The homeschool chaos was overwhelming. I had two boys, three grades apart, both with very different and intense special needs. I was only a month into our homeschooling journey and I wondered how I was ever going to make it work. It felt like chaos, clutter, tantrums, anxiety and stress were filling our days until we had no time left for learning. Then I discovered a technique so simple, so obvious, I have no idea why I hadn’t thought of it earlier. Finally, I had the all important tool I needed to end the homeschool chaos.
Keeping Home Education on Track
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We were very reluctant homeschoolers. To find our lives turned upside-down and tackling home education was something we never expected. Suddenly, I needed to be parent and teacher. Our home, needed to become a classroom, while still being a home. Boundaries were blurred and figuring out how we were going to make this work seemed like a monstrous task.
Read: Suddenly Homeschooling
Both of my boys require structure. They need to know what is coming up and what our plan is for the day, especially when it comes to school. Everyday I hear, “What are we doing today?” I need to have an answer and a plan, or things start to spiral quickly.
I’m also a very organized person and like to have a plan. Running two businesses from home while also homeschooling requires that I’m on top of things and limiting the chaos. I need time to work, time to teach, time to clean, time to cook. There is just so much to do! I need the kids to take some ownership and stay on task with their home education.
My Favourite Way to Organize
I don’t mind going with the flow or having things change but I need to go in with a plan. Personally, my favourite way to stay organized is checklists.
Having a checklist gives me the ability to rearrange things quickly if needed, but also allows me to keep on task and track my progress. The most important items go at the top of my checklist. I rank everything by priority. That way I know the critical things will get done.
I have a coil bound notebook I keep my daily checklists in. It is quick, simple and budget friendly.
Homeschooling Was Not Working
After struggling through our first month of homeschooling I knew something needed to change to get us organized. We were a hot mess of chaos and stress and uncertainty. My kids spent more time questioning what was going to happen next, rather than actually doing their work.
I also discovered that my older son had developed some seriously impressive procrastination skills. It was amazing how many ways he could come up with to not actually do any work. Especially Math. His math anxiety was INTENSE, but at that point I didn’t really recognize it, because we were all struggling to keep ourselves above water.
I knew I needed to try something new. Going back to public school was not an option. We needed to figure out a solution before this really blew up.
We were all so stressed.
And homeschooling was taking ALL DAY! I had work to do. I couldn’t hold my kids hands all day long.
Discovering the Secret
Then one day, I was holding my checklist book, losing my cool on the kids about how behind they were. How behind I was. When I realized the answer.
I grabbed each of the kids their own notebooks, wrote their names on the front, opened it to the first page and wrote the date at the top of the page.
Then I listed each of the tasks they needed to do that day, with a little box beside it. We went through the list together so the kids understood what they needed to do. I told them when they were finished they needed to put a check mark in the box, and that I would check back in a while to see if they got everything done.
And you know what?
Our days started to run smoothly. The constant questions ended. We were all literally on the same page and it changed everything. Suddenly, the homeschool chaos was gone.
A Learning Curve
There was a bit of a learning curve for all of us. I discovered it was important to not make the lists too long. For my kids it worked best if I listed about 5 tasks.
I also found it important to give my kids freedom. I would tell them that I wanted to see their lists at a certain time, but what order they did their assignments or how long they spent on each assignment was up to them.
Surprising New Skills
The best part about using these checklists in our Home Education was that it taught the kids some important executive functioning and time management skills.
I have one kid who loves to sit down and plow through all of his work and get it all done.
The other, my king of procrastination, likes to do his work in bits and pieces. He will do one task then wander off for a while. Then he will do another task.
Both kids had to learn some hard lessons about not getting their work done. Anything not completed, got added to the next day. Making the next days list even longer.
I also added in some rewards. So if the kids got everything checked off they could have a popcorn and movie afternoon, or some other special treat.
How Our Notebook Looks
This is how I put our checklists into practice. In the beginning we used the notebooks.
Each boy had their own notebook. The night before a homeschool day I opened up to a fresh page and put the day and date across the top. If there is something special about our day I add that right under the date (like a birthday or a field trip). Then I write out a list of the activities we need to complete that day. Beside each item I add a square check box.
Here is a peek at one of our notebooks.
I gather up everything the boys need to complete their assignments (books, worksheets and supplies) and I place these in a pile with their notebooks on top.
This only takes me about 5 minutes.
The next morning the boys grab their pile, and I go through the list with them to make sure they understand their assignments. If there is a particular assignment they need me to do with them, I will mention that to them, and we work together to find a good time to do that assignment together.
Then they are off and learning!
Check it off!
As the boys complete each assignment they check it off. They love checking those little boxes! It is such a sense of accomplishment for them and a concrete representation of their progress and achievements. Perfect for showing progress to any supervising teacher or board (we have an education board we report to).
Virtual Home Education
Over the years our checklists have evolved and grown. We went from using fun little notebooks, to a sheet I created on the computer and just printed off each day and put in a binder for the kids.
Lately, I create a digital checklist on the computer that the kids can log into each day and use to track their progress. This technique is especially helpful for teachers who are trying to keep kids on track virtually.
No matter which format you chose for your checklist, it can be a powerful tool in ending the chaos and keeping kids on track with their Home Education lessons.