Category Archives: Planning, Tracking, and Keeping Records

Ideas on maintaining your homeschool records

Composition Notebooks: Narrating, Organizing Papers, and Record Keeping at the Same Time

When I first started homeschooling, I used 3-ring notebook pages for my girls to record their school assignments on. It didn’t take long to decide that was a mess – the notebooks were huge and took up so much space on the table, they wore out quickly,  they took up a ton of space on the book shelf, and worst of all, the papers would tear out and be messy.

On the suggestion of a friend on the SCM forum, I decided to try using composition notebooks instead. They cost less than a $1, they are compact, they are small, they do not weigh a lot, and little hands can easily maneuver them about. I also made the executive decision that there were not going to be as many notebooks, so I combined history, geography, and science in one book since often it is hard to separate them. My younger girls officially started “real” school in 2014-2015, and I made them their own notebooks. We filled in the last pages of them last month, and what an unexpected treasure they were.

These are the actual notebooks. They span from August 2014 to March 2017. School years are separated by sticky tabs.

These are a couple of the science entries:

Some History entries:

 

I finally started dividing pages for multiple entries as well:

We also have separate notebooks for their Bible Studies:

As I was filing them away in their portfolios, my husband and I spent some time looking through them. It was particularly gratifying to me as we did because my youngest daughter kept looking over our shoulders, explaining what each page and drawing meant. I learned several things that night:

  • We are doing work and progressing, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the day-to-day trenches.
  • That knowledge was a very great blessing to me as I have struggled with my health at the beginning of this school year. (I am doing much better now. Still have issues, but I can function again!)
  • Narration works. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t always have to be “pretty” and “perfect.” Drawing, writing, speaking, acting: it all adds up and makes incredible differences in the ability to remember things.
  • The kids love to see and think about the things that they know. What a great refresher course for them, too!

Charlotte Mason Original Series Free Study Guides

Have you ever read Charlotte Mason’s Original Series and wanted to take your comprehension levels of her philosophy and methods, have time to ponder ideas, and take action on the things you are learning? Then I have some things to help you! Read on!

CM Study Guide Collage

I have been participating in a virtual CM reading group for about 10 months now. We meet once a week via WebEx and discuss our reading assignment, which averages about 10 pages each time.  Slowly and surely {and thoroughly} we have completed volume 1 and are in the middle of volume 3. As we have studied, we’ve tried to use the questions in the back, but they are so inconveniently located for good discussion. I decided to do something about it (actually, I’ve wanted to do it for a long time) with the end result that I can now share with you:  Study Guides for every single one of the six Original Homeschooling volumes.

Each guide contains a schedule of weekly readings of 10-15 pages and provides the questions for those pages in easy to use format. The questions can be used to help guide your study and/or discussions by taking you deeper into the topic. After the questions, I included spaces to jot down your “Things to Ponder” and “Actions to Take”.  This allows you to always have the thoughts and ideas you felt were important at your fingertips – providing yourself with both accountability and recordable progress.  By using the guides, you take your study into the more effective range and begin to improve your relationships and homeschool.

Simply download, print, use your choice of binding (staples, paperclip, 3-hole punch – I prefer to spiral bind mine) and start your journey. Miss Mason’s ideas are too valuable to miss!

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Download Volume 1 – Home Education here.

Download Volume 2 – Parents and Children here.

Download Volume 3 – School Education here.

Download Volume 4 – Ourselves, Book I here. (This is the first half of the book.)

Download Volume 4 – Ourselves, Book II here. (This is the second half of the book.)

Download Volume 5 Formation of Character here.

Download Volume 6 – A Philosophy of Education here.

These guides are free for you to use as individuals and as study groups. Please link to my blog if you are re-posting, though.

Morning Time: In Pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Morning Time Basket

Have you ever just gone through the motions after a while of doing something??

Me, too.

We have been having successful Morning Time for 5 years…only we called it our Family Studies (a la SCM). We cover many subjects on a regular basis and totally love it – poetry, Shakespeare, Plutarch, music study, picture study, nature study, hymn study, scripture memory (and all the other memory work), history, bible, geography, creative arts, handicrafts, Greek/Latin words, sign language,literature, map drill, exercising daily, etc.  I have a really successful checkoff/record sheet that has all these subjects spread out over the 5 day week, complete with the time to be spent on each one so that we spend about 2 hours a morning doing them together. Only, after a while, it started to become just another check-off list. Yep, I was going through the motions! Not good!

While listening to Cindy Rollins on the Edsnapshots Morning Time Basket podcast, Cindy talked about how her family would all gather round and do these things together on the couch and she made it sound so desirable, lovely, and something to strive for, that I knew I wanted that experience for us this term. I really appreciated her comments on the fact that it isn’t the skill subjects that she wished she had spent more time on, and how the morning time subjects are what fed her family culture – and continue to do so today, even though her youngest is in school. I think that is what I was looking for – encouragement to more fully focus on the relationships and less on the “just do it because it is on the check-off list”.

Then I finally had the chance to read Pam Barnhill’s Morning Time book and after reading about her 4 R’s of Morning Time, I had a mental “A-HA!” moment. I began to consider our subjects in context of how they fit into our family rituals and relationships. And I think I’ve found a delicate balance that can be flexible depending on our days. 😉

I’ve decided that our upstairs Morning Time is going to consist of our Hymn, Prayer, Memory Work, and our selected poem. On alternating days, we will read a history, science, math, geography book. All of this can be done as we eat breakfast and tidy up. Often while I read aloud the girls will color in their beautiful adult coloring books to keep their hands busy and their minds listening. (In my opinion, this is a crucial step to a successful morning!) 

Morning Time Secrets

Then we move downstairs for the School Room Morning Time subjects around the school table – ASL, picture study, composer study, handicrafts, map drill, creative art – because all the supplies are there. As we finish the Morning Time subjects, we have a snack and go right into our skill subjects. On Thursdays we end with Poetry Tea Time, which is also new this year and is such a lovely addition to our day.

Morning Time nourishes our relationships. It motivates us to aim our ideals for finding beauty, truth, and goodness in the world around us. It provides calm in the midst of the storm, connects our family with shared culture, gives us noble ideas that stretch us in many ways, and prepares us to confront the darkness around us with light.

For more information and further reading on Morning Time, check out Pam’s website: edsnapshots.

Seeking Virtue

I recently joined the Ambleside Online forum. Those women are stretching me to think and grow as we read and participate in book studies. I love it!  

One of the ladies recently started a thread asking how she should define virtue – a valid question since the goal of a classical education is to instruct a person in virtue and wisdom by teaching them truth, goodness, and beauty. Defining virtue will actually help us develop our educational plans because as we understand WHAT we are aiming for, our choices of HOW to accomplish that goal will naturally become more focused and selective as the path we’re on becomes clearer. After reading the thoughts on the forum, I decided to do a bit of research myself.

Karen Glass, in an article posted at The Well Trained Mind, said:  

“David Hicks, in Norms and Nobility, reminds us that the primary goal of the classical educators was to instill virtue in their pupils—not merely to provide them with rigorous, intellectual training. He discusses the ancient’s “Ideal” — the hero, the man of virtue, whom they aspired to imitate at great length. This was an education of the spirit — not a practical, utilitarian education by any means, but an education intended to teach man to serve something other than self. This kind of education does not teach a man how to fulfill his desires — it teaches him what he ought to desire. Intellectual development was only a part of the process.

The goal of classical education was the attainment of virtue. David Hicks asks the question, “Can virtue be taught?” and he tells us that all of the notable ancients answered, “yes.” It sounds remarkably like Charlotte Mason’s contention that the chief end of education is the formation of character. David Hicks says, “The sublime premise of a classical education asserts that right thinking will lead to right, if not righteous, acting.”

I liked the definition my church gave virtue:

“Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.”

I’ve decided that the dictionary is my friend lately so I looked up the definitions of virtue and moral – because I think that often I “know” the meaning of something – but then with a clearer definition I realize I am missing a bit of the bigger picture. Sort of like looking at a picture and thinking “that’s nice” and then finding out the title and all of a sudden it fills you with all sorts of emotions and ideas from the artist. wink

Dictionary.com defines VIRTUE as:

noun
1. moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
2. conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
3. chastity; virginity: to lose one’s virtue.
4. a particular moral excellence. Compare cardinal virtues, natural virtue, theological virtue.
5. a good or admirable quality or property: the virtue of knowing one’s weaknesses.
6. effective force; power or potency: a charm with the virtue of removing warts.
7. virtues, an order of angels. Compare angel (def 1).

The definition of MORAL from dictionary.com:

adjective
1. of, relating to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical: moral attitudes.
2. expressing or conveying truths or counsel as to right conduct, as a speaker or a literary work.
3. founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom:
moral obligations.
4. capable of conforming to the rules of right conduct: a moral being.
5. conforming to the rules of right conduct (opposed to immoral ): a moral man.
6. virtuous in sexual matters; chaste.
7. of, relating to, or acting on the mind, feelings, will, or character: moral support.

So, virtue could be an effective force relating to, or acting on the mind, feelings, will, or character (Will) that is founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom; however a virtuous person would certainly live within the boundaries of good moral laws.

As Charlotte Mason taught, we as parents and teachers are to help our children learn the fundamental principles of right conduct through their personal relationship with God, by letting them read the books that let them experience virtuous living and the results of non-virtuous living, teaching them those good habits, by prayer, etc. A pattern takes time to follow, which is  why we will always pursue virtue as a worthy goal. Since none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, forgiveness and grace will play a big part in this – both from us as parents and from the Lord (for us as the parents and His children). I am, I can, I ought, I will.

We’ve all read books where the main character did something he knew was right, usually at great personal cost, especially for the good of others. Sometimes it is a matter of faith, sometimes it is a matter of earthly cares, but it’s those kinds of characters that I think of when pursuing virtue, usually because I end up hoping that I could be like them when faced with those dilemmas. Probably why Charlotte Mason wanted us to let a child connect with the ideas themselves, right? wink

As I woke up this morning still thinking on this subject, I thought of the 13th Article of Faith, which states: 

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Doesn’t this sound exactly like what a Classical Christian Education is all about? 

CM Podcasts

I have been enjoying several Charlotte Mason Education focused podcasts lately. They are enjoyable and encouraging to me, so I thought I’d share them here. I like to listen while I do the dishes or sew.

http://www.adelectableeducation.com/  – Liz Cottrill and Emily Kizer of Living Books Library with Nicole Williams from Sabbath-Mood-Homeschool
https://www.circeinstitute.org/podcast – Cindy Rollins (of Morning Time fame) interviews guests monthly, including Dr. Jack Beckman, Karen Glass, and Anne White of AO. She also has a monthly Q&A session. You’ll have to scroll through the list to get them. 
http://edsnapshots.com/your-morning-basket-podcast/  – Pam Barnhill interviews and features guests every other Tuesday. A fun thing about her podcasts is she includes things to go with each episode – like study guides, poems to memorize, etc. 
http://www.catherinelevison.com/podcasts.html  – I just found this one today, so haven’t listened to hers, but her books were extremely helpful when I was starting my CM journey.
http://afterthoughtsblog.net/audio-collection  – Brandy Vencel has recently started posting audio versions of her CM conference talks.
Have a great Thanksgiving!

Woo-hoo! A Simple Weekly Planner!

I have posted before about the planners that we have made, used, and tweaked (see here and here).  I still felt that they weren’t exactly what I needed since I still had to figure out how much time each person spent on their core subject hours (required by the Missouri Home School Laws) each day, and I was still responsible to make sure that each week’s schedule was written in.  After pondering a few weeks last summer, I decided to keep the elements that had worked for us from the other two and just see if I could get it down to one page per week.

I always sit down each planning period and make a list of the books each child will be using for her school year. I print that out for the portfolios and for my personal use through out the year. I also sit down and plan the amount of time needed in each subject and We tend to be start-at-the-front-of-the-book-and-work-our-way through-the-book people as it is easier for me to know where we are at any given time. Once I recognized that, my planner issue was mostly resolved.

The lists are as comprehensive as I could make them, listing all school subjects and includes such things as Life Skills (aka Chores), a place to record the amount of time spent doing their Personal Progress (a program teenage girls do at Church to help them develop spiritually) as well as including the time spent learning new skills and having social time at church on Wednesday evenings. This eliminated the need for more than one schedule a week per person.

So my last years page ended up like this:

Improved Weekly Schedule 1

  1. I made my header with our school name on the top line, so it says “Heritage Haven Academy’. 
  2. In the second line, I personalized each one with the student’s name (“JitterBug’s Assignment List”), tabbed over a space and put in “Term # ______” and “Week # ______ so I can use it for all three 12 week terms.
  3. Then I made a table with 5 columns in Microsoft Word.
  4. Each column is labeled Day 1, Day 2, etc.
  5. I color-coded for ease of finding the daily list, using light colors. This made it much easier for my APD children to find daily lists, but it is SO much easier for me too!
  6. Family subjects (aka Morning Basket or Morning Time) are listed first, divided among the 5 days for the spreading of the feast. This usually takes 1 1/2 hours a day.
  7. Individual subjects are listed next. I tried to list them in the order that I wanted/needed in order to switch subjects up as well as give me time to work individually with someone.  
  8. Language Arts has at least five components to it that I need to track for our Core Hours, so I marked them with an asterisk. History and science can also have different components, so for ease of computing my hours, I marked those with a different sign. 
  9. I put a number at the end of every single subject every single day. That is the actual number of minutes I expect to spend per subject – and we use a timer to keep us moving along. Occasionally I have to change the time for something and it is simple to pencil in the change.
  10. As we finish each subject, a single line is drawn diagonally through that subject. Doing that shows that it is completed, while allowing me to still read what they were assigned. 
  11. At the bottom I put in a line for the dates of that week. “Dates _________________”
  12. I made a space for notes with 6 lines to record things like illnesses, field trips, etc.
  13. I also made a space titled “Core Time Totals” and created lines that allowed me to total up the minutes spent each week in Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Reading, and Electives.”
  14. I can change these as needed during the year and update and switch around each year without having to create a whole new system. We are starting our second year with them and I am still pleased with them!

JuneBug and BittyBug are not as old as JitterBug and HorseyBug, so their schedules look a bit different. Their lessons are not as long, but the law requires that they spend as much time as the older kids in learning. To that I end, I have scheduled them learning activity blocks of time. That is when they are allowed to choose educational activities to do at the table or in the school room with me present while I am spending one-on-one time with the older girls. This has worked very well since I have tried to include learning activities that they can do together or separately. At the bottom of their page, I listed a large variety of things that they can choose from and track that on my sheet as much as possible.

Here is a sample of last years form:

Weekly Schedule 2

Our New School Planners

I have been using the Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer for a long while and mostly, I love it. I think the reason that I love it is that it automatically changes the assignments on your schedule if you are unable to complete one. Yes!! I HATED erasing my lovely, well-laid out plans when life happened and we didn’t get something done.  So for a while the SCMO worked for us. Then I discovered two serious things…not about the SCMO, but about myself that aren’t so pretty. *ahem*

1.  I have a hard time not being distracted by the computer…forums, email, sometimes blogging, research, news…any and all excuses to be plugged in constantly.

2.  The other issue is that when everything is on a daily planner on the computer, apparently no one in the house can do anything related to school since they don’t have a list. *sigh*  That meant on days when I wasn’t feeling well, had outside appointments, couldn’t use the computer for some reason, or whatever – nothing got done.

So this year, I wanted things to be a bit different. I needed to pull back and see what we could do as a family to make things work a bit smoother.  I researched it a bit (like everything else) but disliked all the pre-printed planners available. There are gazillions – I think every blogging homeschool mom has designed one that works for her. 😉  I discovered two posts from fellow members of the SCM forum that really made me realize that I could design one that would be completely personalized for each of us. Tristan shared her planner for her oldest here and Christie showed hers in a video here (scroll to the bottom for the video). I took both ideas and morphed them into MY planner. (Sorry about the quality of the light of the pictures!)

Planner My Cover

 Inside the covers behind the first term divider:

Planner Book Lists

 Everyone’s book lists for the year

Planner Weekly Schedule

Planner Weekly Schedule 2 Pg

Our weekly schedule of subjects by day

The second divider is Term 1 (Term 2 and 3 are identical to Term 1, except that I decided after I printed a couple of pages not to have the littles subjects on the same page, so I deleted them. I left in them in Term 1 because I didn’t want to waste ink/paper).

Planner Weekly Subject

The first working page is a planning page that allows me to jot ideas or make more permanent plans for our weekly assignments. (Inspiration for this came from the Tanglewood Planner, which is a great CM paper planner.)

Planner My Weekly Pages

This is my weekly spread. I can get all my subjects scheduled on here for the whole week. The days are color coded so that my kiddos can easily keep track of which day they are on. Every Monday morning we have a quick planning session where we make note of what is coming up and what we need to accomplish to stay on track. Then I quickly jot down what lesson/subject each day. I can tell what needs to be done at a glance and can easily adjust throughout the week if needed. As we finish each subject, I make a diagonal line through the box. I can tell it is done, but it leaves the assignment legible for our records.

Planner Weekly Summary

On the left is the Weekly Summary where I make notes for various things – what we studied for Nature Study, doctors appointments, additional books read, places we went, that sort of thing. The right is my Weekly Planning Page from above. Having them side by side helps me stay up and current on weekly subjects.

After Terms 1, 2, and 3 come the Littles Schedule in their own Term 1, 2, and 3.

Planner Littles Weekly Pages

The littles is set up very similar to the older kids. I love that I can tailor the subjects to certain subjects or be more specific with actual titles. That has helped HorseyBug so much, along with the color coded days. Since the littles are included in most family subjects and they are younger, their planning pages are not as long as the older girls.

At the end of the planner, I have included several pages of term and yearly evaluations.

I have three that I really like from Christie’s blog, Learning with Charlotte. Here is a link to them:  http://learningwithcharlotte.blogspot.com/2013/08/2013-2014-curriculum-part-three-files.html

I have a copy of her Character Report (2 pages) and her Progress Report. She explains them very well in her video (linked above in the first paragraph).

Planner Yearly Eval

This is page one of my yearly evaluation of each student (the whole thing is in the planner). I have a place for every subject plus general comments. Missouri homeschool laws require that I have yearly written evaluations and I finally created this form. It works well for me, especially when paired with the Character Reports and Progress reports.

The student planners look similar to mine, but are more specifically personalized:

Planner Student CoverPlanner Student Pages

Planner Student Eval

 Besides the student’s eval, I put the official one for each girl in their planners.

So far the only changes I have decided will be made next year are that their covers will get plastic  😉 and the subject/titles will be changed as they progress yearly.

What is really working for us with these planners:

  • Personalized for each student – instead of saying “Language Arts”, I was able to put in specific titles such as “Discover the Old Testament” or “Writing with the Best”. 
  • The weekly assignments are there. 
  • The color coded days.
  • Children are much more independent and are happier.
  • I always know where I am and what I need to do.
  • At the end of the year I will put the planner with a few examples of work and our required portfolios will be complete for the school year.

Adding it to my Table of Contents organizer (see here) and I have a really solid proof of achievement for my children’s records.