Homeschool Planning: Putting Paperwork and Plans Together

One of the things that I do to get our School-At-Home off to a good start is to get my records and paperwork in order.

At the beginning of each school year, I set up my record-keeping binder. I have done this for years and find that it is keeps me organized as well as provides an excellent record of what we’ve accomplished during the year. I save the binders from year to year and can refer back to them when I am teaching the same curriculum to a different child.

What I do has worked within the guidelines set forth by the states we have lived in. I recommend consulting with Home School Legal Defense Association to see exactly what is required by your state for record keeping.

Creating a Homeschool Records Binder

In my “School of Fish” Binder, I have five dividers:

Calendar

This is a one-page document that lists planned holidays and vacations as well as our planned start and end dates. I make this up myself, using Publisher software.

You can also buy my Organizing Life as MOM: Homeschool Bundle that includes all the forms mentioned in this post as well as a few extras.

Curriculum

In my lesson planning, I create a sheet for each kid that outlines his course of study, what he’ll be working on for each subject, as well as what books we’ll be using. I print these out and they go in my binder. I also include in this section, the photocopied table of contents of each textbook in order to document in more detail what we’re studying.

I’ve included lots of forms for this in the homeschool bundle, but you can do your own if you like.

Attendance

Years ago, I created an Attendance form to help me track our days of school. I print a form for each kid at the start of the year and keep track of our school days this way. Again, check what is required by the state that you live in. Some states require that you document differently.

Lesson Plans

I have written lesson plans this way for 8 years now, based on something a friend did long ago. It’s nothing new, I’ve seen charts like this from a number of different curriculum publishers.

I have different forms for the different levels I teach: Preschool To Do List, Grammar School, Middle School. My preschooler doesn’t need a space for “Logic.” Likewise, my 8th grader is above “Read Alouds,” at least for his schooling.

There are blank, fillable forms for this in my homeschool printable ebook if you don’t want to make your own or use the prelabeled forms linked above.

I print each child’s lesson plans on a different color paper. This way, they don’t get lost in the shuffle of paper and projects we call the school table. I weekly place each child’s lesson plans on a separate clipboard. We consult it together, talk about it, and the child gets to check off what he’s done. It’s a great way to combine lesson planning and student accountability.

Testing and Assessments

I record their test scores and assessments in my binder as well as include any standardized test scores.

The Organizing Life as MOM Homeschool Pack contains customizable planning pages similar to those described here as well as a host of other pages designed to help you keep your homeschool paperwork in order.

Outside the Master Binder

Individual Notebooks

Each of my kids keeps a notebook of his papers, dividing according to subject, as well as a list of all the books each kid reads – for business or pleasure – throughout the year.  And, yes, their binders are all color-coded, too. Anything to keep me sane! This year we are going to keep separate science notebooks, black ones, decorated with glow-in-the-dark stars since we’re studying Astronomy.

Portfolio Files

Over time, we pull different pieces of each kid’s work to put in a portfolio to keep as a record of his growth over the year.

I’ve found that the easiest and least expensive way to do this is to use colored accordion file pockets. They aren’t cheap, but I pick them up on sale during back to school time. I assign each kid a different color and his special papers and those that demonstrate growth, get placed in there. All tests and assessments go in the portfolio file as well. During years that I’m really with-it, we also include photographs. This year, I’m going to have the kids fill out “Who Am I?” questionnaires, describing their interests and goals for the year. We’ll do a different questionnaire at the end of the year and see how we’ve grown.

What do you do to keep school records and papers in order?

olam-hs-cover-200 You can purchase the Homeschool add-on to my ebook Organizing Life as MOM for all the forms mentioned here as well as some extras.

New versions for the upcoming school year are available in July of each year.

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Comments

  1. Love the “Who Am I” Questions. I am going to use this in our first week of school! We are hoping to start on the 18th.

    I file papers and then pull them into a portfolio notebook. I think this year, to save a step – I’m going straight to the portfolio book. That way I can take out what I don’t want to keep instead of sorting it twice!

    It only took me 6 years to figure that out! :)

  2. I LOVE the picture of your Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. I’m a consultant for Usborne and LOVE their books! Your organization skills are amazing, I take a lot of good tips from you!

  3. Wow, you are so organized!! We do homeschool online so there isn’t quite as much paperwork but I still have to get organized!! We don’t start until the beginning of September though. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Wow! Your organization is inspiring! Well, we use the Abeka program so my schedule is already laid out for me. I keep the graded papers in a 3 ring binder with dividers for each subject. I the front on the binder I keep the attendance record. Keeping the graded papers together this way makes it easy for me to figure up an average grade for each subject at the end of the year.
    We go year round, so we are finishing up this week, then will take off until 9/1 before starting the new school year.

  5. Thanks so much for the printables. This is my first year homeschooling as well as my first child’s first year of school. I’m going to use your Preschool To Do list for my 4-year old and though he can’t write yet I’m going to ask him your Who Am I questions and write his answers down. A few years down the road I think we’ll get a kick out of looking back on what he had to say.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Good for you! My 6yo’s answers were hilarious yesterday. I think we have a little too much Lego in the house. LOL

  6. This year I’m doing color-coded kids, too (my first year with more than one doing school, so new territory for me) but yours looks much nicer than mine LOL

    We use a file folder system, I wrote about it here:
    http://www.rockingranola.com/2010/07/homeschool-planning-part-2-year-weeks.html

    THANK YOU for the “Who am I?” sheet – I’m going to have my 3rd grader fill it out and help my preschooler. I think that would make a great keepsake from year to year – fun homeschool days memories :-)

    I’m learning so much from you, sweet Fish Mama. What a blessing this blog is!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Love your systems. Gonna have to go back with pen and paper and take notes. (Thanks for your kind words.)

  7. Thank you for sharing your organization. I LOVE seeing how others keep records and it is great getting new ideas. Keep up the great work!

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve homeschooled for many, many years and have never come up with something I stick with from year to year. Now that I’m only teaching one I really want to keep it simple. You have some great ideas.

  9. I don’t know much about homeschooling: my daughter is not hardly two. But I do want to start doing some “preschool” type activities with her. Do you have any specific resources you use for that? For example, on your Preschool List, what do you use for “Family Bible Time” and for “Arts/Crafts/Science”?

    Thanks so much!! I love reading your blog each day. Honestly, it is one of the highlights of my day!

    Keri

  10. Okay, so I’m not alone when I say I love the “Who Am I?” idea. I am excited about giving that one a try! I also have started colour-coding the kids, but I didn’t clue in until child #3 was wanting to “‘do school” too. We don’t start until late September, but I expect it will make everything so much easier for us, from chores right on down to plastic cups.

    Here’s to a great year!!!!

  11. I love these tips and am thankful to have read this post! I am new to homeschooling this year and am trying to develop my organization strategy. I know I should really be taking advantage of these back to school sales but I don’t really know what I need and I am trying not to over-buy just because things seem cheap since even “cheap things” can add up to wasted money. I will definitely be picking up some of those accordian files!

  12. Aubrey Ives says:

    Thank you so much, Jessica. I love your blog and check it everyday. I have homeschooled for 5 years, but this is the first year that I will have to teach 2 different grades- my older 2 are entering fourth grade together. I am starting my third child in kindergarten this year, and we have a 1 year old. Hearing organizational ideas is very encouraging at this time in my life!

  13. I love your blogs, I makes me feel less crazy for my organizational OCD. lol I only have two kids. So color coding them is super easy. I even buy those round stickers in two colors to stick on books. All books with a reading level for each kid gets a sticker of matching color. So when I say pick a book to read or get your math book there are no arguments about who’s is who’s.

  14. Love this! Going to share with my Facebook readers.

  15. Simple Kids was asking for back to school advice and I mentioned this post. I should have mentioned your how we do school posts too. Anyway, I ‘m sure it will be a help to others.

  16. I am drooling over here! Your school stuff looks so amazingly organized! I am just starting our first full year of homeschool. I would love to see a pic of your planning lists filled out. My brain kinda gets fried sometimes and I get a lot of inspiration from seeing other peoples ideas.

  17. I love this! Thanks for a great and helpful post! I’ll be homeschooling for the first time this year and your ideas are excellent as I’m preparing to start the school year!

  18. I realize it’s not home school per se, but what worked for me was reusing an abandoned multipocket folder from work. Instead of having random papers stuffed in my bag (or worse, lost) I now have slots for work, medical receipts, school papers, etc. Makes things much smoother!

  19. Jessica, Thanks for these great ideas. My 6th grader just mentioned that she would really like to use an agenda (or student planner) this year for her assignments. Have you ever tried that with your older children? I could even print out and bind the planner that you provided. She is on the less-organized side so her request surprises me. I wonder if this could be a step towards fostering more independence in her. Any thoughts.?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Paige, my kids don’t have planners, but they get the colored checklist each week. But they’re boys. LOL. Girls might be different. I say go for it and see if it works for her.

  20. Kat in CA says:

    I LOVE the different colored papers to keep track of their week! I color code everything with my kids but I never thought of the PAPER! This will make my life so much easier! Thank you! Happy Homeschooling.

  21. Trying to print off the forms you use for Pre-K and I can not get to it. I love your tips. Thanks for all you share.

  22. Thanks so much for showing your binder. I am new to homeschooling and this is very helpful. I also like your planning sheets (the preschool link is not working). And I have never seen erasable tab dividers. I am going to have to find those. I will be subscribing to your blog.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Daycare Mom, it just opened fine for me. Do you have the pop-up blocker on? Also, it opens to a page with another link. Did you click the link? That goes to the pdf. I may have time later tonight to make a shortcut. But, it should get you there for now.

  23. I think organization is one of the biggest problems most homeschoolers encounter. Not only do kids tend to be unorganized, but it can be hard when you are balancing multiple kids at once. Organization is key to succeeding at this. We all have our methods, but it helps to see other ideas because you never know what will work best.
    Thank you for sharing! Very informative and anyone reading this has to come away with a few ideas.

  24. Great stuff!! The “Preschool To-Do list” link isn’t working anymore for some reason.

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