I have six children, so when juggling homeschooling for multiple grade levels, a certain level of independence is required!
There are some subjects that can be done independently, but others require teacher interaction, and teaching one subject to many hasn’t worked out for us.
For me, building independence in my child/student has been the key to getting through the school work so my children can happily proclaim, “Done for the day!” as they put their finished work in the “I’m all done” basket.
How do I build that independence, especially in the early elementary grades, so that my children are pretty self-sufficient by middle school?
Our secret has been a daily worksheet folder combined with a weekly subject planner.
Let me explain each and how they work together.
1. The Daily Worksheet Folder
Our school room items are color coded. Each child keeps the same color every year. The lesson plan binder, math worksheet binder, grade book binder and daily worksheet folder are all the same color (even the tabs used for book marks are the same color).
Let’s talk about Anna’s daily worksheet folder. She is my second grader and her color is pink.
Anna’s daily worksheet folder is a pink three ring flexible cover binder with pockets. There is a folder tab divider inside for each day of the school week. At the start of the school week, I fill each day’s folder tab with that day’s worksheets.
For her 2nd grade Seton curriculum, I will tear out for each day her Phonics, Spelling, Handwriting, English and Saxon math worksheets and put them in each corresponding day.
When Anna sits down at her desk Monday morning, she pulls out her sheets for the day. She knows that she can do handwriting without me, so she starts her school day regardless of whether or not I’m in the school room.
Phonics follows a pretty predictable routine, so once she has it figured out after a few weeks, she can read the directions and complete the work on her own. Her daily Math Meeting Book is completed independently, and so is the daily pattern of the day.
After each sheet is finished, she puts it in our “I’m all done basket,” which I check throughout the school day, correcting and revisiting what may need further attention.
If Anna gets to a subject and needs my help, she puts it to the side and pulls out her Seton reader or her library book and reads until I am able to turn my attention to her.
What keeps her motivated throughout her school day is her checklist that is written out in her weekly planner. This leads me to…
2. The Weekly Planner
Have you ever wondered what to do with those great teacher planners that Seton sends out with their lesson plans? I mean, why rewrite the lesson plans, when you can print them if needed?
Well, I figured out a great use! I have turned them into student/teacher planners.
I leave the dates blank, filling it in as our school year progresses (because you know how that can go… field trips, sick days, vacations, etc.). If we miss a day of school work, no biggie, it’s already written out. I just fill in the date on the day we have finished those lessons.
Here’s how I organize our planners. Each child has his or her own. I list the subjects in the left column. Sometimes two subjects share a box. Then I fill in the days based on what I put into the daily worksheet folder.
So, for Phonics, I write L. 12-1 as listed on that worksheet. When Anna finishes it, she puts a huge X on that box. For Saxon Math, it will list L. 20 and timed math facts. For Reading, it will list the pages she is to read in her reader.
She feels empowered because she knows what is expected of her for the day. Plus, she feels accomplished by checking off what she finished. The pace she keeps is her own choosing, as long as she is done by 3:00.
I fill out the weekly worksheet folder only three weeks in advance, because life happens!
If I write out an entire quarter’s worth of work, inevitably we will get hit with a week’s worth of the flu, or a surprise out of town trip with Dad, so three weeks in advance works for us. It is enough to stay organized with wiggle room for spontaneity.
If an assignment is to be completed for a grade, I write that grade on the planner. When I sit down to enter grades, I have it all in one place, which saves me time from having to dig through our “Finished test basket”.
At the end of the year when I compile attendance, I have it all in the planner, with the dates filled in according to the dates we “did school”. And for record keeping, I file the planner away with the rest of the finished books as evidence of what we completed.
3. Ah, independence (I hope!)
By using the combination of the folder and planner, my children have learned that what is expected of them is listed out in their planner and sorted in the worksheet folder. So, they plan their school day accordingly.
My sixth grader will sometimes even work ahead so he can lighten his load on a Friday.
It has been a great tool for me to stay organized and to foster independence in my kids.