Monday, May 9, 2011

Unschool Record-Keeping

Our state requires very little record-keeping of homeschoolers; we have to record attendance (!) and preserve (but not report) the results of a yearly nationally administered standardized test of our choosing.  That's it.  I'd like, however, to keep more extensive track of what N. is learning.  This blog is one way to do that, along with reading lists and paper files of his number and writing exercises.  But I wanted a daily record too.  During N.'s kindergarten year, Tim experimented with keeping a log of the day's activities, topics of conversation, and ideas explored in a running Word document but his standards for this were too high and it quickly became a burden to craft a daily narrative report each evening; the log was abandoned.  We needed to come up with a simple and efficient method.  

We don't organize the day's activities by traditional academic subjects because we like to stress the interconnected nature of learning, that one learning experience can encompass history, math, reading, social studies, etc., so the homeschool record notebooks you can buy with subject categories wouldn't work for us.  I liked Melissa Wiley's "Rule of Six" as a way of thinking categorically about a day's learning without being bound by arbitrary academic subject distinctions so in September I made up a notebook (above picture, left) of pages with five categories cribbed from Melissa: "Meaningful Work, Imaginative Play, Living Books, Ideas to Ponder and Discuss, Encounters With Beauty."  Tim dutifully wrote in the notebook every day, so it was successful in the sense that it actually got used.  But he chafed at the categories, which sounded cool (to me) but did not organically arise from our family rhythms.  So in January I gave up on that format and offered a small, plain notebook instead; now he happily makes a quick daily list (above picture, right) without any fancy categories.  For example:
Wed. April 27, 2011
  • Chapter in Madame Curie, "Four Years in a Shed" about the isolation of radium
  • drawing
  • writing sentences about the Curies
  • reading aloud
  • Proper and common nouns discussed and demonstrated
  • tornado warnings -- talked about twisters
  • piano practice
  • long walk
The moral of the story is: simple is better (for us), and other people's systems, neat though they are, are just that -- other people's.


    mouseprints said...

    This is my speed of record keeping.
    Our state insists on attendance, too, which baffles me.

    Fanny Harville said...

    I am amused that I managed to write a whole post out of the fact that my husband jots a quick list in a blank notebook each day.

    growingflowers said...

    We do this too - occasionally. It is often the focus of my blog. I try to keep track on the blog. I'm glad you wrote again. Because I just discovered your blog, I am waiting for your next posts.
    (Our state has no guidelines at all!)

    Jessica said...

    I (unfortunately) live in Pennsylvania. I homeschool under the "Private Tutor Law," which falls under the Compulsory Attendance Law.

    As a "private tutor" I am required only to notify my school district that my son is being tutored by a certified instructor (me) and I must submit a PA Criminal Child Abuse Clearance. Yes, to "tutor" my own child.

    The law lists "subjects" the tutor must teach: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art.

    There are no specifics given as to how many years or how long or how...I like it that way. :)

    Since PA does not require any sort of reporting until the child is 8 years old, we're under the radar right now. I use the blog to record much of what we do. I think I'll try using Homeschool Tracker when the time comes but it seems so absurd, doesn't it? I hate trying to narrow down each little thing we do and plug it into a specific "subject."

    I love Melissa Wiley--isn't she brilliant? :)