How to File Paperwork if You Are Not a Planner {a.k.a. Unschooling}

That time is upon us once again….

Yep, filing paper work with the state education board. Fun. Fun.

This is my yearly quandary…

One of the huge advantages of homeschooling is following a MUCH more relaxed schedule. For us that contains a fair amount of unschooling…or child-led interests and rabbit trails. These really can’t be planned per say. But our state requires curriculum to be approved ahead of time. How do you balance spontaneity with a detailed plan to your state?

I do plan…in a general large-scale sorta way. We do history generally chronological. This year it will be modern history with an emphasis on the Great Depression, WWI and II, and the Industrial Revolution. But most of my planning comes in the form of strewing. I look for great living books to have on hand during chunks of learning time. I keep a running book list that I can use when purchasing on Amazon or at a library sale. We follow math and phonics in a somewhat sequential order but even these I hate to delegate to a “grade” because each of my children learn at different rates and sometimes we are still in the middle of a book when the school year “ends” and sometimes we are already in the middle of another book.

When I was trying to write out detailed plans to my state I was getting bogged down. What would we cover this year…when would we cover it…when would we be done? These questions my state would want to know and I would start sweating and becoming grumpy mommy as I desperately tried to put something on paper.

Don’t get me wrong…the planning part felt good. When I was done I felt this sense of accomplishment. Oh, of course that’s what we’ll study this year (i.e. science lessons all mapped out in great detai)! Happily I would start our year and miserably I would end it feeling like a failure because we were SO off track. Never mind that my kids were learning at a rapid pace. Never mind that they had filled their time with way more additional learning then I had written down. All I saw was those original lessons plans with a big red F across them!

Then I came up with a brilliant idea. Why not just write down a Scope and Sequence based on everything I had? I just started typing by category. Math? These were the books I owned (text and living). These were the manipulatives I owned. These were the games I owned. I put general grades after them. For instance, after listing Math U See I put K-5th Grade in parenthesis behind it. Suddenly I began to see a skeleton take shape. Eventually this is what I would teach to all my kids through all of their elementary school years and some beyond. Before I knew it I had an 8 page Elementary Scope & Sequence that MORE than covered any paltry state requirements.

I am free! This year all I had to do was pull up that file, delete and add a few things and in less than an hour I was finished. Print. Mail. Ahhhh….THAT felt good! The best part? Doesn’t matter that I’m homeschooling (officially) three children all at different grade levels. This one paper covers them all. Doesn’t matter where we are at the beginning of the year or the end. We have the freedom and leisure to learn any of this stuff at our own pace and our state has the peace of mind that we will be covering all the bases…eventually!

Here is a peek at my copy (your own will, obviously, vary) as well as a copy of my statement about using living books as that inventory list is WAY too long to send my state!

Elementary Scope & Sequence

Learning History Through Living Books

Feel free to download and steal these and modify for your own use!

Happy planning!!!

(P.S. please let me now if these links do not download right and I will try to fix! I tested them and so far so good.)

The Homeschool Mother's Journal 



The Learning Room ~ Working the Workboxes

This week saw a new change for us. I’ve been thinking about implementing workboxes for a while now. I especially started thinking about it when I serendipitously discovered that two of the boxes I had been holding toys in actually fit hanging file folders. I knew I couldn’t use the traditional method…not with six+ kids eventually all homeschooling at once!

2009-2010 Work Tubs

We had been using basic work tubs in that each child each had their own tub that held all their workbooks, school papers, pencil case, etc. that they pulled out during school time. These worked great for a year or so. My oldest two loved having their own books in their own space. I loved being able to throw everything into a tub and just tuck it away at the end of the school day. Our system broke down this year with a preschooler and two toddlers who thought it great fun to get into and dump out the tubs on an almost daily basis despite being disciplined for it. And I was also finding power struggles over kids wanting to work on a book that I hadn’t planned on for the day just because they saw it in their tub.

I now needed a system that ~

  • Fit on a bookshelf up high in a minimal amount of space away from destructive little kid hands.
  • Allowed the two older kids to pull out their workboxes and know exactly what to do and when/how long they had to do it along with the oder they were to do it in.
  • Allowed for me to work more one-on-one with my younger children who are desperate for my attention during school time.
  • Allowed for me to take 5 minutes in the evening to plan throw things together for the next day.
  • Allowed for me to use it in a very formal we-have-a-good-curriculum-plan-for-the-year sort of way or the spontaneous follow-the-rabbit-trail sort of way or the project-week-independent-interest-led-study sort of way.
  • Allowed for me to implement more of the notebooking/lapbooking pages I’ve collected in an organized manner.
  • Can also be used the same sort of way with the preschoolers/toddlers and guided activities.

So I researched one weekend and found this wonderful site of another researcher who had gone before me. Just love those trailblazers! I looked at all the examples of workbox systems working for others and took a few ideas and made it my own based on my needs. Most of my ideas are taken from how Ruby Slippers implements workboxes in their home. Here is what I came up with that worked wonderfully for us this week.

  • I took the clear plastic totes and hung about 6-8 file folders in it.
  • I took about five minutes to write out 15 minutes, 30 minutes over and over on one piece of cardstock and the numbers 1-6 twice on another piece and generically cut them into about one inch sqares.
  • I paperclipped the numbers to the folders on one side.
  • I put in what I wanted them to work on for the next day when I wanted them to work on it. (If it was something they didn’t have in the box like typing on the computer I just wrote what I wanted them to do on a piece of recycled paper and put that in the file).
  • I paperclipped the timed squares on the other side of the folder.
  • I taped a piece of cardstock in the back of the bin that said: FREE TIME if you have all your chores and schoolwork done.

Now the older two knew exactly what to do, in what order, and how long they had to do it. It really did only take me five minutes to throw together at night before I went to bed! And twice during the week I was too tired before bed so I took five minutes after breakfast to throw it together. The system worked beautifully. I especially like the paperclips. It allowed the freedom to switch things around very easily. And the kids LOVED having control over how their school day went and knowing when it ended. It turned the routine I had in my head into actual reality in our week. It even worked so well that on the day I had my ladies Bible class and daddy is watching the kids, schoolwork STILL got done! This has never happened before. The kids just effortlessly knew what to do and dad effortlessly played with the little kids managed their school time! I did just purchase two clip on timers so they each have their own to use for next week.

Hooray for workboxes!

Linked with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers @

Free Printable Worksheets!

While looking up some help for Lily with spelling today, I ran across this site.

It’s called Super Teacher Worksheets and is full of free printable worksheets in pdf format. Since I’ve been thinking alot about pdf’s and how to organize them (post here, forum question here), I was excited to go ahead and add a bunch of these to my own growing collection before official organizing took place.

My especially favorite downloads today:

Happy Browsing!

Organizing Technology

I am contemplating the New Year and how to best go about what the Lord has asked of me…mainly to use what I have.

And what I have is a lot!

So many pdf files saved from wonderful homeschooling mothers who share their visions and hard work openly wanting to knit community. For these women I am thankful!

I took last year to organize the files by creating folders and subfolders within folders based on subject. This worked well for maintaining a database of information on my computer and made it relatively easy to keep up with as I added new things throughout the year. I kept up the orginization and am still going strong.

Only problem…I forget what I have at my disposal. And there is a lot of good at my disposal! Some I can use now. Some I will use later. My quandry is in the forgetting. I forget the treasure trove I have and therefore don’t utilize the printouts.

While reading this post over at Amongst Lovely Things I thought to myself, I need some sort of system like this. It looks beautiful and I am all about mixing beauty with function But after my post the other day about crashing computers and bookmarks I started thinking more expansive. What if I did a whole system like this, not just Christmas?  Would I print out a full binder of printouts (maybe one binder per subject) with a table of contents in the front? Or would I make one binder with a sort of master list of all that I have saved on the computer? Would I convert my ever-failing file crate system (sorry, Dawn, just can’t seem to make it work for me!) into folders with master printouts? Or would all the printouts be missing the whole point of having them neatly saved and organized on computer?

My very unorganized desk/filing system. Can you see the two file crates artfully hidden under the miscellaneous mail, bills, and school papers?

What do you think, dear readers? Any other homeschooling moms dealing with this issue? How do you keep track of all those freebie goodies in cyber world and translate that over to your homeschooling orginization/utilization? Maybe I need the forum for this one! “Sigh”

The Four Pillars of Too Much

holy experience

As I am in the process of cleaning out my fridge and freezer and pantry, in order to embark on the first-of-the-month big shopping trip, everything appears cluttered, disorganized and it makes me feel panicky. It is not as if this is the first time I’ve noticed this. Every time I do I say to myself, ‘I’ll get to that next week or month or whenever I have some free available time.’ But today it dawned on me that I will never have enough free time to work on it. My life is also filled with chaos and clutter and disorganization. I am a mother of five children with open plans for more. My children are home with me all day long. Sure there is learning and joy and projects and endless reading of great worth. But there is also a stream of destruction that follows me all day as I try to keep up with the flow of household management.

We do dishes but again we eat. We do laundry but again the hamper fills up. We play outside in the joy of budding spring but drag in the mud and leftover winter debris. We do school and things get out of place, half-used, disorganized. We read so books end up in piles everywhere. We play so toys get pulled out creating death traps on the stairs. We do life and life is messy.

So how do we combat this? I ponder this daily. I know in part it is about teaching good habits and making sure everything has a place and keeping up on chores and creating a daily rhythm that works for our specific needs. But I wonder how much of it is also about having too much, always wanting more, filling our days and cupboards with too many choices – even if they are worthy and wonderful choices. Do we have breathing room?

So as I am taking a break from wiping down the freezer and writing up a shopping list to nurse a little one, my eye catches this post by Elizabeth Foss and I click the link to this book and start reading. And suddenly that peace that passes all understanding floods my soul that only happens when He places something in front of my eyes that speaks directly to my battle. And I struggle to not immediately order it (another symptom of the “too much” syndrome) but instead ponder it and wait on the Lord to see where He directs my steps.  So while I am pondering and adding this wonderful book to my Amazon wish list, I thought I’d share a few quotable nuggets with you to ponder this day too.

We are building our daily lives, and our families, on the four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too much speed. With this level of busyness, distractions, time pressure, and clutter (mental and physical), children are robbed of the time and ease they need to explore their worlds and their emerging selves. And since the pressures of “too much” are so universal, we are “adjusting” at a commensurately fast pace. The weirdness of “too much” begins to seem normal. If the water we are swimming in continues to heat up, and we simply adjusts as it heats, how will we know to hop out before we boil? ~ KIM JOHN PAYNE – SIMPLICITY PARENTING


We are facing an enormous problem in our lives today. It’s so big we can hardly see it, and it’s right in front of our face all day, every day. We’re all living too big lives, crammed from top to toe with activities, urgencies, and obligations that seem absolute. There’s no time to take a breath, no time to look for the source of the problem.  ~ SARA SUSANKA – THE NOT SO BIG LIFE


Simplicity is the ultimate manifestation of the spiritual gift of self-control. (one of my favorites!)


The reason that we are not fully at ease in heart and soul is because we seek rest in these things that are so little and have no rest within them, and pay no attention to our God, who is Almighty, All-wise, All-good, and the only real rest. ~ JULIAN OF NORWICH


“Do not be so given to the activity of Martha as to forget the silence of Mary. May the Virgin who so well reconciled the one with the other be your sweet model and inspiration.”  ~ ST. PIO

In a way, nobody sees a flower really, it is so small, we haven’t time—to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ~ GEORGIA O’KEEFE

And, last but not least,

“Who is rich?  He that rejoices in his portion.”  ~ THE TALMUD

This is where I start my week. I am tugging and pulling with simplification and need to jot down some Thanks to the Highest Order, The I AM of simplicity,  in order to bring balance to my week.

160) Finished ONE PAGE of my new schedule…only 6 more to go!

161) Went shopping with only one little one due to the beautiful sacrifice of a dear brother-in-law!

162) Kids got to visit the zoo twice in one week.

163) My camera ran out of juice so the zoo had to be about just being, not blogging or scrapbooking.

164) Hauled two garbage bags full of Garage Sale Stuff to the garage.

165) Blessed with an extra-warm house due to the efficiency of new furnace.

166) My kids did the dishes today…twice!!

167) New friends made at church for my little social butterfly.

168) Taking more time to read with the kids, even with a fussy baby.

169) Found a full tank of gas in my car on the way to church this morning just as I was thinking about how we would cover that expense this week. Thank you again, dear brother!

170) A pork roast that I didn’t cook and good company.

171) Learning about pandas and rocks and minerals.

172) A new ballet training CD arriving.

173) Math and Science tales of googles and quarks and fractals.

174) A Boy and his Cricket and the memories they evoked of my now eight-year old.

175) Baby Orajel.

176) Free Aldi’s boxes that work as bookends.

177) A full house of groceries and milk and fresh fruit.

178) One night where I slept all the way through!

May your week be filled with many blessings and may you slow down to find joy in the little things!

Schedules…Getting on Track

The beginning of January…a fresh start…a new beginning…this time things will be different.  That’s what most of us think. Why shouldn’t we homeschool moms be any different? I spent last week organizing fussing over all the school shelves.  I spent the past two nights tweaking a schedule I had already planned out extensively over the summer.  “We must have a place for everything with everything in it’s place before we begin!” I emphatically shouted to myself.  This time things will be different.  This time we will stay on track.  This time I will make a plan.  This time my plan will go accordingly. This time my kids will sit patiently, shout hooray when I announce it’s time for school, come running excitedly when I call, and quietly color as I read great literature and teach them about our founding fathers.

Just got interrupted in the middle of this post by a 2 year old dumping toilet water all over the laundry room floor.  Which, I’m pretty sure, just made my statement for me about our first day back in school!

Maybe tonight I will get a bit of peace and quiet to read this book:

Oh…who am I kidding?  Maybe will get a post in about our school week by the end of the week.  Obviously daily isn’t going to work!