Reflecting & refining: Lessons learned in 2012

Written by contributor Hillary Boucher

The last few months flew by and we’ve had a lot of fun homeschooling. With our oldest children being eight and five it feels like we’ve come into our own as homeschoolers. Since we’ve never done this before we are continuously feeling things out, learning ourselves and always ready to celebrate when we find comfortable pockets of happy learning and living together.

Looking back I see a few things that contributed to finding our homeschooling rhythm these past few months.

Organize, organize, organize!

I’m not an inherently organized person. But years as a mom have taken their toll and I’m happy to report I’ve learned how to be pretty organized. Everything flows much smoother when I’m not only on top of things, but ahead of the game. This past year of homeschooling has been our best and I definitely think it’s due to the fact that we’re better organized for it.

For general, whole life organizing (which definitely helps free up time and head space for homeschooling) I am a big fan of David Allen’s system, Getting Things Done. And even better yet, I came across this system from The Power of Moms which adapts David Allen’s system for moms. It’s awesome.*

When organizing specifically for homeschooling we do two things. First, while we’re creating our yearly IHIP (Individualized Home Instruction Plan) required by New York State, we take the opportunity to map out themes, ideas and goals in Cozi.

We love how both my husband and I can login individually and use the calendar to map out programs, general themes and set up reminders for specific activities. There’s even a handy app that helps make all our info accessible for both of us.

Track your progress

We keep this really simple — a small moleskin notebook that stays in the homeschool cubby with any current materials we’re working with. We date the entry and add what’s been worked on.


1) Practiced piano 15 minutes
-Ode to Joy
-Jingle Bells

2) McRuffy Language Arts lesson 15 & 16
3) Life of Fred: Apples Lesson 5 & 6 (nailed counting by 5’s!)
4) Set off the paper mache volcano (pictures on Cozi)

This is especially important to us because my husband and I share the responsibility of homeschooling. I love being able to sit down and see that my son has worked on lesson 16 with dad and I can pick up where they left off. Sometimes we include notes or certain accomplishments.

Don’t overbook (or schedule plenty of time to be home)

Two years ago we welcomed a new baby in to the family and we were really careful *not* to overbook. That was a mistake because we ended up with a very bored six-year-old. He was under-stimulated that year and often turned to instigating trouble and acting out.

Then we swung in the other direction and signed him up for too much. Every day we were driving him somewhere and much of our day was spent packing lunches, getting him ready and driving.

Now we shoot for *just* right. We try to have two days a week where he doesn’t need to be anywhere. He really looks forward to his programs and classes, but we also appreciate and take advantage of the time at home.

Looking forward to 2013

We’re really looking forward to 2013. My husband is home full time with the kids during the winter and we have more dedicated time to spend on focused learning and following through with projects and interests.

Now that we’ve settled into homeschooling and found a rhythm that works for us I’d like to explore more project-based homeschooling and expand on my children’s interests and curiosities.

Cheers to 2013!

* I am not affiliated with any of the programs or platforms mentioned. They are just tools I’ve found helpful for organizing and homeschooling.

What goals do you have for homeschooling for in 2013?

About Hillary

Hillary feels lucky to be able to work full-time from home and shares the homeschooling responsibilities with her partner. Together, with a little creativity, a full schedule and a lot of love, they facilitate the education of their three adorable, and sometimes very loud, children.


  1. My kiddo is only in preschool but we plan to homeschool and we’re “homeschooling” preschool. One of my goals for 2013 is to get into a rhythm that works for us without worrying what anyone else thinks about it (i.e. “preschool” will look a lot like life-learning around here).
    Steph’s latest post: Want, Need, Wear, Read: How we do Christmas Presents

  2. This is our first “official” year of homeschooling, and we have been having a great time! I have realized that my youngest needs a few more things to do while we are doing readings for my oldest. And I haven’t quite figured out what I should be saving for a portfolio, luckily I still have a couple years before I need to worry about actually completing one 🙂 Great resources, thank you for sharing them!
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  3. Could you maybe go into more detail about how you use Cozi in this process? We already use it for appointments, grocery lists, etc., but if I could have a way to help my husband be involved in homeschool planning, I would be a happy camper.
    Beth’s latest post: Not Back to School Blog Hop: Curriculum Week 2nd and PK3/4

    • No problem! We use the calendar and have played with using lists to organize our homeschool efforts. I created a calendar and put in the skeleton of our week (regular classes, programs, etc). Then identifying bigger gaps in the day which would be opportune for some focused learning and exploring and made sure some basic reminders and inspirations were in there. So for example, Monday is an at home day so we add in events with reminders during the morning and afternoon to remind my husband to incorporate a letter recognition game for our kindergartner and alphabet drills (part of a language arts curriculum we’re using) for our 2nd grader. We usually block out a more involved project (like building a paper mache volcano, etc) on the weekend when both parents are home to assist with childcare and project assistance.
      At first I just identified recurring blocks as placeholders. For example: Monday from 10am-12pm is an open block for an activity, game or project. I have that set up for every Monday indefinitely. Then on Sunday night we sit down and customize the week’s events according to what we are learning, the current curriculum and interests of the moment.
      Hope that helps. Feel free to ask clarifying questions.
      Hillary’s latest post: Why I Chose Midwives (Video)

  4. I would also love more details on how you use Cozi. Thanks for the recommendation, I just signed up!
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  5. My goal for the new year is to have my 8th and 7th graders take more responsibility for the paperwork….slowly and surely
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s latest post: Christmastime Confessions from Priest’s Wife

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