Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Record keeping for Home schools!

I wrote this little article for a friend's blog, but I thought I'd share it on here for the other people in my life :-) We all need help in homeschooling, myself included, and for those of you who homeschool, I hope this will be a help to you! 

Organized Homeschooling: How to Keep Those Records Straight!

I love to be organized! Who doesn’t? or may I say, who wouldn’t?! Oftentimes when it comes to home educating our children we seem to take one of the two approaches. First, we take the approach of “recognized organized curriculum, schedule on the dot, finish every paper in the workbooks, my-kids-have-to-be-the-best-in-everything  Mom”, or we take the second approach of “here’s the papers, do the work, hope you learn something because I forgot to prepare for today, and I really don’t know what I’m doing or how to get it all together”. Do you fit in either of these categories? I’m sure you do because guess what? WE ALL DO! Yes, those above statements sum up homeschooling at its best and worst. I’m not going to tackle the broad subject of homeschooling, but I am going to hopefully help you with a very important, and often overlooked, aspect of homeschooling. You may say “ what is that?”. Good, glad you asked J I’ll tell you, it is the organization of  the very core of your homeschool, your records.

Now, in this particular category of records I am including the organization of your attendance records, grades, lesson plans, state forms, testing materials, projects, tests, etc. I’ve been homeschooling now for seven years and the system I use now has been a work in progress, but I believe it’s now in a very functioning and easy to keep up with state.  When I first began homeschooling my first child, I did NOT have a clue as to how to go about it. I was raised in a family that homeschooled, but being the student and being the teacher are two TOTALLY different things. I also had a very creative Mother who was very artistic and made state of the art projects of out of toilet paper rolls and newspaper, so creatively organizing her school was not that hard for her, and no, she did NOT have the internet back then…oh well, that dates me doesn’t it? J Well, I’m NOT that creative as I can imagine that most of you reading this are not like that either! I needed something simple and effective that would help me effectively organize my most important aspects of my school without bogging me down.

So, what did I do first?

Glad you askedJ

Drumroll…….I went to the internet.

That’s it? You say? Yes, I admit it. I went to the internet. I typed “homeschool organization” into the search bar and this wonderful and beautiful little site called popped up! WHALA! This was just the thing I needed! Listed on this gem of a site is everything that any homeschooling Mom would ever need to get her records straight! I was thrilled! I eagerly began searching through all the different options to find printables (and they are ALL FREE btw!) for planner guides, how to plan, attendance records, grades, extra curriculum supplements, you name it! So, I printed and I printed and I printed and I had all these print outs laid out all over my table! Yay! Oh, what do I do with them now? I had all these wonderful papers and yet, I still didn’t know what to do! So, guess what I did? You guessed it!

I went back to the Internet.

I went to these three sites.

I began to read on what all my state required of me as a homeschooling parent. Then, once again, I began to print and print and print…I now had mounds of papers on my table! What was I supposed to do with all of this? So, I sat down and I began to think of my homeschool as a regular functioning private school. I didn’t look at it through the eyes of  “how can I keep the ‘homeschool’ look out of my cute little house” but began to see my house as the residence of a real classroom. I went back to my private school that I attended during my high school years and remembered how I saw my teachers area laid out.  Desk (don’t have room for one so the table will have to suffice), grade book, attendance book, and the most important thing, a large filing cabinet. I began to remember helping teachers grade papers and file documents during Study Hall hours that I didn’t have anything to do in. I remembered the many tabbed folders and the organized system in which those were laid out in. BINGO! 

 A filing cabinet is a must have for EVERY homeschooling family. 

It is the key to being organized with every other aspect of your homeschooling! See, as homeschooling Moms we are not just the teacher. We are also the secretary, the principle, the records office, the physical education and home education instructors, and the library. The key to being balanced at all  of those responsibilities is the filing cabinet! Who would have ever thought that one of those would be so crucial to your mental well being and effective homeschooling? J

Then, the fun begins….

Now, we must look at how to get all those mounds of papers organized into the filing cabinet in a functional and effective way! I also want to include in this organizational project, my own personal three ring binder that I keep out of the cabinet and on my “school shelf”. In it I keep my daily records and lesson plan forms. This is easier for me to access on a daily basis and I have everything right at my fingertips when I need it. But first, let’s take a look at the filing cabinet….

I have two cabinets for my homeschooling. In the larger cabinet, I use the two bottom drawers to organize all my seasonal activities and music records for teaching piano privately and in a college setting. In the smaller black cabinet you will see that I use hanging file folders to organize my middle child’s daily worksheets, school attendance records from all the years I’ve been schooling, yearly testing records, school supply purchasing receipts (I feel very strongly about purchasing materials for my school…there are free resources out there, but the main subjects required by the state should be purchased for integrity’s sake) and any other important documents that should be kept on file as required by your particular state’s requirements. I believe that it is very important to have proper documentation on file for everything pertaining to your school. It’s easy to access and it looks very organized and professional!  I also have five folders labeled with the five schooling days of the week. On Sunday afternoons, I go through my middle child’s workbooks and pull out every page she needs to complete for everyday. I then put those in the corresponding folders and file them. That way, each day that we have school the papers are easily accessible  and also are there as a reminder that we have school to do. This is just another way to help you get organized and stay scheduled!

Another good tip for those with several children in school would be to have a folder for each child that contains print outs such as, coloring pages, handwriting sheets, activity sheets, quiz and test papers, that are needed for each one for each day of the week. That way all that you have to do each morning is open the cabinet, pull each daily folder for each child and you have absolutely everything you need right at your finger tips! Since I have only one using printables right now, I don’t print out everything that she may need each week. Once my youngest begins schooling, I will do that!

In the last half of the top drawer of my smaller cabinet, I keep every worksheet my children do for an entire year. When the year is complete, I then securely bind them together and transfer them to the container that I keep in the attic that holds all the worksheets my children have ever done.  I know you’re asking, “EVERY SINGLE ONE”? Yes, every single one. “WHY DO YOU DO THAT”? Glad you asked that question. The reason I do that (I even keep all the k4-k5-1st grade stuff that is not even required to be recorded by the state until the child is 7) is because if ever I had to present myself to a court on the grounds of caring for my child’s educational needs, I want to be able to present years of personal time spent with my child. You cannot deny physical evidence of containers of worksheets, paintings, and completed projects.  The “he said/she said” does not hold up in court. I know because I’ve read hundreds of court cases on the matter. I never throw away the evidence of my child having received education. Does it take work? Yes. Does it take up space in the attic? Yes. But I’m not doing all this just for me. I’m organizing my homeschool for the benefit of millions of other parents to be able to continue homeschooling. When we, as homeschooling families, are not organized with our school, we not only put our own homeschooling rights in jeopardy, but the rights of millions of others. As a side note, this is also why I will not do the state required yearly testing myself or in my home. I arrange it with a certified teacher to have my children tested with them at another site of instruction. It is ALWAYS in the best interest of others to ere on the side of caution.

Now, I would like to take a look at my wonderful 3 ring binder that I implemented on the very first year of homeschooling.  This binder is my life raft! It keeps me accountable and organized. When you have to check things off or write in specific dates of days you completed your educational requirements, it really helps you to not get lazy with your schooling. I know that for myself, if I do not implement a detailed plan I will not remember true facts very well. It’s easy to say, “we schooled this week” but if asked to recall how much you did of what and when you did it on each day and you can’t remember, then it’s time to get organized! 

On the outside cover of my binder I have a document that I printed from that helps me keep my oldest child’s Saxon Math records straight. The reason I have this on the outside is that it reminds me every day to make sure I grade each individual lesson and record it. J This really helps me not to forget to grade her math lessons since this subject is separate from the rest of her schooling which is done with Switched On Schoolhouse on the computer.
When I open my book I have my lesson plans, daily checklist, and attendance records right at the front. Every day when we start school, I plug in dates and make check marks. This helps me make sure that I completed those important tasks. It also helps me keep up with accurate records concerning sick days, holidays, and vacation. Those are important and should be noted! I also keep all the lesson plans from every year I’ve homeschooled in this notebook as well. This is just another way to prove that you do school the way you say you do! I’ve included detailed pictures of everything from the files in my cabinet to the order in which I lay out my binder. I hope that the pictures give you a better “picture” so it will be easier for you to organize your schooling than it was for me! 

You may say to yourself, “Is this really necessary to go through so much trouble?” Yes, it is. You never know when you may receive the call or official letter in the mail asking you to either mail in copy of records or meet at a local Public Library with a NC DNPE official who wants to view all your records themselves. I know because we received that letter once. Fortunately, we are registered with the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) and had our lawyer contact them about our rights and their rights to our homeschool. The letter also did not scare me one bit because if I had to have gone and met with the official and presented myself, I could have done so. Everything about our school was in order with our State’s  requirements and I had daily proof recorded in an organized fashion of our home education. If you are not registered with the HSLDA and are currently homeschooling, I highly suggest that you look into it and consider having your school legally protected. The $10  a month will repay itself in one phone call for legal help, and then some!

As you begin this new year of “Getting Organized”, I hope that what I’ve shared with you today will be a help to you, not only as you organize your schooling if you do that, but as you organize your life in general! The principles that I apply to getting my school organized are the same principles that I apply to organizing all the other aspects of my life and home as well. I have come to the conclusion that the best principle to apply to organization in any form can be summed up in one little word…. W.O.R.K. Yes, that little word that we want to find some creative little way to hopefully avoid having to use it:-) This is just human nature, but work is not something to fear or dread, it is to be enjoyed! So get out your folders, notebooks, broom and mop, and some good  elbow grease and get things organized with a little good ole’ fashioned work and have fun doing it! I remember the words that Mary Poppins sang as she “helped” the children clean up and organize their untidy nursery, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and *snap* the jobs a game!” Now, I wish that I could just *snap* my fingers and find everything organized, clean, and Martha Stewart magazine picture perfect :-), but I can find the fun in my work and turn the work into something that gives me great satisfaction that I completed it, completed it well, and that from here on it will make my life easier and more organized! Happy Organizing!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas 2012

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from us to you! I trust you had a blessed Christmas Season and are anticipating the great things God has for you during this New Year! Even though the political and financial outlook for 2013 seem a bit grim, we know that we can still have JOY in Jesus! EnJOY some photos of our Holiday Season activities!
Christmas Eve Dinner at Mom's

Rose made the table look so pretty!

Wonderful yummy goodness....and all good for you!

Rose will hate me for this, but I never could get a picture of her "dressed up"...she was on vacation;-)

Our three munchkins


He can never resist an opportunity to be goofy:-)

The girls had fun decorating their gingerbread house with their friends!

Christmas Day Breakfast

The morning festivities were a little much, I think:-)

Addy and her Kirsten doll (Thank you Aunt Cissy, Grandmom, Mom and Dad!)

The reading of the Christmas Story

Caleb directing our sing time of Christmas Songs

He's his Papa's boy!

Looonnngg day:-)

Audrey and her violin! (Thank you Grandmom and Mom and Dad for your part!)

"Oh my! I'm SOOO cute!"

Off to see the lights in McAdenville

Our handsome taxi driver!

Caleb and Mommy looking at the lights

Family Fun weekend with Cissy and Bobby

Enjoying Aunt Cissy's homemade egg nog

Caleb "helping" Uncle Bobby eat his cake:-)

Me with my Aunt! Love her!

It's okay...she had her 3 day pass;-)

Audrey and Aunt Cissy racing the cars at Fun Depot

I got her to be still long enough to take one picture! lol!

Ummmm...I don't know if we should have let her (Aunt Cissy) have that thing...;-)

Aunt Cissy and Uncle Bobby havin' fun!

"Gracious! How do you get this thing to go!"