How do you manage four different children’s educations when they are all at different levels?
Truly? Tons of grace and flexibility. Since I wasn’t homeschooled myself, much of this I’m learning by trial and error as I go. I ask tons of questions of friends, especially those who homeschool older children and I plan ahead as much as possible. However, to be more specific, much of how I order our day’s plans has evolved with the ages of my kids. When my kids were young, I planned most of our formal lesson time (math and reading mostly) during baby/toddler nap times and used the majority of our day for playing and reading and creating. As my kids have grown, the amount and complexity of the skills they’re learning have as well. I found myself getting overwhelmed keeping track of what each was suppose to be doing, or how to distribute the morning so that I could work alone with one while the others worked independently. It always seemed to swirl together in the midst of our mornings–mostly due to how young and close together they are in age. As a result, a couple of years ago I implemented a clipboard system–terribly unromantic, I know. But it works.
The first clipboard is for me.
At the beginning of each school year, my husband and I plan out our goals for our family and children. Then I create a plan, usually in table-form (pictured above) and print 100+ copies to keep on hand. Each weekend, I pull out 4 sheets (one per weekday) and write the day, date, and what lessons each of the kids will be doing for that week. I like being able to have a birds-eye view of the day and what each child needs to do. As we work through each morning, I cross off a box as they are completed, usually with a colored pen or marker. That way, I can easily see what we didn’t get to (and if there are parts of our days we are consistently missing and need to adapt). At the end of the week, I hole-punch the sheets and stick them in a binder as a record for myself. (Note: I tried writing in times this year to help pace me through the morning–we are rarely “on schedule.” I’ll omit that part next round.)
The second group of clipboards are for the kids. In the past, I have used clip art for any of my non-readers (who wanted to have their own). I didn’t this year.
Because I don’t need to keep each of their checklists, I laminated their pages to reuse. I created a page per work day: Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday (Wednesday is our homeschool group day). I formatted their pages as a checklist, a simple question: have you done this yet? Their clipboards give them a sense of responsibility in their own education and time management. They can freely move on to another job when they’re ready because they know what’s expected of them. During my weekend planning time, as I fill in my own clipboard, I write notes or fill in specifics for each of them for the upcoming week. This weekly prep time takes about an hour, but saves so much more time in the long run.
I store our clipboards on the wall near the door to our school/playroom using this magazine rack. When it’s time to begin our school morning, each person grabs their chart to work through the day. Although we take periodic breaks to play throughout our morning, the older kids cannot have free time (doing whatever they want) until they’ve finished their checklist (including chores). This keeps them motivated (and accountable) as well, as they often remind me, “hey, I need you to finish this lesson” or “we haven’t done ___ yet.” (wink.)
Is this the only way to manage a homeschool? Of course not. Do we always finish everything like I planned? Of course not. Like parenting in general, homeschooling adapts to your own family’s needs, routines, and style–it’s what makes this education route especially unique. But I find in general that intuition, forethought, and tons of patience go a long way in any home (although a troubleshooting guide would be fantastic, too). I also want to note: I have hard days–weeks even–when nothing seems to go as planned, when I don’t have time to plan before the week begins, when chaos and noise seems relentless, and I feel I am chasing the day rather than ordering it. So it goes. Sometimes we scratch it altogether and enjoy the outdoors or creative time or an event out of the house. But overall, this system truly helps me to track my own consistency and the kids’ work.
Do you have other questions about how we homeschool? I’m sure you’re not the only one. Post it in the comments or send me an email.