Monday, May 14, 2012

How I Organize My Homeschool: Part 2

Last time I talked about how I use a file system to organize assignments for my homeschool students.  Now, I'll explain how I organize each of their weekly assignments.  With the file system all set up, this step tends to go pretty quickly.

My oldest son is sometimes quite particular.  And, he likes to be the leader.  While sometimes we need to reign him in to preserve domestic relations (his sisters don't always appreciate his instructing them on what they should be doing), other times we try to provide him with opportunities to lead or be self led.  That's how our current system of weekly planning started out.  And, I'm glad it worked out this way because I can now see how using this method has helped my kids to develop some accountability and independent learning.

So, here's how my binder system works:

First, each of us has our own binder to use during the week.  We each picked out our own special color.  To make it special, I then took the kids to the craft store and allowed them to pick out a sheet of scrapbook paper for $0.25 that they could insert into the viewable cover to decorate it.  (I also gave them the option of decorating a paper and using that but neither of them wanted to do that).

As a side note:  I personally prefer the Avery big tab pocket dividers.  They are sturdy and offer a place to store loose pages that, for one reason or another, don't want to 3-hole punch to fit in the binder.

The kids' binders each have dividers labeled by the days of the week along with some sections in the back for resources.  As you may have guessed, behind each divider for the days of the week I place their worksheet assignments for that day.  The "Resources" tab is where they place things like the tables and symbols pages from their math book, some helpful grammar pages to refer back to, and a folder where they keep maps they are working on.

My binder has tabs for each of the kids and sections where I keep things like any records I'm keeping for rewards, maps to teach, and references pages I use for teaching lessons that week.  I keep tests and quizzes organized behind each child's individual tab in my binder.  It ends up being my quick reference for the week when it comes to our homeschool.

This binder system is pretty easy to use.  Any day of the week the kids can just sit down and flip to the day of the week and start on their assignments.  Since everything was organized by the file system, they can even load their own binders.

But, not everything we do in a school day will be able to go into the binder.  That's where the assignment sheet comes in.  The particular one I use I downloaded from Donna Young's website and then modified it for my own use.  Here's what it looks like when all filled out with assignments.

Again, I'm not a photographer.  But, I think you get the idea.

When I fill out the assignment sheet I underline the items that they need to come see me for (like a test or assignments we all do together) in red.  Then, I give the kids the option of going through all the other assignments in whatever order they please with the one caveat that reading be done last.  Whenever an assignment is finished the kids simply cross it off their list for the day.  If I assign a grade or score to an assignment I simply record it directly on the page.  For the kid's reference, at the bottom of the page I list any activities they've got for the day and box it in red.

I really like the assignment sheets for several reasons:

  1. Its easy to refer to and see what the day will be like.  Sometimes I just don't know if I've over scheduled our day until I see it on paper.  
  2. The kids have a concrete way of seeing what they've gotten done and what else should be done for the day.
  3. Its a simple way of record-keeping.  After the week is done I simply file away the assignment sheet in my "Keep" folder.
One day when my son moaned and groaned over the list of things he was to do one day, I pointed out to him the 5 assignments that were the quickest to get done and advised him to do those first.  He quickly realized that if he continued with that, he could get about 2/3 of his day done before lunch.  So, this system may require a little coaching to get the kids to use it and see the benefits.  Now that we've used this for at least the last year, my kids are used to it and would probably feel frustrated if I went back to the method I used to employ (where only I possessed a schedule and I directed them through the day).

The kids' assignment sheet goes in the front of their binder and lives there all week until Friday comes and the binders get cleaned out and ready for the next week.

The part that takes the longest time with how I put together the binders is probably writing out the daily assignments for the kids.  And really, that doesn't take me long at all when I've got most of the assignments already somewhat thought out ahead of time.

Next time I'll wrap up with some last little tidbits I use to help my weekly planning go smoothly and without much ado.  I'm still learning, really.  But, without gleaning from the advice and tips of others, I would probably still be and feel very unorganized and frustrated with a weekly routine of planning that takes a lot of time that could be otherwise utilized.  Maybe this will help someone else figure out a way of organizing their homeschool to fit their needs.


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