UPDATE: When I started this blog, my homeschool kids were 5 and 7 (now they are sophomores and 15 & 17). We were using Konos Unit Studies almost exclusively as our main curriculum. I wrote this post to explain how I was planning at the time. At the bottom, there’s a link to my planner page I created as a PDF, for those of you who have been asking me about it! So sorry it took so long to get it up for you!
Now for the original post from August 2005:
I have had a lot of questions about Konos lately… so I thought I would do a timely post about how I do my planning. Planning is like anything else in life. It has to be learned. I say this because I have not only had to learn to plan, I’ve learned it the hard way. I am not one of those people that seem to have been born with a Day-Planner stapled to their body. I have struggled with trying to keep myself organized for most of my life. There are family members and friends who would tell you that I seem to have it all together… but my mom remembers the days when she would scream at me for leaving everything I owned at my friends’ or grandmas’ houses… she remembers the homework forgotten, and the trip to the office for forgetting every day for months to flip my lunch tag over in elementary…. the list goes on and on. My husband could also recount the (sad and pathetic) stories of forgotten purses, cell phones, and keys. I am organizationally challenged. I can admit it. So, this is an area that I constantly pray about, read about, and strive to perfect.
After three years of working with Konos, I have gone through many methods of planning. I have tried “winging it” (not a good idea – units seem to fizzle out and nothing gets done). I have tried being a “legalist” and strictly using the yellow pages in the volumes (didn’t work for me – I like to have some creative license, and I couldn’t stay exactly on schedule). I tried doing a co-op where more than one mom plans – so we do things together (very nice if you can find a family you click with well). And Finally, this year, we are using a new in-depth planning method that incorporates the “Control Journal” idea on Fly Lady’s website with the Konos lesson plan pages in the Volume books and more.
So, without further ado, here’s a peek at how I plan my units and year:
The Big Picture
First of all, the Konos Volumes 1-3 are for Kindergarten through 8th Grade. The price of all three (and all their accompanying charts, timeline characters, etc.) is so small when you consider that you only need to buy it ONE time for ALL your children! It is a wonderful curriculum to use when you are teaching more than one grade level at once. To get an idea of how you will plan the units out between Kindergarten and 8th Grade, you just sit down and make a master list of every unit, and how long the unit is suggested to be taught in (or just use the link I provided and add the weeks to it). I would suggest praying about what character traits you need to work on in our family, and asking God to guide you in your planning as you get your pencil ready. Then, make a pencil draft of how you want to teach the units (in whatever order you are led) over the next few years (until your child is ready to start 9th grade).
I would also highly recommend buying the Konos Compass. For me, this book is as important as the curriculum books itself. I know that many of us, out of cost-cutting measures will decline to purchase teacher’s manuals (I have done this often); but this is one book you WANT to have in your homeschool library! Reading through this each year before school starts has become a habit of mine that I don’t think I will break any time soon.
After you have a rough outline of your over-all plan for the units, you can focus on this year’s portion of your plan. Roughly outline the year’s units on a blank calendar (you can use this link or make your own in MS Word) to give yourself an idea of when you will be doing what units. Sometimes you will want a unit to be in the Spring (Plants) or Fall (Thanksgiving)… so you can see this better with a calendar open. You will also want to work around holidays, vacations, birthdays, and other known family events. This will help you to create not just a list of units, but an actual school calendar for the school year.
3-Ring School/Konos Planner
I am a binder nut. I have a Fly Lady Control Journal, and have loved it (when I can keep up with updating it). When my life is not turned upside down (moving tends to do this), it really helps me out. I tend to forget things less when I have them written down at my fingertips. I have managed to migrate from a personal planner to a school planner over the past year or so. I am still perfecting this process, so feel free to take the idea and run with it. Make it your own. Below are steps that I have taken to create a planner that fits my needs. You can add or delete from this list. I have written it to be a guide that empowers you and inspires you… not to make you feel as though you have to fit inside my little box. Don’t feel intimidated, but rather use my idea as a springboard, and implement only what fits for your own teaching style.
Take your Konos books to Kinko’s and have them cut the binding off and drill them (3-hole) for use in a spiral. Put them into 4 inch binders. Buy a 2 inch binder to carry around with you as a 3-Ring School/Konos Planner. Print off, copy, gather, or create the following items to include in your planner:
* Colored Pocket Dividers
* Blank Unit Planner Pages (Adobe munched up the file, but you get the picture. If you use my links and files, please consider leaving a tip in my tip jar to help cover expenses and time blogging… it would make my husband less grumpy about sharing me.)
* Your Konos Unit Schedule for the Current School Year
* The Local School District’s Calendar for the Current School Year
* Your Daily School Schedule (list what subjects you will accomplish, and in what order)
* List of your Rules for Good Behavior (rewards/punishments)
* Directory of Homeschool Vendors/Co-op Friends/E-Groups/Etc.
* General Goals/Yearly Goals (for you and your children)
* Book Lists (mainly from other sources besides Konos because the Konos book lists are in the Volumes, and there is a space to write them on your blank planner pages)
* Wish List (curriculum, games, books, and educational enrichment items you want)
* Field Trip Lists
* Forms (Grade Sheets, Report Cards, Subject and Chore Charts – whatever you use)
* Grade Level Checklist (you can find this in the Konos Compass)
* Monthly Calendar pages (blank for writing on – I print these from MS Word, or you can use the link above…)
* Time Savers/Home Management Tips and forms (Menu Planners and Daily Home Management Lists – I use a calendar for this purpose for myself now – fast forward to 2014 – in addition to my School Planner)
* Reference lists (I keep a Family Fun Craft reference list that I created from my magazines which I have bookmarked for future use and I keep a list of artists, composers, and historical periods just for kicks)
* Any lesson plans or forms you print from Homeschool Tracker (if you are a way-in-advance planner, in 2014 we planned ALL our history for the year with Mystery of History since we were using 2 volumes and I had all my days ready to go at a glance)
* A Daily Assignment ledger of some sort (this year we’re going low tech and using a notebook with weekly assignments that my teens initial as they complete – if you use a 3 hole punched notebook, this could fit neatly inside the rings, or you could have it in a pocket on the flap of the binder or even done on printed forms that are three-hole friendly… whatever works).
* Your Local Library’s Information sheets/Calendars
* Your Local/Konos Co-op’s Information sheets/Calendars
* Your Extra Curricular Classes (Piano, Spanish, Choir, Lego Robotics, Clubs, Scouts, Etc.) Info sheets/Calendars
* Upcoming Events (printed out from emails – such as Scholastic Warehouse Sales, Curriculum Fairs, Used Book Sales, Book-It Programs, Meetings, Capitol Days, County Fairs and Events, or Conventions)
* Blank 3-Ring Notepad
* 2-4 sheets of “baseball card” holders or “business card” holders (clear plastic sheets) that are 3-ring punched for your homeschool discount cards, homeschool business cards with your school’s name, and library cards if you have any
* Letter of Intent to Homeschool (depending on your state, this item will vary)
* If you are in a state that requires tracking of hours or attendance, keep this in your binder as well as school district telephone numbers you might need. You can use my attendance chart (XLS file) by downloading it here: Sprittibee’s Annual Attendance Chart.
* List of your state and local representatives and your local homeschool coalition (mine is THSC)
* Clear pencil bag for behavior/chore chart stickers
Making Your Load Lighter
Now that you have your binder together, and your Konos Volumes hole-punched and bound in 4-inch binders, you can easily remove ONLY the section for the unit or trait you are working on and prevent yourself from having to tote those huge books around everywhere you go. In addition, you will have all the things you need while planning at your disposal since you have put them all in ONE place. You are mobile! You can now plan while you are at the coffee shop, in the doctor’s office, or even in the parking-lot of Wal-Mart waiting on your husband to get back in the car.
No Cliff Notes
There’s just no easy way to get around this step. Planning is best when you KNOW what your teaching. READ through the section of your Konos Volume you want to teach. You simply can’t skip this step. Once you read through it, you’ll get an overall idea of what Konos suggest to teach the topic, and you can decide WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS from the long list of activities. It is impossible to do everything in the volumes. You have to pick and choose. For perfectionists like me, this is really hard. I used to stay on units for up to FOUR times as long as recommended because I had to do EVERYTHING in the book and follow EVERY rabbit trail that resulted from our lessons. This is madness. It will only lead to burn-out. Read the section, pick your favorites based on your child’s abilities and needs, and plan to do just those items. Limit yourself to three hands-on activities per day. Tailor your reading and writing around your Konos unit.
Writing it Down
Now that you have your planner, and you’ve read through the section… you have a few options of how you can record your plans:
You can copy your Konos pages from the Volume on 3-hole paper and mark them up with highlighters or pencil.
Jot down just the page number and item code for each activity and map them on your calendar by date (which will require that you refer back to the Konos section for each activity)
Copy your Konos pages from the Volume on 3-hole paper and CUT them and PASTE them on your planner or calendar (or even use a baseball card holder with slots for each day with the cut-outs placed in the pouch for the day you wish to accomplish them)
Continue from there making appropriate lists for crafts, books, supplies, field trips, to-do lists for teacher (yourself), reference items, ideas you want to add to your Konos activities that aren’t listed in the book, etc. Your blank planner pages should start to fill up with exciting ideas, and you’ll be anxious to get started. Now, the hard part will be staying on schedule as life happens!
Make phone calls to plan field trips, make trips to secure supply items, visit your online library catalog, purchase books through Amazon (if you do this), etc. to prepare for your unit.
Kick-Offs and Wrap-Ups
Konos is a big proponent of making things fun. We are more likely to remember things (the purpose of learning) when we are happy and enjoying ourselves (even laughing!). I have learned that I stick to my schedules better when I am held accountable to others. Co-ops and Wrap-Ups which include family and friends tend to help me work harder towards my goals. Figure out what you are going to do as a kick-off or wrap-up for your unit. Start and end your unit with a bang. You can do both, or just one of these for each unit. Make a list of what you need to prepare for your event, and add your list to your planner. Make sure to mark it on your calendar as well. Wrap ups include events such as Indian Feast Night, Cowboy Night, Greek Olympics, Plays put on by the kids, Medieval Feast Night, Election Party Night, etc. We try and do some sort of Wrap-Up for each unit… even if it is just a simple field trip for a smaller unit. Once or twice a year, you’ll want to plan a really big, memorable wrap-up that includes family and friends… to let the kids show off (such as at a open house or graduation ceremony).
I hope this list helps you in your Konos journey. I wish that I had been given the benefit of a list like this when I first was handed my Konos Volume I in that first whirlwind year of homeschooling. I look back and see how God has been guiding me along the way, and am very thankful. Again, I am NOT an expert on Konos. I “evolve” in my homeschooling planning constantly. It has taken me three years of Konos to get to this point… and a LOT of prayer. Prayer should be the constant glue that holds your homeschool planning and implementing together.