Thursday, June 2, 2016

How I Organize Our Schoolwork With Minimal Planning

I liked the idea of the workbox program since the child can see for himself what needs to be done and just pick up his own materials and get to work. This fits in with my fave Montessori philosophy of fostering independence and responsibility.

I don't have much room for workboxes, and my old system of work folders was getting cumbersome with all the fat books and more subjects, and I actually had to remember to fill them, which was too much like work. So found a corner and I got these Sterilite drawers. I used a pair of old nightstands to hold them. I use them more for organizing the kids' school books than as workboxes. The drawers on the left are for my preschooler, and those on the right are for my third grader. Each drawer houses all the materials for a different subject. The children can easily find what they need. Current reading books are in the white drawers below, and cards and manipulatives are on top. In the slot to the right is a lap desk if they want to do work on the couch.

For my third grader we do school 6 days a week, but four of those days are half days. This is because I work 2 days a week, so on those days he does the work for that school day that he can do by himself. And the other 2 days we have homeschool park days, so we do a half-day afterward and do together the subjects that he needs help with. So we end up completing 4 full days of schoolwork each week.

Weekly Schedule Card

I create a weekly schedule card at the beginning of the semester and post it on the wall and generally it doesn't change. I figure out how often we need to do each subject per week to finish within this year. We school year-round so I have plenty of time. Some subjects we don't need to finish but it's more about how often is appropriate for good learning. So I figure that out roughly and make the weekly schedule on the card. This is the extent of my planning. I hate planning. I don't keep track of anything, either. That is because I live in Arizona and the law says I don't have to.  Which is awesome.

The kiddo mostly has the same subjects to complete for every full school day, but he has 4 subjects that happen once a week: history/geography, handwriting, science, and Wonder Time (that just means he picks something he wants to learn about). Those are the ones on the bottom of the schedule. Generally we just work straight thorough our textbooks for subjects like math, writing, handwriting, spelling, and science, so I don't need to really plan for those, other than making sure we have supplies on hand for science experiments. For other subjects we change activities and topics as we get bored. Here's an example:

"I think we're done learning about ninjas. What should we do for history now?"
"I wanna learn more about Martin Luther King Jr."
"Okay, cool. I'll go to the library webpage and order some the books on him. Then let's find some videos on YouTube."

The kiddo keeps track of what he needs to get done, all by himself. Here's how. Underneath the weekly schedule is a laminated card with 8 subject spots. I made a little laminated subject sticker for each subject and they stick on with velcro. It would be a lot cuter if I hadn't used ugly black velcro, but anyway, it works. 

I got the cards from this blog: But I needed some subjects she didn't have so I made a few of my own in the same style.  Here's all the ones were using these days:

Two strips of ugly black velcro above the card hold the extra stickers. The subject card used to be loose and we had it on the table as he worked, but I got tired of him losing it so I got a hammer and nailed it to the wall, ha! At the start of a school day, he checks what day it is on our big wall calendar, looks at the schedule, and puts the right subject stickers on the card. So we start with a full card and take them off, which is the opposite of workboxes where they take the sticker off each workbox and put them on the card.

If I remember, before I go to bed I put his next math page on a clip underneath so he knows which one to do. That is all the preparing I do.

He can do his subjects in any order he pleases. I do ask him to do certain subjects with me during my toddler's nap time. As he completes each subject, he takes the sticker off and puts it back on the velcro strip above. When all the stickers are removed, he's done for the day.

Yay! School's done!
The neat part is that some days, if he's really motivated, he gets up early and gets a big chunk of his schoolwork done while I'm still sleeping! Woohoo! I really love this system. It's easy to see what needs to be done and what's left to do. He's learning to get a move on and get his work done because he knows when he's done he's free to play video games or watch tv. And he doesn't get mad at me, since I'm not standing there telling him what to do all the time. Instead it's all up there on the card and he's responsible for it. This has really turned a homeschooling headache into a no-brainer (for the most part!). So how do you plan and organize your schoolwork?


  1. Awesome. We used to use workboxes but it didn't work for us once she turned 7 and wanted more structured learning. My daughter likes to have say in what she learns but she wants me to teach her. She does not enjoy learning on her own.

  2. I understand. It's no fun doing it all alone! We actually do all the meaty subjects together. But he's responsible for deciding what's next, getting his materials, and bringing them to the table where we work together. On his own he does typing, math facts practice, watches Spanish videos, does Chinese learning games, and reads. There's not too much I can do to help there anyway. I'm also pushing the independence thing to get him ready for next year when his little brother will be doing kindergarten and my attention will be divided during school time.