If you’ve been visiting our blog for a while, or if you’ve ever explored the Organizing tab at the top of the page, you know I like to keep things organized. Not that I’m very good at it; it’s just that I NEED to be organized. I do not know how I could effectively homeschool my children, manage my household, or raise a large family without it. I’m willing to spend a good deal of time creating schedules, making labels, writing meal plans, and searching for new organizing ideas to make that happen.
Some of my organizing systems are used for a season, and then our family outgrows them or we tweak them. Some are forgotten, and others are replaced when I find an idea that will work better.
Still other tools and systems stand the test of time. I’m going to share one of those today, because I realized today that after twelve years of using it, I have never gotten around to blogging about it.
This one is so simple and easy to implement, yet of all the tools and systems I’ve used, this is THE ONE that I couldn’t live without.
This simple, yet essential tool is…
Everyone in my family who can read has a clipboard.
Attached to each child’s clipboard is a stack of identical papers:
Each checklist contains a complete list of that child’s responsibilities for each day of the week. The responsibilities are mainly related to chores, school, and job, although young children often have personal hygiene items on their checklists as well.
Why do I love the checklists?
The checklist allows the children to do much of their work independently, without personal reminders from me. As a homeschooling momma to many, this ability is essential.
I’m not left out of the loop, though. I create my children’s schedules and design the checklists myself. During my one-on-one time with each child, I use the clipboard as a guide to remind myself of the work that I need to look over.
How do I make the checklists?
I make my checklists with OpenOffice, but any word processing software may be used.
I begin by creating a table. I start with five rows (one for each day of the week) and around ten columns. I usually end up adding or deleting columns depending on whose schedule I am working on. I use a fancy font for the children’s names, but a plain, easy to read font for the rest of the list. I make my checklists completely in black and white, so that I can use my laser printer. My laser printer is super-fast and efficient in ink usage, which I love; however, it only uses black ink. I have a second printer that I use for special projects, which prints in color.
Rather than sharing them all, I will just share three, to give a sampling of the versatility across the age groups.
First we have Ashlyn (Not her real name. We use fake names for privacy.) Ashlyn is sixteen years old and in 11th grade.
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Next we have Strawerry, who is nine years old and in the third grade.
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Finally, we have Timothy, who is fourteen and in ninth grade. We’ve found that he does better with a little more accountability, so rather than a checklist, he uses more of a “log” style to his weekly schedule. After completing a subject, he enters a short summary of what he did, and the time he took to do it. Sounds complex, but really it is not. The clipboard is with him during the entire school day, and looking at the clock is really quite easy. The entries are as simple as page numbers read in a book, science lab module numbers, test scores, or song titles.
This is our first year using a log style with Timothy. I like it so much, that I am considering the idea of using a log-style checklist for all of my middle-school and older children.
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Each schedule also contains blank spaces and a notes section where the kids can jot down extra tasks or book titles that they have completed.
Some children need to have their clipboards signed by me, while others have earned my trust to the extent that I know they won’t go running off to play until their school is done.
At the beginning of the year, we only print one or two of the checklists at a time, since we tweak so much at that time. Once we’ve settled into a routine, I typically print four sheets at a time, a month’s worth, and the kids let me know when they need more.
Like I said, we couldn’t live without this one. I can leave them in peace to do their thing, trusting that they know what to do as they work their way through the checklist. Using this system allows me to manage my children’s schedules and track their daily progress in an efficient way.
As one woman responsible for overseeing the education of a large family, I will take all the help I can get! :)
UPDATE: We recently gave our clipboards a makeover! If you’d like to add a touch of elegance, fun, or pretty to your clipboards, check out my post on Decorated Clipboards.
What is the number one homeschooling tool, system, or idea that you couldn’t live without? Leave a comment and share!