Keeping track of what each student is supposed to be doing, and making sure they are doing it is one of the struggles of homeschooling moms everywhere. Here’s how we’re managing it with a free online (and mobile) app called Trello.
Some people use spiral notebooks for a daily list; we use Trello for weekly lists. Here are the details and even some video tutorials to get you started!
What: An Online Homeschool Student Planner
An effective student planner is less of a calendar and more of a categorized list of what needs to be done when. Trello is that for us.
In fact, we do group our homeschool checklist items into day-of-the-week lists, as well as one weekly list. Work to be accomplished on a specific day is one “card” on the day’s list. For example, a math card is on each day’s list. Work that could be done anytime, as long as it’s done sometime during the week, goes on a card under the weekly list.
Each card then can be dragged around, so if it isn’t completed on the assigned day, it is added to the next day’s list. Work on the weekly list can be dragged to the day it was accomplished. Often my boys will plan out their week by dragging the weekly work to the day they intend to do it.
Experience planning & independently completing assignments: check.
Trello homeschool student planner: check.
Why? Our Homeschool Student Planner Keeps Us on Track
Giving the kids a checklist of their own cuts down on the amount of
nagging reminding I have to do, which makes everyone happier.
For several years I used printed weekly checklists, and that worked just fine – as long as no one lost or destroyed (always accidentally, of course) their lists.
There were three primary reasons we decided to try out Trello for those same lists:
- Checking the list means getting on the computer (or Kindle Fire), which is an incentive. Bonus: They can’t say they couldn’t find their list.
- No matter where they am or where I am, I can check their progress from my phone.
- They can leave notes to me with questions, pleas for help, answers to questions or scores from online tests, and also complaints – without interrupting someone else’s lesson or tutoring time. I get a notification on my phone and can address it appropriately.
Trello lets me keep tabs on what needs to be done and what has been done without pestering and questioning or rifling through clipboards or desktops. It allows the kids to ping me and get the feedback they need without interrupting (an extra bonus for my introverted students).
Of course Trello, like all organization systems, requires upkeep and attention – it doesn’t run itself. It takes time, it takes management, and
No matter what sort of checklist system you use, don’t expect what you don’t inspect.
Homeschool Student Planners Don’t Work By Themselves
Working from their own lists, with some opportunities for choosing when to do their work fosters independence and responsibility. Of course, just handing them a checklist doesn’t make them responsible. The checklist is an opportunity to learn responsibility – which means they’ll need our help and guidance along the way.
And, much of the time, that help and guidance looks like holding to the consequences. Experiencing meaningful, direct consequences is the path to responsibility and maturity.
Sometimes, the meaningful and direct consequences are good: having more free time because you finished your work. Perhaps, even, you decided to do all your weekly work on Monday and Tuesday, so come Friday, you have a light and easy load.
But the reverse is also true: If you leave all your work for Friday, you will not be happy when that day comes. Of course I tell them that. I check their work and ask them about why they haven’t done a weekly item. But they need to experience procrastination to really learn the lesson for themselves. So I have given them the opportunity and a knowledge of the consequences. They can learn that lesson here at home where the stakes are low.
However, they will only learn it if I am checking their work and those lists. Just because something is checked off doesn’t mean it’s done. It’s handy to have the lists to do a quick check, but a regular (weekly for us) perusal of all work is still necessary (says the homeschooled student who was “self-correcting” her math through Algebra 2 before she realized just how bad her cluelessness was – my kids don’t check their own math).
If you aren’t checking and enforcing your standards, they are doing the work to their standards, which are much more lenient than yours.
Things You Didn’t Know You Had to Tell Them
There are some things kids need to learn that I didn’t even realize when I introduced checklists. Then more unforeseen (but probably useful) lessons attended our switch to Trello.
Here are just a few:
- Thinking about doing the work isn’t the same as doing the work, no matter how good your imagination is.
- Don’t check it off unless you know you did it. Checking something off that is not done is lying.
- Not looking at your list is no excuse, it’s disobedience and irresponsibility.
- Moving all your work onto one day will make you very sad.
- Moving things around on your checklist isn’t doing your schoolwork.
- Adding labels and stickers and emoji to your checklist isn’t doing your schoolwork.
Expect to have to give lessons about truthfulness, about protocol, about definitions and expectations – over and over and over again. Once is never enough. But “forgetting” also does not mitigate or negate consequences. Remind, but also enforce the consequences.
Responsibility and a work ethic will not be learned in a day or a week or a term. Maybe after three or four years of consistency in consequences and requirements, however, we will begin to see fruit.
How We Use Our Homeschool Student Planner
So, to keep up with each student’s work (I have four students currently), here’s how I spread out the work:
- Summer: I create the master checklist template for each child.
- Monday: While the kids do their morning chores, I copy the template into our “Winckler Homeschool” team. After Morning Time, I sit down for about 10-15 minutes one-on-one with each child, who brings all his school books, and we go over last week’s work (with that board still in front of us) and add this week’s specific assignments to the cards. Then I archive last week’s board.
- Daily: After breakfast, the kids start on their morning hygiene and chore tasks, checking their Trello list to make sure all items are complete. Between every school task they do, they check Trello, mark off what they’ve done and decide what to do next. Usually they will also spend a minute or two sending me a note with emoji, whether or not they have a reason to. While they get lunch, I check everyone’s progress and can ask questions since they are all conveniently gathered around the food. When they come asking if they can play, we go through and make sure their work is done (by the checklist and questions, not by checking the actual work – that is Mondays except for math which is checked daily by my husband and corrected the next day).
I set up a mini-tutorial page with the best of my homeschool checklist posts and also a replay of an interactive workshop I did last year all about homeschool student checklists.
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