Monday, June 29, 2009

Homeschool Organizing

Last year, I wrote about how I found this great organizing method for homeschool organizing and was implementing it for our own home school. Well, last year was our best year, by far! We never got very far behind; a few times, we got a week behind in a subject but it was so easy to catch back up. We finished most of our curriculum early, and the rest was done by the time we were ready for our summer break. Best of all, it required a few days planning at the beginning of the year and that was it. The rest of the year required very little work for me. As the year went along, though, I figured out a couple of small changes I wanted to make for this year.

I've been working on getting this done enough so I could have some pictures to go with this post...for someone who's waiting for it. (Hello, friend!) I'm trying to get as much done before the baby comes. I'll finish up as I receive the curriculum that I haven't been able to order yet. Then we'll be good to go for the rest of the year.

My method starts with a simply filing box. Because I only have two kids in school, one box is plenty. It's about 18" deep, I think, and wide enough for standard hanging files. If you have more than three kids, you'll need another box or two.

Here's a photo. In the file box are 12 hanging files, each labeled with the months of the year. I start with August as that is when the school year starts. If you look closely, you'll see that I have a 13th hanging file labeled "Sam's math"; I'll explain that in a minute as it is an extra piece that is probably not necessary for most people.

Each hanging file is filled with file folders. Each week of the school year, including holiday weeks, are accounted for with its own separate file. Each child has their own set, which is color coded.

Here's a close up of the file folders. Each one is labeled with the dates (numbers only) for the week. For example, you'll see 17-23 behind the August tab. This means that folder is for Monday, August 17th through Sunday, August 23rd. I always start with Monday because that is the first day of the new school week. I always include the weekend at the end because we use the weekend for finishing anything that wasn't done and grading.

If the week begins in one month and ends in the next month, I file it in the month it began. For example, if Monday is the 31th of August and Sunday is the 6th of September, that file will be labeled 30-6 and filed in the August hanging file.

You'll also see that there are two files, identically labeled, right next to each other. The pink one is Sam's work for that week. The blue one is Mika's work for that week.

What do I put in these folders? Everything. All consumables get pulled apart and filed. I figure out how much I need to file by taking the number of pages divided by the number of weeks we are doing school. If the pages are single sided, I'll put that number of pages in each folder. If the pages are double sided and the number I need in each week is even, I'll put the appropriate number of pages (ie. 6 pages to complete equals 3 double sided pages filed). If the number is odd, I'll round up (ie. 5 pages to complete equals 3 double sided pages). In this latter case, we'll work 6 pages each week and finish that curriculum early. If I want to do one chapter/lesson a week, I simply file all the pages that go with that chapter/lesson in each folder. If it is a subject that I don't have a consumable, I'll be creating assignment sheets or logs for those subjects. The assignment sheets can be as simple as read chapter three, or as complete as listing how much to read each day and adding in activities. I plan on using logs for some subjects. These are subjects where I tend to go with the flow and don't have to finish by a certain time...reading logs for reading/literature fit this category well. I'll also have a PE log so we can keep track of how much and what kind of activity they are doing.

The file labeled "Sam's math" has folders labeled "Epsilon", "Zeta", and "Prealgebra". I found out last year that I couldn't file his math by week because he likes to work ahead at varying speeds. He would do anywhere from 1 week to 3 weeks of math each week and it was too hard to keep track of which week I had last pulled from. So, I decided to file his math separately by year. This year, I suspect he'll complete at least those three levels of math so I created files for them and will pull a week at a time from which ever level he's working it. This gives me the flexibility of pulling out what he needs, when he needs it, easily.

That's PART 1: The Filing Box

Part 2 of my system is the three ring binder. Each child has one, color coded to match his/her files. Here's Sam's binder. As you can see, we are reusing last year's binders.

Here's the inside of the binder. Inside you'll find pocket dividers for each subject we are covering during the year. These dividers are plastic and have a pocket on each side. Each Monday, I pull each child's file folder for the week and transfer the papers to their binder. Spelling pages go into the spelling divider, math in the math divider, and so on. We have 16 dividers so that each subject has a separate divider. Our subjects this year are spelling, grammar, vocabulary, poetry, writing, math, problem solving, history, science, logic, Korean (for Sam), Drawing, reading, social skills, PE, and home ec. The work to be done is put in the front side pocket of the divider. When the work is done (whether it is a worksheet, assignment sheet, or log), the page is placed in the back side pocket of the divider. This way, they can't lose an unfinished page among the finished pages.

At the end of the week (Friday), I grab their three ring binders and go through them. Any pages undone are either finished on the weekend. We also go over any missed problems over the weekend. At times, I'll let unfinished work be added to the next week's work. This is especially true if it is a subject that we cover together as a group. It is easy not to get too far behind because you see the pages add up each Monday, which reminds you to spend extra time catching up.

On Monday, I empty all of the finished work from the binders and place them back into the file folder they came from. This gives me ready access to this year's completed work should I need it. This is handy for CVA's monthly reviews as I can grab the folders I need to reference as I write the review. I grab the new week's work and put it in the appropriate dividers.

I love this system. It required very little in the way of planning for the rest of the year. At most, I would look to see what chapter/lesson we were on next so I could grab those library books or experiment supplies ahead of time. If I had the time/energy/inclination (which I don't with the baby due), I might make it even easier by creating a third set of file folders for this stuff. Then I'd just have to grab the list from the folder and go.

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David said...

Lots of up front work, but I can see how it keeps the year together and organized.

The Four Week Vegan said...

Looks like it works really well for you. Always great when we find something that works and makes our lives easier :)

Mommy to One said...

Thanks for sharing! I've been waiting for this post for DAYS. :-) This system will certainly keep you on track, and I like that, after the initial time investment, you're pretty much good to go for the rest of the year.

Renae said...

I really like this idea. I'll have to think about it and see if I could do something like this.

We don't have hardly any consumables, and I like to plan as I go. However, I can see how having this done could really free up my kids.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Unknown said...

I just came over to see this from Renee. It´s a great idea! I think I may be able to implement some of it. We use ABEKA so might not need to do all of this but I def. need to get each day and week down in the beginning so I am not falling behind. Thanks for taking the time to post all this.

CourtneyB said...

I came over from the WTM boards to see this - and I think it's my solution! I do workboxes, but I wanted a way to organize ahead of time so that filling the boxes at night would be fast and easy.

I love this - the only modification I think I'll make is to just generically label the folders Week 1, Week 2, and so on, in case we have some unscheduled interruptions to our schedule (and so I can re-use them next year)! Thanks again!

Peculiar Blogs said...

Was researching homeschool organization ideas and came upon your blog post. I just love this!!! I think we will try it! I can't use work boxes because we have 4 kids and a small house! No room for all those boxes! But this idea would work great! thank you, thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this informative post. This is our first year of homeschooling, and I think this will really work for us!

jen l.

Jacque Dixon said...

This looks like a great system! We are trying workboxes this year with the Littles and stackable files with the older children. I love the organization, and I think I can use some of your method with the Workboxes and stackables.
Thanks for sharing this great post. I love the photos and the explanations.
I hope you get all you need done and still have time with your new little one too!

Suzy said...

Thanks for your organizational tips!Can you please tell me what you are using to teach Korean? Thanks!

JoAnn said...

Suzy, we're using Rosetta Stone.

Nicci Lynn said...

Can I just say this is AMAZING!!!! Exactly what I have been looking for!!!!!! I am homeschooling a 1st and a 3rd grader this year while entertaining a 4 year old, 2 year old and an 10 month old, so this sounds like an answer to my prayers!! Thank you so much for sharing this! I will probably linking this to my blog if that is okay. I just posted about planning for next year and it is taking painstakingly WAY too much time! This should make a HUGE difference!
Nic @

Danielle Lowden said...

Question: what do you do with consumable workbooks where pages are 2 sided and ou break up a lesson with one side of the page? For example you end Fridays lesson where the la page is on th front. Then on Monday your lessn begins with the backside of that page. How do you split that up?

Danielle Lowden said...

I'm sorry. Shoud have re read my post. Sometimes my iPad keyboard doesn't do all the characters I type. Sorry about that?