as well, telling you in which chapter you’ll need each visual.

Does it matter which volume you start with?

This really depends on what your children already know. It’s recommended that you start with Volume I and work your way through, so as to go through the Bible chronologically. There is an overview located at the Unofficial Weaver Pages where you can see what is covered in each volume. Because Weaver is based on the Bible, choose where to start by thinking of your child’s Biblical knowledge.

What about math?

The only volume that contains any math is the Interlock, which covers pre-K/K grades. All other grades will need to purchase math separately.

The volumes themselves do not contain the daily lesson plans. These are found in the Day by Day, available separately. AOP also offers Wisdom Words, a grammar program written by the author of the Weaver, to round out your children’s academics.

Providing Proof

Each day the neighbor child comes home with corrected tests, finished book reports, and short essays. What does your child have to show for their day of learning with Weaver?

When we first started with homeschooling, we had daily math assignments, as well as reading and phonics sheets. For the rest of our studies, we discussed things and did hands-on activities. Sometimes there was an original drawing or a coloring sheet done. As the months went on, I started to worry that I wasn’t doing enough since we didn’t have all the papers that the neighbor child had. Imagine my delight when people started telling me how intelligent my children were!

It’s not that we never do anything…

Weaver doesn’t incorporate all the busywork that some curriculums use. Some of our projects have been large, like the edible relief maps we made one year. So I started taking photographs and saving things in a file folder. Apparently, others thought of this idea as well, and many took it a step or two further. Thus, the birth of notebooking and lapbooking. These aren’t original to the Weaver curriculum, but they sure work well with it!

Notebooking is basically what I was doing: taking finished reports, colored pages, and photos of finished projects, and placing them into a three-ring binder or two-pocket folder with the unit’s theme as the title on the front of the notebook.

Lapbooking is taking the information you learn and placing it within some type of “book” for easy viewing later. Kind of like creating your own book from all the information you gather. Many Weaving families are enjoying lapbooking as a way to compile info for each unit.

Both of these ideas are good for any amount of information your children gather, and they really bring out the creativity in a child!

Is Weaver Easy? Does it Include Answers?

Whenever someone asks this, my first impulse is to say yes. But, when they tack-on that second question, I know I have to say no.

Weaver is fun.
Weaver is educational.
Weaver will teach your students how to find the answers they need in life.
Weaver is based on God’s Word, the Bible.
Weaver will challenge you as a teacher, as well as inspire and encourage you.
Weaver can be as easy or as hard as you make it.

Why do you want an easy curriculum? Perhaps a better question would be, why do you want to homeschool? Do you feel God has called you to educate your children? If that’s the case, then He will show you the curriculum He wants you to use, regardless of how easy or hard you feel it is.

Are you homeschooling for academic reasons, or location/flexibility reasons, or even for safety reasons? If you merely wish to have school at home, perhaps you would be more interested in a Work Text format, such as Alpha Omega’s LifePacs. However, if you are looking for a curriculum which will ground your students in the Word of God, then Weaver is the right choice!

Forgive me if that sounds harsh–I am only trying to save new homeschoolers some time. If you are truly serious about educating your children, then you need to know that homeschooling is hard work. It may come easy to some women, but to most mothers this is a full-time job that is worked along with our other daily household chores and responsibilities.

Many women write to me asking about the ease of Weaver because they have commitments at church, extra-curricular activities for their children, toddlers and babies that need their attention, and a part-time career or hobby that they do not wish to give up. (How much time does that business/hobby take up? How much of it are you willing to give up to educate your children?)

When my children were young, it was very easy for me to have hobbies and activities aside from schooling them. Now that they are older (I’m teaching five now, between 2nd and 12th grade) I spend more time devoted to their education and less time on my hobbies. This is a choice I have made–I want to give my children the best education I can, and for me that means giving them more of my time. Other women have not had to make the same choices–we’re all different, as are our families.

So, is Weaver an easy curriculum? I think so. I have been using it from the day we started homeschooling, and I have a wonderful group of women who support me online. You can have that same support through the Unofficial Weaver Pagesemail support group. Some will tell you it is easy, some will tell you it is moderately hard… but all of them will tell you how much they love the curriculum!

Does Weaver give the teacher the answers? No. Weaver teaches your students how to think for themselves, not how to memorize answers for a test. Many women have stopped using Weaver because they just couldn’t teach without answers. But, many have also come back to Weaver after realizing that their children retained more information when they used it. The choice is theirs, and now it’s yours, too.

Why I Chose Weaver

I’ve been using Weaver for 12 years. I am by no means an expert at homeschooling, but I feel I have found a curriculum that will work for anyone who chooses to put God at the core of their studies. I know I’m not alone in my feelings as there are hundreds of women around the world who visit the Unofficial Weaver Pages and participate at the Support Forum and on the Email List.

Why did I choose Weaver? When I first thought about homeschooling, I did a ton of research. I didn’t have an Internet connection back then, so I used my phone and a book I had bought that listed publishers of homeschooling materials. I had two young boys and was pregnant with my third child. My background was in Child Day Care, so the idea of unit studies really appealed to me. I found two options: a curriculum that focused on character traits, or a book that would teach me to write my own unit studies. I was all set to go with the former option when my cousin mentioned Weaver.

After calling the company and getting a sample, I was hooked! Here was a curriculum that started with God’s Word. Here was a curriculum that I could use with all my children. Here was a curriculum that offered flexibility and scheduling, all at the same time.

As a new Christian, I desperately wanted to put God first in my life. I felt Weaver would help me teach my children how important that is, and I was right. What about you? What has brought you to this Unofficial Weaver Blog? What types of things are you interested in learning about Weaver? Let me know and I’ll answer your questions, or leave a comment and share how you came to use Weaver!