Back in the days when my oldest was the only one “doing school” at home, record keeping was pretty easy. I didn’t need to write everything out ahead of time. I just kept the basic plan in my head and recorded what we learned each day in a simple grid. Coupled with an hour log (required by the state we lived in at the time), that was enough for my legal obligations and my own personal records.
But add a couple more kids learning at totally different levels, plus a very active toddler, and it’s a little more than my ADD brain can handle to stay on top of everything everybody is doing. And to remember the mundane things like getting supper on the table and doing the laundry.
I’ve been known to forget eat.
I know, I’m hopeless.
That’s why I rely on “Our Week” book to keep me on track. This is an amazingly simple system I came up with that doesn’t require hyperactive planning, special planner purchases (you will need a 3-ring binder for each child and yourself, plus dividers), so it occurred to me that someone else might be able to benefit from it.
This is our 5th year homeschooling and I fully subscribe to the KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) concept. If it’s not simple, I won’t keep it up. I’m just not built that way. And there aren’t enough hours in a day anyway.
Let me talk about the binder first. Each of the kids who are “schooling” and Mama have their own binder that we call “Our Week” books. Here’s mine:
Mine is 1-1/2” and each of the kiddos are 1”. Each binder has a pouch with pencils, eraser, colored pencils, and other writing implements. The idea is that I can pick up the binder and go if we are working outside of the house. Also handy if I have a meeting with the homeschool monitor and forget to actually bring one the kiddos’ portfolios (doh!)---I keep some kid work samples in my binder.
A note about the pouch. We use clear, cheapies that have 3 holes for putting in the binder, BUT we only attach with the top hole in the top ring. That way the pouch can be flipped up so you can write in the binder on either side without a lump (good for planner sheets) and have access to the pouch if the binder is closed.
You’ll notice a whole bunch of tabs. In my binder I keep:
- a copy of Maryland’s homeschool law (front pocket)
- a letter from my county showing that we homeschool (also front pocket)
- our course of study for each kiddo (handy reminder for me to see what our actual goals are as a family so I don’t get caught up in comparisons
- a calendar of events: notes of our local groups field trips, other things going on in the area
- brief journal pages (from donnayoung.org) to write down daily observations
- my planner, which includes monthy calendar pages and weekly planner pages, divided with monthly tabs so it’s easy to locate my place
- days of the week dividers: one divider for each day of the week. I keep worksheets and unit study materials here
- blank and lined paper
- empty sheet protectors to keep bits like pictures and odds and ends that can’t (or won’t) be hole-punched.
Here’s a look at a planner page:
You’ll notice I have a place for each “schooling” child, plus “to do,” “all together” and “primary.” You’ll also notice “primary” is blank. Last year I found that my 2 younger “schoolers” were doing a lot of things together that didn’t involve the oldest, so I thought that would be the case this year as well. So I added a slot for that when I designed these pages. It hasn’t worked out that way. Best laid plans and all that. Still, I do plan to use that slot for writing down ideas for 2-year-old Emma.
I only write in pencil on my planner pages. Because life happens and sometimes you need to change the plan. At the beginning of each week, I check our family calendar and add any appointments, field tirps, etc. to the planner for that week. Then I fill out Monday only. I never fill out a whole week at once. Because life happens and sometimes you need to change the plan.
OK, life always happens and I have never gotten through a whole week without changing the plan.
The little white boxes are for checking off. You can see that sometimes I use them. And sometimes I don’t.
Make your planner work for you.
Here is a glimpse David’s Binder:
Each of the kiddos has dividers for each day of the week, a pouch, paper and a sheet protector or 2. The 2 older kiddos (David and Mary) have an assignment section.
Now, I’ve used several different versions of this assignment sheet this year. In fact, I’m working on a different one that just might be just right (because you know that designing assignment sheets is way more fun than actually planning assignments, right?). I’ve also just used a handwritten list.
The weekly assignment sheet shows them exactly what I want them to accomplish. Again, I only fill out each day the night before. I list independent assignments, things they will need Mom’s help with, and things that we will do for school all together. They know that once they have completed everything for that day, they can have free time to explore their own interests.
The assignment sheets have been a huge liberator for us. Finally the kiddos know what is expected of them without having to ask Mom every 5 minutes. And they are motivated to get it done. They know that I won’t just add more if they finish early (yep, I was bad about doing that before).
The assignment sheets also help me to visualize how much time it will take them to complete their work. I’m bad about expecting too much, and this helps me to rein in my expectations.
Peter has his own binder with daily dividers, but no assignment sheet. I’m working on something visual for him so he has a sense of what is expected of him, too.
As they complete assignments, they check it off on their assignment sheet. Written assignments are put in the binder under that day’s tab, so I can easily find each assignment and verify that it is completed, grade it, whatever.
At the end of each week, that week’s work is filed into a larger “year” binder for posterity. Ongoing projects are left in the “week” binder for easy access.
Now, the binder is a big part of this system. The the other part is the “school box.” You’ve maybe heard of “workboxes.” We tried that system, but, frankly? It took too much time and space to be practical in our home. And our youngest is a notorious box dumper.
Each kiddo (and Mama), even 2-year-old Emma, has a 1/2 crate where they keep their “Our Week” plus the materials they need to complete their assignments. That includes books, notebooks, etc. Art supplies are kept elsewhere and some assignments are on the computer.
“School boxes” are kept on the bottom shelf for easy access. On the shelf above the “school boxes” is our “explore shelf. The left side is books for reading and the right side is resources to explore science, math, etc. (magazines, science experiment guides, etc.). Occasionally I will add “visit the explore shelf” to the weekly assignments.l The 2 shelves above the explore shelf on the left are materials we are using this year that are not currently in someone’s school box.
And that’s it.
Do you have a system you use to organize your homeschool?
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