"No plan survives contact with the enemy" and no school schedule survives the first few days of school. Accepting that as true, I am still thrilled that our new scheduling system has survived the first *day* of school. Every year, and sometimes more than once a year, we have to completely revise our way of tracking schoolwork and managing its implementation. This year we had students in three separate years plus a challenging (sometimes deliberately challenging) preschooler. Our previous methods of managing students and work simply wouldn't do.
We are still using the chart format schedules I've described before. I have a copy of each student's schedule, and the older two also have their own copies. This year I categorized the work on each schedule so that all of the work that didn't merit its own separate line item in our daily work list was combined with other work to make three or four (or in a few cases five) days of assignments. Then I created a daily work list for each student. At the top were grouped items that could be done fairly independently. In the middle were grouped items we would do all together. At the bottom were grouped items that needed my active participation.
I printed the work lists on transparency paper I happened to have around, but alternatively I could have laminated them. I cut them out to make individual lists and hung them on the freezer door. We found through experimentation that transparency pens did not wipe off cleanly but dry erase markers and grease pencils did, so one of each is hanging next to the lists. As a child finishes an item, that item is marked off on the chart format schedule that I keep, but also the child marks the category off on the work list. This allows us all to see at a glance what categories still remain for a particular day. Oldest also handwrote a daily schedule for herself, entirely on her own initiative.
Late last night I had the bright idea of writing the books for the week for each student on the freezer door with the grease pencil. This way they can look at the list to see what books can be selected each day--we cross them off as they are finished so the next day only the open items are available. We can see them on the chart format list too, but it isn't as easily visible to the kids. The more independence and control over their day the kids have, the better life is for all of us.
We agreed in advance that all independent items must be completed before lunch time. That worked really well! We also agreed in advance to have one older child play with the preschooler for 20 minutes right after breakfast, another older child do learning activities with him for 15 minutes after that, and me do a puzzle with him after that. This didn't work perfectly, but it worked better than expecting him to entertain himself.
We actually mostly had school done by lunchtime today! Oldest has still her foreign language to do, which she prefers to do in the evening, and she was finishing some odds and ends around lunchtime, but everyone else was done. So we went out for Blizzards!
UPDATE: We are taking our Christmas break now (December 2012) and are halfway through Term 2. The scheduling system works great, but I have actually printed up the lists of books for each week because none of the methods of writing them on the freezer worked well for us. So I printed them in columns and cut out the lists for each week and hang those on the freezer along with the reusable daily lists. Keeping little brother busy has been a continual challenge. We are not so successful with that one, and so I need to work on it. He does not like to be left out nor does he like to cooperate.