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Organizational Methods

I have tried about a half-dozen methods to get organized. I have printed off forms from the internet ( is my favorite), used a free home school tracking software (HomeSchool Tracker) and created my own forms using MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint. None of these systems has "fit" my style and made it so that I felt confident that I had a good system, lesson plans, and a daily/weekly task sheet for my son to follow off. The following systems have been used at one time or another and all had various levels of success. The Folder System seems to be closest to working for us and it is the one I plan on using for high school.

1. The Bin System

The very first record-keeping system I created was based on an email post on the Ambleside Online Yahoo group list. The poster told how she used a 9x12 bin and simply filed all her children's papers into it (with appropriate subject dividers, of course). Then at the end of the term or over the summer, she would pull all their papers and create a portfolio of their work to keep for family shows or mementos.

Items Needed:

  • (1) Plastic 9x12 File box per child (Wal-Mart has these - they are clear plastic with blue lids)
  • Hanging file folders for each subject (at least 12)
  • File Tabs (for subject names)

I used a spreadsheet to track our assignments. I took the 36-week schedule posted on the AO website and created a 12-week spreadsheet (weekly format with M-F across the top and blocks for each reading under). I printed the weekly sheet and gave it to my son. He highlighted the assignment as it was completed.

2. The Card System

This was the second system I attempted using. It was recommended on one of my home school loops and I thought I would give it a try. It didn't work for me or my son but it might work for you.

Items Needed:

  • 3x5 index cards
  • Index card box or poly-folder (for cards)
  • Index card dividers for daily tabs (M-F)

Each card will have the name of the book, subject, days of the week used, and the page assignments listed on it.

How to use this system > create a box of cards for each child. The child will take all the cards assigned to Monday and will read the daily assignment. Assignments can be high lighted or dated to show completion. Once all the cards are completed they are return to the box, behind the Monday Tab. The next day, the child takes Tuesday and follows the same procedure.

3. The Binder System - Subject

This is the third system I created and it has worked well for us for the past two years. The downside: I still have to create a daily check sheet for my son. This system is low-key and very flexible. It allows us to read at our own pace.

Items Needed:

  1. (1) Binder with a clear plastic cover (1, 2, or 3 inch)
  2. 8-Clear or Colored tab dividers (several packets)
  3. Clear sheet protectors

I first divided my binder into main subject categories:

  • Art
  • Bible
  • Copywork
  • Foreign Language
  • Geography
  • Grammar
  • Handicrafts
  • Health
  • Literature
  • Math
  • Music
  • Natural History
  • Plutarch
  • Poetry
  • Science
  • Shakespeare

In each tabbed section I place the following items:

  • Instructions on each assignment (ex. Read and narrate one chapter per week)
  • List of Books to be read with chapters
  • Any extra items such as poems, maps, art prints, or other pertinent information

4. The Binder System - By Week

This is a variation of the system above.  I like this one because it is so very simple to use.

Items needed:

  1. (1) Binder with a clear plastic cover (1, 2, or 3 inch)
  2. (2) Monthly Tab Packs (days 1-31) or clear 8-dividers (4 packs)
  3. Clear sheet protectors

Place the sets of monthly tabs in your binder (if using clear days, label them week 1-36).  Copy the 36 weekly reading schedule from the Ambleside Online website (click and scroll down the page while holding down the mouse.  Then press Control-C to copy).  Paste this data into MS Word or Works.  Enter page breaks between each week so you have a file with 36 pages.  Print this off single-sided.  Put one week behind each weekly tab.  Now add in all the required resources, printouts, copywork or other items for your student to read/complete.  Add in any maps or teacher notes to remind you of specific assignments.

In the front of the binder, keep attendance, tests scores or other important documents such as a yearly calendar.  You might also want to create this binder for all your students.  If so, print each child's week on a different color of paper.

I would suggest also creating a weekly chart to keep in the front of the binder so that you know which days to read books, do foreign language, etc.

**Next:  What About Lesson Plans?

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