Wednesday, July 07, 2010

My Homeschool Filing System

Wouldn't it be nice to have a personal assistant in your homeschool?  How about an administrative assistant who would hand you everything you needed for the week pre-photocopied and organized by child... including lists for shopping and the library.  Maybe she would even hand you a pile of fun coloring pages and games for your littles to do.

Perhaps she could help you get all the things you wanted to do in your homeschooling but never get to because you didn't have time to get it ready.  Like what about that FIAR study that you always meant to do with your littles, or the fun lapbook units that pass by your email box.

This past year I was determined to be organized in our homeschool.  I had 2 toddlers, a preschooler, a baby due in October, and two school age kids to teach.  If there was any hope of us finishing the year at all, I knew I HAD to do something to keep me sane... so when I cam across a few ideas for organizing  (thank you By Sun and Candlelight,  Sunflower Faith, and Trivium Academy), I started tweaking it to fit my own life, and got busy filing.

It was the best thing I have done yet to keep myself on the ball.
I was tired of always finishing math in august instead of may, and it dawned on me one day that we always fAll behind because of all of the extra unexpected things in life that take over like sick days, etc...

In the school system, if one person gets sick, the teacher doesn't stop teaching while that child is missing. They keep on going and the child either skips the work, or does only the important parts (even if just orally).

So, I decided to split up all of our work into 36 weeks, and told myself that if the week got away from me, we would just keep on going the next week, by either throwing out the work we missed or doing it quickly out loud. It's ok to miss a math sheet here and there throughout the year. There's enough review etc, that it's not a big deal... But it IS a big deal if you miss the last big chunk of your book. This way of doing things helped me to finish the whole year by may with lots of breaks throughout. 

Here's is what I did
I've been meaning to write the post for a whole year, because I LOVE homeschooling this way, and want to share the benefits with everyone, but I haven't had the time to blog.  Finally, due to the crazy long thread on the Welll Trained Mind Forums, I have decided to have a go at trying to explain our system.  If you want other people's ideas read through these threads:

I hope this can help someone else out there who is tired of feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling.


Deicde how many weeks you will do school.  The average is between 30-36.  We chose 36 weeks because some of our books had 36 lessons and it was the easiest way to schedule those ones in.


Now get yourself a yearly calendar and mark off approx which weeks you will be doing school and which weeks you will be taking breaks.  Decide on when you want your last day to be. YAHOO!!  HAving it scheduled out on one page like this really helps with your sanity.  When xmas comes along, you can look at this calendar and evaluate where you are at and peacefully take a week or two off, without guilt, knowing you have the rest of the year under control.  Same goes for easter, thanksgiving, and whatever other breaks you want to take.

I used this calendar from Donna Young.  On the lines beside each week, I would write 'week 1', 'week 2', 'spring break', 'xmas break', etc...  


Plan out how often you are going to do each subject, and exactly what you need to accomplish each week in order to be done by the end of the year.  I found Simply Charlotte Masons planning guide to be super helpful the first time I did this.  Donna Young has some free forms that work well for this too. Let me know if you  need more help with this step.  I made some master sheets for each subject that roughly laid out what needed to be done each week. This is the working list you will use when you start filing the work into each folder.

The sheet on the Left here is donna young's Quarter Planner. It has five columns across the top (one for each day of the week), and 36 rows to fill in for each day.  You use one of these forms per subject.  If you only do that subject 3x /week or once a week, just fill in the appropriate columns and cross the other ones off or leave them blank.


Shopping Time:

You need to get

  • File crate/ filing cabinet etc.. (anything to store your 36 hanging folders in).
  • box of at least 36 hanging folders (i used letter size)
  • big box of file folders. (pretty ones, boring ones, whatever you want)
  • bin or basket for each child to store their un-fileable stuff like Teacher Manuals, pencil cases, sketch books etc...
  • binder, or pocket folder, or whatever you want for storing their current week's work. One for each child.
I used one crate for all 36 weeks last year.  This year, I think I will use two crates. One for the first semester, one for the second semester.


Putting it all together:

  • Hang your 36 hanging folders. (you can label them if you want but it's not necessary because I labelled my files that go in them).
  • Place one file per child in each hanging folder.  Label them 1-36 (or whatever number you are going up to).  I color coded the numbers. Green for grade 2 boy, Red for grade 3 girl, purple for PreK girl.

  • Working from your weekly plans you laid out in step #3, start filing anything you will need to accomplish each week. I did one child at a time to make it easy on myself (except when they were doing something together like geography).  See below: In each hanging folder, I had 3 file folders. One for my PreK, one for my grade 2 and one for my grade 4.  

  • Anything that would make our school pick-up-and-go I included in the folders. This means I ripped out the pages in all workbooks, photocopied anything that needed photocopying, including paintings off the internet, templates for notebooking, tests, nature study sheets, math fact quizzes, etc..

Here is some examples of what I included:
-5 math worksheets
-math fact quizes from teacher's guide
-spelling unit
-5 Writing With Ease pages
-watercolor paper for an art lesson
-scrap paper for doing math work
-All About Spelling checklist and forms to fill out each day
-First Language Lessons Checklist
-vanGogh artwork for picture study
-latin game
-bird seed and instructions on how to make pinecone birdfeeder
-writing tales worksheets, story and editing checklists

Basically, think of anything you would need to get ready for each subject that week and put it in the file if you can.  SOTW activity guide sheets, maps, timeline figures, stories printed off Project Gutenberg or the Baldwin Project.
  • Now in YOUR file (if you want to keep one), you can store library lists for the upcoming month/weeks, supply lists for art projects and science experiments, webpage addresses, ideas for celebrating the various feast days and holidays that are coming up, chore lists etc...  I didn't do this last year, but I'm adding it to my system this year.Some moms on the Well trained Mind Message boards have talked about affixing a library pocket card thingy to the front of the folder and writing your lists on index cards to keep in the library card folder.  
  • Anything that couldn't be filed easily, was put in their very own student basket.  Each child has their own basket/bin.  I bought pretty ones, but you could make do with a cardboard box, or those white rubbermaid dishbins as well. 

I wanted to make school as EASY as possible.  Every time I have to get up and run to find something, the kids get distracted and lost in our house LOL, and we have to start all over again. 

So each child has:

  • pencil case with
    • pencils
    • sharpeners
    • glue
    • scissors
    • erasor
    • pencil crayons
    • ruler
  • Teacher Manuals that I use weekly that go with their subjects. 
  • sketch book, nature journal (if you use one)
  • Notebooks for poetry and anything else i wanted to keep together
  • binder or pocket folder for keeping their current week's work in.

This is what the child works from every week. The big filing crate is in my office and they never see it or touch it.  I don't want all my hard work to become a playground for curious fingers and exploring toddlers LOL.


When you start your school year:

There are many options as to how to pull out the work each week.

1) give the folder to the child. All work must be completed by friday. (this is what we often did because i was lazy LOL).

2) sort the contents of the current folder into a binder with tabs divided by day of week or maybe by subject

3) sort the contents of the current weekly folder into a pocket folder by day of week. (I labeled each folder with the day.   You can get those file folder ones (black one below), or the spiral ones (colored one).  It was fun to include a book list sheet to keep track of what they had read. This just stayed in the folder each week.  I also stuck our daily and yearly schedule into the front pocket so it was easily viewed.

Each week the children knew that they had to complete all the work in their folders by Friday. This helped them to have more responsibility with their work, as well as giving them the opportunity to work ahead if they wanted to.

I was very happy with this approach. It held me accountable to getting enough work done each week, while still being able to be flexible and extend one week over two if I really needed to. Mostly though, if we missed a day or two, we would quickly review what we missed orally and then keep going. 

Before, if we missed a day, we would wait and start where we left off, but this had led to the school year dragging on and on, and me always feeling guilty about not doing enough. Now I fee, though I am the one managing things, not the curriculum. It is there to serve me, not the other way around.

I was also able to get a lot more of the fun subjects done because it was already photocopied and easy for me to pull out each week, and i was finally able to finish a year of Latin and stay on top of the daily review that is so important on learning a second language. 

I am definitely doing it again next year.

At the end of each week, I filed the empty folder back into the numbered folders, and took a small sampLe from each subject every few weeks and kept those in a binder for each child as a portfolio to show our school board. 

For things that I want to keep for the kids to review and look back on like science and history, I will file in a separate binder and keep it in their school bins each week. 

I'm just starting to clean out last year's work and it's mostly just going in the recycling bin. I'll reuse most of the file folders.  

The amount of effort required to set up the system isn't really that much if you have a few days to sit on the floor in a pile of papers. It's fun to organize everything, and very helpful to get your hands on the materials and get a quick preview of what is coming up through the year.

For example, instead of just knowing we will do SOTW and read it with the kids one day at a time, I actually had a sense of what topics were coming up because I had already done the photocopying.


Kristi said...

*Furiously taking notes* LOL I love this! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!!

The Mama said...

This was an amazing system! Well done!

Creekside Learning said...

Wonderful! A big help to me. Trying to organize for our first full year of homeschooling!

my5wolfcubs said...

Thanks for the step by step directions!
Lee (from the WTMboard)

Sydni said...

Thank you for this post! I love being able to SEE it. The step by step directions are great too. Sydni (from WTM boards)

MissMOE said...

I've been following the threads on TWTM boards. Thanks so much for taking the time to lay out the method step by step. I'm working on putting together lesson plans, so I can start filing. Great system---I am really looking forward to utilizing it.

Jesse, said...

Love it, mama! I'm implementing something similar and am sooo excited at how our year will (hopefully) go since I'm doing the work ahead of time. Now I can pull all of those extra resources off my shelf and actually use them!!

Thanks for the step by step instructions. It helped me get my bearings on how I would do the day to day this year!


Jessica said...

This is just wonderful. I'm copying you! Thanks for putting this post together and sharing your wisdom with us!

Monica said...

This is such an awesome idea.......I'm off to buy folders today! Thanks for sharing.

Jessa said...

Thanks so much for detailing this step by step - I was a little overwhelmed at the 40-some pages on the WTM thread! lol

I'm going to give it a try - maybe just for the first 12 weeks and see how it goes... this is my second year hsing and last year was more go with the flow, but we did have to scurry and double up at the end. I really don't want to do that again!

Anonymous said...

Wow- what a great resource. Thank you so much for posting the steps and sharing your knowledge with others. :)
Laura (LarlaB from the Hive)

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!!!!!

Chelle said...

You've laid your system out so clearly. It's great - so nicely done!

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for taking the time to do this and post pictures! I have never done a filing system before - this has helped me and inspired me SO much. One week of school down, 35 to go!

Sandpiper said...

This is a great idea!! I'm going to see if I can modify it for my 5 school age kids.

Kristi McGregor said...

Just wondering if you used those quarter planners 1 per student per subject? Or did you put all the work for that subject and each kid on 1 sheet? Do you have an example I could looke at? That yould be so helpful. I am so excited to try this for the last half of our year. Also I read you made a portfolio for each kid for the year? I have been keeping all of my kids work for 3 years and it is really piling up. Do you have an example of that also you could post? Sorry for all of the qustions!? thanks for this post it is great!

Anonymous said...

This has made so much sense to me that I decided to work this system into my current year instead of waiting for a new school year to begin! Thank you for sharing your ideas!