As a Third Option homeschooler, parents are required by law to keep records. One record you are required to keep is "a plan book, diary, or other record indicating subjects taught and activities in which the student and parent-teacher engage" (Third Option Law). So, just what should that look like?
Luckily, the law is not specific, and you can choose a record keeping plan that works for you. Many homeschoolers are told that they must keep a 3-ring binder of all their student's records. This is a wonderful way to keep track of each year, however, it is not the only way to accomplish record keeping. The law says a plan book, diary, or other. The word "other" allows many options for creative lesson planning.
Here are samples of what TSCHAA families are using for lesson plans. Thank you so much to all the TSCHAA members who sent in pictures or offered ideas for lesson planning.
One option is to keep a plan book similar to a public/private school teacher. Many homeschool companies sell plan books that are made just for homeschoolers. A plan book could look like this:
Some families choose to just use a spiral notebook and list out what they plan to do each day. When my girls were in elementary school, my lessons looked like this:
Note that the above method is tracking the date school was conducted and what day out of 180 the student is on. Including your number of days can help you keep up with the year and know when you have met the 180-day requirement.
If you do not track your attendance in your lesson plan, then you can use a simple calendar to mark days that you conduct school, or you can use something similar to the free resources from My Joy-Filled Life. Subscribers get free printable record keeping sheets that include an attendance tracker.
Another example of using a spiral notebook is below.
Some families prefer to keep digital copies of their lesson plans. HomeschoolSkedTrack.com is highly recommended by several TSCHAA families. This site is free, and it keeps track of days, lessons, field trips, and allows you to print progress reports. (Semi-annual progress reports are another requirement of the Third-Option Law.)
FiveJ's Gradebook is similar to HomeschoolSkedTrack. It is a free downloadable program that helps you track grades, field trips, reading logs, attendance, course sheets, course lists, and extra-curricular activities. This program can be used in Open Office, which is also a free download.
Applecore is another online record keeping service that offers both free and paid subscriptions.
Another option for digital record keeping is Google Calendar. One cool feature with Google Calendar is that you can have a separate calendar for each student, and it can be shared online. You can also access it on any device. You can find an example of how to use Google Calendar here.
You can also use the lesson plans that come with your curriculum and just put the date next to each lesson. A TSCHAA member shared that she made a copy of the table of contents of her curriculum and marked each lesson with the date and day out of 180 to track lessons and attendance.
As my girls got older, I started using school charts. I created them in Google Docs and shared the document with them online using the share option. They can either print it out or access it online. They mark off each assignment as they complete it. This option helps my girls work independently and gives me a record of lesson plans and the number of school days out of 180 they have completed. (For math, I keep a copy of the table of contents of their math book to show what they learn because we move through the book at their own pace. I don't always write the exact pages/topics on their charts.)
Some families are unschoolers, and they do not plan out each week. For those families, they can use any of the above methods, but they just enter their learning after the fact. An example of keeping lesson plans for unschoolers can be found on The SC Homeschooling Connection.
Another fun way to keep up with what you are covering in your homeschool is through pictures. You can create a meaningful keepsake by snapping photos and arranging them in online albums or even physical photo albums. This method can prove very useful for unschoolers that don't plan out their days.
My family has kept a web page that showcases what my girls are doing in their homeschool since we began homeschooling so many years ago. Many of the pictures show field trips, science experiments, and other learning experiences. Here are some shots of our web page from when the girls were in elementary school.
One recommended printable resource is Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus. You can print a wonderful planner to use for your record keeping purposes. Donna Young also has a similar planner available to print. The planner below is printed from Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus.
As you can see there are many options for your lesson plans. The goal is to document the learning that is taking place in your homeschool. Whatever method you choose, remember that you are required by law to keep a record of what your students are learning in your homeschool.