I find it amusing when people find out we homeschool and immediately say, “You must be so organized.”
We did the traditional school thing for a few years. Homeschool doesn’t require more organization, but it does require a different kind of organization. I greatly prefer running our homeschool compared to overseeing everyone getting out the door on time with the needed “stuff” each morning. With homeschool I’m dealing with long term project goals. I also have a tremendous amount of flexibility and my kids have “bought in” on these goals. Traditional school didn’t allow much flexibility for me or the kids. It did require flexibility and it frequently felt we were operating in the urgent/unimportant quadrant (you know – finding out Monday evening you need some supply for a project at school on Wednesday after you just went to Target on Sunday)
My traditional school organizational set up included:
- hooks by the back door for backpacks, jackets, hats
- a “mailbox” for each child where I could store papers / items that needed to go back to school
- a “mailbox” for mom where I stored informational flyers for short term reference – notices about parties, concerts, sight word lists, ect.
- an informational file where we stored papers we might need to reference – student # logins, policy information, and various forms
- a file box of test papers and completed work we wanted to save
- storage space for lunch boxes, water bottles, and other lunch supplies
- a file of yearly test scores and report cards
- a continual STACK of papers I needed to sort / file / throw away
- a hodgepodge drawer of pencils, balls, and tidbits that came home as gifts and rewards
The day by day homeschool set up is much easier:
- A bookshelf for math, grammar, spelling workbooks as well as reference materials and idea books (science experiments and the like)
- A file folder for storing handwriting paper (I also have these bookmarked on the computer for easy reprinting as necessary)
- A basket for library books
- A spreadsheet for recording books read and hours spent on learning activities.
- A dry erase board that stores our “All About Spelling” letter tiles.
- A dedicated location for supplies like pencils, rulers, protractor, and calculator (same as when they were in school, but now there is only one set required)
When it comes to record keeping my main tool is a spreadsheet I created. It includes a book list and activities list.
The book list includes the title, author, reading level, who read the book and the count for the year. Color coding each line makes it easy for me to process the information at a glance. I could keep three spreadsheet pages instead of doing the color coding, but I find this method easier.
I want the boys to read books they find interesting regardless of the level of the book, but I also want to make sure they progressively read harder material.
In the same file, I keep monthly lists of learning activities. It’s very straight forward. Date, activity, and the number of hours:minutes spent on the activity. A cell at the top of each child’s column totals the hours for the month. The current month’s page has a cell that shows the yearly total hours.
Next year I plan to strengthen our record keeping by keeping a list of documentaries and television shows similar to the reading list. I jot them down in the daily record, but I’ve noticed I don’t keep enough information to share them in a resource list.
I also scan any handwriting samples I want to keep. E has started typing many of his stories and emails them to me.
Previously I’ve tried keeping a handwritten journal, but I’ve found the spreadsheet option works much better. I like the built in calculations and the fact the record is backed up to the cloud. If I haven’t remembered to record anything for the day, I’m usually reminded when I sit down to check Facebook or do a blog post.
As far as yearly records, I keep a copy of our notification and testing results. I also keep a summary sheet of unit studies, the yearly book list, and a list of the workbooks completed for the year. All these records go in a three ring binder.
You will also want to store any documentation of learning issues or testing accommodations with the yearly records. If you know your child will need accommodations on the ACT or SAT it is best to start building a record early. Lexercise offers dyslexia screening and testing. The screening is free and the testing is currently $300. You aren’t obligated to use their tutoring. There might be educational consultants in your area who can provide testing for a similar cost. Going to a neuropsychologist will cost more (usually starting around $2500 and can be $5000 and up), but can provide more information and some of the cost may be covered by insurance. Even if you homeschool, you may be able to get testing through the local school district depending on the state (don’t depend on the school district to know if they are required to do this).
In addition, the blog serves as a scrapbook of our homeschool activities and unit studies. I really appreciate the weekly wrap-up sites for the accountability they create. Because of them, I do a much better job taking pictures each week.
Please remember to check your state laws. Every state has different requirements.
That’s my relaxed record keeping strategy for the elementary years. It’s no cost, low maintenance, and best of all doesn’t require a large volume of paper work.
Do you have any record keeping ideas to add? If you did traditional school, do you find homeschool organization easier or harder?