Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More on the homeschool Filing System

Isn't it fun to get organized?  For me, it's actually MORE fun than doing the work you I carefully organized over the summer ;-)   It's one of the biggest reasons I started filing our school year, because I would have so much fun making these wonderful plans over the summer and then never use them past the first month or so of school.  I needed everything concretely laid out for me.

Here are a few more tips about filing, and some answers to some questions I have received:

1) Add a file for yourself for each week or each month:

-This is a perfect place to store library lists, craft lists, feast day craft ideas, recipe ideas, supply lists for the next week.  Some people have even suggested taking apart the Teacher Manuals for various courses and filing them in your own weekly folder.  To make them last longer, some have put them in page protectors.

-Maybe this is the year you are finally going to get to doing all those wonderful Ambleside Online study ideas:

-You could even include a weekly menu plan if you were super duper organized :-)  (but then, super duper organized people aren't even reading this blog, because they are smart enough to know that reading online is really just a form of procrastination from doing all those things that we like to -talk- about instead of -do-.)

2) What about the preschoolers and toddlers?

One of the things that I did last year with my filing system was to think about the littles as well. I had a 4yr old, and two 3 year olds, as well as my school age monkeys . Often when the big kids had a fun worksheet or coloring page to do, the littles started to demand to do school too.... So I decided to add a folder for them as well.

In the preschool folders I had:

-copies of certain sheets the big kids were doing that week
-watercolor paper for the weeks that the bigs were doing painting in artistic pursuits
-worksheets printed from starfall
-kumon books ripped apart
-rod and staff preschool series ripped apart
-a few file folder games I actually had the time to make once upon a time

Other ideas you could try:

- coloring pages themed to the history or science your big kids are studying
- printables from the
- plans for doing FIAR or BFIAR. (wow, now this is something I would like to try as I always felt like I just didn't have time)
- recipes for play dough or cookies etc... To remind you to have fun with the littles

3)  What happens when you get behind in one subject? Does it mess up your whole system?  Aren't you losing the flexibility of homeschooling by filing everything ahead of time?

. The very fact that you can be flexible with your speed at which you accomplish subjects caused me to fall behind every single year. Not necessarily because the kids needed time on certain tasks before it clicked for them (so we worked at their own pace), but because after things 'clicked' we didn't take the time to catch up so we would reach the finish line at a reasonable time.

Basically what I discovered about myself, is that I was great at being flexible enough to SLOW DOWN our work, but I wasn't so good at being flexible enough to SPEED UP our work when I needed to.  I seemed to be more concerned about doing every. single. page. in the book, rather than getting to the end of the books in a reasonable time.

If you don't have the end in mind when you start, then you will have a harder time getting there.

I still believe a little bit every day is far more beneficial than the spurts and stops that I was doing before. That being said, if the kids do need a bit of time for the material to 'click', or want to work faster, than there is nothing stopping you from pulling out the math from the next week's folder. It's not as though the pages are glued on there right? For me, the inconvenience of having to do that helped me decide if it was really worth it to go off my planned schedule. It was almost like a check and balance.

As well, having all 36 weeks filed helps you see the big picture, so you clearly see that delaying math for a week will delay your end of school date. At which point you can either decide that you are ok with that or try to find some way to skip some easier math down the road so you do end up finishing on time.

In my mind, there is a big sense of discouragement for both teacher and student when you get to the end of the year and see that all other subjects are done except the last 78 pages of math. In our experience, it has led to a viscous cycle, because we get burned out on math and then end up starting the next year already behind.

Remember the Flylady craze? One of the things that really stuck with me, even though I don't follow her system anymore, is that 'housework done poorly still blesses your family'..... I take this to mean that doing a little bit regularly is so much better than not doing ANY because you don't have time to do it perfectly. 

I apply this to our school work: if all we have time for in a week is to do the history readings and have a very good discussion about them, then we just leave it at that and move on. Just like math, it's better to skip a few projects/mapwork or writing here and there than to come to the end of June and still have 1/4 of the year left.

It took me three years to get through ancients before I figured out that I could let go of the idea that it all had to be perfectly done. You don't have to be perfect and you don't have to do it all! Why not give yourself a break and give yourself permission to let stuff go here and there throughout the year, instead of feeling like quitting at the end when you aren't even close to being done.

4) On that note: Don't be a perfectionist!

The All-or Nothing attitude is what caused me to always fall behind in the past.  It had to be PERFECT or we wouldn't do it at all.  Don't let that attidtude creep into filing your homeschooling. Get what you can get done now and know that whatever you do, even if it's just one subject, you will be further ahead than you were last fall.

You don't have to have the PERFECT folders (oh, and there are so many beautiful ones out there), or the PERFECT case to hold them in.  You don't even have to have history or science filed if you are running out of time, or it is causing you stress.

In the end, any system you use should be tweaked to work for you. Don't feel like you are doing it 'wrong' or anything. There IS no wrong. It's simply a tool for you as a teacher to help you get to the end of your school year and feel like you accomplished what you set out to do!

When trying out any new system, always ask yourself if it is something that is going to make your life EASIER or MORE DIFFICULT, because if it's the latter, you will likely not be following ANY system by the time Feb rolls around and it's a struggle to keep going even with the BEST system.

5) What about courses that you don't have concrete things to put in the files like All about Spelling or SL read-alouds?

For our non consumable subjects like All About Spelling, I am still trying to plan how to work that in. We didn't include it in the system last year because we ditched spelling workout halfway through the fall in favor of AAS, so it was too late in my one track mind to work it in. As a result, we got really behind in it. I think what we will do this year, is include blank templates for his written seeking practice each week so I have something tangible that reminds me to pull out the tiles and white board.   Here's a link to a very rough sheet I made for that purpose next year.  I will also be moving the AAS progress sheet from file to file each week.(level 2 and 3 ... see thechatterbee for more)

6) What do you do about long weekends and other short weeks (i.e. dr appts, sick days, 'I just don't want to do any schoolwork today' days)?

Yes, this can be a problem, but it is easy to solve.   For us, we decided it was worth keeping the simplicity of the system to squeeze 4 days of work into 5, which usually meant that we picked the work that was the most important and tossed the rest LOL. It sounds awful, but it was so freeing to be able to keep moving forward each week.... (And this was our best school year yet).  The other way to do it, is to fit one week of school work across two weeks of real life.  We did this a few times too.  Just keep in mind that every time you do it, you are pushing back your finish date.  In my yearly schedule, I left a bit of wiggle room for that (meaning we started a few weeks before the school kids so we could have that flexibility.

Any more questions? Give me a shout and I'll do my best to help you out!


misty said...

Have I told you lately that I love you? ;) Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For all of your words of wisdom and advice. I have a feeling that this is going to be our best school year yet! :)

Mommydearest from WTM board

Wee Pip said...

Love what you wrote! Beautiful, just beautiful! I was wondering how you managed with 6 kids, when it takes us 11-12mos to finish our schoolbooks for the year with only 2 kids. I am going to try planning a 36 week school year (and then be done), instead of finishing things when we finish things. I am planning to prioritize. I've toyed with the idea of using folders (great idea, btw!) but not sure I can tear into our workbooks. I've always wanted to. But part of me loves a workbook. And my kids don't like loose papers. And I end up losing pages - although your method would fix that problem! I may be able to do the same thing as long as I have a written 36-week lesson plan (thinking aloud). Anyhow, thanks for posting this. I'll probably be reading it over a few more times as it is very encouraging and full of great thoughts!