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An Organised Homeschool

by Beverley Paine

We used so many different ways of organising our home learning over the years... some seem rather silly now but worked at the time. Some worked for a day or two and others we managed to keep in place for weeks or even months. The important thing is that each method achieved its goal - often usually to inflict some sanity in a near desperate, almost 'homeschooling burn out' situation! Anything to get my under confident, stressed out brain to cope with a perceived lack of learning happening in my children!

Usually the methods I adopted rotated around the need to impose some kind of structure and routine on our home learning program, and to provide some tangible recording that something, anything (educational) was happening on a daily basis. Eventually, only after years of haphazard recording could I feel comfortable that despite anything I initiated the children continued to learn, in their own unique and usually quiet ways. I finally gave up organising home learning and simply got on with it!

Have some fun trying out some of these ideas, and if you like write or email me with some of your own favourite ways you have used to organise homeschooling at your place!

The Pop stick Approach!

To confess I actually combined this with a bribe - the favourite was a small chocolate bar! I'm not sure it would work too well without some kind of reward, and I wouldn't think of doing it now. I wrote down on individual pop sticks all the things I wanted the children to accomplish during the day - all the pages of work from each text book and other activities - and when each task was completed each child could remove the stick from around a pot plant. When all the pop sticks had gone the chocolate could be eaten too. We didn't do this each day - and sometimes the bribes changed. I have to admit it was very effective for a time.

The Star Chart

We used a star chart successfully for many months. We sat down and talked about what the essentials were and why, and then short listed them - down to about five academic type things a day. They would have preferred less, but I really needed to see something being done each day. I stuck the chart on the wall and when a piece of work was I done gave them a star to put in the box under the day's date. We made a rule that three stars was the bottom line - no play if three weren't up by lunch time, and the other two could be up before bedtime. I think it worked well because we negotiated what work needed to be done, instead of me just telling them.

Checklists and Daily Lists

For the first few years I resorted to checklists over and over again. From these I'd compile a list of daily educational tasks I'd want the children to complete. Often the lists would include every day living things, like watering, weeding, helping with the laundry, and so on. I'd tick each thing off as the day progressed. Sometimes I think that without our daily lists nothing would get done! Over the years we've worked out we need to keep our lists realistic, or they become overwhelming. And we have had to introduce flexibility too. I compiled all my educational lists and included them in my book "Getting Started with Home Schooling".

Contracts

Another popular organising tactic for a while was working from contracts. This was far more organised than working off daily lists. I prepared sheets in advance, photocopying them. On these sheets were marked the workbooks I wanted the children to work out of and a range of activities they could tick off and date. The idea is that the children agree to a set number of educational tasks each day and mark on the sheet when they have finished. This worked much better when the children were at the stage they could work alone, or with minimal supervision. I copied the idea from a school, would you believe!

I also wrote up learning contracts in individual subjects - usually a list of educational activities or projects, and sometimes spanning the whole year. These ones didn't work that well, but at least I didn't have to spend time each week working out different things for the children to do - the ideas were already set out for me to follow.

Learning Centres

The easiest approach, after natural learning, which doesn't appear organised at all, was the learning centre approach. I simply assembled all of the materials and resources in each of the curriculum areas in one place, shelf or box and threw in a book or two or some cards with ideas on. The children then accessed the centres at will, or I might instruct them to use at least three each day. Or do two activities from two centres a day, varying the centres each day. Once again this worked well for self instructional learning, although I often participated.

I found that in the early years, when my children were young, and even up to their twelfth years, they needed a lot of input from me for up to three hours a day. This was scattered over the whole day, of course, and was flexible. I could control it to a large degree. Giving this time willingly saved a lot of time in the long run, and usually produced very cooperative children.

I am really careful to organise my environment, believing that looking for something for hours to be a complete waste of time. I don't have the money to pop out and buy new resources all the time, and have to be frugal, so organisation is very important. For this reason I like a tidy house, too. The children naturally began to demonstrate this modelled skill at around age eleven or twelve, and by the time of mid teens had respectable tidy spaces of their own.

I believe an organised environment leads to organised minds, and our home schooling practice seems to bear this out. Indeed, I wouldn't have the confidence in our natural learning style now if it wasn't for our organised lifestyle!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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Welcome to the World of Home Education
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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