Monday, December 17, 2012

Finding What Works: Checklists!!

We have now spent almost a year and a half homeschooling, and most of that time has been spent discovering what doesn't work. I can tell you long lists of things that don't work!

But occasionally, I do - solely by the grace of God - discover something that does work. And this is one of them - checklists!

I first heard about checklists when reading the superb book by Hal and Melanie Young, "Raising Real Men." (If you don't have this book yet... you need this it. Love this book. Go buy it!) They suggested the use of checklists especially for boys, because it lays out exactly what the boy needs to do before he is free to go - and it puts the burden onto the child (rather than the mom) as to how quickly the work is done. In other words, "Here is what has to be done today. When you are done, you are free to go. YOU will determine whether you're here for half an hour or all day."

I later heard about checklists again when we were privileged to hear Heidi St. John at the homeschool convention this past summer. She writes more about checklists on this blog post - check it out!

Mrs. St. John starts using checklists for her children when they hit second grade. I determined to do the same (this is when children can often do part of their work independently), but I eventually caved to my own eagerness and started doing it for our son in kindergarten. He does not work independently - I do almost everything with him, but the checklist idea helps so much! Showing him exactly what has to be done and encouraging him to work through it has been a big improvement on our old system.

Another benefit of this system is that it keeps me off the computer. Seriously! Before, whenever we did anything, I would want to run to the computer to document it in our old record-keeping system. Then, fifteen minutes later, I would discover that I was surfing blogs and browsing Facebook, having completely forgotten my original purpose for having come to the computer. Bad, bad, bad. This way, I print off a set of sheets at the beginning of the week and carry it around with me in my homeschool notebook. When we do something, I check it off (with appropriate notes). When we do something extra, I write it down. All away from the computer!

None of this is strictly necessary, as we live in a homeschool-friendly state that does require record-keeping (which is awesome). However, I am a record-keeper by nature. I want a record of what we've done both for my own satisfaction and for my child's future needs (though elementary records are seldom ever needed), as well as for family, to be able to show to other families who ask, and to have just in case they are ever needed.

I make changes to these sheets on a weekly basis, as new ideas arise and as I test and refine them. Below is our most recent version.

We start with family Bible and poetry time, which includes Bible reading, Proverbs reading, Bible memory, catechism, prayer, and poetry reading. For the kindergartener, I then do phonics (reading lessons), math, and handwriting, as well as crafts, science experiments, and LOTS of reading aloud (history/literature/science), plus one notebooking page per week. Within the next year or two I will add the following: composition, formal language arts, spelling, and silent reading. History/literature and science are currently done informally (mostly through science experiments, reading, field trips, etc.), and how those subjects will be handled in coming years is still up in the air.

Here you go!

A scanned copy of recent filled-out checklists is below (a slightly older version than what we're currently using). The first page is student-specific; the second and third pages would cover all of our children (which right now is just one, but I'm planning for the future when we will have more students). The blurry parts are where I have attempted (unsuccessfully) to obscure personal details.

Do any of you out there use checklists for your homeschooled students? Feel free to pass on any great tips!


  1. I use check-lists, but I have them laid out weekly only (and the geek in you will love this -- it's mostly complete until the end of the year; there are some subjects that I'm waiting to see exactly where we are in the future and will fill them in closer to time, but most of it is all done), and it's all on the computer. I did a printed copy once or twice, and the kids ended up losing it, or something wet got spilled on it or something, so now I just keep it on the computer so I can check things off when they're done.

    I have a daily music and French (older son) or Spanish (younger son) requirement (though I do let them double up if they really want to), but everything else is just, "this is what I want to get done this week, so when everything has a check-mark, you're done for the week." Usually we finish on Thursday. I sort of have a daily requirement of how many things must be checked off before I announce that they've done enough school for the day.

    I moved to this system because I felt like I was spending too much time switching the boys from one subject to another *every* *single* day*, and decided that it might make more sense to do all the reading at once (for example), or just let them pick what they felt like doing, within reason.

  2. Kathy, you're amazing!! I hope that I can work out something that awesome as we go along. I have so much to learn!! ("Things to learn" including "responding to blog comments sooner than four months after the fact!!!")


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