About organization

Someone asked about a photo I posted on a previous post: Homeschool at the Beach. Specifically, the planner in the photo. So I thought I would post a little bit about my planner and how I stay organized. Plus, I’m quite proud of them because I told my wife what I wanted and she designed them for me!

I use a three ring binder and have a little packet for each week. This is the front page of each week:

It has a place for me to put the quarter (though, in the future I think I will just call this the period since we do six 6 week periods) and week. At the end of the week I come back to this page and record notes about how the week went, think we need to change or improve on, places where we can go a little faster, etc.

The weekly grade is really just a comment on the effort put forth, not the quality of work. I don’t grade in a harsh way. I figure I get to keep him on a subject as long as he needs until he can master it, so the quality of work that gets excepted for grading should always be exceptional. I honestly assign a grade because he wants it. It keeps him motivated. He wants to see how he did each week and he strives for A’s. So it works for him. And he gets rewarded for cumulative grades at the end of every 6 week period. He’s in fourth grade and he used to get rewarded for report cards while he was in public school. When I told him he didn’t have to worry about report cards any more he flatly refused. He wanted the grades. He wanted the measuring stick. And he wanted the reward. So he gets it, just based on his effort now instead of results.

Why is this at the front of the packet instead of the end? So as I flip through I can see a quick overview of how the week went.

The next two pages are my weekly planning:

IMG_1446 IMG_1447

 can put lesson plans for the entire week here in addition to a section for any notes about field trips, materials I will need, or anything else really. We work on art projects for other subjects so I can talk about them in that section. And then I keep a list of all the books we read each week here, which I then move over to a larger, complete year list.

The back is where I record the independent study assigned:


It says homework because for all the years I was in school that is how I thought of it. My son, having been in public school for the past four years, is the same way. We are slowly transitioning to calling it Independent Study. Perhaps the form will be changed when our designation for it does.

That’s it for my sheets. Between each week I have one of these clear files, magazine size:


We have a journal from the publisher for science and we have a separate notebook for history divided by continent (Mystery of History). The rest of his work (Latin, math, grammar, composition, literature) I collect for the week and keep in this folder. So each week I can look back and see exactly what we studied, what assignments were given, how the week went, and I have all of the work collected in a folder to look through should I need to. I keep the state attendance record in a pocket at the back. The cumulative reading list and grade sheet is in a pocket up front.

At the end of the year I’ll just start a new binder and put this one on my shelf (along with the science journal and the history work in a folder) as a record of his fourth grade work. I’m sure I’ll tweak it as time goes on but it is working pretty well right now. The best part it that I can tweak it. Since we made them from scratch, they can grow with us as we grow. And we aren’t trying to adapt someone else’s forms to suit our needs.


Thomas Jefferson vs Aristotle or a Journey into Education Styles

I came across this article today about different homeschooling styles:

Homeschooling Methods: Discover the different ways to teach at home, and choose the philosophy that’s best for your kids to follow

I found it an interesting read and I was intrigued by the Thomas Jefferson Education. I had never heard of it before but, Jefferson is a personal hero, so I decided to investigate. As far as I remembered, Jefferson had been Classically educated, so I was interested in what the differences would be between this system bearing his name and a Classical education. The link in the article led here:

A Thomas Jefferson Education

After spending some time reading through the site I have to say I find it interesting. I agree with a lot of the ideas, which makes sense since a lot of them are borrowed from Classical. I like the ideas about inspiring your children to love to learn instead of making it a burden they will resent, using classics instead of text books, and the evaluation methods consisting mostly of discussions or other communication (papers, reports, oral presentations, etc) to gauge comprehension instead of tests. I especially like key seven in their Seven Keys of Great Teaching: Continue reading

Homeschool at the beach

I am really enjoying homeschooling. The past three weeks have been dizzying, frustrating, and stressful, but also astonishing, humbling, uplifting, and they have brought my son and I closer together. We did “school” at three am in a Waffle House the other day while stopping for a break on the way to the beach. It was such a cool experience! We both loved it. My wife suggested we try to get out of the house for school every once in a while and I’m pretty sure it will become a thing for us now.

I love the questions that I get to answer and the growth that I get to watch happen. My son did Saxon 5/4 in school last year and, while he did well, there were some concepts he struggled with. He was ahead in math, he was a third grader sitting in on a fourth grade class, so he only had access to his math teacher for a short time each day. He wasn’t able to get all of the help he needed.

Because of that, we have been covering some of the same ground as last year but I can see it clicking for him this time. I don’t know if it is the Singapore approach or the fact that I get to spend so much one on one time with him giving him examples and explaining things to him in ways I know he’ll understand (or both). But I love that I get to do this for and with him.

So I just spent the last half hour or so planning next week’s lessons. At the beach. On vacation. And it was time well spent.


Questions answered and the best-laid plans of mice and men…

I have been planning out a post in my head for the past week about how I am an over-planner (actually, a planning-nazi) and how I have already seen one of my homeschooling plans kind of blow up. Before we even started this year I already had a plan (actually, three) to get my oldest son from fourth grade through high school. Unfortunately, all of them included Truthquest for history right now through lower middle school and he has decided he doesn’t like it. So we switched to Mystery of History and it seems to be working much better. I think he is just used to the whole “text book” style of learning and using living and Great books was a big jump right now. So we’ve pushed those ideas back for a while (which means I made a new plan with Truthquest as a possible HS history path, making four plans o.O).

I’ve also been kicking around an idea for a post about the curriculum we are using this year, and how and why we chose it as a way for people to find out more about us and how we think. Then I answered a question in an online homeschool group I’m a part of and realized that the answer was pretty much those two post I had been crafting in my head crammed together. So I thought I would just present it.

A recap of the question: “This will be our 1st full year homeschooling as we started in March. I have a 9th grade son and 8th grade daughter. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different curriculum and I know I will be using different ones for different subjects. I would love to hear from any of you about what you found fun for each subject to hold interest. “Also, a huge question I have is, since my kids are so close in grade would any of you do the exact same curriculum as far as level goes for both of them? I would love it if they were on the same things.”

And here is my answer: Continue reading