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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Getting Organized the Easy Way

A mom wrote to me asking for help with homeschooling. She had tons of great resources and lots of insightful ideas for teaching her children—but had not implemented any of them. She realized she was disorganized and unproductive and feared for her children's education. Though she knew lesson plans would help her get school accomplished each day, this sweet mom felt inadequate when it came time to create the plans. She was feeling like a failure because she had done so little of what she intended to do. Great books and ideas abounded. Yet nothing was getting done. 

First, let me state that this is absolutely normal. I think most homeschoolers experience this scenario in the first few years of homeschooling. But with a little direction, I believe moms can get past this and into a positive, forward moving routine. Even a disorganized person can easily implement structure into her homeschool.
 

Let me suggest that one of our top goals for homeschooling should be to move our children from dependence to independence. As they move in this direction you will, slowly through the years, move from teacher to coach to advisor to mentor. We want our children to be self learners. Individuals who have learned to self educate will outperform their teacher dependent peers. However, we do not want to move our children into independence too early—or too late. Each child is different. I had one child that was totally independent by nine, and another that was still not totally independent at twelve. You know when your children are trustworthy, mature, and self motivated enough to be trusted to complete their work without constant supervision, checking, and grading. You know when you can trust your child to grade his own work. Self motivation is something we should instill in our children.

With that said, let me encourage you that homeschooling will not always be laborious for you. Once your children have taken matters into their own hands, your load is significantly lightened. It’s good for them and it’s good for you when they begin to follow the schedule—beginning their work without your prompting and reading and completing assignments on their own. The trick is to choose curriculum that allows them to be independent. There are a lot of great courses out there that actually work against our efforts to create independent learners. They can be replaced with just as great courses that work toward self learning.
 

Not only is the curriculum you choose of vital importance, it is also important to create a basic schedule your family can easily follow. For some, a curriculum with a detailed daily schedule, showing exactly which pages to read in which book, is comforting. For me, it worked to list all the subjects and have the children simply check them off as they completed the assignments. My children were entrusted with their own simple schedules even at six years old. They had checklists they were required to complete each day. My six year old would read the next thing on her schedule, find the book, and bring it to me to read to her. When it was time for writing, my boys would set everything up then call me over to teach them the lesson. Most things they could complete without my help, but some subjects required my oversight and instruction. Still, they made it easy for me by getting it ready for me to teach.

Sometimes I printed the schedule on paper for them to hand in to me; other times, I wrote it on a white board. Either way, my children didn’t have to wait on me to begin school; they didn’t have to ask, “What’s next Mom?” I never heard, “Are we done with school?” Because of their daily schedule, it was obvious to them and they knew that the more quickly they worked, the sooner they could play.

Here is a simple schedule on a magnetic whiteboard. (need image) My kids had different colored magnetic pegs that marked where they were. Sometimes they didn’t follow the schedule in exact order, especially if the subject was dependent on me helping out in some way. 

I truly believe a daily schedule will help with the organization aspect of homeschooling. Again, some people need it all spelled out in great detail. That’s one reason I created the notebooking journals to go with my Young Explorer Series books. They include a detailed schedule with reading pages, notebooking activities, and projects assigned on specific days.
 

As far as having a ton of great material that you cannot implement, that’s another matter entirely. How I can relate! I think we all can. We see a great book on the human body. We buy it. We see a fabulous video to go with it. We purchase it. We find wonderful project books that will accompany it perfectly. We shell out more cash. By the time school starts, we have a large stack of resources for teaching anatomy—but no plan. Sigh. In fact, that is exactly WHY I wrote the first book in my science series. I had many books to teach my children astronomy—lots of project books, picture books, scientific books, etc. But they were hard to implement. I needed one book that combined all the features that would make teaching astronomy doable (and wouldn’t plant seeds of evolution into their little hearts). Eager and excited, we do this same thing with history, geography, and other courses as well. There are so many great resources out there and we can’t resist filling our shelves with them. Yet there they sit.
 

Here’s some bad news and some good news:
 Without a schedule—that either you or someone else creates—it’s nearly impossible to teach from a stack of random books.

However, here are three pieces of good news: 

1. There are courses out there that teach well using only one book.
2. There are courses out there that have very detailed schedules to allow you to teach from lots of different resources if that’s your preference. 
3. A strong reader can work his way through the stack of reading material on his own without a schedule and really learn a lot if he has assigned reading in that subject. 

By using assigned reading times, my kids were able to enjoy the wonderful resources that complemented their learning. For example: In history, we worked through one main book. Then the kids worked on their own through the great supplementary books I had bought. I would have loved to read aloud to them, but if we had waited for that….it may or may not have ever happened! My husband did read aloud to them from some of the history books at bedtime, however. Those books were usually above their reading level. I made sure I had a lot of books they could read on their own. They would either read and narrate to me, or make a notebook page or book report on the book.

I always included history, science, and geography books on their reading list. On the schedule it said, “reading,” but my children each had a separate list of possible reading books to work through. This way, they could actually learn from the great resources I had bought. That’s the beauty of homeschooling and independent learning. Even when they were young, my kids knew tons of stuff I didn’t know. It was hilarious, really. My son would tell me something that sounded outlandish. I’d question his source and he’d retrieve one of the books I had assigned to him as proof of his learning. It’s amazing how much children can learn on their own. Really. Of course, this works best when your kids are older, and strong readers. 

The problem is, when your children are young and not reading well, you are anxious to teach them everything RIGHT THEN! There's so much to learn and you are ready to teach it all RIGHT NOW! I was that way. I needed to learn that homeschooling and learning is a journey, not a race. There is time to teach your children everything you want them to learn. There is time to learn to be disciplined. Most homeschool moms learn self discipline as they homeschool. Inevitably, homeschooling reveals all the weaknesses in us. But God has a way of using it all to teach both our children and us, moving us to greater maturity in both intellect and character.

I hope this is helpful for now!


13 comments:

Bookworm said...

I LOVE getting ideas from others!

It's so much fun keeping things fresh---for me and for the boys too!

Thank you!!!

Love and Joy in Jesus,
Marietta

mom2dixiechirps said...

Thank you so much, Jeannie, for sharing your great ideas with us as well as reminding us that "homeschooling and learning is a journey, not a race"! I greatly appreciate your blog postings!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your wise words, it is though this was written about me, thank you for letting me see that I can get it done, just not all right now. Your words are a blessing to me, bless you Angela

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

I am SO excited to have found your blog! I am currently using your Astronomy book for my 5th grader (plus I teach it in our co-op) and it is FANTASTIC!

I am going to follow your blog because I only read ONE POST so far and I'm totally motivated to start school back up on Monday! :-)

Thank you for all you do for homeschoolers.

Katy said...

Great, Great! I will start homeschooling 2 of my kids this Tuesday and I needed to hear that :-). They are good readers and self motivated (mostly) and it is good to remember that it is okay and actually a goal for them to teach themselves. I know out of overenthusiasm I might try to do everthing.

A Dusty Frame said...

Thank you for this post.
I included it in a links post on my blog today:)
Lizzie
www.adustyframe.com

Home School Programs said...

Its a great resource. Very helpful ad informative.

Thanks
Helen

boyschool said...

I just found this site, and this post was exactly what I needed! I'm normal! There's hope for me! Thank you so much!

Dell said...

Fabulous post! Thank you for posting it here.

Colleen Moore said...

Sigh...what a refreshing reminder!

Blessings!

Trinity Mommy said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I am new to the blogging world and have been so blessed to have found some wonderful inspiring mothers like yourself! I look forward to browsing your blog some more for more nuggets!

Annie Kate said...

Hi Jeannie,
I love your books, but they, too are on our huge pile of resources. We've been using reading lists for history, geography, and literature. Now we'll try that method for science as well.

Blessings,
Annie Kate

Dawn Farias said...

Thank you for this post.