Monday, August 9, 2010


Organization, Organization, Organization! If Location is the mantra of the realtor, then organization is the mantra of the homeschooler. After all, there is no one but you to record, document, and retrieve the important records and information your child will one day need.

Please do not let your heart be troubled, however, if you are not an organizer. I am, in fact, the reigning queen of "Organized Chaos." Welcome to my queendom.

The very first thing you really need to do when planning your homeschooling year once your curriculum is chosen is to make certain you are on track with your state's requirements. Visit the state board of education's website and see if you can find a timeline for learning. That will give you a good idea of what the schools are doing when. Also, HSLDA has information on what records and requirements are mandatory in your state. This is a critical first piece of your organization. You really must know what your state requires you to do.

Next, I highly recommend a lesson plan book for each child. They are easy to find in a school supply store or you can usually order them online at the vendor who offers your homeschooling materials. I have even found them in Barnes and Noble or Having one for each child may seem tedious but it has three pronged advantages.

One, you are forced every week to sit down and really plan what your child will do that week. I usually did mine on Sunday night. This afforded me the opportunity to incorporate any changes in the usual schedule (field trips, doctor's appointments, social activities, etc). It also gives you a tool to go back and see exactly what you have done. Have you spent too much time doing social activities? Has it been a while since you've done a science experiment? These are all questions easily retrieved with a lesson plan.

Two, it gives your child accountability. Children as young as second grade can look on his or her own lesson plan book and know what is to be expected that day. They can also do individual work when you are busy with other children. This is such an important skill. While a stack of books that reaches their waist seems overwhelming, they learn by reading the lesson plan that not all of the books will be required every day. They can see their own progression by checking off each subject as they go along. This can be a very important tool if you have a child who needs to see 'the plan.'

Three, your lesson plans become a documentation of your progress throughout the year. Make sure you document social activities, field trips, parties, tests, science experiments, lessons, sports. I document everything. That way, if you ever did have a question in your homeschooling, you have written proof of what your children do. Whenever someone decided to question my homeschooling, I whipped my lesson plans out and they usually quiet down immediately. Now my mom brags about them! I even decorate my with little stickers according to what is going on at the time (Christmas, snow, Valentine's Day, etc). It may sound silly, but my kids really enjoyed them.

Next, make a general homeschooling folder. In this have copies of your state's requirements, your HSLDA membership information, and all important contacts. You'll put your playgroups, co-op's, various lessons, team rosters, general family schedule, etc. in this folder.

If you have not already, plan out your ideal homeschooling day. I say ideal because it will be unlikely to be able to stick to it every single day, but you really need to have an idea of what your day should look like. I plan to address scheduling on another day, but generally map out your day and your requirements.

Have another binder for each child. This is imperative. In this huge notebook, have page protectors, and dividers. You can organize it however you want, but I have always done professional testing (CAT and Iowa Basic Skills Tests, Intelligence Testing, etc) in the beginning and divided the notebook into subjects after that.

Afterwards, have a place for attendance, grades, and each child's individual course plan (the books, curriculum, etc they are using for the year)
Next, we'll add the work itself.

Every week, I place graded work (much of your work will be in workbooks, but it is important to give weekly quizzes and quarterly exams). Any loose daily work will go by subject in each section.
It is very important to have samples of work ready to offer whoever may request it. While you may never be scrutinized by anyone for your homeschooling endeavors, it has always helped both my confidence in my own homeschooling and anyone else (like my teacher mother) to know that there is a plan and you know what you are doing.

By the end of the year you will have a completed notebook for each child and in it, you will place your lesson plans in it, burn a copy or scan it (in case of some unspeakable disaster) and file it away. I also make notes about the curricula...did I like this book? Was this geometry book too difficult to understand? When you next child comes to that age, you can scan your organized notebook and know what worked and what did not. You'll also have an idea about what you need to do to catch up on any subjects during the summer.

Whether or not you have an organized curriculum that requires that the facility grades your child's work, you need to have an idea where your child is academically at all times. This is why keeping grade point averages is so important. If you do not give him the service of testing (even oral testing) you'll have no idea where he is and what needs to be done to challenge him or catch him up. This is why I always keeps grades. Even if I can only get one weekly grade in a subject, I do it. It just helps you keep on track.

Finally, organize your week. Get a big dry erase calendar and write out what is going on at any given time. It will help you when you are planning your lesson plans to go see it. You can adjust your scheduled lessons. For example, if I know we all have doctor's appointments on one day, I schedule easy work for that day we can do it in the doctor's office. If we are planning a trip to the botanical gardens, I know I need to plan a few botany lessons in science that week. It has been a truly helpful tool in our lives.

I do hope this helps you. When I began my homeschooling, 12 years ago, I went through much trial and more error to figure out this method. I promise if you can organize these few key areas, the rest will fall into place! Please message me if you have a specific question. Happy homeschooling!