Homeschooling Your Way: Adjusting As You Go

source: Travis Reynolds

This week we’re talking about organization for homeschoolers. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility it affords families to tailor school to fit their lifestyle. Because I’m just starting out on this journey, I’ve asked several people to share their experiences and systems with us. And of course we’d love to hear from you in the comments with your experiences as well!

The following is a guest post from Heather from Musings on the Move:

Where in your home do you homeschool? Do you have different areas for read-alouds, workbooks and/or independent work? Is there anywhere that’s off limits?

Our schooling takes place in several areas of the house.

We do seatwork (anything with writing) at the dining room table, which is in a room that is half dining room/half office. If it is an especially nice day outside, we take our seatwork to the table on the back patio.

The boys do independent reading in their rooms most days, but sometimes on the couch. We do read-alouds on the couch most of the time, but sometimes up in that child’s room. I’ve even been known to take read-alouds to the bathroom and read to them while they take their bath, although now that they are older, they don’t put up with that.

Science takes place whenever, wherever, depending on the nature of what we are studying. I don’t have any part of the house or yard that is off-limits; as long as the work is getting done, they are free to do it wherever they’d like.

Do you have a set schedule for your school days? Do you have a set start time? A set end time?

We do not have a set start time or end time. We shoot for a loose routine, so that “after lunch” is school time. It seems none of us are morning people, and as we keep rather late nights, the boys all wake up at different times, making a regular morning start time difficult. Our days do follow a pattern, so that the boys know school is in the afternoon, but the timing varies depending on what is going on that day. As for a set end time, we do aim to be done before daddy is home from work.

Science, though, takes place on the weekends, when dad is able to help instead of mom. Read-alouds also tend to happen outside of our “school day” so that really I can’t define school as taking place at a set time.

We have tried several times to have a more rigid schedule or start in the mornings, but it just does not work for us. I think part of the reason for that is that our homeschool has always been, by necessity, a “fit around life” type school — we have homeschooled since my oldest was 3.5 and asking to learn to read; he is now almost 12. In that time we have moved 4 times, once internationally, two hospital stays for my 2nd son, and had our 3rd child born several weeks early, requiring bedrest for me and then a 7 week hospital stay for our youngest at the time of his birth. With so many life interruptions, school was always fit around them, and I think that has had a lot to do with our current loose schedule.

How are your school supplies organized? Do you stock up on extra supplies? How do you organize the extras?

My organization has changed a bit since our international move (we moved from Texas to Brazil in September of 2007) as I could not bring my biggest storage unit with me. Still, what I do now works well.

Our everyday books (workbooks, current week’s history book, current week’s read-aloud, teacher guides, Bible materials, etc.) and our pens/pencils/rulers/etc. are all kept in one large desk caddy that I store atop the dryer during the day and then carry to the dining table when we are ready for school. This has one main compartment in the center, and 4 side pockets, and I am able to keep each boys’ workbooks organized in their own pocket, with bigger books in the center. This also saves running to the shelf for a book, or a pencil, or an eraser, or whatever. Everything we need to use during a given day is in this caddy, making it very easy to carry school everywhere.

Books for the year are on a shelf, right now in the pantry but soon to be moved to a shelf in the dining room/office. I keep each student’s material separate, so that my oldest’s books are on one shelf, my 2nd son’s on another, and my 3rd son’s books on yet another. I group books by topic — history, then a divider; read-alouds (literature books that I will read to the child), a divider; readers (books the child will read on his own), divider. I keep science books in a separate shelf/cabinet, along with boxes of science supplies and the microscope. The boys do science together (the only part of their schooling that we combine), so I just store it all on its own.

Past years’ books are labeled with a color-coded sticker, and once used, they go into the general reading shelves. With the stickers, I’ve not lost a book yet from one year to the next as I begin to re-use the materials with my younger students. I prefer to have them in the general reading since that — building our home library– is what drew us to Sonlight curriculum in the first place. And it’s especially true now that we’re living in Brazil, where English-language children’s books are very difficult to find.

Extra supplies (paper, crayons, art supplies, extra notebooks, etc.) are stored in individual plastic tubs, roughly shoebox size, larger as needed. Those tubs are stored in a cabinet in the kitchen where I can access them but where the children can’t. I do keep some art supplies in our “art cabinet” for easy access, but “extras” are kept separate so that I can pull them out as needed.

Before coming to Brazil, where availability of certain materials is limited (either because of actual availability or because of price) I did not stock up too much, and would just buy as needed each year. Since moving here, though, we bought a bunch of stuff at home and brought with us, thus the need to stockpile and keep that stock separate; since I cannot just run to a SuperStore and replace it, I need them to go through things at a slower pace.

What do you use for recordkeeping? Do you store completed work? Do you go above and beyond the recordkeeping requirements of your state?

I don’t do a ton for recordkeeping. My home state, Texas, does not require any reporting or recordkeeping at all, so all I have done up to this point is to make minimal notes in the Instructor’s Guide. I simply check-mark each item as we finish it, scratch through anything we skip and mark the beginning date and completion date in the front of the IG, along with the child’s name, since we re-use the IG. I have kept all completed math workbooks, as well as language arts. We don’t have much other written work, but when they do have something (a report, etc.) I keep that in a folder for each child (digital or print; some work I just back up onto the harddrive if they do it on the computer). I store the completed workbooks in a box in our attic.

This is above & beyond the requirements of Texas, but it is not as much as I need to start doing to prepare for the highschool years.

What is one area that you wish was more organized about your homeschooling?

I wish I was more organized about record keeping. Although not required for Texas, my oldest is now in Junior High/Middle School and I feel I should begin keeping a loose sort of transcript now so that I’ll be ready for the highschool years, either to have records to show the school should we return to the US and wish to enroll him in highschool, or so I am in practice to keep his highschool transcripts, which he’ll need to go on to college.

I’ve tried a few of the popular record keeping programs for the computer (Homeschool Tracker and the like), but I do not do well with spreadsheets and such, and the programs just overwhelmed me, having to enter start dates, due dates, etc. It simply didn’t work with our very loose schedule. Since we don’t follow the IG very closely (rather we just take the books in order, and more or less ignore the “do this page this day” bit), I couldn’t input due dates and things.

I’m still trying to find a way to keep better records, something approaching a transcript, but I’ve yet to find a way that works well for me.

Heather is a homeschooling mom to three boys, ages 4 through 11, currently living in Brazil with her family. She blogs at Musings on the Move!

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