Homeschool Help: Let Kids Know What To Do

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Isn’t he cute? Mr. Dimples, age 5, is my kindergartner this year. He comes to me every morning, “Mama, it’s time to do my school.”

Amen, little man. If only your brothers were as eager.

Yes, truth be told, there are things my older sons would rather be doing than math assignments and key word outlines. And starting back up after summer vacation is always a little challenging. But, slowly we’re getting into a groove. This marks our fifth week since we entered the new school year. I like to start early to ensure enough flexibility for sick days, mama’s mental health days, and spontaneous fun days — and still get our full year of attendance on the books.

This is our eighth year of homeschooling. The time has gone by so quickly! It’s a fair amount of work now that I’m formally teaching four children. We’ve got students in grades 7, 4, 2, and kindergarten.

Obviously, no one would accuse me of taking the easy way out, now would they?

But, I am enjoying it so much. It’s a wonderful privelege to be an everyday-all day fixture in my kids’ lives. That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its sticky points. There are days when it’s hard to have a good attitude about my role as mother and teacher. Interestingly enough, those days happen to coincide with how much my children kick against the goads. (Translation: how much they whine and complain about their work.)

Enter the “To Do” List

One of the tricks that I learned early on to help keep me and my student on task (or close to) was to make him a “to do” list. Today, my form looks pretty much the same as it did when my oldest was in kindergarten, now with several more subjects added in. I don’t think this is anything new under the sun as our history curriculum includes a form (pictured) almost exactly like the one I made years ago. So, in a pinch, I print off theirs when I don’t have time to dig out my custom form.

Letting them know what to do before doing it has been immensely helpful over the years. Each child has his own color paper that I print his “to do” list on. And we keep them on clipboards for easy use and portability. I spend an hour or two each week preparing lesson plans for all four boys and writing down their assignments on their charts. In this way, each of my students knows what his day holds and he can get some sense of accomplishment in checking off the items. It helps them see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that is always good for morale.

I’ve prepared basic charts, suitable for preschool, kindergarten, and grade school levels, for your personal use. You can download them for free here. Feel free to tweak them as best fits your home and school.

Each Week Joy at FiveJs hosts a gathering of ways to inspire our children to lifelong learning. Stop by and see what other families do to inspire their kids towards thirsting for knowledge.

Between charts and work boxes, there are all sorts of systems to help students see the light at the end of the tunnel. What has been successful for you?

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  1. Ah…pattern blocks! We love 'em here too.

    I started doing this about 1.5 years ago (making my two olders their own checklist) and it REALLY makes a difference! I bought us each our own clipboard and we each get our own list…mine lists all the things we need to do together and theirs list all the things they can do independently. I'm going to have to take a look at your charts…I was just thinking this week that it's time to tweak ours a bit. I like the idea of using colored paper…I have a package of multicolored printer paper I bought for another purpose and ended up not using. It would work perfect.

  2. Sort of off topic but here in NV the educational system is so HORRIBLE that my niece is reading books in H.S. that I read in 6th grade back in NY. Hopefully we can swing sending our kids to parochial school , but if not I may be home schooling too. My concerns are

    Socialization Skills ( do you feel your children are lacking and what do you do to ensure they have good social skills with their peers)

    Content : There are alot of subjects where I excel i.e. I speak 3 languages , Have a Spanish Lit. degree , and went to nursing school (haven't finished as I got pregnant , priorities) My husband is in the medical field and can tell you from A-Z how the body works and is the unofficial tour guide at every Aquarium we have ever visited . But what about subjects you aren't strong in , how do you make sure the Kiddos aren't missing out ?

    Thanks for any input

  3. Sometimes I see an idea and think, "oh, I might use that sometime." Well, this is an idea where I'm thinking, "as soon as my sitter comes for a couple of hours this afternoon, I'm working on this." I love it and I know my preschooler will think she is hot stuff if she gets to have her own to-do list! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I just started the workboxes this semester. I think that we are really going to like them. It does give them a sense of accomplishment and like you say light at the end of the tunnel.

    I still need to tweak them a little more.

  5. Love the "to do" chart! I've been trying to give my boys more solo work, which gives me more time to get other things accomplished. I'm definitely going to start using your chart. Thanks for posting it!

  6. I had to comment on the dimples. Those dimples are to die for. I would be no good if he looked at me with that smile and those dimples. Chocolate ice cream for breakfast? Sure, whatever you want, Dimples.

  7. I have always done daily checkoff lists for my kids but this year I have opted for a little different method. I am going to college myself this year and decided I am going to give my kids the same opportunity to work ahead as I get to in school. I give them a weekly list for my middle schooler and a monthly list for the high schooler. Basically, it's like a syllabus and they can work ahead if they want. There are deadlines built in to make sure they stay on track and don't ever get too far behind. So far, they have opted to work ahead. They feel more ownership of their schedule and showing more personal responsibility.

    1. I love this @ adena…. I usually give my son this opportunity as well. My son is getting older now, So this year i have plans to have task lists printed for him. I have been thinking daily, but I would really love to see examples of the lists you do for your middle schooler and highschooler. My email addy is [email protected] if you see this post lol. Please feel free to shoot me a share 😛 .

  8. A great idea–I love it. And your little man is growing up so fast! He is totally ADORABLE. Miss you!

  9. oh, thank God for you! so wise, so helpful! i don't HAVE TO keep track of anything in Kansas, but i do keep track in a spiral notebook, which is a pain even for 2 kids. i love the pre-printed pages so they can take their own clipboard and know what to do. and i'm glad to know other kids whine about homeschooling. people assume homeschoolers wake up excited to start their day. mine wake up hoping preggie mommy is still asleep so they can sneak in some tom and jerry first.