Using spiral notebooks in your homeschool as assignment books for your children will save you time and help foster independence.
You sleepily meander into your homeschool room, stifling a yawn as the familiar scent of coffee wafts from your cup. Your children are writing vigorously in their science notebooks. You glance at the clock, pondering how long you were asleep, to see it’s only 8:30 AM.
Does this sound like a dream? There’s no way your kids would be starting their school day before you beckoned them 12 times, right?
Your kids absolutely can begin their school day without you needing to inform them what to do and when. You won’t even need a magic wand, genie, or a drill sergeant!
All you need is a 25 cent spiral notebook.
I know what you’re thinking. A 25 cent spiral notebook will have my kids working on their schoolwork before I’ve even had my first sip of coffee? That’s crazy talk! Have you met my kids?!
It’s true, though. Now, of course, it’s not the notebook itself that makes the difference, but what you do with it.
How can spiral notebooks in your homeschool foster independence?
A spiral notebook cultivates independence in your children when used as an assignment book. The concept is simple. In the evening, you write down each child’s assignments for the following day in their notebook. Then in the morning, the child will read through the list and start their work.
I’ve read about this idea on various blogs for a few years now, first hearing about it by Sarah MacKenzie over at Read Aloud Revival, and everyone puts their own little tweak on the concept. Some moms will add chores along with assignments. Others make their assignment notebooks into more of a bullet journal.
I use our assignment notebooks a little differently:
- I write the date at the top of the page.
- Then I write all of the assignments down the page.
- I add a star to the assignments that the child can do on their own, and leave the ones they need to do with me without a star.
The star is the most important element of the notebook. It encourages independence, allowing the child to see everything they have to do for the day.
Seeing how much starred work they have helps my kids determine how early they want to start their school day. If they have a lot to do independently, they often choose to begin their work before we begin our Group Time. Otherwise, they’ll wait until our group work is done.
Occasionally I’ll also use the notebooks to write notes to my boys at the bottom of the page. I’ll remind them if we have anything special going on that day or if there’s a test coming up they’ll want to start studying for. I also use the notebooks to praise good effort I’ve noticed, or to remind them of laziness in work I’ve seen.
Where do the assignments come from?
I use a teacher planner for myself when I plan out my homeschool year. With the week’s plan completed, it’s very easy to simply transfer the information to each child’s assignment notebook every evening. It takes me just a few minutes per child.
Will writing down the assignments everyday take a lot of time?
Using the spiral notebooks consistently will actually save you time and your kids will get more done.
I remember before I started using this technique, some days we wouldn’t get started until mid-morning because I was busy with something. My kids would need to wait until I was free to get our day going, which usually ended up wasting even more time as I redirected them into school mode.
In addition, how many times are you working with one child while another one sits and waits because they are done with their work? But they can’t start anything else because they don’t know what to do.
My kids can easily see what to move onto next by checking their assignment notebook, especially since I put a star next to the individual work. They also know if all of their starred work is done, they can read quietly or play with their younger brother until I’m ready to work with them.
Less learning time is wasted waiting around for mom with the use of assignment notebooks.
Why use spiral notebooks in your homeschool?
You may be wondering if there is something special about the spiral notebook itself. How is using a spiral notebook different than writing the assignments on the computer or on a dry erase board?
Some who use this method choose the spiral notebook because it helps them better remember what they’ve assigned. In addition, others write it down as a good visual for exactly how much work they are assigning.
However, I like using the spiral notebooks because of cost. I buy a lot of spiral notebooks in the late summer when they are around 25 cents. I can’t print off assignment sheets cheaper than that. Plus, a notebook keeps all of the papers together, not on the floor where they would inevitably end up. I don’t have enough space on our dry erase board for all of the kids’ assignments. And right now my kids don’t have computers for their use, so leaving it on a computer isn’t an option.
Additional strategies to make the notebooks more effective.
- Write down the next day’s assignments as soon as the work for the current day is checked. I’ve forgotten many times to write down the assignments until I was heading to bed. I am more likely to remember to write the assignments down when I am still in school mode, not after the dinner rush and relaxing in the evening.
- Use each child’s pen color from your color coding to write the assignments. By doing this, you can easily see at a glance who the book belongs to when it’s open.
- Make sure the notebooks go in the same place everyday. This helps your homeschool materials stay organized. Your child will be able to go to the same place every morning and get started on their assignments. What’s the point of fostering independence with the notebooks if your child has to constantly ask you where they are?!
- Give the notebooks double duty. For example, my boys write their answers to the day’s Life of Fred problems in their assignment book. You could also let them use the back of the page as scrap paper for their math problems.
Using spiral notebooks in your homeschool as assignment books is such a simple, yet effective tool to save time, foster independence, and help keep your homeschool organized. Plus you can finish that cup of coffee knowing that your homeschool is moving right along. Even without a drill sergeant. What a great value for a quarter!