This week’s post is by Guest Blogger Joanne Woolf, Valley Oaks Homeschool Parent  featuring tips on: organization, online lesson planning, and thematic instruction.

 1-I don’t do well with a traditional planner.

I use Pinterest to map out my year. I create one board for each reporting period (RP) and it is thematic and includes both Language Arts and Social Studies, then I create another board for the Science topic covered during that RP. It ties in with the SS theme as well, but it is easier to organize them separately. I let my child explore the boards as we begin each unit, and she can follow links as she desires.

Lesson Plans on Pinterest


2-Organizing and planning are super important.

How to organize?? Workboxes are too labor intensive for me as they need to be refilled each night, and each drawer is over half empty, which seems like a waste.

Here is my adapted “workbox” method: As we begin each reporting period, I pre-fill all of my subject drawers with books, hands-on activity descriptions, worksheets, etc. Drawers are labeled Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, Computer Science, Silent Reading, and Spanish/Latin. On Sunday night, I fill the week’s drawers (These are labeled M-F ), pulling items from the subject drawers. Outside activities are printed on notecards. I impose a limit of 5-6 items per day. Each day, the contents of that day’s drawer are placed into a “work basket”, and as the work is completed, it is placed in the “completed basket”. At the end of the day, I evaluate the work and put it back into the completed basket. I take index card scheduled weekly activities and put them back in that day’s drawer for the next week. At the end of the RP, I only need to take the completed basket and type up my notes.

This method helps me to plan my week, and acknowledge all activities each day, so I don’t over-schedule my child. This is the only way I can be sure to have time for playing outdoors and finishing at a decent time. Violin lesson or violin practice are included in each day’s drawer, as are Math. Dance Classes, play practice, doctor appointments, etc. are all counted toward the 5-6 item per day limit. If it is an out of town appointment, we adapt much of our work to things we can do in the car and/or waiting room.

“Adapted” Workboxes


3-I need lots of file cabinet and shelf space.

I try to do a lot more electronically, but I still need to store lots of books. I pick up most of them used, but I do collect a lot of them, as I dislike the library’s limited hours and I like to have them on hand to plan and review.

Book Storage

4-The home school “room” is for storing stuff.

No matter how awesome I make our “classroom” or how cool my kid’s desk is, the couch always wins for doing schoolwork, unless the weather is nice (then we go outside under the plum tree). We use clipboards. The desks are used for “playing school”.

Homeschool Room Storage

5- My child is getting what she needs.

I am no longer anxious about not following the grid or not doing what is done in the traditional classroom. My undergraduate degree is in teaching, and so for a long time I was trying to make homeschooling into traditional school at home. It’s not, and I don’t think it should be. Thematic teaching makes the world our classroom, and we are able to continually reinforce concepts. We are learning what is important and what is interesting to my child. Her experiences are rich and we have the freedom to do things like learning computer programming and reading lots of great books. She gets a taste of the traditional classroom at her charter school enrichment classes and her weekly art class. She has several hours of dance instruction every week and a weekly violin lesson. Homeschooling isn’t making her socially awkward (Our lack of cable television would probably contribute to that more than homeschooling!) and she is able to have a great relationship with her much younger brother, since they spend so much time together. Homeschooling gave her lots of time to work on her Science Fair project, which earned her 1st place at her school and 3rd place at the Regional Fair. When I used to work, we talked a lot about things being urgent vs. important. By writing our own curriculum and going at my daughter’s pace, we try to make everything we do important and valuable. Busy work is replaced with meaningful experiences. It’s a lot of work, but we love what we do!