In most states some level of record keeping and progress documentation is compulsory for homeschooling families. Keeping records of attendance is simple enough. You can use an attendance register and mark the school days on it. However the problem arises when you have to keep record of the lessons done and progress made. The simplest way to do this is to mark off the original lesson plan you made for the academic session. Although that can be a bit sparse on the details of what all you actually covered in class. Let’s look at two good ways to keep records.
Keep the Paperwork in a Bin
Get plastic bins that can accommodate the size sheets that you usually use for your homeschool students. Label the bin with the name of the student and the grade. Now you have storage for each child’s paperwork. From worksheets, artwork that comes off the fridge, printouts from the internet, all of this can go into a bin. In case you have built models or projects which are too large to place in the bin, take a photo, label it with all the details and toss that into the bin. At the end of the year you can go through all the material and see what is superfluous and chuck it. The rest becomes an archive for the student’s grade year. Get a new bin per student for the new session.
Software for Record Keeping
If you want easy access to all the records that you have perhaps you may like to use a software such as Homeschool Tracker, Homeschool Minder or Edu-Track. These are paid software and you will need to purchase your own copy for use. If you do not want to pay for the record keeping software consider using freeware such as Homeschool Skedtrack or Homeschooling Records. These software programs have a number of records that you can maintain, not all of which you need to get familiar with and utilize. Use the features you need and leave the others. Revise at the end of the year and take hard copies as needed for state records.
A field trip is a highly anticipated event for any student. In regular school, the opportunity to visit another place and learn more about it is a rare event. This is why is it much looked forward to. In a homeschooling family the parent has the flexibility to take the homeschooled students on field trips much more often. This does not make it any less popular.
Where Should You Go
There are any number of places that you would like to take your homeschooling students to, but as you get embroiled with the academic section of the school year you tend to forget all those big plans. So here’s a simple suggestion, make a homeschool field trip wish list. It can have everything on it from one hour library trips to camping in a national park to three days in Disneyland. Let your imagination go wild as you add to the list. Remember any outing out of the home can be converted into a field trip if the children get to learn something new.
Think Educational and Fun
Ideally speaking, your field trip should have something educational and something fun. The point is to enrich the minds of the children while they enjoy themselves. Each state has museums that could make a good trip and over here is a list that could help you plan out some of your field trips. You can make up your own bucket list of field trips and see how many of them you can manage in your many years of homeschooling. Field trips do not always have to be to exotic locations. Even a visit to the local mall to buy ice cream can be a math class as the children buy their own ice creams and collect the correct change.
One way to formalize an outing into a field trip is to make the homeschool students write a report on what they did. The written report can be embellished with photographs taken on the trip and must mention the new things that they saw and did. This is also a good way to maintain a formal record for your academic session activities.
Having the right homeschool materials available is only half the battle. Having easy access to them when required is the other half. In order for your homeschool students to be easily able to find the materials that they need, you need to organize them in a manner that makes storage and retrieval simple. These are a few suggestions that could make your life a bit easier.
For each subject you should have a separate box. These boxes should be stackable so that every subject may be accessible as you wish. The boxes may be labeled by child and subject so that each child can easily find their stuff when required. An additional box may be used for common reference books which may be needed for more than a single subject. The boxes can all be stacked up at the end of the day, leaving your homeschooling work area free for other activities.
Color Coded Files
Within each box you can use different colored files to store the lose pieces of paper that you are using. These could include worksheets, bits of paper that were used during the class, and any reference material that you may have printed out for a specific topic. Use a red file for the pages that you have already worked on, a yellow file for pages that are currently in use, and a green file for those that are yet to be introduced to your homeschool students. Naturally you can use any color you wish, this is simply a suggestion.
Plastic Zipper Pouches
See through plastic zipper pouches are a great way to store manipulatives, jigsaw puzzle pieces and tumbling blocks. You can also use them to store art supplies such as crayons, poster paints or pencil colors. Games, puzzles and toys can also be used as educational aids and should be easily available to you in the homeschool classroom. With a little organization you will be able to teach your children how to follow the system that you have laid out for each subject. This will help in the long run as well, since you will not have to waste time each day when you switch from one subject to the next.
If you have decided to design your own homeschool curriculum, you will need some basic resources to ensure that you have all the tools to teach your homeschool students all that they need to know.
While some free wheeling homeschool teachers prefer not to be tied down to a specific text book, if you are starting out with homeschooling it may be a good idea to follow one to provide a basic structure to the subject course. You can always decide to skip some portion or study another section in more detail at a later stage.
A trip to the library will give you the option of a large number of reference books when you are setting up your lesson plans. You can pick out extra titbits of information to supplement what has been covered in the textbook or you can just read up for your own knowledge. Then surprise the kids with the extra stuff you know at a later date and become their brainy teacher!
Teacher guides can help you structure portions of your homeschool curriculum that you are not too familiar with. These guides also give you a good idea about what the essential skills that your child must pick up are, and what is the extra stuff that you may also consider running through if you wish to.
These are practice sheets that help your child to learn and solidify what has been taught. While you get all kinds of free worksheets online, you will have to vet them for grade level and relevance to your own homeschool classroom. At times a child will be able to go a grade or two higher in some subjects and may fall behind a bit in another. Do not worry too much about that.
Practical Activities and Experiments
Come up with your own activities and experiments based on what you find online. Remember each child is different and their learning styles will also be different. The homeschooling technique that worked so well on one may not be quite as effective on the second one, so do what suits your child the best.
It can be challenging for a child to learn to have and express individual opinions that he can defend. Most homeschool students are encouraged to think for themselves and often end up with out of the box opinions on many topics. Being able to think for oneself helps them solve problems and take decisions on their own. Here is how you can encourage this habit from the early years.
Don’t Baby Down the Lingo
It is tempting to make up words that the young child can say rather than giving them tongue twisting nomenclature. Resist the urge to baby talk with your child and you will find that he picks up a great vocabulary. Knowing scientific terms and understanding what they mean will provide a huge boost in higher education. They will also not fear new “big” words that come their way later on.
Get Verbal Feedback
When you explain a new concept ensure that you get verbal feedback from the homeschool student. Ask him to explain what he understood in his own words. This will ensure that he gets a chance to organize his thoughts and explain what he learned. Ask pointed questions to see what he thinks about what has been taught. Make the student think about how else the processes described may be achieved. Don’t laugh at improbable suggestions. Allow brainstorming in a supportive environment.
Encourage Written Explanations
While multiple choice questions and fill in the blanks help test knowledge gained, it is the paragraph of rational thought processes which allows the child to form his own opinion and draw conclusions. Don’t think a long written report is beyond younger children. A third grade homeschool student should be able to come up with a paragraph long written report on his own. You are always there to make the spelling and grammar corrections, but pay more attention to the ideas expressed.
You will have more success in the homeschool classroom when you indulge in topics that actually hold the student’s interest. Get your children to tell you what they want to learn more about and have them rationalize why it’s a good idea.
You want to use a homeschool curriculum but don’t have the funds to buy a dozen new ones for each subject. Why not design your own homeschool curriculum keeping the needs of your students and the legal state requirements in mind?
How to Begin
Get the state grade level standards so that you know what the end goals of the year’s homeschooling are supposed to be. This will allow you to see what all different subjects you need to cover and the rough syllabus in each of them. Once you have this basic outline which is legally required by the state you can begin to fill it up with activities and study material that you would like to use.
What Material Can You Use?
If you wish the child to have the option to return to a public school at a later stage it would make sense to use the textbooks that are being used there. In addition to them you can take a visit to your local library and pick up more books related to reach subject or topic you are covering in the homeschool classroom. There is also a host of information available online. Try not to be too internet dependent and give the children a love of books as well.
Other Learning Activities
The flexible nature of homeschooling allows you to include more than the limited number of field trips allowed in a Public School. You can make trips to the local museums, science fairs, take nature walks in parks, and even play basket ball as a part of Physical Education. Just about any quality time activity you undertake can be slotted as a learning activity in your homeschool curriculum.
Collect Material for Later Use
If you come across some good book, worksheet, activity or any such material that does not seem to fit in with your homeschooling curriculum for the current academic session, just collect it and store for later use. You will have a good file of material that you can use as add on activities to the regular subjects you teach in the homeschool classroom. These will also help give your children a more well rounded education.
While there are a number of websites that offer you great deals on printable worksheets, and a large number of free ones as well, you may find that they do not cover the topic how you have in the homeschool classroom. So it makes more sense for the homeschooling teacher to create their own worksheets. Here is a quick guide to making them.
On your computer you can use Microsoft word or Microsoft Publisher to put the worksheets together in the correct format. These are standard software programs that you can buy. However if you don’t want to spend too much on the MS Office complement you can also use a free ware software called OpenOffice. Just download it and install it. They have all the features of a word processor that you will need to design and print your worksheets.
Based on what you taught in the homeschool classroom you want to use the worksheet as a reinforcing learning tool. When the homeschool student fills in the worksheet he should be able to revise everything that was covered by you. You can make up two or three different worksheets if you don’t want a single really long one coming up. Use one right away after they have been taught the topic. The others can be used as a revision exercise later in the week or month.
If you want the homeschool students to enjoy the worksheets with a splash of color and some images, you can use clip art or pictures from the internet. Now remember that if you are using these worksheets just in the home, you can grab any picture off the internet and use it, but if you are going to share these worksheets on your blog or with any other homeschooling families you need to use creative commons images.
You could be in violation of copyrights otherwise. You can find the CC images easily in a search engine. Sites that offer royalty free stock images often have CC images that you can use for free. If you are unsure simply ask the website administrator what images you can use for free.
The homeschooling experience is one that you need to share. Thanks to the internet there are many ways to do this. Here we consider some popular sharing tools that other homeschooling parents have used with great success.
The Homeschooling Parent’s Blog
There is physical outlet for the adult homeschooling teacher and a good way to find a support group: share your trials and tribulations in a blog. Describing your day and letting others know about your emotional upheavals is a great way to de-stress and gain some insightful advice from others. A large number of mothers who have homeschooling blogs and are followed by others even end up getting free samples of homeschooling resource materials from companies to get reviews. That is a nice side benefit you can look forward to once you build up your blog’s readership.
The Online Homeschool Community Forum
Not being in the same physical location is no deterrent to making friends in the online homeschool community. A number of forums are available for homeschooling parents and by joining a couple of them you will may find a great a support group. You can make friends with parents whose kids are in the same grade, share the experiences you go through with them, and learn from their mistakes as well. Some people even give away worksheets that they have designed for their own children in the previous grade. Keep your eyes peeled for whatever you can use in your own classroom.
Use Social Media to Connect with Other Homeschoolers
Facebook has a large number of groups, pages, and profiles dedicated to homeschooling. Some of these groups can offer great tips for getting study materials, others focus on meeting up for co-curricular activities and yet others discuss teaching methodology. Whatever your question, there usually someone in the group who is able to answer it. If you don’t have the time to scroll through endless discussions in Facebook groups, stick to the microblogging site of Twitter. The hashtags like #homeschool, #hsbloggers, #hschat and the like are a great way to pick up material without investing too much of your own time and effort into building relationships.
Legal requirements of homeschooling in each state may differ but most of them will ask you to keep some basic records to document what you are doing in your homeschool classroom. The three basic things that you may like to record for your own convenience as well as to facilitate your legal requirements include records of the lessons you conduct, the work that you have completed and the attendance register.
You will already have lesson plans ready with you and these can be used to make lesson records. If you have written them down in a notebook, simply add a tick mark next to the lessons that have been covered. If you work out your lesson plans on the computer, just use the word processor’s highlight feature to showcase what has already been covered. You can take a printout of this document at the end of the month to create month wise lesson records for the academic session.
Work Completed Record
This is essentially a double for your child’s portfolio. You can store the worksheets and exam pages with ease in some binders. Use subject wise or academic year wise. Whatever best suits your needs. For three dimensional activities like art work, scale models, projects and poster boards you can simply take a photograph and add some written details about what all was covered in the topic. These images and descriptions can be added to the binders you have made.
You can tack on the attendance record to the work completed record by merely adding the date on which the work was done. Since it was completed that day, it was a school day and the child attended school! Of course you could just get a printout of the 365 days in a spreadsheet and mark each day out with a green color for present and a red color for absent. A “year at a glance” calender can be easily generated in your word processor, or you could simply get some templates off the internet for free. That way you can see just how many days you have been homeschooling in the year at a single glance.
Every schedule planned for a homeschooling family will differ from the next. No two children are alike and so no two homeschooling families are alike. What suits the needs of your friends may not always work out for you. So stick to a homeschool schedule that takes into account all the different aspects that you need to focus on. There are essentially three elements to a homeschool schedule – overall planning, lesson planning and co-curricular activities planning.
This planning creates a basic framework for what all you want to achieve in a specific school year. Treat this as a general guideline for your lesson planning and a check point for your extra curricular activities. This does not have to go into many details, just the broad goals are good here. Of course if you can put them into writing and refer to them once a month you will know just how far you have come in the school year.
This is something no teacher enjoys, but like the knife of a surgeon it is a necessary evil. Here you plan out the day to day lessons that will be covered in the homeschool classroom. You will have to refer to the curriculum to see what needs to be covered and then divide up the school semester accordingly. Now hash it down to a monthly schedule followed by a weekly to do list. The more details you add here, the easier it will be to stick to the original plan.
Co-curricular Activity Planning
The extra activities you plan can again be split up into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half yearly, and annual events. Some basic form of physical exercise needs to happen daily, but organized sports can be done about once a week. You can have a weekly field trip to a park and a monthly trip to a museum. A quarterly road trip to the grandparents in a neighboring city can also be a great learning event. As you can see, there is a lot to plan for co-curricular activities as well. Don’t be too hard on yourself if at the end of the year you haven’t been able to do it all. There is always next year!