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Record-keeping for relaxed homeschooling with larger families


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As we've moved toward more self-directed and laid-back homeschooling, and more of my children are reaching school age, I'm starting to feel the need for some sort of record-keeping system (vs. the notes I've been cobbling together until now).   This would mostly be for my own benefit -- so I'm not completely confused about what's going on -- but it would also help get us ready for the sort of record-keeping we'd have to do for high school. 

 

The system could be designed for CM, unschooling, etc., and could be ready-made or DIY.  I'm open to pretty much any format except a web-based service.  

 

Thank you!

Edited by ElizaG
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Here are the ones I've heard of so far; comments welcome. 

 

Mary Hood's Relaxed Record-keeping -- journal format, kept by the mother (?) 

 

The Self-Propelled Advantage -- printed planner, to be filled in by the student

 

A CM-ish planner whose name I've forgotten -- daily record of activities in various categories, filled in by the mother 

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I had the typical teacher planner you can buy at Staples.  I wrote down what each kid did each day in each subject back when I was taking the "do the next thing" approach. I didn't have a big family, but I think the same principle would apply.  You could easily make your own chart to suit your specific situation and put it in a 3 ring binder.

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As we've moved toward more self-directed and laid-back homeschooling, and more of my children are reaching school age, I'm starting to feel the need for some sort of record-keeping system (vs. the notes I've been cobbling together until now).   This would mostly be for my own benefit -- so I'm not completely confused about what's going on -- but it would also help get us ready for the sort of record-keeping we'd have to do for high school. 

 

The system could be designed for CM, unschooling, etc., and could be ready-made or DIY.  I'm open to pretty much any format except a web-based service.  

 

Thank you!

 

What kind of record-keeping do you think you'll need for high school?

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I had the typical teacher planner you can buy at Staples.  I wrote down what each kid did each day in each subject back when I was taking the "do the next thing" approach. I didn't have a big family, but I think the same principle would apply. 

We have a few of those planners around, but I've never had much success with them.  When we were using "do the next thing" curriculum, it seemed easier just to date-stamp the children's completed workbook pages, or have them write the dates next to the exercises in their notebooks.  Then I could flip through the book every couple of months to get a broader view of how things were going.   

 

 And now that a lot of their work is more free-form and self-directed -- often with one activity relating to multiple subjects, and done by multiple children -- I can't seem to make it fit on those planner pages at all.  

 

You could easily make your own chart to suit your specific situation and put it in a 3 ring binder.

 Thanks for the vote of confidence, but if I could "easily" figure out how to make such a chart, I wouldn't be posting here.  ;-)

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I just use plain notebook paper, and each day i just list all the things each child does, on a single page.

It's not in any particular order.  I include extracurriculars and family-centered activites.

I think it's called the journal style of record-keeping?

 

Once they enter high school, I keep grade sheets for the subjects that have test scores.

And a separate notebook paper for each non-graded subject (listing books read, life skills, P.E. etc.)

 

Not perfect, but fairly easy & I can always look up prior days' work as needed.

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What kind of record-keeping do you think you'll need for high school?

For some high school subjects, we'd like to be able to piece together credits from unit studies and interest-led activities. 

 

I've looked at some suggestions from families who took this approach (e.g. here).  It looks do-able enough, but we'd need to have records of the time spent on the activities, and what they involved, so that we could decide how to categorize them. 

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Once they enter high school, I keep grade sheets for the subjects that have test scores.

And a separate notebook paper for each non-graded subject (listing books read, life skills, P.E. etc.)

 

Not perfect, but fairly easy & I can always look up prior days' work as needed.

So you've kept a record of all the books that all your children have read?  Or do they keep this? 

 

If the former, I'm impressed.  I have a general idea of each child's interests and reading level, but no idea what most of my children are reading on any given day.  It's as much as I can do just to keep the shelves stocked.  :-) 

Edited by ElizaG
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I really do love my web based service (Scholaric) but if I had to do it on a spreadsheet I easily could. We are very eclectic in our homeschooling and some things are hard to record, but no matter how chill the day might be my records are *never* cobbled together. I don't want someone leveling an accusation that I'm not educating my children daily and is not being able to refute it with data, so I keep detailed checklists even if it is just recording a half hour of independent reading in _______ book and a phonogram practice session on an iPad. I always check off the subject and day, even if I leave the details light.

 

A paper trail protects my family, and it's not hard to generate when you're doing what you need to do. One doesn't have to have textbooks and worksheets to prove they've been educated and a daily tally of based subject and time allotment goes a long way, especially for students who aren't in high school. And that tabulation can be easily kept in a paper planner or spreadsheet. I personally like my website service because I can log in when I'm not home, quickly generate reports and transcripts, etc, but there is more than one way to skin a cat :)

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Having everything at a glance is probably the most efficient approach.  Flipping through each workbook for each kid and writing a date on it seems like a very inefficient way of doing it. 

 

If it were me and I had half a dozen kids, I'd make a simple matrix chart for each kid and I'd give each kid's chart it's own color of paper.   I'd have the day of the week or dates listed down the left side and each separate subject going across the top.  I often integrate subjects in my own planning.  I list the assignment/project in all the subject categories.  It's easier to write down the same thing under 2 or 3 headings than it is to try to dream up some format that will fit every possible combination for the whole year. At a glance you can see what each kid did that day.

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Flipping through each workbook for each kid and writing a date on it seems like a very inefficient way of doing it. 

A self-inking stamp takes less than a second, and doubles as an indication that I've checked their work, which I have to do anyway.   I'll probably never come up with a system that efficient ever again.  ;-)

 

And the reason I specified "large families" was because I'm hesitant to assume that household systems designed and tested with 1-3 children will scale up well.   They often don't, in my experience.   In particular, there's a delicate balance that has to be met, between the mother managing too much (and burning out), and not managing enough (and things spiraling into chaos).  :-D

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A self-inking stamp takes less than a second, and doubles as an indication that I've checked their work, which I have to do anyway.   I'll probably never come up with a system that efficient ever again.  ;-)

 

And the reason I specified "large families" was because I'm hesitant to assume that household systems designed and tested with 1-3 children will scale up well.   They often don't, in my experience.   In particular, there's a delicate balance that has to be met, between the mother managing too much (and burning out), and not managing enough (and things spiraling into chaos).  :-D

 

I didn't mean it was inefficient to mark, I meant it was inefficient to read.  If you have to flip through multiple books for each kid to know what they did today or this week, then it's inefficient.  If what they did all day/week is all on the same page in a chart form under each subject, you can see what they did much more efficiently.

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So you've kept a record of all the books that all your children have read?  Or do they keep this? 

 

 

Every Monday, I ask each kid (hollering into the other room) what they're reading.

And yes, if I was starting all over again, we'd do this all electronically.

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I have an Excel spreadsheet for each kid per school year.  In each column, I have different headings:

 

Field Trips

Activities

Projects

Literature

History

Geography

Science

Math

Art/Music

Any other classes we work on - like the teenagers have American Government

 

I then update once a week and list all of our resources for each subject...books read, any curriculum used...etc.

 

High Schooler also has a blank transcript template where I can list courses once she completes them and her grade.

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I didn't mean it was inefficient to mark, I meant it was inefficient to read.  If you have to flip through multiple books for each kid to know what they did today or this week, then it's inefficient.  If what they did all day/week is all on the same page in a chart form under each subject, you can see what they did much more efficiently.

I've never had a need to do that on a regular basis, given that I'm already looking through their work when I stamp it.   And for long term records, I can just write down the name of the child, name of the workbook, date started, and date completed.  And maybe keep a few pages.   :-)

 

To me, workbooks and other "do the next thing" curricula are very simple to keep track of.   That's one of their advantages.  

 

The challenge comes with work that's "more free-form and self-directed -- often with one activity relating to multiple subjects, and done by multiple children,"  e.g. independent reading and writing projects, foreign language practice, art, gardening, computers, and movies.  

As we've become more relaxed, the children are doing a lot more of this.   I'm not required to keep records of it, but I'd like to, for my own sake, and also to get into the habit with my older ones, who might want to count these activities toward high school credit (as mentioned above).

 

It's true that no ready-made format can cover every eventuality, but many homeschooling mothers have come up with systems that work for them, and maybe some of them have similar circumstances and thought processes to mine.   I made this thread because I'd like to take a good look at the options that are out there.  :-)

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Getting back to the ones I mentioned in post #3:

 

- I think we might have the Mary Hood book around here.  I'll try to find it.  Based on reviews, though, it sounds less structured and more completely mother-directed than what I'm looking for.   

 

- Still can't find the name of the CM-ish homeschool log that I saw years ago.  I remember thinking it looked helpful for larger families with a lot of activities going on, though I wasn't personally interested in it at the time. 

 

- The Self-Propelled Advantage is pricy, and the sample pages don't look remarkable.  I'd need some compelling reason to try it, vs. just continuing with teaching the older children to fill in regular planners on their own.

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We use student planners and I love them. I don't have to plan OR keep records! LOL, well almost. I do plan, but it's more big-picture. If a course requires too much fiddly lesson planning, then it's not relaxed or large-family-friendly, and out it goes. Or I change it.

 

I was inspired by The Self-Propelled Advantage to use student planners, but I don't use theirs. I use My Student Logbook for the younger kids and this high school planner for my older. The Logbook site actually has a tab on how the creator uses them to make transcripts. 

 

Anyway, planners make great records when complete.

 

 

 

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Thanks, birchbark - that site looks interesting.

 

I thought Project-Based Homeschooling might have some relevant advice, since the projects are supposed to be "self-managed" by the child, but it seems as if much of the parent's role is to hover around documenting everything.   This is supposed to be a form of encouragement.  By writing notes and taking pictures of everything the child does, the parent is conveying a sense of how important the child's work is.   And then, "When work slows or stops, mine your journal for his unfinished ideas."  Um... no thanks!  

 

It's interesting that PBH and The Self-Propelled Advantage have such wildly different views of what it means to raise independent learners. The latter is much closer to our family's philosophy, which is just as well, because there's no way I could spend that much time "facilitating" (literally, "making easier") my children's schoolwork and hobbies.   I have to wonder, is PBH meant to prepare them for a world where they'll have highly skilled servants?   Or maybe a robot army?    :laugh:

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If the former, I'm impressed. I have a general idea of each child's interests and reading level, but no idea what most of my children are reading on any given day. It's as much as I can do just to keep the shelves stocked. :-)

My oldest read like there is no tomorrow. So what I did was get each child a library card. Set the loan receipt email to mine. I get a long email of what was borrowed which I can copy paste into any word processor.

 

For the rest I have two kids only and I don't document their interest led stuff other than taking lots of photos so can't help you there.

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Once a year I write a report for the province. It takes a few hours for each child. I look at their tests, write down any marks, talk about what we've done in mostly general terms, and...I'm done. I don't list all the DVDs, all the docs, all the...etc. I keep it pretty general and talk about the progress we've made.

 

I dint have the brain space for detailed, daily, record keeping.

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So you've kept a record of all the books that all your children have read? Or do they keep this?

 

If the former, I'm impressed. I have a general idea of each child's interests and reading level, but no idea what most of my children are reading on any given day. It's as much as I can do just to keep the shelves stocked. :-)

I do not have a big family and won't really attempt to participate here. I just love record keeping ideas.

 

I did see one idea for record keeping of books read that might work. A parent used Word to make bookmarks that took 1/4 or 1/3 of a page, with spaces for child's name, book title, author, date finished, a rating of how much the child enjoyed the book, and a bit of space for the child to write something about the book. Bookmarks were left in stacks near wherever books were kept and children were coached to take a bookmark with each book, fill it out, and drop it into a bin near the books when done. The bookmarks themselves were the record kept.

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