Independent Notebooks

independent binder

“Help!” I cry as I struggle to free myself from all of the lesson planning, late night hours, juggling trying to teach three children on three different academic levels, running out of time in a school day, three little people looking at me wondering what to do next, day in and day out and somewhere in the distance, I see light. It is a light that tells me there is hope; something other than what I am experiencing now. Once it became clear; an answer. It was such a simple idea and one I knew I had to implement in our school.

I found Carrie’s blogLive, Learn, and Love Together – through the blog hop at Heart of the Matter. She is so much like me – or I like her – a little anal (she admits), a list maker (also loves checking things off), and enjoys homeschooling (can’t imagine it any other way). Well, she prompted that “light-bulb” moment for me.

Even before school started, I knew my biggest challenge this year was going to be figuring out how to keep two (and sometimes three) people busy with schoolwork, not with busy work, while I either worked with another child or completed some other daily-mommy/homemaker duty. I have been forever putting this same schedule on a spreadsheet (can’t get enough of Excel), but finally moved the idea to a school sheet that the children could use and follow themselves. Voila! The Independent binder.

There is nothing more to say (but I will anyway) other than it has been a success with the children and a burden/stress reliever for me. I have set up River and Lily using the independent binders with River having a little bit more independent work included in his binder because of his ability to complete more work alone . As the year progresses, I expect to be able to add a few more subjects to Lily’s binder.

independent binder

How I use the binder is I plan the material to be covered each week in all of their subjects. Some of the subjects included in the binders are also ones I cover with them, but there is other work in these subjects they can complete on their own, and that is what goes into the binder. Using the daily listings as a guide, I put together all of the material that will be used in the binder for the week. Although I do this, I still fill the binders everyday for each subject. Right now, our work is too daily specific where working ahead does not work well for us.

folders for an independent binder

I found these really cool plastic folders at an office supply store. Each folder has three pockets of only two we use for now.

independent binders

They also easily pop out of the binders without me having to open the binder rings and pull out the folder. I can slip in a new subject folder at anytime or easily remove one we don’t need for the day or the week. For now, I just leave it empty if there is no work for them in that subject for the day.

Once they finish the work, they return the assignment to the folder and check off that it is completed. Sometime throughout the day, I go through and check everything that they have completed. Any work that needs correction is placed back in their binders in the front flap pocket of the binder for them to correct the same day or they know to check it first the following day. They check that flap everyday before starting their independent work for the new day.

Our days have been running more smoothly. River and Lily often start their independent binders before our school day officially starts. At the beginning of each week (usually Sunday night), I go over anything that they might have questions about (ex: I cover River’s vocabulary words with him).

The remainder of their work that they complete with me is put into a separate binder (which I may share about later). I give them access to both binders, but only one is for them to work independently. Since they can see the work in both binders, this has eliminated the continuous questioning from them of how much more work needs to be done before “I’m FINISHED!”

So far, this is working well for us. Along with them feeling a sense of accomplishment when they finish their binders, it also warms my “home school heart” when I see them sitting quietly doing their work without any prompting. One for mommy!

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7 Responses to “Independent Notebooks”

  • Comment from Dee

    What a great idea! We’ve been homeschooling just a short time, but I find things run much more smoothly if I plan and prep ahead of time. I have been putting the kids daily assignments out the night before with sticky notes, but I like your system much, much better.

    I started w/the sticky notes, but realized w/my busy bunch that we would probably spend more time trying to figure out which note belonged to what lesson after they’d gotten removed from the lessons and all mixed up. Prepping really does help. The “direction sheet” in the independent binder has been a great way to also keep track of their work (like an outlined cover sheet) for each week. I do keep a spread sheet, but that has all of my “mess” on it and these sheets are detailed enough for them and more organized. If I ever need to share them w/the outside – government administrators, etc. – or use for my records, then they are a great resource to have available.

  • Comment from Tiffany

    How do you plan for the year? I spent about a month before we began our year in May planning on paper/computer. However the day to day implemenation of said plan does not always follow my plan. I also have a hard time incorporating my two soon to be three year old. Part of me wants to just let my two year old play. But he really wants to be apart of “school” so I have to have something. Anyway I guess I need to spend some more time prepping for him. At one point I was taking time of Friday to prepare for the upcoming week. But since my dad passed I have not settled into a new routine.

    I’m going to E-mail you.

  • Comment from Carrie

    Wow! I’m so glad you took the idea and ran with it! It’s great to hear that it is working for you, too! Your checklist pages look so professional! :)


    I do appreciate the jump-start you gave me. The notebooks have made our school days flow easier. I love them!

  • Comment from Kelly

    I did something like this as well! I planned for the year and did check off sheets for my daughters.
    I made a block chart for her to check off each subject for each day.



    Good job planning for the year. I do well w/just the week to week planning. I took a look at some of the planning you do; very detailed and organized. I will have to visit again to read through some of your other posts. I’m currently reading through ‘Planning for the Year’. I like to see how other mommies put it all together.

  • I like the individual binder idea. Thanks so much for linking up today!! I’m in the process of streamlining my lesson planning checklist with a modified workbox (ours will be a workcrate) system with folders inside. I appreciated your thoughtful comment on my planning post today. I think I felt the need to step it up a notch with the planning because I do need to be more serious.

    Thanks again!


  • Comment from Mary

    Do you make up the worksheets yourself? Just curious – I like that they aren’t part of a workbook.


    I do make up the worksheets myself. I actually revised them for our new school year to help my older two be a little more independent in completing a few of their subjects. They also now have a better idea of every subject they need to cover to complete school. I’ll be sharing the new sheet soon.

    Mary recently posted..What "Classical Eclectic" Looks Like at Our House

  • This looks really great! I’m going to be doing something similar to your independent binders, but ours is also meant to be on the go since we do a lot of car schooling.


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