One thing I implemented this year in our homeschool that has helped tremendously is the use of personal planners for each child. Originally, I had planned for only the older three to use the planners, but my Kindergartener has begged to get in on the system, as well. So he has a modified version, as well. I will absolutely continue this because it has worked so beautifully in helping my kids be more independent and responsible for their own schooling.
I fill them out on a week by week basis. I look at my calendar and decide how heavy of a work week they are going to have. For example, my daughter does Meals on Wheels with The Pastor every other Monday. She has light work loads those days to accommodate her volunteer activities. They also volunteer once a month at a local Children’s Home, so those that are helping with that will be given a slightly lighter work load that day, as well. I find that looking at only a week at a time lets me set very reasonable expectations and they are able to achieve what is planned out for them. Planning further in advance always leads to me over planning and then they feel like they failed when they just can’t get it all done. I want them to succeed, so I make every opportunity for them to do so.
For each day of the week, I write a checklist in their planner. Several of the items are group activities, several are independent activities. I have to guide them a little more when introducing a new curriculum, but once they get the hang of something, they can really take over themselves. We do Bible, history, Science, and geography as a group. I actually have two groups running in my house right now. I have the older grammar school kids and the Kindergarteners. My Kindergarteners do Bible, Reading, and Phonics together. They have very little independent work, so I plan for that.
I use the weekend spots to write in a weekly checklist. Now, I have been doing chores here, but if we had more computers and I didn’t have to schedule out their computer time so much, I would add much of their daily work into a weekly list. I don’t necessarily care when it is done, as long as they are doing the work. A weekly list would allow for more flexibility for them, but is really impossible with our current computer situation. (I have 4 kids sharing 1 computer.) Right now, I add their chores onto that list with the boxes for the number of times I expect them to do that chore. The chores rotate based on the week’s schedule and the season. They also rotate depending on the attitude of the kid or what they have been doing lately. (Boys that keep having “accidents” on the floor around the toilet get the chore of cleaning the bathroom floors and toilets.)
I have also been keeping their attendance in their own planners. I simply highlight the days on the monthly view that they had school. Yes, this means that I am keeping up with it in multiple places, but it has given them a sense of accomplishment and they can look and see when they had a heavy month and when they had a light month. Next year, I plan to get better planners to be able to expand this system. Right now, I just have the small, cheap, student planners from WalMart, and while they serve our purposes, they are small and there is more I think I could do with this system. (Keeping a log of books to read or books read, keeping a log of people they write letters to with addresses, habit tracking for them, etc.) A bullet journal might work well, but I think the planner format is easier for them to understand. I’m using a bullet journal style for my oldest Kindergartener right now. The simplicity is working for him, but I don’t have much to put in for him.
I’m really glad I decided to give this a try. I wasn’t too sure at first it would be something worth sticking to. Filling out 4 planners at the beginning of each week doesn’t sound like an easy task. But it really doesn’t take too much time. Just half an hour or so each Sunday looking at the week and plugging in their lists. And the time I save in their being independent is so much more. Emery (7) quickly saw how he could check off all his independent work before we even started school in the morning. He is routinely done with school before noon. Imogene (10) dawdles more and as a result, she is usually “doing school” until 4 or 5. She doesn’t complain about it, she can see what she needs to do. She just prefers a relaxed paced and is okay with it taking longer. And in the end, both of those approaches are fine. They are both learning and progressing and getting their work done. And they are happier having the freedom to do things their way in their time.