Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Organize and Keep Track of Your Child’s Lessons

When I began homeschooling, our mornings were extremely structured. I had no earthly idea what to expect, really, I suppose in my head I was envisioning a classroom-like setting, only at home.

Once our first school year had ended, I couldn’t get over how much had changed. I am a pretty flexible person, and it didn’t take long to figure out what did and didn’t work. As I have become more comfortable with homeschooling, I have been able to experiment, explore and branch out. Our lessons are more relaxed and creative. The same will be true for you.

As your child gets older, it will be important to keep careful track of your lessons, not only for memory’s sake, but also to review and – more importantly – to keep track if your state’s laws require it. Each state is different, but many require a record of your work.

I also think it is important to keep a record of your progress because it is something tangible that you and your child can look over at the end of the year and see how far you’ve come. I think this is terribly important for boosting not only your child’s self-confidence as a student, but yours as a teacher.

It’s also very helpful to settle your mind and help you teach more effectively, especially if you are not following a strict curriculum. Being organized in this small way will help your schooling to flow more smoothly, allowing for balance and routine.

Over the years, my record-keeping has changed. Here's a look at some of them.

There are a variety of tienditas online selling cutesy lesson plan books, and you may even find some you like at your local teacher supply store or homeschool shop.

But if you are trying to save money, just run to your local dollar store. I used to shop at Family Dollar for little school doodads. On one such trip, I found this little gem (Perdona the scratches. It is well-loved!)…

Ooops! Did I say “cutesy”? Don’t get me wrong, I could just have easily picked up a plain spiral notebook at the grocery store and it would have worked fine. Or you might just try a simple binder with sheets of paper that you can remove, add to, or rearrange.

The structure of your lesson plans will depend on the homeschool method that you are using to teach your child. Try to keep it as simple as possible. Before you write or plan it, ask yourself: Do we need this? If not, leave it out.

Here's a look at my journal that I kept when my older kids were in elementary grades and the class structure that worked best for us:

This is what worked for me: I spent Sunday nights preparing for the coming week. I sat down and tries to plan for no more than 4 or 5 topics each school day. Some days we got through all of them, some days we didn’t.

When my child was in Kindergarten/1st grade and is a kinesthetic learner, I tried to focus primarily on hands-on activities to keep it "fun” and engage her senses. I was also sure to include at least one book per lesson and one cultural activity, though sometimes these were one and the same.

During the lesson (or afterward), I just made a little checkmark in the margin so that I knew what we’d finished and if I still needed to go back and cover something the next time.

Those little asterisks in the right margins are to indicate activities that are primarily independent or hands-on so that I can make sure my child is not zoning out on a worksheet or mindless work.

If something didn’t work out for my child (she gots frustrated, bored, etc.), then I would circle it. I wanted to know what my child is having trouble with so that I knew how to approach it differently if need be, or what simply needed repetition.

Finally, I left room at the bottom for notes or to make last-minute changes.

Your lesson plan book should be different, designed around the style that works for you and your child. Just don’t forget to KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!

Remember, the main reasons for starting a record of your lessons are to:

• organize your thoughts
• keep track of what you have covered
• identify trouble areas
• and as a physical record of your accomplishments

As my kids grew older, I switched to planner pages that I created myself. It was more organized and helped me stay on track as far as subjects. And the more subjects I added, the more reminders I needed! I could print them on both sides of the page and keep them in a binder.

Each year, I tweaked the layout to fit my needs. The good news is that I saved all of them and they are now available as a download. 

Or, if you'd prefer to keep track of your lessons on-line, check out Homeschool Skedtrack, which is a FREE online lesson planner, scheduler, and tracking system rolled into one. This is an incredible tool that is accessible from anywhere in the world. It comes with video tutorials and screenshots.

Con mucho cariño…


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