Bug is getting older, and this spring, one of the most important things I want to teach him is how to work independently. I admit, I do have some selfish reasons to do this- I am not sure how I will survive spring semester with a newborn and three kids needing me to teach them without expecting him to take more responsibility for his own work.
In the past, we’ve used these visual schedule systems to keep the two boys on track, but Bug has outgrown the graphics based system, and is ready for a more streamlined planner.
With my new system, all of his worksheets and workbooks have been consolidated into one place, his weekly work is all together, easily accessible, and easy to keep track of, and my expectations of him are clearly spelled out in his to-do list.
Creating a similar system in your home is easy!
This new method of organizing his work has a couple components.
Assemble a “Master Binder” for each child
First, gather all the consumables: workbooks, student books, and print PDF materials you would like to use with your child. You’ll need a three-ring binder (I used a three inch for a little over one semester worth of work- we’ll be schooling January to the end of June to make up for some of the “sick days” I took this fall while pregnant), dividers to separate subjects, scissors or a paper cutter, and a heavy duty hole punch.
I know some of you will cringe at this suggestion, but go ahead and rip all the papers out of their workbook binding. You want these pages loose, so you can hole punch them and put them in the master binder. If you don’t want to do it yourself (I just ripped and snipped as needed) you can take them to an office supply store to get the bindings professionally cut off for a small fee.
Doing this organizes your shelves (no more stack of books- just one binder!), helps organize PDF curriculum (it’s all printed up front and is ready to go) and guarantees that individual workbooks will not be misplaced (as long as you don’t loose the master binder!) and allows you to give your child their weekly assignments in a more organized way without overwhelming them.
Teachers manuals are left together on my shelf, so I have them as I need them. I wouldn’t take the binding off these because I like to be able to keep them neat and re-sellable to help my homeschool budget.
Get a weekly binder or accordion folder for your child and set it up
I found this accordion file and it’s perfect for this project. It has seven sections, a easy access front window (more on that later) and a zipper to keep everything inside neatly.
Each weekend, I consult my pacing guide, and pull out the week’s worth of worksheets and assignments, and place them in the daily folders. Not all programs will have worksheets for you, for example, Oak Meadow, our core does not have worksheets for anything other than math. In that case, I write little notes listing what needs done each day and pop that into his binder.
I also added his pencil pouch with his supplies in the front folder, so lost pencils, pens, scissors and glue sticks wouldn’t slow him down either. His to-do list slides into the front view section of the binder so he has easy access to it, and I can see at a glance what has been completed and what still needs to be done.
Create clear expectations with a weekly to-do list
The last component to this system is the to-do list, which shows the full week of work at a glance. You can download a free version of the to-do list in our printable shop, or if you have many kids with different needs, or want a calendar or chore section (like the page shown below) you can grab our larger pack of to-do forms for a small price with has 13 different forms to choose from.
The printable versions are blank so you can write in your subjects down the side column. Then, black out any days where you don’t do that subject. For us, we have out-of-the house activities twice a week, so those days are “light” days. I blacked out half the subjects, so Bug knows we don’t need to work those days.
You can also write in page numbers for books you weren’t able to put within the file folder system, for example, our art program isn’t consumable, so I will just write in the lesson number in the box, and the science program has a consumable booklet, but it stays together, so that also will get a page number written down.
Then, as your child works, they can mark off what they have completed. In the example shown above, art is circled because it was not completed for the day, so it’s a signal to Bug to go back the following day to get it done.
Let your child take responsibility for their assignments
Each morning, Bug can see exactly what is assigned for the day. There is no more questions about what he has to do, or questions of “are we almost done???” because it’s all right there in front of his nose. He can see on his to-do list what will need to be done with me, and in his folder, he knows exactly what he has to finish.
I allow him to work in any order he likes, as long as the work gets done for the day. Some of the lessons will need to be done with me (for example, science, or spelling needs me to teach it) but many of them can be started independently. He can always come ask me for help or guidance on lessons when he needs it, but many things can be done on his own.
If for some reason his assignments are not completed, they can be moved to the last compartment of his file folder, which I have marked “homework.” In my home, this folder will have to be completed before he can watch TV or play games in the evening, or on the weekend. As long as the work is finished by Sunday night, there aren’t consequences other than that, but if he doesn’t get his work done by the time I sit down to put the next week’s work in…. well, then we’ll have to come up with some sort of consequence (it hasn’t happened yet, so I haven’t decided what we would do! The screen ban is enough to keep him on top of his work in our house.)