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Keeping it Simple in the New School Year

Keep homeschooling simple with simple routines and records.

Love it or hate it, it’s time for a new school year. It may seem absurd to think about simplifying now, just as you are faced with crisp new notebooks, sharp pencils, and delectable stacks of books, but the first month of school is actually a pretty good time to set a realistic pace and start simple records. I usually found that the more simply I began the year, the more likely we were to still be doing well in January. Here are two tips for keeping it simple this year.

1- Start with a simple morning time routine

School routines differ from year to year, but for most, the first goal is to get everyone gathered for a morning time routine so school could begin positively and on time.

Here are two simple morning time routines we used:

  • Gather in the living room and read the Proverbs chapter of the day, one verse per person at a time. Younger readers sit by older readers in case help is needed with a challenging word. After this, begin with history and literature read-alouds.
  • Gather at the dining room table; each person with their book tote (either box or bag), a glass of water (or sippy cup if needed), and writing supplies. Each boy would write and practice his memory verse for the week as part of copywork and penmanship practice while I check lesson plans and get ready to go.

The routines were simple, but each accomplished the goal of getting everyone gathered with what we needed in order to begin.

Following morning time, we seemed to get the strongest start when we moved directly into the “together subjects” such as history, science, and literature, then split off to do language arts and math. It seemed that if we started with math or language arts, it was hard to get any farther. Your results may vary, so tweak until you find what works.

2- Keep simple records

I always loved planning, and since most of it happened before school started, I had time to do it well. Record keeping was a horse of a different color. Our state didn’t require detailed records; just an end of the year test, but I wanted to keep at least a few samples of their work to show progress.

I wish I had been perfectly consistent with record keeping through the years, but there were some years when it was pretty haphazard due to moving or caregiving or just simply not thinking of it. Here are two tools I found  most manageable for keeping simple records:

Pocket folders: Simple pocket folders from an office supply store can be a good place to gather a handful of papers in each subject from the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. They key to keeping it simple is to have one pocket folder for each child for each year. The ones with the 2″ expansion worked best for us. They weren’t so big I could throw in everything, but they did have room for a couple of bumpy construction-paper projects in the younger years.

Student records binder: Have a three-ring binder for each student, as well, with 16+/- tab dividers. Create a tabbed section for

  • Each school year, K-12
  • A copy of your states’s homeschool law and copies of any forms you need to copy and send each year
  • Standardized test results
  • Miscellaneous items such as immunization records, exemption forms, addresses for tutors or therapists, lists of books you need to check out or buy, etc.

Behind each school year tab can be a written overview of what the student will study for the coming school year. As the school year progresses, make occasional brief notes about the student’s progress, any changes in curriculum, learning issues you might notice, as well as solutions and resources you have tried. I prefer keeping information in small books, so I write in my planning and record-keeping booklets and tuck them into each student’s binder pockets.

The records you keep are for your own use, not to be shared with your students or school authorities, but they will be useful when creating a transcript or if you move to an area that requires specific records. As you write progress notes, keep in mind that your student may someday read through his or her records, and write with a spirit of clarity and kindness (even when things have been difficult).

High school records

Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler's Guide to High School Paperwork is a best-seller!Once the student is nearing high school, you may want to begin by keeping class profile sheets such as those found in the High School Record booklet, which give a slightly more detailed overview of classes, suitable for presenting to a college admissions counselor if requested (a class profile form can also be found in Transcripts Made Easy). You may choose to have your student keep a reading log, as well as activity logs of sports, scouting, music, art, entrepreneurship, or volunteer activities. These are all simple records, but they can help you to be ready for creating the high school transcript.

Whatever you do, remember that the focus must not be on checking off boxes, but on cultivating wisdom, virtue, and understanding. I hope you have a wonderful school year!

Children have to be educated,
but they have also to be left to educate themselves.
Abbé Dimnet, Art of Thinking, 1928

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