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.
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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. I’m also a very organized person and like to have things planned out. Running a number of businesses from home while also homeschooling requires that I’m on top of things and limiting the chaos. 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.
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 knew I needed to try something new, so I decided to see if my boys would like checklists too and you know what? They did!
Our days run smoothly. The constant questions ended. We were all literally on the same page and it changed everything. Suddenly, the homeschool chaos was gone.
How can you use checklists to help end the homeschool chaos in your family? Here’s how we do it.
Each boy has their own notebook. The night before a homeschool day I open 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 fieldtrip). 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 in the homeschool room.
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.
Over time I’ve changed how we use the notebooks, when we started out I used to go through the checklists with the boys, getting them on task and helping them through all their assignments. Now the boys are older and have been at it a while I encourage them to take ownership of their own checklists. They can do their assignments in whatever order they prefer. If they want to take a break, they can. Their schooling is now their responsibility and they have control.
This eliminates so much homeschool chaos, negative thinking and anxiety!
There is one exception, some of our schooling is done together. For instance we do our history studies together. When doing activities that require us to all gather together I will assign a specific time so the boys can schedule their independent work around the group study time.
If an assignment doesn’t get completed, it’s added to the next day. We work on a 4 day homeschool schedule with the 5th day reserved for completing what doesn’t get done earlier in the week. If the boys work hard and get everything done, they get Friday off. But if they need that extra time, they have a whole day to work on those areas. This way I can make sure we are completely caught up at the end of the week and not carrying forward work into the next week.
This also gives us a cushion to accommodate for sick days, appointments, and other real life distractions that crop up.
One thing I do need to be cautious about is my oldest son who tends to be a procrastinator and leaves his work until it piles up so much that he feels overwhelmed with the prospect of all that work. Using this system we are showing him the power of doing his work in small, bite sized pieces and not leaving things until the last minute. The reward of that free day every week is a great incentive. Using this technique we are helping to develop his executive functioning skills over time and which will be invaluable when he grows up.
If you have a child who thrives on visual cues, this is exactly what you need. My youngest who loves his calendars and schedules thinks his checklists are the greatest thing ever! He no longer asks me a million times a day about what’s going to happen in the future. Yeah for this momma’s sanity!
I highly recommend finding a notebook that your kids will love. My boys really enjoy their Lego notebooks and I love my owl notebook.
What works for keeping homeschool chaos at bay and your homeschool days running smoothly?
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