When it comes to homeschool organization the best tool I have in my teacher’s toolbox is a written plan for each child and me. Before you envision something huge and complicated, know I am referring to a simple, daily plan that each child can follow. This has been the best thing I have ever done in my homeschool. With several children to orchestrate each day, letting children hold the plans and learn to follow them has been most beneficial.

Here is what this looks like:

At age 3, Daniel has a simple morning list, one page total, with pictures for each of his morning “chores”. This includes things like brushing teeth, making his bed, eating breakfast, etc.

At age 8, David has a detailed list with all his chores and all his daily school assignments.

Anne Mary, age 13, has a yearly list of textbooks I expect her to complete, and a list of daily, weekly, and occasional chores. She makes her own list daily to accomplish what she needs to do. She has deadlines for certain classes, and she is expected to follow them.

Sarah, age 15, has a pretty detailed list of what is expected each day. This is because she babysits outside the home, volunteers, and has several outside activities she is juggling. It helps me keep her accountable by having the lists to compare to completed work when I am grading.

As we begin each day, I can refer the children to their lists if I see one doing something obviously not in the plan. It also helps because basic things like teeth brushing can easily be overlooked in a busy household. But with the younger children being encouraged by everyone to go through and check their lists, those important things are not overlooked. It’s not a big deal if the toddler’s bed does not get made, but making list checking a normal part of life prepares him for the time when the lists will be more detailed and important. It also allows the older children to help the younger children make sure their daily needs are met.

I also keep a list for myself to keep track of the things I need to do daily, weekly, and occasionally. I have a special list for days that we have our co-op here in our house. It is comprised of things we all know need to be done, but it can be beneficial if everyone helps in an orderly way. I simply put the list on the kitchen table, and ask the children to jump in an help where they can. It includes things like getting the biology supplies together, making a snack for all the kids, making sure all the children eat breakfast, sweeping the kitchen floor, starting a load of laundry before our guests arrive, and making sure the younger children have their required reading finished before classes start for the day.

For days when we leave the house, I also keep a list. It includes making sure my purse is in the car, all the children have their lunches and music books packed, and the diaper bag is packed. These are all things that we know we need, but having the list that we all check off as things are ready brings so much peace to the flow of the morning.

When you make a list of things for your child, remember that the simpler the list is, the less likely you will need to continually reinvent it. For example, if your list says do two lessons of spelling per day, the list will be effective all year. If you instead list the page numbers each time, it will still depend upon you to check the list every day and rewrite it as needed to keep it current. Try to eliminate the need for you to be the bottleneck in the daily routines of the children.

It is also best to make your tasks simple and concise. For example, for an eight year old, “gather and sort the laundry” is better than simply “laundry”. And “wipe counters and cabinets in bathroom” is better than “clean bathroom”. Often older children can graduate to less detailed lists, but that will depend on their maturity and experience.

I also add things into the schedule such as daily Bible reading, time for older siblings to work with the younger ones, reading story books or practicing music. These special times may not happen in the course of a busy day if they are not listed among the daily tasks expected for each child. We also include items that are pretty generic and give the children a lot of freedom of choice, such as “exercise 30 minutes.” They can go for a walk, do a workout video, ride a bike, practice dance, jump on the trampoline – or do any other physical exercise of their choosing. This helps the children have a little variety in their days and lets them enjoy making some decisions that are appropriate.

Another benefit to having a plan and letting the children work it every day is that if the mom or primary home educator is sick or has an appointment outside the home, and someone else is acting as a substitute teacher, the children already know the expectations. Even though some children will try to take advantage of a situation like this, the other children will most certainly help keep them in check.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can make a plan, but you can also easily adjust it. For example, the children may have a sizable list, but if it is a beautiful day outside, we may change the plan, and work in the garden for several hours instead. I can adjust the list. If someone is sick I may eliminate several chores or school subjects depending on the occasion. Do not let your lists and your plans become an idol in your heart. There will be days when you have a definite leading from the Lord to adjust your plans. Remember that those leadings should not be ignored for the sake of the plan. But also remember that by being faithful to the plan, your children will be on track for most of the year and will easily be able to accomplish what you expect from them and more!

When you first institute a plan, start with one or two children, and perhaps only work part of the plan, building on it over time. You may start your list with only a couple of chores and as they are mastered, add more. I have often found that once the year is in full swing, I actually need to add things to some of the lists so that everyone is happy and busily occupied. A child with too much free time on his hands will make trouble for the rest of the household. Adding to his daily workload will help improve the smooth running of the household. Likewise, if you see your child is diligent and still struggling daily to accomplish your plan, you may need to adjust the plan, or see what in the home needs to be adjusted to make it possible to complete what is required.

If your home feels a little chaotic and you are not happy with the progress you are making in your year, try creating some simple checklists and implementing them. Pray for each child, and together with your husband, decide what is most important for him or her to accomplish in their days. Compare your plans to God’s word in Scripture, and be sure you are keeping the most important things in the forefront of your thoughts. If you are not sure, ask a godly, seasoned home educator to look over your plans and make some suggestions. Ask your children for their ideas and input. Above all else, pray for wisdom and flexibility as you enjoy educating your children and training them in righteousness.

Copyright 2014, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

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Malia Russell

Malia is an author, home educator of six children ages 5 to 27, a grandmother to two children, an author, and conference speaker. Her primary ministry is encouraging and empowering mothers and home educators to seek God’s Word when facing challenges and encouraging women in their Biblical roles as wives and mothers.