I need accountability in life. That’s why I do my to-do list. Without it I might forget to do things, or I would talk myself out of a project in favor of something useless like watching TV. But with my to-do lists, it provides me a sense of accountability.
Even this blog is an example of my accountability. If you go back a few years, you’ll see I posted VERY sporadically. That’s because it wasn’t on my to-do list. It got pushed aside for other things going on in life at the time. Then I decided that needed to change. So I put it on the list.
Bible reading was the same way. I kept forgetting to read my Bible until bedtime and by then I’d be too tired to read so I’d just “read it tomorrow”. Sometimes I had to catch up on six days of Bible reading and as you might imagine, my focus on individual passages was not the greatest as I was more skimming the Bible than focusing and reading it. (I have to admit I am still sometimes guilty of that but I am trying to actually FOCUS on the words. With one day of Bible reading that helps out a lot!)
Homeschooling was the same way. I would homeschool but if there were projects and such I might just say “ah forget about it”. I would procrastinate and in general get behind. I think my kids take after me too because without accountability they, too, fall behind.
That’s why I like my current system.
I use OneNote a lot.
For curriculum we are using Easy Peasy because it makes planning easier. However, unlike before, I don’t let it replace my involvement. That was the one thing that turned me away from it before is I felt like I wasn’t necessary. However, experience and practicality have taught me otherwise. Some examples:
Lilly is in sixth grade and the curriculum does not contain a handwriting lesson. However, her handwriting is atrocious so I’ve added that to her lessons. Also, it assumes that she should know her math facts from years earlier but she still is not as adept as I would like so I add XtraMath.
Sierra is in first grade. She really wanted to do more school and short of pushing her forward to grades that had “more school” there really wasn’t anything I could give her that was challenging enough. She finds preschool and kindergarten work too easy – except she hasn’t yet learned to read. She can read some NOW, but at the beginning of the year, cat and rat were confusing to her. So I couldn’t just put her directly in first grade because that assumed a proficient reader. So I took the reading lessons from the tail end of kindergarten, added some handwriting lessons (because again, no handwriting class), and added XtraMath again and that’s pretty much it. Occasionally I have to swap out her English lessons because it involves her writing a paragraph or a sentence or something and that would be hard, what with not knowing how to read proficiently yet. However she’s doing well on phonics sheets, and other such easy worksheets. And she loves the projects.
Jordan, David, and Mark have a mish-mash of stuff. They have the Bible reading from Sierra’s lessons, I took the math from the kindergarten level, added XtraMath to Jordan’s math, and then the bulk of their lessons is the preschool english – learning letter sounds, arts, crafts, etc. Mark just does the letter stuff and a coloring sheet.
This isn’t even mentioning the teenagers’ lessons. I am having to build their Mythology and Matthew’s computer science course from web resources that aren’t laid out in a nice daily format. Plus sometimes I am having to create quizzes and such and adding it to their curriculum.
So I’m very involved.
But there is NO WAY I could organize all of this without OneNote. As you might well imagine, most of this would fall by the wayside if it weren’t for my organized ways.
Each child has their own Notebook in OneNote for the year. Within each notebook I’ve written out a section for each of the 180 days in their school year. On each Day section I’ve written out pages with each of their subjects for that day. Lilly and Sierra, for example, have Music on Mondays, Art on Wednesdays, and P.E. on Fridays, but Math every day. It would be very confusing for all seven of my kids to have to know what to do when without this system, I think.
On each page, I copy their assignments from the Easy Peasy site. I add checkmarks, add any additional items that need to be there, etc. For example, the teens are supposed to write a journal entry each day for Bible, but the website doesn’t remind them of this. So I add a checkbox for writing a journal entry every day. I make sure that lapbooks have “construct your lapbook” days, so that the pieces aren’t done then forgotten.
All of the notebooks and such are on my OneNote account but I opened each child’s individual notebook on their own devices (those children that have devices anyways) so that they aren’t bombarded by all of the notebooks. They know each day what is required of them. It took a couple of weeks to acclimate everyone to this system (for example, having them mark off the tasks on David’s and Mark’s school since they were the same as Jordan’s, or reminding Lilly to write her work in her notebooks we bought her). But now things are moving a lot smoother.
On Mondays I prepare a week’s worth of lessons at a time. It usually takes two hours or less, but that’s because I have to write the Mythology class practically from scratch as I go (it exists, but it’s not in a checklist type format and organizing that plus creating tests for it, takes time). The good thing about that, though, is Emily wanted me to create her two weeks of lessons every week because she thought she’d be able to do two days of work every day and finish early. It’s not working out like that for her, but I am continuing on my course. Today I finished Day 120 in her lesson plans So in six more weeks, my weekly input time for lessons will drastically drop off, as I go from 7 kids to 6 and no longer have to write a course.
The children work on their lessons during the week. I do Bible lessons in the morning at breakfast with the little guys, and I go over Sierra’s words for the day. She has to go over them three times a day at different times so I get the first and last time of the day. Sometimes I have time to get the boys started on their Easy Peasy grammar but not always.
On Fridays, I go over all of the elementary school work. That would be Sierra and younger. Mostly I just make sure all the OneNote boxes were checked off, and that the work is all stapled and put into my portfolios I’m keeping for the children and then I reorganize their folders and tidy up their area for the next week.
Saturdays I spend the day baking and prepping food for the next week (breakfast and snacks), plus I go over Lilly’s, Matthew’s, and Emily’s work. Theirs takes me longer because they’re older and I expect more out of them. Plus their workload is more. I am not a task-nazi though. When they haven’t completed their work, I notate it on my attendance sheet and then give them a screen shot of what they have to make up.
As you can see above, Matthew has quite a bit of work to make up! But this is because life happens. So I allow my system to let life happen. As long as we don’t forget the work, it can be made up as soon as possible. The dates are representative of the days on which the “Day” was supposed to have happened on. That’s for my accountability so I can prepare the week, taking into account holidays and such. Day 5, 10, 15, etc is designed to be on Friday, for example, but when you consider holidays and other days off, it just doesn’t always work out that way. This allows me to have a sliding schedule. When they have completed all the work for that day, I check that day off. At the end of my check session, I enter the dates for the next week’s school lessons.
I like this system for lots of reasons. Another reason is that, as a working mom, I don’t have access to physical books and such when I’m at work. If they were working on book work, they’d have to send me screenshots of their books and such. This is easier. They just tell me what day and subject they need help with and I can open it up on my phone and offer assistance within minutes. To me, that is important, because then I am still involved with the learning process. I don’t have to feel like an outsider looking in. I am looking forward to the little guys learning how to read so they can start texting me questions. Right now their lessons are the only ones I really feel left out of, so I try and spend some extra time with them after work to make up for it.
Accountability is a powerful thing. This system keeps me accountable as a working mom, and it keeps my kids accountable to their schoolwork. When they have quizzes and online activities, and I can’t be there to “prove” they did it, they are required to take screen shots and paste it into OneNote. This is good for me because then I don’t have to constantly test them to “prove” they’re learning. I can see they are simply by the quality of their work. But more importantly, with the accountability in place, I don’t have to wait until it’s too late to notice a problem. I can see as they go along what problems they’re having.
It is true that a paper curriculum could do this as well… But with this I don’t have to worry about books getting torn up by my toddlers, I don’t have to worry about papers getting lost, I don’t have to worry about buckets all over the place (this is basically like a virtual workbox system!), and it’s free! That’s a big thing for me because even though we’re in a better financial position than we were before, I still am supporting eight children which is not cheap no matter how you slice it. So free is good!
It is a bit of extra work on my part, but the week flows much smoother as a result and everyone gets their work done. The boys are learning their letters, Sierra is learning to read, Lilly’s cursive is absolutely beautiful, Matthew is learning the importance of time management, and Emily is well on her way to prepping for college. So for me, the work I put in is absolutely worth the return on that investment as I am creating an orderly, effective school room.