I love to be organized. It just makes me happy. But let’s face it, the best laid organizational plans don’t always come to fruition. That’s true for my homeschool plans as well. Over the years I’ve kept a few different kinds of plan books and online planners.
Sadly, most of them required more work than I could realistically keep up with. The trouble was, I didn’t need to keep writing the next lesson number down, so I slacked off. I found myself opening up the plans day after day only to write down things like “Lesson 49.” To me, this became an unnecessary waste of time. I KNEW that lesson 49 was next simply by opening the book. I really didn’t need to spend all of Sunday afternoon making a master plan for this kind of curriculum.
As a single homeschooling mom, I found that pretty much all of my curriculum revolved around a next-day schedule. I like it this way because we school as we are able. If I need to work extra or someone is sick, we skip a day and nothing is pushed back. When we travel, there is no stress over getting something done or pushing something back. I love that the books are ready for us as soon as we need them next, whether it’s Tuesday afternoon or Saturday morning!
So I just stopped spinning my wheels and gave up on the good old-fashioned lesson plan book. Since I didn’t need to write down the next lesson, it was a useless activity. Tossing that plan book was freeing. It was a beautiful thing, but I needed to tweak the system so that it would work for record-keeping purposes. (In my state we need to write something down to show what we have learned.)
So, instead of keeping a weekly plan book, I’ve moved to an accountability system for my kids. I keep an annual master list of what each child is working through for each subject. (I call this the Educational Snapshot and I keep it in their portfolios.) Then the children keep their own weekly school checklists, marking off completed assignments as they go. At the end of the year, these are all neatly tucked in their notebooks. I have the entire year’s records at my fingertips, plus I found a few added benefits that I didn’t expect.
Weekly Homeschool Checklist—>
The top section of our new checklist has a calendar for the week right up top. When I print these on Sunday, I fill them in with details about what is going on for the week. This is a great way to remind my kids about dentist appointments, piano lessons, etc. For my oldest, it’s very helpful for her to see the time that an activity starts so she knows when she will need to have her school completed.
The subject checklist is our primary focus. The subjects are listed on the left. Each day the child marks off if he/she has completed the next lesson in the subject by either coloring the box, writing the lesson number or score, or simply putting a checkmark. For the little guys, we work through the checklist together. Once they have transitioned to the stage of independent learning (more info on that in this video), I let them choose the order in which they complete their subjects for each day.
Once their work is done and checked off for the day, they leave their notebooks and assignments open on the table for grading. Then it’s my turn. As I have time, I check their work and assign a grade.
For the little guys (up to 3rd grade or so) I use a simple scale. E= excellent, S= satisfactory and N= needs improvement. My goal is simply to help them see when they need to do a better job. Once they get into the 3rd grade, we begin using the standard grading scale, but still in a light-hearted way. I think grades are a great way to measure your progress if you can keep in check that they don’t measure who you are!
Developing Good Habits
The next part of the weekly checklist is their habits. In this section, they are encouraged to mark off tasks such as morning devotions (quiet time), chores, piano practice, and more. This is a new addition to our year. I used to put these habits right in the subject areas, but the truth is, I didn’t like giving them a grade. I love having it in a separate section now. Not only does this help my kids understand the difference, it also makes it easier when payday comes around.
Oh yes, I said payday. I know that the discussion of paying children for good grades or household chores can be a can of worms and I truly don’t want to step on any toes. However, I have found a system that works well with my particular parenting style, motivates my children while still teaching them to do right because it’s right, and doesn’t break the bank. Again, this may need some tweaking to fit with your family or you can skip it all together. Do what works for you!
At the end of the week, I pay for excellence. I always expect them to complete each assignment for school. If they do not complete everything, they do not receive a payday at all. They get a consequence instead. The reward is for excellence. I give 5 cents per “A” or “E.” I also give $1 bonus for straight “A’s.” Typically my payout is between $1-2 per kid, so it’s not a ton of money even if they are very motivated to excel.
I also give 50 cents for each day where they have 100% of their habits completed. I’ve added that this year, so we will see if it comes out to be too expensive. We are two weeks into the school year and no one has gotten even 1 day so far. I told you… I’m picky. I won’t reward them for just doing it. It has to be excellent!
I think this is a crucial concept for children to learn. It’s not our mediocre work that will get us somewhere in life! Plus it gives me the opportunity to teach them to manage money, tithe to our church, and save for big purchases. I don’t buy things for them on a regular basis, as I really prefer that they learn these skills now!
Benefits of a weekly homeschool checklist—>
- Accountability for student and teacher. Of course it’s a fantastic habit to teach your children (at all ages) to take responsibility for completing their work. Mom doesn’t have time to micro-manage everyone, nor should she try.
- Time management. I’m always thinking ahead when it comes to education and life skills. What is the ultimate goal? To raise children who are confident and capable of learning anything. They need to be good time managers to be successful in life. I want this skill to be a natural habit!
- Encourages good work ethics. This is actually one of the biggest reasons I started this checklist. I wanted a way to indicate to my girls that they were doing sloppy or even poor work at times. The checklist communicates that in a fair way and helps them develop better work habits.
- Helps children see progress. This is quite possibly my favorite feature of the checklist. It really helps the kids to SEE the progress and improvement they are making. It also helps them to see how much they have accomplished.
Making a weekly checklist work for you—>
Step 1: Look over your homeschool day and write down the activities you want your children to accomplish. It’s going to look different for each age group, so be sure to account for that. Trust me, this changes often, so don’t fret over getting it “just right.”
Step 2: Download your copy of the Portfolio Pack. Then click each subject area space to add your own subjects for each child. If you choose the “save as” option and rename the file for each of your kids, you can come back and edit their form anytime. This makes it easy to add or subtract a subject when needed. Of course, the good old “cross it out” method is used around here sometimes, too! (You will find a tutorial video for editing on this page.)
Step 3: Print and enjoy. I try to print my sheets on Sunday nights. I don’t print them too far in advance, because I want the freedom to change things as needed. I 3-hole punch them and put them in the front of each child’s notebook, so it’s ready for the week. I actually set out the notebooks each night before I got to bed. It’s part of my routine so they can get started on their habits right away when they get up.
And that’s it! What do you think? Do you use a checklist system or a homeschool lesson plan book? I’d love to hear your tips!