Friday, January 27, 2012

Range Recordkeeping for our Homeschool

A few days ago, a question popped up on the Mater Amabilis Yahoo group about record-keeping. I'm not sure how I'd qualify my teaching, but I love record-keeping. I shared with her what I was doing this year (which is new for me this year and working out wonderfully). At least two people asked to see the actual spreadsheets, so I thought I'd make a post about them. Perhaps others are interested as well.

There are probably as many ways to keep track of lessons planned and accomplished as there are families that homeschool. The most important thing to remember is to adapt any method to your own family and adjust as your family changes!

I have two spreadsheets around which our homeschooling life revolves. (Oh, how I love Excel!) The first is a basic weekly schedule:
Schedule to Share

This schedule is our ideal week and where I begin my "quick planning" each weekend. I print out these two pages and compare it to our lesson plans, the second spreadsheet.

This second document is huge! It has a column for every week of our school year (35 this year) and everything I hope to accomplish each week for each subject typed in, along with any notes on items I need to have on hand or resources I need to request from the library.

It's a huge file. I cut it down to just four or five weeks and it's still rather large, but here is an excerpt of our weekly lesson plans:
Lesson Plans to Share
I have planned nearly a whole year's worth of activities and lessons for each subject. Planning ahead so extensively works for me because I'd rather adjust as I go along than scramble to figure out what we're doing next.

Here's how it works:
  1. Each weekend, I print out the first spreadsheet, my two page ideal week. I write in the week number (we just finished week 20) and the dates for each day.
  2. I promptly go through and cross off any subject we're not doing that week. For example, we didn't start reading from Pagoo until second term, so that was crossed off every week until then.
  3. I check our upcoming lesson plans, particularly the appointments box, and consider any adjustments I need to make if we're going to miss half a day of school (or a whole day). I can either eliminate a subject entirely for a day (just cross it off), combine lesson plans for two days into a single day, or move subjects around (just write it in the next column). This is also the time when I make adjustments for field trip opportunities I may not have known about at the beginning of the year. These pop up wonderfully in our active homeschool group.
  4. Then I take a few minutes to read through our upcoming week's plan. I make sure we have everything we need for the week. If I'm very productive, I print out all our maps and make any photocopies for the whole week.
  5. I print out the lesson plans for the week, just the five pages or so that list the actual plans. Steps one through five generally take me an hour or less, depending on how much adjusting I have to do and whether I've already planned our copywork selections.
  6. I put everything on my clipboard (HT to Brandy for the clipboard idea; perfect!). First, the weekly schedule, then the lesson plans, finally any worksheets or notes. Now I'm ready for our week.
  7. Each night before school, I make a pile of all our books and pages for our upcoming school day. It's not sophisticated, but it works perfectly. I never have to search for anything while the kids wait and, if my hands or lap are full of Second Son, I can ask First Son or First Daughter to bring me something from the pile. First Son watches this pile closely; he knows when it's gone, our school day is done (usually). Making this pile each night takes about ten minutes. Remember, everything is on the lesson plans. I just need to go through the list and pull out what we need from the shelves.
  8. Ready for the record keeping? Each day, when we start, I write down the time on my printed weekly schedule.
  9. As we finish subjects (or just before I go to bed), I check off any subject we did.
  10. At the end of the day, I write down the time we finished.
And that's it! Here's a look at my clipboard this morning. It's a small picture, but I think you can probably see how some subjects are crossed off and some have check marks.

I do spend a few minutes at the end of the week making any notes in my lesson plans of things we didn't finish, things we need to push to the following week, resources I didn't like, etc. Those are mostly for future reference. I also file the actual paper copies of the schedule and the lesson plans into a binder for now, though I haven't decided if I'm actually going to save them at the end of the year.

I also have another tab where I enter the actual hours. Here in Kansas, we have a theoretical requirement to school for a comparable number of hours the children would receive in public school. As far as I know, no one has ever been asked how many hours of school their children did during the course of a year, but I like to have it just in case I'm the first.

Now let me tell you what I love most about this method.
Friday's lessons, ready to go
  • For us, keeping to a timed schedule did not work. This way, I don't have any times. We progress through the subjects in roughly the order they're scheduled, though I often dig out something from "later in the day" for First Son to do on his own or that will be much easier if Second Son is napping.
  • As we're going through our day, the only writing I have to do is start time, end time and check marks. I can do everything else (not that it takes long) after the children are in bed.
  • With my weekly lesson plans, it's really easy to look across a row and see the whole year at a glance. I can easily see where I can make adjustments and I can insert a cell to move everything back or delete a cell to move everything up a week.
  • Also with my weekly lesson plans, it's very easy to see the whole week at a glance. I can tell if we're heavy in science and go light in history to make up for it. 
  • Though I didn't mention it above, I usually go through our upcoming week on Monday or Tuesday (so, look through week 22 during week 21), to request any books I need from the library. I've noted them in the lesson plans as "(library)" so they're easy to pick out. Then Kansas Dad picks them all up for me on Friday. It's so easy to just read down a single column in one Excel spreadsheet and have everything I need.
  • Though it doesn't apply this year, in the future I will put some of our lesson plans on a separate clipboard for First Son to complete independently. They can all be in the same spreadsheet, just like this year.

Maybe this helps someone. I certainly didn't invent this system; it's a conglomeration of ideas I gleaned from a host of other moms (in real life and online) with a whole lot of Excel thrown in. Because I love Excel.

3 comments:

  1. I heart Excel too. This was a really cool post. Even though we don't intend to homeschool, I found all this insight very interesting. Thanks so much for sharing! Very coo.

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  2. um, cool.
    I wasn't trying to sound all hip or something there. Just a typo.

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  3. Monica, I remembered how you like Excel, too, when I was writing this post. I didn't really think you'd find much useful in it, though, so I'm glad you did.

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