Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Year 6 Record-Keeping

First, I wanted to thank everyone who weighed in on my last post about blogging. I feel very honored. Very inspired. Very grateful that there are others out there who think what I write has helped them in some way. That's what this blog was meant to be when I first started it...not only a think-aloud and memory-keeping space, but also a helpful tool for others. You guys have made my heart beat a little faster with your kind words. :) Thank you!

So onward with a record-keeping post! :D

I have a confession. In the spirit of being helpful, I wanted to admit that I change record-keeping methods very often. I think the main reason is that I love variety and am easily bored. I'm not very good at sticking to one look or method for ever and ever. Ask my furniture. If they could speak, they would tell of the many times I move them around. Ask Adrian. If he could speak he will complain about finding his bed under kiddo's desk one day, behind my chair the next and by the sliding door another day. Ask kiddo. He can speak but is a sweet kid and might not reveal the volumes-worth of unpredictable mom stories in his head.

A quick recap of some of the record-keeping methods I've tried:
  • The One Note Workbox Tweak was a visually helpful solution while it lasted, but I decided not long after that I needed something even more practical. 
  • The Google Drive experiment is not working (sheepish grin). It requires too much monitoring and nagging. I don't like nagging (although kiddo might disagree).
  • Weebly is still a wonderful tool for us to centralize links. He checks his page daily for links to his outsourced classes, but he has long outgrown the schedule in that blog post.
  • We still use a version of this post sans Homeschool Skedtrack though. For reasons I can't remember now, I couldn't keep up with updating his work online. Constantly having to edit the assignment sequence (I have a very asynchronous learner) was a pain. I am however, glad the free Skedtrack platform exists. Most online planners are so overpriced.
I still like the straightforward nature of Excel spreadsheets and paper-based tools best. This year, I am using a spreadsheet for an overview, a post-it pad for weekly assigning and two spiral-bound planners. Kiddo also uses his own planner! I know, I know. It all sounds complicated doesn't it? I am going to try them all and hopefully, be able to simplify down the road. Do remember that I am very content spending all my free time checking out planning and record-keeping tools. I understand not every one feels the same way. :)

So here's what the resident crazy planner lady is trying:

ONE All the resources I think necessary are listed in an Excel spreadsheet with 40 columns, divided over two pages (20 columns per page) for our school weeks. I enter chapters/ lessons/ pages into the grid as needed. Sequential data entry is super easy with Excel's drag and series-copy function.

This spreadsheet is basically our 2013-14 progress chart (P-Chart).

Grids for subjects like math which is usually unpredictable in workload, and physics where kiddo might transition from one course provider to another soon, are blank. I will fill them in as he progresses. Many resources in the P-Chart have not even been touched although we are about five weeks into the year! I figure we'll just double up when we get to them. If we still don't get to these resources in the next two or three months, I will consider his plate too full for the year. We'll try to use them in the summer or just leave them for another year (or sell them to unsuspecting others--evil laughter).

TWO I use grid-lined post-its to plan out a mix of subjects for the week. Last year, kiddo spent about four on-task hours a day on his lessons. This year, five-to-six have become the norm with a few rare days extending to seven hours. He has short breaks throughout.

Every Sunday, I grab the post-it pad and scan the P-Chart, then write about 25 check-boxes per week (one box = about 60-75 minutes worth of work) on one post-it sheet. Math typically takes about 8-10 boxes, and I divide the rest among Physics, Logic, German, History and English (the subjects themselves are always evolving and will change based on his needs). Depending on his P-Chart progress, I balance the hours out. If he's working ahead in Physics, we might skip it for a week so that he can get caught up in German for example. I also include separate boxes for things like PE, piano and chores (these are usually just for reminders).

I don't want him to feel like he's being forced to work on something. He has preferences too and I try to work with his input as much as possible. The night before, he chooses five boxes for the next day. Most days, he chooses two math boxes because he really enjoys math. He writes those five choices in his planner so that I don't have to remind him what to do each day.

THREE After kiddo finishes a day's work, he updates his Julius! planner. I likewise, update my Orange Circle Studio planner, making sure to record time spent so that I can keep track of how much time he really needs per task.

This is what one week's worth of post-it planning and planner record-keeping might look like:

FOUR Yes, there's one more step! Remember this time-box planner book I mentioned a few weeks ago? I update it every few weeks from the data in my Orange Circle Studio planner. The OCS planner is very good for day-to-day records but the time-box method is the most effective for me so far to see how much time is spent per subject per week or month. That's how I found out that eight to 10 math hours a week is his preferred math pace.

Another reason for step four is that I want to be completely honest about counting credits (another helpful link here) when we get to that stage. This planner book will also be his cumulative record for the year. I've bound other things into this planner book too, including space to list the stuff he reads or documentaries we watch, a section for course descriptions, a pocket to hold special mementos and so on. I hope to make one book per year as a homeschooling keepsake.

If I really need to simplify, I will either use the OCS planner for counting hours or this planner book. For now, I haven't decided which one goes so I'm using both.

So far, I find this four-step system working better than online planners I've investigated, and for so much less money. And if you are spinning from how complicated it all sounds, be assured that I am just trying to show you how I settle upon certain tools. This is how I learn best...try lots of things, then narrow it down. 

Over the last few weeks I guess have finally realized that I am not an unschooler. So I should not keep trying to be something I am not. I am however, very tuned in to what my child wants. I don't think I could ever feel good about this system if I was pushing him to work with it or to work hard in his studies in the first place. I think it is effective because he is not forced to follow my whims but wants to work hard for himself. I can only hope that I am not expecting too much or feeding this desire into him unconsciously.

Thank you for reading if you made it this far!


  1. Wow! I am so impressed with all you do. Would it be terrible to admit that most of my record keeping I do in my head? I have never been one to write down and track even when I was in school. With the twins in high school I do make sure they are getting all their hours in for a whole credit, but I don't document it as much as I probably should. You have given me some great ideas here.

    Your great ideas...another reason I read your blog!

  2. Thank you Jill! You are sweet. :)
    It's so cool that you can track three kids' work in your head! I can't do that anymore. I used to try but my memory really is getting worse lately. To be honest, I really love pottering about with planning tools. Next to chocolate and dogs, it's one of my favorite things. :)


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