Getting Organized, Planning, Time-Saving Tips
The summer is flying by. August is just about here! Back to school sales are in full swing. Ads and deals are advertised on TV, the internet, and throughout the stores. For many homeschoolers, August is a great time to start planning and organizing. Here are some tips to make your homeschool year run smoothly.
Select and Acquire your curriculum: If you haven’t done so already, now is the best time to start ordering the books and curriculum you’ll need for the school year. Unsure of what subjects you have to teach? Check out this link from ask pauline: http://home.comcast.net/~askpauline/index.html and click on “Required Subjects” . It lists all the required subjects according to Pennsylvania Homeschool law. If you are homeschooling under the traditional method, there are hundreds of options available for each subject. Many new homeschoolers are unsure of how to fulfill their civics requirement. Two options might be Scholastic News: http://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/products/scholastic-news-grade-3 (many grades are available) or God’s World News: http://www.gwnews.com/. (scroll down for available grades) For money saving tips on curriculum check out this post and this site: https://phillyhomeschool.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/money-aving-tips-for-homeschoolers/ and http://yourfreehomeschool.blogspot.com/.
Purchase Science Experiment Supplies: It’s best to purchase as much as you can ahead of time. That way you won’t need to make a “quick run” to the store the day you will need your supplies. For me “quick runs” to the store never end up being very quick. Then, find a drawer or storage bin to keep all of your experiment materials in until you need them.
Bookshelves: Every homeschooler needs bookshelves, and it helps to have things organized ahead of time. Consider setting aside one shelf for each child you are homeschooling. All of that student’s curriculum, readers, notebooks, binders, etc, can be put on that child’s shelf. It’s also helpful to arrange readers/literature by reading level, history books chronologically, and science books by subject. Because most of the curricula we use is literature based, and we make frequent trips to the library, we designate one bookshelf as our “library bookshelf”. Here we keep all the books we’ve taken out of the library.
Daily School Work:
- Workbox System: It’s nice to have a system in place for how schoolwork will be accomplished. A friend of mine uses the “Workbox System”. It’s a fantastic idea, especially for early elementary students! It helps kids work independently and enables them to see and feel a sense of accomplishment. It also forces us homeschool moms to be more organized, and it’s very inexpensive! Furthermore, if you set up workboxes for your toddler, it can make him feel like he is important and has projects to complete as well. For more on this method, click here: http://thepleatedpoppy.com/2011/06/my-truth-about-homeschooling-the-workbox-system/.
- Notebook Method: My kids are older (ages 10 and up) so I use the notebook method. It’s pretty simple. I buy each of my kids a different color pocket notebook. Each night before I go to bed I write down the assignments that they must complete for the day. I also write down the day’s date and what extra-curricular activities they will be doing. The kids put check marks next to each assignment when it’s completed. When it’s time for me to log my children’s work, it’s easy to mark down what we’ve done for each day. Click here to see an example: planner. Because the kids know what assignments they must complete as soon as they get up, they have the freedom to start (and finish) as early as they want.
- Chore Schedules: Chore Schedules can easily be incorporated into either of the methods used above. It’s a great way to make sure the house is being kept up as well. Another idea is to hang a chore schedule on your refrigerator or bulletin board.
- Timer (Reward & Punishment): For kids who need a little extra motivation to get one or more of their assignments done in a timely manner, a timer is a great tool. An assignment is given and a time limit is set for when the project should be completed (and completed well). If the child finishes by the appointed time, a reward is given. (Maybe extra time on the computer, stickers, trading cards, etc.) If the child does not finish by the appointed time, he loses a privilege. (Maybe no dessert, no video games, no computer time, etc.) For another post on this topic, click here: https://phillyhomeschool.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/reward-or-punishment/
Logging: If you live in Pennsylvania, generally logging is part of your routine. If your kids are in junior high or above, you can definitely consider delegating the logging responsibility over to them. By designating one day each week or twice a month to complete your paperwork, it makes life less of a hassle at the end of the year. Why not pop in an educational video while you get your paperwork done? Here’s some links to some free printable homeschool logs: http://home.comcast.net/~askpauline/hs/homeschoolforms.html, http://donnayoung.org/forms/planners/index.htm, and http://notebookingnook.blogspot.com/2012/01/homeschool-planning-pages.html.
Spelling Words: Are spelling words part of your English curriculum? Many free spelling lists are available online. (See here: http://www.aaaspell.com/grade1.htm and here: http://www.bigiqkids.com/SpellingVocabulary/Lessons/wordlistVocabularyEighthGrade.shtml I find it helpful to print all my lists out ahead of time and put them in a 3 ring binder. Then I can put check marks next to the words my kids complete each week.
Caddies/Bins: It’s nice to have some sort of caddy set up with supplies you’ll need on a daily basis. (Pencils, pens, scissors, glue, erasers, staplers, etc.) I’ve also found it’s helpful to designate a bin or drawer for each child to put their completed paperwork. Then, it’s easy to put their writing assignments and worksheets in their binders while I’m doing my logging. (Otherwise, schoolwork inevitably ends up on the floor, behind the couch, etc.)
Color/Pattern Coordinate: In the past I’ve designated a color for each child. That way each time a find a notebook, binder, folder, etc, on the floor, I know whose it is without having to pick it up. However, there are so many cool new kinds of Duck Tape, I think this year we may try some pattern coordination by putting a Duck Tape stripe across each item that belongs to that particular child. You can buy all sorts of duck tape patterns at Five Below, Walmart, AC Moore , & Michael’s Crafts.
- Crockpot: Trying to provide a good, healthy meal in the midst of a busy homeschool day can be quite a challenge, but with a little extra planning, you can succeed. Consider making one meal each week a crock pot meal. Check out this post for crockpot ideas: https://phillyhomeschool.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/what-a-crock-quick-easy-cooking-for-the-busy-homeschool-mom/.
- Freeze Ahead: A friend of mine spends one weekend a month preparing and freezing many dinners. Then, each homeschool day she pulls a dinner out of the freezer and warms it up. Check out this site for freeze-ahead tips: http://www.once-a-monthcooking.com/how.html.
- A little extra: Consider cooking twice as much meat for a dinner. Then use the extra meat in a casserole dish later in the week. You’ll save time and save on your gas or electricity bill as well!
- Kids, wear ’em twice!: I grew up wearing my clothes once, then throwing them in the laundry. I had been homeschooling for many years and was waist-high in laundry piles before I realized, “Hey! I don’t have to do this!” Of course, toddlers are messy; their clothes will need to be washed more often. But I’ve found kids ages 5 – 11 can generally wear shirts and jeans twice before they get dirty. This has cut down my laundry workload by 1/3 and has saved us money on our water bill as well.
- Sorting: When it’s time to do laundry younger kids can help by sorting piles into colors. Older kids can learn to do their own.
- Folding: For folding I’ve learned the best way to get it done is to dump the clean laundry on our dining room table. I call the kids down and tell them to grab their stuff, fold it, and put it away. The kids know we can’t eat dinner until their laundry is put away. It’s a real motivator!
Extra-Curricular Activities: We have four children with four very different interests. This has been quite a challenge for our schedule, so whenever possible, I try to sign my children up for activities that I know some other friend is doing. That way we can take turns carpooling to the sports/drama/program. Even if I have to go out of my way one day a week for driving, it’s nice not to have to drive at all another day.
Library Planning: Many homeschoolers make frequent trips to the library. Because our history curriculum is literature based, we need to visit the library on a regular basis. Here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful concerning the library:
- Books are due every 3 weeks so we go to the library every third Friday. That way I don’t have to worry about which book is due when. (They’re all due!)
- Books can be renewed online! Here’s the Philly library website: www(dot)freelibrary(dot)org. It’s really easy to do, and can be done from the comfort of your own home. You’ll need a library pin number to get started. Ask your librarian for help if you need it.
- Books can be put on hold online! Philly library website: www(dot)freelibrary(dot)org. Again, it’s really easy to do and can save you a lot of time. Once the book you’ve requested comes to your library, they send you an email letting you know you can come pick it up.
Bulletin Board Squares: My kids are ages 10 and up. They keep their own reading logs, and they frequently have permission slips, forms, and other papers they need to fill out or have me sign and fill out. Since we don’t want them to get lost or mixed up with their other school work, we’ve designated a bulletin board square for each of them to tack their individual special papers.
Literature Binder: Each year my kids have specific books they need to read for English literature and discussion questions they need to complete for each chapter. (Grades 3 and up.) To make each year run smoothly, I’ve kept a list of what books my children will read in each grade. This list is located in our “Literature Binder.” I also keep copies of the discussion questions for each chapter of each book. It takes the guess work out of trying to remember what books I had them read when. This is a great site for literature discussion questions: http://www.nt.net/~torino/novels3.html.
Discipline: It’s good to have a plan for how you’re going to tackle defiance, because you will inevitably have days like that with your beautiful children! Being consistent with your discipline is the key to maintaining a peaceful home. A friend of mine used the “If, Then Chart” with her kids when they were little. It lists a misbehavior, gives a visual cartoon example of it, a Bible verse, and then leaves a blank spot for you to write in a consequence.
Planning the Week: I find it helpful to take a little bit of time every Sunday night to look at the week ahead of us. What church, sports, drama activities do we have going on? When can I get my kids to where they need to go? When will it be difficult? When should I cook ahead? Looking at my schedule for 20 minutes on a Sunday night can save me a lot of chaos during the week. I’ve also found it’s easier on our family to do certain subjects on certain days. For instance, Fridays are always civics or health. Wednesdays are always field trips, art, or music. When I’m completing my log, if I’ve missed a date or my kids have lost an assignment, by knowing what we normally do during that day of the week, we can usually track down what assignment is missing.
Celebrate your new school year! Once all your planning and organizing is finished it’s time to celebrate! My kids have fun decorating binders for themselves each year. They print pictures from Google Images of their favorite superheroes, sports teams, interests, etc. We have a fun tradition of a “Homeschool Breakfast Celebration” every year on the day before we officially start class. We go out to a restaurant, (IHOP or a diner) and the kids all order what they like. It’s relatively inexpensive and it provides a formal beginning to our homeschool year. It’s also a great family bonding time. The kids look forward to it every year because it’s a lot of fun!
God is a planner: You may be thinking. “I’m really a ‘take-it-as-it-comes’ kind of person. I don’t like planning and have never been good at it.” Consider: God planned each day of Creation and what he would form. God saw Adam and Eve choose to sin and then planned for their redemption and the redemption of the whole world by sending his Son. Even now God is preparing a great place in heaven for you! He is the Master Planner and has wonderful plans for you and your children through this year. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” May God bless your school year and give you wisdom to know how to plan for your upcoming year. May He guide you in your choice of curriculum, scheduling, and in all organizing you will need to do to succeed in your homeschool endeavor!
Here are some great quotes about planning:
- “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” (Franklin, Benjamin)
- “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” (Will Rogers)
- “A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.” (Judd, H. Stanley)
- “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” (Lakein, Alan)
- “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent return on energy!” (Tracy, Brian)
Copyright July 31st, 2013 by Gwen Fredette