Earlier this spring, I mindlessly grabbed two plain white binders to start organizing the girls’ homeschool years. Little did I know that it would steal the show of every Facebook post I’ve made since! I’ve had several people ask about its contents, so, without further ado, here’s a peek inside my planning binder for Ru’s kindergarten year!
Hopefully, it lives up to the hype (it won’t!). If you’re interested in peeking inside Lu’s preschool planning binder too, let me know in the comments!
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Why I Chose a Binder and Spreadsheet
I frequently see homeschool parents posting in Facebook groups in search of the best teacher planner for their upcoming year. And I almost always comment “Use a spreadsheet instead!” I’m sure those parents are like “[eyeroll emoji]”, because that’s not what they asked and I keep suggesting it anyway.
The truth is that I’m a planner junkie though. I mean, I even have an Instagram dedicated to my planner and hand lettering hobby. I love writing out my plans by hand and decorating them. It’s practically meditative.
But when I was a classroom teacher, I went through several different styles and brands of planners trying to find the right fit. I didn’t just want some lined boxes to scribble notes into. I wanted a system to help me organize the year!
During my time in the classroom, I was blessed with an amazing teaching partner who wanted to work together to coordinate our classes’ entire school years. In the past, each classroom in our grade level had worked completely independent of each other. At one of our first planning meetings, the Pacing Guide spreadsheet was born!
I loved having all of my lesson plans saved in one place, especially because it was digital and easy to edit when plans changed (like a hurricane or ice storm rolling through and closing school for several days).
Although I was tempted by all of the cute teacher planners that exist now, I knew that this method worked really well for me. With all the other unknowns of our first homeschool year that “counts”, I wanted something that I knew would work.
Inside My Planning Binder Organization
Originally, I had planned to use the front pocket to store the current week’s work in. I found that stuff just won’t stay put with all the moving this binder does though! I also found that I like the clean aesthetic of opening the binder and just seeing open white space. I’m basically including this to say – make sure your front pocket is snug enough to hold things in place, before planning to use it as a regular storage spot!
Dividers and Sheet Protectors
I really like using sheet protectors, instead of hole punching each page. It means that I can slip worksheets in and out and rarely have to open the whole binder to add or switch something out.
If you plan to use sheet protectors and still divide up your sections, be aware that standard dividers won’t be wide enough. You can either order wider dividers or do what I did. I just bought Post-It tabs to stick directly on my sheet protectors. This method turned out to have a couple of added bonuses too. Now, I can move the tabs around and make my own divider pages, including a table of contents on the backside of my Records section divider! I also like that I could place my tabs on the top, so they don’t stick out and get banged up when I take our binder on the go!
I have a total of seven divided sections inside my planning binder: Standards, Records, Assessments, and then one for all four quarters. I’ll break down what’s inside each section below!
I print most of my binder’s contents directly from my spreadsheet. I’m working on an entire post dedicated to the spreadsheet, which I’ll post soon and will include a free downloadable blank copy!
Section One: Standards
Like I said in a previous post, I know that many homeschool families choose not to follow their state standards. However, it’s important to our family and the guideposts for how we planned our year.
The first section of the binder is a printed copy of our state standards for each subject. I highlighted each standard in one of four colors, which correspond to the Quarter that they’ll be mastered in. You’ll read more about that below!
Section Two: Records
This section is where I keep all of our important records inside my planning binder. Although we aren’t required to report most of this to the state, it’s still important to me that I keep track of my girls’ education with the same level of detail that I did my students in my classroom.
Some of the things included in this section are:
– A copy of our registration letter from the state
– Attendance records to show that we schooled for at least 180 days
– Copies of any classes or extracurricular activities that we do outside of our regular school work (for instance, her Summer Reading program tracker from the library)
– Past quarters’ grade books and standards checklists will be moved to this section at the end of each quarter
Section Three: Assessments
During the planning process, I started looking for kindergarten assessments that I could use throughout the year. I knew that I wanted it to be comprehensive, but I also didn’t want it to read like a test.
After combing through Pinterest, I decided to just make my own (notice a theme?). It’s a six page assessment that covers all of the kindergarten standards. I created separate tools for her to use and I mark up my own copy. The only page she actually sees or touches is the writing page!
Before we started the school year, I gave her the assessment as a baseline. It was helpful to know where she was already excelling and where we really needed to focus our attention. I plan to give the assessment at the end of each quarter, so we can see progress and also monitor retention.
The assessment isn’t all given in one sitting or even in one day. I broke it up into short pieces over the course of several days. I don’t want it to assess her endurance, just her knowledge!
Let me know if you’re interested in seeing more of the assessment. Maybe it’ll be one of my next posts!
Section Four – Seven: Quarterly Lesson Planning
My grade book is very simple. There’s a section for each subject, with a line with the date, an assignment description, and a grade. I am using an E/S/U scale like many kindergarten classrooms.
How Each Quarter is Organized
Each quarter has its own divided section, with the following documents for each quarter:
– Pacing Guide
– Standards checklist (to record the date that a standard was taught and when it was mastered)
– Grade book
While her grades don’t “matter”, this is still useful data for me. If I notice a string of S or U grades, I can evaluate what’s going on there. For instance, if they’re all a certain kind of activity, I can conclude that it’s not a good learning method for her and change course. Or if they’re all a certain topic, I can conclude that we may need to circle back and gain more understanding of the subject. Or maybe they’re all around a certain date and something else was going on, outside of our school work. No matter what, I’ll take all the insight I can get into how she learns and what she truly understands!
How Weekly Lesson Plans are Organized
Behind the quarter-specific documents, there is a weekly plans section. As I finish each week’s lesson plans (usually in one month chunks), I print them and stick them in.
Each week has the following, in three sheet protectors:
– Weekly Lesson Plan sheet (you can read more about it in this post)
– Worksheets/printables/activities for the week (all together in one sheet protector)
– Completed worksheets/printables/activities for the week (all together in one sheet protector)
Although future months and quarters don’t have detailed plans included yet, I still know what topics will be covered because of my Pacing Guide. I added extra sheet protectors to each Quarter section, so I can start sliding in activities and worksheets that I find. I don’t trust myself to remember where I saw or saved them, if I don’t add them right away!
Many homeschool families put together portfolios to showcase their children’s school year. However, this binder will actually already be a complete and detailed portfolio, like a time capsule showing exactly what we did all year. It won’t just include completed work, but also all of our other records.
So, there it is. The inside of my planning binder. Let me know what you think in the comments! I’d love to see examples of how other homeschoolers plan their years too!