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     The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

July 27, 2011       


Record keeping: What works for us         


Deborah's  Picture  

I used to be an avid record keeper. When my first three kids were young, I kept track of what each one did every day, every month, and every year-everything was recorded on the computer and in binders. Five additional children later, I am absolutely horrible at keeping records because there are so many of us doing life that I don't have time to get it all recorded.  


So, armed with the fact that I know I need help, I have found lots of it. Over the years I have tried all sorts of wonderful record-keeping resources for lesson plans, curriculum planning, and even menus and housework schedules. From computer software to handy calendars to three-ring binders full of blank forms, it's all out there and available. A good way to choose what works best for your family is by how much time you have for the task.  


Since my last child was born, my time has been cut to where I just throw everything in marked boxes or plastic tubs for the four younger students. Lee Binz from would call me a "tubby" record keeper (see her excellent article in the Fall 2010 issue of TOS).  


For my high-schooler, I obviously have to keep better records, so I am using the TOS High School Schoolhouse Planner, printing out pages for her to put in her own binder and pages for me to help plan her curriculum to meet her goals. I keep this on my computer desktop, and recently I printed out these for her: A Record of My Day (with spaces for what was read, movies/documentaries watched, co-ops attended, physical fitness, and more), forms for her academic goals, and a daily to-do list. I printed out a Test Preparation Checklist for myself as we prepare her for the upcoming California High School Proficiency Exam. I also printed out forms for calculating GPA, a fill-in-the-blank transcript, and a list of possible course suggestions for high school. These have all been very helpful for me in keeping a record of all her high school work and planning to help get her through to graduation.  


Now that we have talked academic record keeping, there is a kind of record keeping that we don't want to do. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love does not keep a record of wrongs. It seems to me that I am a much better record keeper of wrongs than I am of academics. There have been seasons when my focus has been solely on what's wrong with my husband or children or mother-in-law. And, after all that focus on them, it seems almost impossible to forgive such a big list of wrongs. Here is an article that I hope will help you figure out if it is truly impossible to forgive those who have wronged you.  


Keep the right records for the right reasons, and you will find peace in your heart and homeschool.  


Tracking along with you,



TOS Senior Editor 




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In place of Gena this week:

Record Keeping    

by Heidi Strawser   


My family and I live in Pennsylvania, which is considered one of the more strict states when it comes to homeschooling. In addition to having to turn in an affidavit, course of study, and list of goals before each school year begins, we also have to get our children evaluated at the end of the year (which includes turning in a portfolio of their work). Because I tend to be a paperwork perfectionist, I take the compiling of our portfolios very seriously!   


Several years ago, after trying several different styles of planners, I came to the realization that if I wanted a planner to fit my needs, I'd need to create it myself. So, I made a list of the various things that we like to keep track of throughout the school year (field trips, books read, Bible memorization, extracurricular activities, etc.) and I created forms to track these things. I also developed my own lesson plan forms. Little did I know at the time that I would be asked to develop a new planner for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine! My planning fetish came in very handy!


Are you familiar with The Schoolhouse Planner? It has grown and changed quite a bit over the past four years, but it's still very much the "planner of my passion." If you've got record keeping to do and are looking for a place to get started, this is the place! The planner comes with monthly calendars in three different formats, so you can choose the one that works best for you and your family. It's got lots of great articles for the homeschooling parent-these will help keep you encouraged throughout the year, as well as give you hints and tips for teaching various subjects, homeschooling through adversity, and even ideas for record keeping! We've got a full section of recipes, all submitted by busy homeschool moms, and forms for planning your weekly and monthly meals and grocery lists. We've also included a section of "must-know" lists for your kids.


But, my favorite part of the planner is the forms! There are two sections of forms, one for homeschooling and one for household planning. The homeschool planning forms come directly from the format I created years ago to use for my own kids. (I know they're good because I get the nicest compliments on my portfolios every year!) In addition to the forms that my partner and I created for the first edition of the planner, over the years we've polled our users for more form ideas, and this year's planner is more than 800 pages long (with more than half of that being forms)!  


My kids get a little frustrated with me sometimes because my perfectionist tendencies mean that I am a stickler for neatness (which my kids are not). So, I absolutely adore the fact that our whole line of Schoolhouse Planners are interactive (yes, I said "whole line" because we've added Student Planners for your kids to use too). If you're not familiar with interactive products, that simply means that you can type directly into the fields on your computer, so when you print out your forms, they are wonderfully neat!

Keeping good records is one of the best things you can do as a homeschool parent. And, even if you live in a state that doesn't require portfolios, I'd encourage you to consider creating them anyway. They make fabulous keepsakes for the kids. I'm a confessed former packrat (who comes from a long line of packrats), and I've learned that whatever does not go into our portfolios can be thrown away after our school year. I'm so proud of myself!   


If you'd like to learn more about our portfolios, I'd love to have you stop by my blog and read a post about them (complete with pictures). If you're interested in learning more about the Schoolhouse Planner, please check out the sample or e-mail me with any questions.

Though I feel totally inadequate to fill Gena's writing shoes, I'm thankful for the opportunity to visit with you this week and share a little about my passion for planning and record keeping. I'd love to hear about your record-keeping methods.


Happy homeschooling,
~ Heidi
Special Projects Manager



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4 Music Games in One
is our first product introduced for students studying any instrument! It includes four card games-already proven in our studios-using universal symbols, note values, rests, and time signatures. They're based on four fun card games you already know-instructions are included, of course.


Todd Wilson The Familyman
Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries

What is this? Pick topics highlighting Todd's ineptness? The truth is, I don't make lists, keep lists, organize, or . . . keep records. Well, not in the way most homeschooling moms think, anyway. Oh, I keep plenty of records, mind you, but not the unimportant ones like how they did on history tests and essays.


I keep important records of growth and maturity, like . . . love notes from my children, scribbles on scraps of paper, lost teeth, pop bottles from special outings, dirt from vacation spots, silly hats from Krispy Kreme, movie ticket stubs, artwork created from mud, sticks, and wood, and "projects" that they created with their own hands.


All these records litter my office, our house, and the top of my dresser, reminding me of what really matters. In fact, I even have a memory tree out in my yard that God made when he tore the upper half off an old oak tree. On it I nailed items that should be thrown away but that I can't seem to part with because of the "record" of my family's life.


So my advice would be to save the important "records" and don't sweat the unimportant ones. Works for me.

That concludes my ineptness for this week.


Be real,



P.S. I'll be in the Woodlands, Texas, at the THSC convention this weekend. First person to come up and say, "Howdy" gets a free "Smells Like Home" audio CD, a unique two-CD collection of smells and stories that is guaranteed to refresh your heart, reminding you of what really matters.


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It's Just Common Sense

Ruth Beechick, Curriculum Specialist 


Debbie Strayer, Homeschool Consultant 


The good news is that the record keeping needed for documenting homeschooling is generally fairly simple. The bad news is that record keeping, if ignored, can drive you crazy. As a veteran of looking at homeschoolers' records, I can say that the best records seem to be those kept most easily. Set up something that isn't overwhelming.


First, find out what your state or school requires. Don't do more than you have to do. Keep what is needed, or what it takes to show others what you've been doing with your time and effort. Include your children in the record keeping whenever possible, because record keeping is also a great form of review.


For me, the only way I could hope to keep a daily log of our homeschooling activities was to do it while we ate lunch. We enjoyed lunch, sitting together to eat before the many things that would go on in the afternoons. I kept my log near the table, not expecting to be able to find it if I moved it to some more organized spot! I would ask the children to help me remember what we did, and so they would cheerfully rattle off all that we had done, which also made me feel better about our school day.


When my children were in high school, we would take a day after each six weeks to go over our records. My children kept a log of what they did each day, with the subject areas and time spent. We would add up the hours and look at our course totals, checking to see what work remained. It was great to find out that they were close to finishing a subject that they had spent a great deal of time on, and to know what they needed to focus on more. One of my children liked to complete one or two subjects at a time, then move on to the others. With this system, we were able to keep track of progress and remaining work. Customize the system to fit your children as much as possible so that they see the encouragement of their progress as well.


When my children finished high school, we created both a transcript and a resume for each of them. The resume was a good description of work experience, sports, and service and included letters of recommendation from coaches and pastors. It was a good start on what is needed for life, but it was also a great way to sum up the amazing experiences they had as a part of homeschooling.


~ Debbie



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Contest Central  

For the month of July, 2011   


Huge Sounds Like Learning Phonics Pack

(CDs, DVD, Letter Fun Lotto, and Short Vowel Fun)


The preschool years are delightful years of discovery and play. Barbara Milne has used her experience and training in early childhood education and children's music to create many products to aid the young child in learning through music and games. She developed the Sounds Like Phonics and the Sounds Like Learning series for Discovery Toys, though some are also available at, where she sells additional products.


Fingerplays and Fun is a charming CD that contains 14 bright and cheerful songs for toddlers and preschoolers. These songs include 13 action songs and fingerplays, as well as an alphabet song. Many of the songs are traditional children's songs, but this CD also includes six original songs written by Barbara Milne, who also provides the singing voice for the music. The Fingerplays and Fun CD comes with a lyrics sheet that includes the actions for each song as well as an alphabet poster that shows both uppercase and lowercase letters with picture cues that help the child remember the letter sounds. ( . . . )


Sounds Like Learning is a musical CD designed for babies, toddlers, and preschool children. Fourteen of the 20 songs are written by Barbara Milne, who sings all the songs on the recording. The quiet, soothing songs introduce beginning learning concepts, such as opposites, counting, months of the year, and letter sounds. The CD comes with a lyrics sheet as well as a poster that introduces the alphabet and its phonemic sounds.


Sounds Like Learning can be used in the home, a daycare, or the church nursery. It provides a peaceful background for napping or playing. When I played it as background music, my 4-year-old skipped to the music and sang along with the tunes she recognized. It didn't take her long to learn the other songs, just as Mrs. Milne intended. Although the CD appealed to my younger children, my older children quickly grew tired of it. It is very gentle and soothing, which helped to keep my younger children calm during school hours. ( . . . )


Read the rest of the review on all the products in the phonics gift pack here. Win this phonics gift pack for your family!



Email Deb with your name, mailing address, and phone number for contact purposes, with the subject line "Phonics Pack" for a chance to win* this set!


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