Tag Archives: homeschool

Homeschooling Notebooks

There is a section of my bookshelf in which four years of lessons plans live. Why? I have not a clue. Perhaps I will look back on these longingly one day and remember the times we educated at home. Or perhaps my children will crack them open, inspect them, and then exclaim, “THIS is why I don’t know blah, blah,blah because it was never taught.”

Perhaps I should just toss those away right now, before more years of lesson plans can add up and fuel the fire of my adult children.

I have used many planners over the years and tried out many systems in hopes of keeping our schooling organized and streamlined.

I have purchased expensive planners, printed off Classical Conversations planners, inscribed the lessons on our school room’s white board, and scribbled down ideas on stray pieces of paper.

The thing that has worked the best and stuck with us the longest is the simple spiral notebook.


Yep…the handy little thing that one can find on the Target clearance aisles after the Back to School madness has settled down and all the homeschoolers begin to do their supply shopping.

Each day the children’s assignments are written down in checklist form. I do maintain a master lesson planner for my own sanity and record keeping. However, each child has their own notebook.

I write down their daily assignments, along with any chores or responsibilities they have to do that day.

Did you get that part? Their chores are written right beside “Math Lesson 62”. Gone are the “But I didn’t hear you say for me to make my bed” days because IT IS WRITTEN DOWN and YOU CAN BOTH READ!

Then the children simply dive into work.

(Ha! This sounds as if they are merrily humming tunes from The Sound of Music and being wonderful, pleasant people 100% of the time. They ARE pleasant people…but some days there is a whole lot of grumbling when they look at those notebooks. Just want to keep it real, in case you think we are all Merry Sunshine and Roses over here.)


Some of their homeschooling is independent work while other of it is group time or one on one time with me. If something does not get done or if we need to push something to the next day, the child simply does not mark it off their checklist. Easy-peasy. Also, there is no need for me to continuously tell someone to do something or inquire as to something’s completion. I can just glance at the notebook. (And hell hath no fury like a mama who spies a box checked that has not actually been completed. That has only been tried once and the child likely will never try it again. )

One child likes to get started FIRST thing (hello, 7:30am!) because she has realized the sooner she begins, the sooner she will finish and thus have all the play time in the world. The Homeschool Notebook allows for her to get a start on her day without me having to jump right in with her (I have to have breakfast cleaned up and a chore done before I can start my portion of the schooling. I just feel better when the house is tidy.)

If the lesson planning and record keeping side of homeschooling is making you feel like educating at home is not working anymore (*), get in the car, drive to Target, grab Starbucks (coffee heals all), and scoop up a pile of ten cent notebooks. Try this method for a few weeks and see if a bit of calm and organization are restored into your homeschooling.

If not, just drink more coffee.

(* There are some things that are true indications that homeschooling is not working and other options should be evaluated. Sometimes homeschooling does not work. And that is OKAY.  )

(** Homeschool Notebook is something I love to share with homeschool groups and communities. Please see my speaking engagements page for more details!)


Homeschool check-in

It is Day 21 of Homeschool.

In honor of this day (which really had no significance other than the fact that it is Thursday and that temperatures might slightly resemble fall), I thought I would do a little check-in in regards to how homeschooling is going.

It is going well.

Really, really well.

Initially when I began to contemplate the idea of homeschooling, I had no clue as to how it would all come together. Being the one in charge can be a bit intimidating, especially when it comes to something like educating a child. Then I reminded myself I felt similar emotions when it came to things like birthing a child or teaching a child how to walk or talk. I jumped into the homeschool pool, (finally) selected curriculum and set a schedule for our days.

Then we got started on school.

Fortunately, my first homeschool student loves to learn. He can sit for an extended amount of time to do work and his complaints are minimal. When a grouchy attitude does arrive, the student has a pretty obvious Achilles Heel (the Wii)…which ironically we just read about a few weeks ago in our daily reading time.  We have even had a few days of “I don’t want to go to school today” complaints. Yep, friends. Such statements fall out of the mouths of children even when school is located about ten feet from the breakfast table.

Despite the few grumblings that have occurred, we are having fun. Isaac is learning what it means to be a student and to work hard. I am learning that homeschooling does not need a particular formula to be successful and am attempting to be flexible at times. This morning, the boy was all about wanting to do science and science experiments. Ignoring my inner Type A personality that was screaming “Stick to the nice, neat lesson plans, Lady!”, I said okay. I directed him to a pile of science books we open, instructed him to start reading through them while I threw some laundry in and then we did science for quite the while this morning.

By the way, do you know what happens when you put raisins in a clear container filled with Sprite?

Check that one out in your spare time.

We ended our morning session outside. The children drove remote control cars with the boy across the street (who is also homeschooled….and is super polite and does not mind driving a Strawberry Shortcake battery-operated car despite being ten years old) while I worked on cleaning up items for an upcoming consignment sale.


I have realized a few things that help our homeschool day run just a bit more smooth.


Have a plan.

As mentioned before, I have a lesson plan book. She is a beauty and is filled with good intentions. I plan on a two week basis in order to make adjustments where needed (for instance, doing science for a large portion of the morning when I did not originally plan to do so). A plan sets the tone for our day so I am not scratching my head thinking of ways to teach my child.


Have the spirit to let go of the plan and go with one’s natural desire to learn.

I am still being formed in this area. One of the great things about teaching child one-on-one is that the teacher can allow the child to lead the learning at times (notice I said “at times”). Isaac recently taught himself how to play chess (don’t ask). There have been some mornings when he has played a game of chess or read about the game of chess as part of his school. No where did I have this written into my lesson plans, yet it works for us. Following one’s natural desire to learn is a great way to shape and mold one’s education. When learning becomes personal and relevant, it suddenly takes on a life of its own and thrives.



During our school hours, I stay off the Internet for personal use and do not answer the phone. It is easy to check Facebook really quick and then realize thirty minutes of the school day has been wasted. I check everything early in the morning and then hold off on computer time until lunch or the afternoon.


Enjoy my children.

This lesson was taught to me by a fellow homeschool mom, one who is pretty seasoned and displays such a tender grace towards her (five) children. She spoke recently about having joy that is supernatural, joy in moments when no sane person would ever think of feeling joy, joy that comes from a faith in a mighty God. The great thing about homeschooling is being with one’s kids all day. The bad thing about homeschool is….being with one’s kids all day. There have (already…I know it is just day 21) been times when our day has come to an end and I am so ready for my darling angels to be in bed and out of my direct line of vision for 12+ hours. That is simply the life of a parent. Yet I am also attempting to remember to enjoy these little people who talk incessantly about things of minimal interest to me, who laught hysterically at vintage Scooby Doo, who fight with each other and then cry when they are told they can not play together for the rest of the day, who seem to forget what “inside voice” means and who unload the dishwasher (one of their morning chores) despite the fact that the dishes inside were dirty.

 (By the way, I did not have the heart to tell them of their mistake. I quietly loaded the dishes back into the dishwasher while they were off in another area of the house. The tricky part was retrieving the dirty silverware that had already been put in the drawers. Advance apologies to anyone who might dine in our home over the next few days and is mistakeningly given a previously used fork…)


What lesson are you learning through the education of your child?


The first day of….having a library card

The alarm clock went off early this morning, as it does every week day morning, signaling that it was time to get out of bed and start the day.

Boot Camp, Shower, Breakfast, Chores….all were checked off the list.

The only thing not checked off the list this morning was “Send child to first day of school.”

Technically, Isaac should have headed off to school this year. We red-shirted him last year due to a late summer birthday, completed pre-k at a magnificent preschool and have officially come to the age where it is time for school. After large amounts of researching, many late night discussions and lots of prayer, last fall we came to the conclusion that we would homeschool our children. Since reaching that decision, we have become a part of a wonderful learning community as well as a fun weekly co-op. I have learned more about education and the process of learning than I ever did in a masters program or in four years teaching in the classroom. Amazon.com has received quite the pretty penny from us as curriculum as been purchased. Our downstairs playroom/office has been transformed into a school room. Lesson plans have been written and plans for the upcoming year put in place.

I suppose all we are waiting on is for the school bell to ring.

This morning as I watched Facebook fill up with First Day of school pictures, I realized that we had actually done it. We had taken the leap into home education. Technically our school year will not begin until Wednesday. We are starting off slowly, gradually building up to a full school day. Our learning community and co-ops do not start until after Labor Day, giving us a chance to get into the swing of things around casa de phillips before going full throttle.

As peers were settling into classrooms for the first time this morning, Isaac experienced another first.

A first he has been looking forward to for quite the while.

Today, he got his own library card.

The library has always been our home away from home, a place we visit at least once a week. The boy loves books and devours a large amount of literature every week. Now that school is back in session, it is time for him to share some of the responsibility of borrowing library books (as well as help in carting them to and fro). It was also time for him to read a variety of books as opposed to sticking with favorite series.

Because my own library bag can only hold so many books, Isaac now has one of his own. Attached to the handle are his library card and a list of the types of books he needs to check out every week.


Every week, he will check out at least:


One science book

One history book

One art or music appreciation book

One craft or how-to book

One biography or autobiography

One classic novel

One book of poetry

A few books for reading enjoyment (No problems here, as he normally clears out the shelves of series he loves)


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