Organizing Homeschool Work
In learning How To Homeschool Your Child, one needs to learn how to keep track of the work that your child does and how to manage your own paperwork. One way that really worked well for our family was using three-ring binders. The system of using binders for organizing homeschool work is outlined in the homeschool resource book, The Well-Trained Mind. There were a number of subjects and things that we used the binders for. We also used nicer blank journal books for some things as well. Here is a list of some of the ways we organized our homeschool work:
1. 150-Day Schedule Books
Each of my sons had a three-ring binder for their 150-day schedules. (Click here to learn more about 150-Day Homeschool Schedules.) All of their tests, quizzes, and individual assignments were also kept in this binder. When they got older, they also used them as kind of scrapbooks for brochures, ticket stubs, programs, etc. for special events that were related to their education in some way. If they didn't want to three-hole punch the item, they put them either in folders or plastic sleeves that were inserted into their binders.
Each child made their own cover and spine for their binder and were inserted into the see-through sleeves. Sometimes they drew their covers. Other times they made covers using desktop publishing software on the computer. Another favorite thing they did was cut out words and pictures from magazines and made collages for their covers.
If your child is really creative, they could make their 150-day schedule binder even more personalized and artistic using scrapbooking materials, art supplies, photos, or craft materials. If you decide to use the 150-day schedule book system, put some thought into making this a pleasant book for them as they will be using this binder/journal/book every school day for the homeschool year.
2. Field Trips and Family Trips
On one of our long family trips, I made each of my children a special binder in which they could journal their trip. We planned special places to stop so that our trip became fun and educational. The boys collected brochures and memorabilia and put them in their binders. I included clear sleeves for smaller items or for things that they did not want to punch a hole in or that they did not want to tape or glue to a page. I had special paper in the binders for them to record certain things that they learned.
I also did this on a smaller scale for field trips and special excursions.
If you have children that love to scrapbook, you could help them make some special scrapbook pages or a small scrapbook.
3. Letter Writing
Since the boys could first hold a pencil, they have been trained to write letters to people. I made writing a letter at least once a week part of their writing curriculum. After they wrote their letter, I made a copy of the letter and put it in a binder labeled "Letters I Have Written." If they got a response, we put it in the binder. They added to this binder year after year until they got older and their letters became more private. But their "Letters I Have Written" binders have become treasures.
By going through their binders, they can see how their penmanship has changed over the years. The binders are a personal journal as they had written about things that had happened with them. There are letters to and from old friends that have moved away and precious letters to and from grandparents and close family friends. There are letters they wrote to NASA and the responses along with cool photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. Christmas and birthday thank you's and even thank you letters to field trip organizers are included. There are even humble letters where they had to apologize for a wrong they had done.
I strongly encourage you to do this with your children.
4. Ongoing World History Binder
Keeping a World History binder comes straight from The Well-Trained Mind. In that book, Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise encourage you to break the study of World History into four periods and teach World History, chronologically, over four years — and do this three times. The first time over the four years of 1st through 4th grades — the Grammar Stage; secondly during the four years of 5th through 8th grades — the Logic Stage; and lastly through the four high school years of 9th through 12th grades — the Rhetoric Stage. So, our World History binder was divided into these four time periods of World History in which we studied each year.
When the kids were young and I was reading world history to them, I gave them paper and colored crayons, markers, and pencils. They were to write or draw pictures of what they were learning while they were listening to me read to them. Their work was dated not only with the current date, but also with the date in history for what they were learning. This work went into the binder, chronologically.
When they got older, I made forms entitled "What I Learned About History Today" that had spaces for them to write and draw, along with filling out the date in history.
We also did a lot of coloring as there are some really awesome coloring books that cover history.
All these things went chronologically into their World History binders. This was an awesome project for the boys until they became independent learners. Then they stopped doing this. But the binders were a lot of fun and it helped them to think of events in order of time.
5. Books I Have Read — Book Reports
Over the years, my children have read so many wonderful books. One of the binders they particularly enjoyed was their "Books I Have Read" binders. I had made sheets for them to write down the title of the book, the author, and how many pages the book had. There was also a space for them to write. When they were really young, they copied what was on the back of the book telling what the book was about. When they got older, they had to write a short description of the book in their own words. Then when they got even older, they had to write book reports and we got rid of the form. The binders became a record of all the wonderful books they had read over the years.
6. Science Binders
My children were encouraged to keep a Science binder. It was similar to the World History binder. It was divided into the different sciences we were studying — entomology, astronomy, weather, geology, etc. I had forms for them to write down what they learn about their world through science.
When we studied chemistry, they kept a copy of the periodic table in their binders. I gave them copies of the order of the planets to put in their binders when we studies astronomy. If they did experiments, they were to write down their theories, their observations, and their discoveries.
Looking back, my children were not really into the sciences that much. As a result, the Science binders were not kept as diligently as the other binders. However, if you have a child that loves the sciences, this is a great way to organize their homeschool work.
For our family, I think it would have been really awesome for my boys to have just kept a nature journal. We live in the country and it would have been more beneficial for them to record or draw the insects, flowers, birds, trees, animals, clouds, etc. Maybe a nature journal would work for your family.
(One of my favorite nature journals is The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden.)
7. Creative Writings and Compositions
I did not keep any of my children's dictations or copying of fine literature. But if it was something original that they wrote, I made sure they signed and dated their work. Then, they were put into their Writing binder. My oldest son loved writing long research papers on different kinds of animals when he was in the elementary grades. My middle son wrote lots of stories and songs. He made little books and illustrated them. And my youngest son came up with some of the wildest ideas for stories. All of these treasures were kept in a binder.
My youngest son loves to play the guitar. He has a binder full of all the music he has downloaded from the computer. The songs are alphabetized. He has also written some of his own songs and they are also in his Music binder. I also have written songs and I keep them in a nice suede cover binder. This has become one of my own treasures. If you have a musically-gifted child, make sure you have some way of collecting their musical work together.
9. Photography Journal
My youngest son is also gifted at photography. (You can view some of his photography at Inspirational Nature Photography.) In high school, he was required to keep a photography journal. In it, he inserted one of his photos and then had to write a short essay about how he took the photo, what he was thinking about when he took it, what the photo means, etc. This has been another lovely treasure for my son to have.
10. Homeschool Lists
As an educator, I also have binders to help keep my paperwork organized. One of my binders is full of lists. I have reading lists (recommended reading lists for high schoolers, list of books for different historical periods, 1000 Books You Must Read Before You Die); lists of award-winning books (Caldecott, Newbery, Pulitzer); film lists (AFI's Top 100 films, history-related films, top foreign films, Ken Burns' films, list of important documentaries); music lists (top Jazz albums, Classical composers, 10 Top Rock-and-Roll Albums, etc.); historical lists (important dates in history, list of Egyptian Pharaohs, list of Roman rulers, list of American Presidents, etc.); and other odd lists like rules for our house and a list of famous homeschooled people. As I came across a list that might be helpful to me, I three-hole punched it and put it in my binder.
11. Forms and Worksheets
Whenever I create a new form or worksheet for the kids' education, I would always include a copy in my Forms and Worksheets binder. For instance, I made a worksheet to help the boys learn the capitals of the 50 states and another form to help them learn the American Presidents. I put a copy of those in my binder. If I ran across a good educational crossword puzzle or trivia quiz, I would make a copy and put it in my binder.
12. Pray Around the World
I have a journal where I started praying for different countries. As I read my newspaper and magazines, if an article came up about a foreign country, I cut out the article, put it in my journal, researched the country, and prayed for that country. I also looked to China Aid for ways to pray for China, to Gospel for Asia to learn about missions in Asia, and to Voice of the Martyrs for information regarding persecuted Christians that needed prayer. It has been very rewarding in learning about different countries and for seeing how God answers prayer. Perhaps you would like to do something like this with your homeschooled children.
13. Other Ideas
Some other ideas that come to mind are:
Scrapbooking — If you love scrapbooking, be sure to incorporate your children's work into that.
Recipes — If you have a child who loves to cook or bake, help them create a recipe journal.
Video Log — Have your child keep a log of the fine films they watch.
Sports Journal — If your child is active in sports, have them keep a personal journal of their sports achievements.
Art Portfolio — A great way to organize your children's artwork.
Bible Study Journal — Have a separate journal for each book of the Bible and have your children write their thoughts and spiritual insights as they study through the Bible.
Prayer Journal — Always a good idea!
I hope this helps inspire you to be creative in organizing homeschool work and that it gives you insight in How To Homeschool Your Child.
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