Monday, September 10, 2012

Organized Chaos

Mom's of many know that our lives can often look like chaos.  Ok, so maybe it is sometimes, but mostly, it is  organized chaos! There are many schools of thought and approaches to managing a home with many children - what works for one family won't work for another.  I've read tons of books and blogs on the subject over the years and have found a lot of it very helpful.  I've attempted to implement some of the strategies and they have worked while others haven't.  I am often asked "how in the world do you do all you do?" Well, honestly I have not found a great answer for this but I know this -  with God all things are possible! There are days where I know if it were not for Him, nothing would have been done. Lots of prayer and planning go into my days. 

Today I'm going to try to tell you how I manage the "chaos" of home educating 5 children.  

The first thing  I do is take a REALLY big breath. Admittedly, I tend to stress over details because I am a detail oriented person.  I'm a work in progress :)

I plan curriculum for the year in April/May of the current school year. I jot down each subject we HAVE to cover for each child the following year, then add the subjects they may WANT to learn about.  As we decide on the curriculum for each child/subject, I write it in an Excel made template I print.  I make sure to write the price for each item necessary for the curriculum.  There are often books to read that go with the core textbook, so keep that in mind when budgeting. I then add up the totals and see where we are with our budget.  Some years, we have stretched it out to make sure to fit a certain text or subject in because we felt it was important.  Other years, we have trimmed it down or found another comparable text that was less expensive. Then, I begin purchasing curriculum so that we have all of it by the end of June.  

Home Education Management Binder -

A couple years ago I set up a Home Education Management Binder for myself.  This is my brain for Home Education. I love putting things in notebooks, it is my chosen method of organization for many things.  Below is a list of tabs contained in my binder along with what I put under that tab.

The white blob is where I removed our last name :)

In the front of the binder is a School Calendar I make each year.  It has the first and last day of school listed as well as Holidays we are off and any important dates such as PSAT, ACT, SAT.  I also include the semesters for my high school age son.

Behind the calendar are monthly calendars (Aug-June)  I printed online for free. The ones I print have pictures the kids are able to color if they so choose, the younger kids like this.  On these calendars, I write the first day of school, days where there is no school, weeks (1-36), testing dates and anything that is for all the kids. Then I make a copy for each child, then I go back and write specific dates important to the individual child. Then I give each child their copy and let them color in the pictures if they want to.  They also use this as a planner to write some things in for themselves such as any sports practice, church outings, etc...

  • One tab for each child - behind this tab I use cardstock as dividers, punch holes and use the Post It Note tabs to add each subject for that year. I put my lesson plans for each subject in so I can easily refer to them when I create their assignment sheets. I will also place things such as ACT admission ticket and place in that child's tab so I won't have to hunt it when it's time to go or they won't lose it (because you know, that's never happened hahaha)
  • Reporting papers - this is where I keep master copies of the reporting sheets I turn in each year or semester for the kids.  Grades, attendance, curriculum, etc...
  • Info/Resources - this is where I keep a copy of our state laws on home education along with any other information I will want to refer throughout the year or even once a year.
  • Journaling - here I keep copies of journaling ideas I find from time to time.  I have all the younger kids keep journals each year and I give them different topics each day.  Some are silly, some serious or some just outright goofy, but they have fun and it keeps them writing and using their imaginations.
  • Assignments - this is where I keep a copy of all their assignment sheets.  Again, I make cardstock dividers using the Post It Note tabs for each of their names. I keep the most recent week directly behind the divider so I don't have to search for it.
  • Field Trips - here I keep any information on field trips we have taken or want to take that year.  If we have taken it, I type a little blurb up and put it with the information and paperclip all together so I know we've already done it. Hey, I forget a LOT more than I used to :)
  • Ideas - here I keep some information on ideas I found on another blog or received in an email or anywhere and would like to use for later.  Now, there is a LOT of neat ideas and information out there but I only print and place things in this tab that I believe I will actually use.  I will place a Post It Note on it with what my initial thoughts/ideas were as well because I've learned I forget those.

Lesson Plans -

This is probably the thing that used to kill me the most!  I have to admit I despise making lesson plans.  Yet, it must be done and organization and proper planning is essential to a smooth year for me.

I use a template from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler  that she uses for workboxes.  More on how we use workboxes later.  Once I receive all our books, I devote July to creating weekly assignment sheets for each child for the entire 36 weeks of school.  Yes, that sounds like a huge task but you would be amazed at how much burden this takes off throughout the school year.  This has freed up my time to focus on working with a toddler learning shapes, letters, numbers, etc... as well as taking care of my home management responsibilities I need to take care of as well.

Most of the curriculum we purchase includes lessons plans for that subject (this is totally intentional) so I simply put the information into each day on the child's assignment sheet.  I print off each child's and make a copy.  They are put into file folders, the copies all together in one for use in my binder as we get to that week and the originals are used with copies of work (see next section).

Weekly File Folders -

I use 2 sets of file folders marked with each week - week 1, week 2.....week 36.  One set is used for weekly assignments.  I make copies of anything that needs copying, then tear pages out of  any book that I can that is assigned for that week.  Then I place the assignment sheet that goes with the papers on the front and paperclip.  This way all I have to do for that week of school is place each child's assignments and papers in their boxes and I'm done with that week!  You have no idea how much a burden this took off of me when I did this!  I feel so much more freedom!!

The next set of file folders is for completed work.  Again, labeled weeks1-36- I created a grading template in Excel with all the kids subjects listed and M-F, I staple this to the front of each file folder.  On Friday's I add "turn in all work from this week" to their assignments so it goes into that weeks folder.   I grade on Friday's so I can simply grade the papers (from the previous week), mark the grade on the front and it's done.  Then every 9 weeks I do a little report card for them so they can see where they are at.  Then when it comes time to turn in grades, I am not scrambling with trying to pull it together - not that that has EVER happened! heehee!