Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Get Organized for Homeschooling By Stephanie Green

For many families, the decision to homeschool opens infinite opportunities to teach and mold their children academically and spiritually. With the varied landscape of today’s homeschool curricula and learning aids, the possibilities to tailor-make the schooling experience seem endless. “It seems as though you could do everything,” says homeschool mom Kelly Adams.

And it may be tempting to try to do everything. But as you get ready and get set to homeschool, the best and first thing to do is to get organized. Let’s go!

First Things First

When getting organized to homeschool, it may seem that the most logical place to start is with your environment—after all, some portion of space will be dedicated to learning. Or one might think it’s best to dive into creating a schedule. Kelly Adams, who has homeschooled for the past seven years, knows firsthand and advises other homeschool families to first assess their priorities: “The first thing we did was to make a list of what was important spiritually, academically and socially,” Adams said. “It was also important for us to look at the needs of each of our children and their levels.”

Then the family made decisions about the best curriculum and activities for each child. “You’ve got to take a hard look at what God is calling you to do,” Kelly said. “Remembering to seek the Kingdom first is the biggest thing, because everything flows from that.”

Setting Schedules

With priorities established, the next step to getting organized is being prepared, which homeschool mom Abby Character says is essential to an organized homeschool: “It helps to organize each day, but I know it’s important to be very flexible and to change as priorities change,” Abby said.

Kelly agrees and points out that schedules require balance and actually allow her to be flexible. “It reminds me that God is in control. Don’t let the schedule rule you. Use it as a tool,” she said. “Schedules also will vary depending on the number of children you have and what you’re doing with each one,” Abby added. For the Characters, that means seven children, ranging in age from newborn to 8. Abby knows that “sometimes one kid needs more help than the others, and that’s when having a system can help.”

It’s why long-time homeschooler Marsha Corbin staggers her children’s lessons with work they can do independently versus work that she assists them with. “This allows me time to interact with each child,” Corbin said. After more than twenty years of homeschooling, Marsha knows that “organization gives structure. It’s a framework to operate within,” she said.

In the Corbin home, that structure is clearly outlined on a chart that lists each family member’s responsibilities and school assignments. “Our day starts at 8 a.m. There are things each child must do before beginning their academic work. The chart incorporates personal responsibility with studies,” Marsha explained. “We try to balance our school schedule and work time with play time. That way, we’re not focusing too much on one area,” Marsha added.

Tracking Schedules

Whether you have one child or ten or prefer a paper system to a digital one, all homeschool families need some way to track activities, appointments, and assignments. “I’m a calendar girl,” Kelly said. While she says she’s always been a very organized person, she finds the calendar is a useful tool, because it not only helps her to see what’s going on but also helps her discern when too much is going on. “You can absolutely get too busy,” she said. When that happens, “then I know that we may have to pull out from something.”

To keep track of her family’s comings and goings, Abby keeps a master calendar in Google. And to stay on top of who’s doing what lesson, Abby said she figured out two years ago that “I’m a lesson plan person. I keep a non-dated lesson plan book together with each child’s curriculum,” she said.

Non-dated lesson plan books are good no matter when you begin your school year, and they help to avoid a feeling of being “behind” if you miss a day or two. “You have to figure out what works for your personality,” Abby advises.

Maintaining Paperwork and Other Stuff

Among the many hats worn when homeschooling, one is administrator (or one who keeps up with the paperwork). Organizing and keeping track of daily papers and a variety of documentation doesn’t require anything fancy, just a system.

Abby shared that they keep track of their children’s work by creating a notebook for each child. “The book is organized for each weekday, and not every subject is covered each day,” she explained.

Marsha encourages homeschool families to learn their state’s legal requirements and keep a file for each year for each child, including items such as declaration of intent, attendance report, and year-end report.

Organizing Your Work Space

When the Characters started homeschooling in 2006, they did schoolwork at a picnic table. As their family grew, they moved to the kitchen table, where most of their schoolwork is still done today.

“We had to organize our space more, because each year, we’ve added more kids,” Abby said. That space has now spilled over into what was once the living room but now houses student desks, an adult desk, and a computer station. Abby said the biggest consideration in organizing their work space was accessibility: “We have a space for each part of our curriculum,” she said. “And you don’t have to have a schoolroom; a simple cabinet will work. The key is to make the items easily accessible to the kids and to keep them in the same place.”

Just like organizing and adjusting their work space, the same is true for organizing any aspect of homeschooling. “It all gets better with practice more than anything else,” Abby said.

I hope these tips from experienced homeschooling moms will prove helpful to you as you prepare for the new school year. May this be the best year ever for you and your family!

Stephanie Green is a wife, mother of five, and writer who lives in Augusta, Georgia. She has been writing for more than fifteen years and enjoys writing about parenting and family topics.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

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