Assignment Books

Last week I switched up the assignment books I’ve been using with my kids. I started the year with some commercial calendar type assignment books and it’s been hard to use them well. As with my planner, I find it tough to work within someone else’s design and I absolutely hate empty boxes in a planner! I don’t want to appear too flexible, but the truth is sometimes things take longer than you think they will. Or you end up with an unexpected doctor’s appointment. Or we simply change direction or have to back track and go over something again. Whatever the reason, whatever is written on the next day’s square may change. It doesn’t always change, but it could and sometimes does and that leaves us with marks to make and things to rearrange. It’s not pretty. It seems to me it’s not a reminder of where we are going, but one that points out that you’ve changed direction or something is amiss.

Plus, I just plain ol’ need more room to write than what squares afford me. The younger the student, the more I might explain directions. Because I also use this as a daily checklist for the kids, I wanted to be able to dialogue with them about what they’ve finished. Or didn’t finish. I can find out how the math lesson went- since Life of Fred is an independent student driven program, I like to check in on days we use Fred. If we are working on a project, I can make suggestions in the book that my kids can read when they look over the assignments.

Finally, it occurred to me that if I was going to have them check off in the book and read things from me, this would be a great place to list what else they worked on for the day. So, if they work on a project or read a book, they can tell me about it on the day’s page.

Of course, only the oldest two (8th and 6th grade) were using them before, but the younger boys would not be left out! How could I refuse such a request? So far, things are going very well. Take a look below.

R11 had been using a plain planner from The Well Planned Day. These remind me of the ones we distributed in my public school classroom days. Well, without the Bible verses!
E13 had been using the Homeschooler’s High School Journal- sort of a cool format with a place to record the time you spent on a subject, but visually it was not pleasing enough for me or for E13.
A chance to use my ProClick…yes!
First step- make a cover of course! The kids had a fun time designing their own on the computer.
L-a-m-i-n-a-t-e…need I say more?
Bound college ruled notebook paper from Staples. Does it get better than this?

So how does it work? I jot down the assignments for the day on one page. I list out the lesson number or tell what the work is. If we are doing an experiment, I might tell them what materials to gather up and where to meet me.

Some days the page is more full than others. Keep in mind that for E13’s WinterPromise, there is a whole binder with work listed out. So, sometimes I will get specific with him and sometimes I just tell him which week and day. It depends on if he needs to catch up or I’m adding something in.

I can give extra assignments or ask questions of the kids. And they can respond to me which is nice. I look them over after school and I make decisions for the next day or the coming week.

Even J6 wanted a book and his is the easiest to do! He is an independent first grader let me tell you. He does well with having a list before him with the materials provided. Keep in mind he’s a fluent reader so we read together and he reads to me from Fred and does his math. He still does copywork on primary lined paper, but he’s been doing his Fred on wide ruled loose leaf. He’s currently working in LOF Cats. With great anticipation.

R11 was having trouble figuring out what to do for her 4H Public Presentation coming up in a few weeks. So, on this day (above) I gave her some suggestions on what she could do. She liked the ideas and ultimately chose to demonstrate how to make a french seam for her presentation. I’ve broken down the process for the kids and each day they have a new assignment related to preparing for their talk. I also have them tell me their progress so we can discuss things.

So, the kids check off as they go and I love the feature of listing what else they do during the day. They tell me what they’ve been reading and other things they’ve discovered or what activities they did after school time. Sometimes they run off after they’ve finished working and I don’t see them for a while because they are engaged in something. This way we can mention it on the day’s assignment page.

I’ve also been having them report on their math. If the younger kids are doing Fred, they can tell me how many they got correct and I require this of E13 daily so we can discuss anything he is having trouble with. If an assignment is not completed, I like seeing the X. It tells me clearly that it was not done. That way I know to list it the next day. I also know to investigate the reason it was not done in the case that it isn’t obvious. It keeps my kids accountable to their work without me hovering all the time. With the older ones this is important. Middle school is a great time to make sure kids are learning how to have ownership of their own education. It’ll be super important later!

I know some of you have been asking how far ahead I plan things out. Using this method, you can see not very far! I take some time after school is finished for the day to jot down the next day’s assignment. I use the IHIP (Individualized Home Instruction Plan) for each child, which NY State requires, to stay on track with what I said we do, but that just keeps me focused on the big picture. When it comes to the details, we are much more relaxed and my goal is to keep things moving and consistent but to really value our experience. In other words, I leave room for being flexible while giving my kids an authentic experience and keeping an eye on the bigger goal.

We all love the new assignment books. The kids like to see things laid out for them and I like giving them the target for the day and being able to dialogue with them about it. One of the things I like best is the simple lined paper format for each day. Once again, it’s very freeing and it’s been very effective so far.

What sort of checklist do you use?

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  1. What an excellent idea. I really like your simple notebook idea for planners. I also get frustrated with the constraints of pre made planners. I usually end up creating some sort of planner on my own. I think this notebook idea would work well for my son. We use Sonlight and much our our school together, however, there are lots of independent things he does and can do through out the day and this will help him be a bit more accountable for that stuff. Your post gives me lots to ponder! Thank You!

  2. I've been printing out a daily assignment sheet for my DS10, but I like this idea MUCH better! I especially like that he can answer questions and list additional things that he's accomplished. Thanks for blogging about this!

  3. Have you blogged about using simple lined paper for your own planning? I started doing that last year after someone suggested it and it has worked out great! Such a simple idea.I use a composition book and do a weeks worth at a time. If you picture it open to a two page spread, I make a simple calendar for the week on the left – days across top, time down side – and just fill in things like music lessons or other outside the home activities. It helps me figure out how much time we will really have in a day.Then I list each subject and what is to be done for the week. Something like math, I just write the lesson number and if there is a test. Other subjects, I list readings, mapwork, videos, writing, experiments. The details are in the individual notebooks for those subjects.This is really my notebook, though, and I really like the idea you have of having the kids respond and also tell you what else they have done. What great ideas!Thanks,Sarah

  4. Yes Sarah, I've blogged about using the notebook for my planner. In fact, I linked you there in this post if you'd like to see it.I've also written about my planner at Heart of the Matter. Love the plain notebook planner. I'm glad it's working for you too.Heather

  5. This is what we do with plain 1-subject notebooks. Boring, but it works for us. I didn't know where to ask this, but do you know of an intro to computer programming curriculum? You have so many tricks up your sleeve, I thought you might have run across something. [email protected] if you have any ideas. Thank you!

  6. Heather, I'm starting this today! My computer has a huge folder called 'Schedules' of all the templates I've either downloaded or made myself then ditched!I had one suggestion for the previous post by Jeff and Sarah, check out the MIT-developed kids' programming software 'Scratch'. It's free, and there are resources available for introducing and using it on the Educator Resources area of the Scratch website. My ds8 and dd6 are enjoying it, learning to think like a computer! Thanks Heather!! LA Jenn

  7. Yes, I was going to suggest Scratch as well Jenn.We use Scratch a lot here and it's available as a free down load.There's also Phrogram and Alice.Heather

  8. I'm just realizing that I've been doing this type of planning for myself for a while. I love a blank spiral notebook. My daughter (14) loves one too. This just may be the ticket for us as well. Oh I can see this working on several levels! Thank you. (P.S. loves seeing your rocket on FB!)

  9. We do a lot of our planning on paper like this as well. I liked how you were able to bind your own paper and decorate your own cover. Thanks for sharing this!!

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