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Homeschooling Step by Step

Isa. 30:8 “Now go, write it on a tablet before them and inscribe it on a scroll, that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever.”

Logs for Record-Keeping

Many states require a type of record-keeping, a log or teacher-planning book. I have seen many mothers go under as they attempted to keep up with this demanding paperwork. It is especially hard to keep up when you are attempting to homeschool many children. I began homeschooling in Florida and the law there required that we show our logs and portfolios to a licensed teacher at the end of every school year. Every year, without fail, I would frantically be writing up a log for the two weeks preceding our scheduled evaluation. I knew there had to be another way! I prayed about it for a long time before I came up with this logical and simple system that should “pass” any state’s requirement for either a log or teacher planner (I have included samples).

When I began I made up my first one, not on the computer as I do now, but on a plain sheet of paper with a pen and ruler. Then I made copies of this blank. Then I would assign one to each of my children and pray about how the Lord would have me fill it. Later, I thought of color-coding them to help me easily distinguish between children. I used to use it only to fulfill my state’s requirements; then I began to use it as a check-off sheet.

I only make enough for about 8-10 weeks in advance since we usually have changes once we really get going. Never have my plans stayed intact from the planning stage to actually doing the schedule. For the first few weeks it might be wise to only make 3 or 4 copies, knowing things will and should change to fit each child.

Prov. 16:9 “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”

Prov. 27:1 “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

When planning the year, you simply write out the goal. For math, you would do one lesson per day, as in Saxon Math, or a certain number of pages (usually one or two) for a math like Abeka. If you were working through a workbook for the year, you would look at the last page number and divide by 180 days. (A school year is 180 or 38 x 5 school days a week = 180 school days. )

Once it is written or typed out, you and your child simply follow the plan by making a check mark underneath or a dash if it was skipped for the day.

Variations could be writing out the grade or % underneath. You can leave a blank to write in the page number or number of the lesson. You can write the name of the book they are reading, or the name of the state in geography or the name of the president in history, etc. Also, for those whose state has a time requirement, you would write on the log the estimated amount of time the child would spend on that subject by 15 min. increments (i.e. 15 min., 30 min., 45 min.). Be generous so that you don’t put pressure on your child, and also allow for setbacks. The log is a VERY GOOD foundation for any state requirement or as a means to help your child work independently. It is easy to change and modify, but the best part is that it cuts down on having to write it all out and plan every week. The method was developed following the way school professors plan for their upcoming school year.

Tip: It upset my children when they were doing school and saw kids in the neighborhood playing outside. So my mother used to help me out by clipping out the school days for our area from the newspaper at the beginning of every year. (You can also call the school or go to the school district to get a list of the full and half days.) Then I made a pink 3x5 card with every half or full school day off. I would put it in the first date listed, then when the day was over I would put it in the next day off listed until the last day of school. Usually we finish school earlier than everyone else, but I put it there so that we knew when it would be “safe” to let them outside in the morning to play!

Portfolios

In some states you are required to keep a copy of your child’s work. Some use folders, but I have found that the easiest is to keep a portfolio. Our state of Florida required it. Some of the mothers put more time and effort into their children’s portfolios than they put into educating their children.

I used to do a workshop to put portfolios together. KISS: “Keep it simple, silly” is the best way. It is also nice to keep as a record of their school year. If you have a notebook with the clear cover, you can put some pictures in very easily. Putting their school picture or pictures of some of their friends adds a very nice touch.

A portfolio is simply a notebook with dividers in it to separate the subjects. Each week you put in the corrected papers, putting them behind each other. At the end of each month, pull out the ones that are not that good (unless your state requires you to keep all your child’s work). Most states only require a “sampling” showing “progression.” I usually keep all their work unless it’s horrible, which would mean that they had already done it over anyway.

If you are working through a math workbook, the easiest method is to rip out all the pages and then hole punch them and put them in their portfolio. They take out the top one, and once it is corrected, they put it in the back. Once they get through, they are done for the year.

You can keep notebook paper in each section, but I have found it easier to keep a stack on my desk.

Tip: Use a bucket or box. I keep all my children’s books and all that they need in a Rubbermaid bucket. After I had begun using this method, I came across an article written by Mrs. Swan, the homeschooling mother whose children graduated from high school at 12, from college at 16 and obtained master’s degrees by 18! She stated that at the beginning of every year each child was given a box to hold all of his books, pencils, sharpener, ruler, dictionary, thesaurus, etc. They had EVERYTHING that they would need, and did not share with anyone. They kept their boxes in their bedroom closets and brought them out every day. She also did not answer the phone between her school hours of 8 - 3 p.m. nor would she accept doctor or dentist appointments or repairmen during those hours. Her tenacity paid off as she stayed focused on her goal of superior academics.

3x5 Card System

If you want to use your 3x5 card system for homeschooling assignments instead of or in conjunction with your log, it’s simple to do. You can either use a different colored card for schoolwork or use the blue cards for everyday subjects, like Bible and math, and yellow for subjects that are once or twice a week like geography, history or science.

You can allow your children to choose between doing chores or schoolwork first, or do as we do, a little of both. You can put a priority number up in the left corner that indicates when it is to be done. Let’s say priority one is making their bed, getting dressed, cleaning up their room, cleaning up the morning dishes. Priority number two would be schoolwork, and then number three would be any chores or reading before they can play or read for enjoyment. Of course, all cards must be done BEFORE dinner, not bedtime!

Tutoring

Incorporating sibling tutoring into your homeschooling is a very good idea, both for the tutor and the student. For the tutor it reinforces responsibility, reviews or gives remedial help, and develops patience and leadership. For the student, it is good to learn to be submissive toward others.

Gal. 6:4 “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have {reason for} boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”

Phil. 2:3-7 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men.”

Correcting Papers

Getting behind in correcting papers is a nightmare for both you and your children. Day after day they go on making the same mistakes. In addition, you are overwhelmed with a huge pile of papers to have to correct. It is important that you create some sort of a method. Of course, correcting immediately after the child finishes his work is the best. Next best would be daily, and then weekly. But don’t wait any longer than this.

You can have your children correct the work themselves, but you must make very sure you are not tempting them to cheat. I had an experience with a couple of my children in this. It was really a wonderful opportunity to teach the horrendous consequences of cheating when they had to do another year’s work in just a few short weeks – working day and night! Incredibly I actually forgot and repeated the same mistake. Or maybe it wasn’t a mistake but the Lord setting me up in order to teach another child a valuable lesson. Everyone should learn the consequences of cheating as children, when the ramifications are not as serious as they are in adulthood.

You can also have them correct each other’s papers, but the negative is that you do not know where they are struggling.

The method that works best for me, ever since I have been in ministry, is to have a place for them to put their “done” papers. One year I had them put their work in a colored folder to help me get it into their portfolios more easily. This year their tutors correct, then let them put on their own sticker. Then they put it in my correction file on my desk. On Friday, they are anxious to collect their own papers, which saves me having to sort them. They count and sort their own papers and put them in their portfolios themselves. Then they clean out their buckets for my inspection. Each perfect paper, one with a sticker, gets one penny candy. The clean bucket gets a fun-size candy bar. Friday night is family night at the Thieles and candy is their dessert anyway!

Rewards

Rewards can be candy, treats, staying up late, spending a night out together, “camping” on the floor on a Friday night, ordering a soda instead of water at a fast food restaurant or getting some special time with you alone to read and talk.

The other very good motivator is recognition. Stop everyone to tell how well he or she did, or announce it at the dinner table as a wonderful way to bring Dad into the homeschooling scene. Having them recite something, spell something or show their papers for that day should be incorporated into your day. Again, if you are always rushing out, you will miss a great part of pulling the family together.

On your child’s paper, it’s nice to put a star, a sticker or simply draw a happy face. I love to give an A+ for a paper of 100%.

When your children are very motivated and doing a good job of schooling, giving them time off is a wonderful reward. You can also use it to motivate them to do well or work fast. When I needed to get away, feeling overwhelmed, I would tell the children, “Hey, let’s get all of our chores done and skip school today. Let’s go to the park for a picnic or go to the mall or something.” They would get really excited, and we would clean up the house and get dinner going, then leave the house clean and come back in time to be there to greet Dad.

In case I failed to mention this in an earlier lesson, motivation to do work over the summer is a great idea. Last summer I had a reading incentive to motivate the children to read all summer long. I bought something they wanted and they earned it by reading a certain number of books. They were much better starting school that year too.

Two years ago we concentrated mainly on reading for the entire school year since all three of my youngest were ready to read or ready to read well. (Once you can get a child reading independently, your homeschooling is much easier! If it isn’t easier, you are missing the wonderful plus to homeschooling: your children learning to learn by working independently. More on this below.)

That year we gave daily recognition by having them read a page out loud at lunch (our entire family meets for lunch). I made crowns as I had in the first grade. Then I bought some stars. After lunch, when everyone was upstairs, each one would read one page. When they completed it everyone would clap; then I would place a star on their crown. After the reading was done, I would ask them a spelling word or two. Everyone would clap and I would place a star on their crown. It really worked well. I would highly recommend doing it after dinner every night if you really want them to excel in reading.

Working Independently

Basically there are three ways your child can learn:

First is working independently. This is not done too much in the school system, but comes into play during college. Because children never learn to work independently in public school over 50% of first semester college students flunk and drop out.

Second is working in a tutoring environment. This is the method that will move bright students up quickly. This is also a great method for remedial help. I used to tutor to help pay our bills while My husband was gone. I tutored 8 children for one hour, two times a week. In 6 weeks they went from the bottom of their class to the top of their class – everyone! If you could do that with a class of 8 students, what could you do with your children in each of their subjects one on one?

The final way is through a “lesson.” This is the classroom teacher method, and what most mothers who don’t homeschool think that homeschooling is all about. I like to emphasize, when talking about homeschooling to people who are a bit skeptical, that homeschooling is more like tutoring, and how beneficial tutoring is for every student. Certainly ANY student who is continually “tutored” would fare much better than a student who is in a classroom with 30 other children.

We use all three methods every day. I give a lesson, a one-room school house, teaching on different subjects. Then they begin to work independently, with the older children or myself tutoring on certain subjects as needed.

Grades?

What about grades?

Those of us who are older, or who have homeschooled for a while, were taught that grades were taboo. We have grown up in the self-esteem generation or “me” generation. Everyone who participates gets a trophy and no one is better than anyone else. However good this all seems on the surface, in the practical sense, it doesn’t do well in a republic. By the way, our country is NOT a democracy, but a republic. Very different! And in our homes, we should have a dictatorship/savior system.

So, should you give grades?

By the time a child is in the second or third grade, unless there are some emotional problems, it is a very good idea to give grades. A through F. How you figure this out is to count up the problems. If there are 20 questions, it would mean each gets 5 points. If there are 2 wrong, that child would get a 90%. I give a grade with this also.

100% is an A+
95% - 99% is an A
94% - 90% is an A-
89% - 87% is a B+
86% - 84% is a B
83% - 80% is a B-
79% - 77% is a C+
76% - 74% is a C
73% - 70% is a C-
69% - 60% is a D
Below 60% is an F

The intent of giving grades is to encourage your child to strive to do better. If every paper gets the same grade, then it causes a child to cease to strive. It’s a form of communism. There is just no incentive to do better. Our republic was founded on the principle that those who worked hard could get ahead.

Now, in regard to homeschooling and grades, if my child gets a grade below a B, then he needs to do it over. Honestly, if they get less than an A- it is a reflection on my mothering and teaching, not so much on my children. It means they did not understand. However, it is a good “wake-up” call for the child who is clearly not trying any more.

I make sure that all my children get straight A’s by making them do it over again until they get it right and earn an A! Why go on if your child doesn’t know something they should?

Correcting my children’s papers is to help “correct” them, not to see if I can “catch” them in a mistake. If they are sloppy and you can’t read the answer even though they know the answer, mark it wrong until they learn to write so everyone can read it. The benefit to mothers educating their own children, over a teacher, is that we “know” our children. We should know what our children need, and it isn’t always the same even with the same child. Does your child need correcting or encouraging? Do your children need to learn a lesson, or get the rest of the day off? Make sure you are flexible and seeking the Lord to really “know” what your child needs. Ask the Lord for discernment. And above all, love your child.

Our children will learn to love the Lord as we love them.

1John 4:15-19 says,

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.”

There is no greater reward in mothering than when we take the freedom our country gives us to homeschool our children, and then HOMESCHOOL FOR HIM!!

“She rises while it is yet night…” Proverbs 31:15
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