Recordkeeping All Year Long. {Free Homeschool Templates}

Warning: Homeschool post ahead.

I am not the most organized person. Based on my personality profile, I should be, but organization is the first thing that goes when life gets busy.

And life has been busy since approximately…2008.

However. One thing that I do stay on top of is our homeschool recordkeeping. I have several reasons for this departure from my status quo of laziness:

1. It gives me something to do to keep my impatience at bay when Ali is working on a particularly arduous worksheet. It’s either that or ferocious doodling, something in which I often also take part.

2. It helps me see how much we’ve accomplished through the day, week, and year.

3. It’s good accountability – after all, I’m accepting the responsibility of educating my child. What the crap am I thinking??

4. I can see when we get ahead. And when we get ahead, we get to take Fridays off.

When we started first grade, I couldn’t find a recordkeeping book that I liked, so I created my own on Excel. I’ve been using my template for two years now, and have continued to tweak it each week. I’ve also shared it with many people who have then edited it for their own needs, so it’s basically the Sisterhood of the Traveling Spreadsheet by now.

Free Homeschool Recordkeeping Template Downloadsclick image to download

Here’s how my highly objective system of homeschool recordkeeping works:

1. I write the work as we do it – NOT in advance. I don’t like crossing things out, and as I said, it gives me something to busy myself with while Ali actually does the work.

2. Ten “credits” counts as a second grade school day (I counted 8 credits as a school day in first grade). If we do double the work in a particular subject in one day, then it counts as 2 credits.

3. If we were especially aggressive and earned 50 or more credits by Thursday, then we get to skip school on Friday. We usually still do a little school on those days, but don’t stress about getting an entire day in.

4. Most importantly, I get to give myself a sticker for each credit earned. In rainbow order.

Free Homeschool Recordkeeping Template Downloads

Did my dedication to rainbow-order stickering fall off by the end of the year? Absolutely. But did I keep on keeping on with keeping up with my records? You bet.

Free Homeschool Recordkeeping Template Downloads

This seems like a weird time to bring up recordkeeping, what with school just getting out and all, but I do it now for a reason: I have added Summer recordkeeping this year.

Free Summer School Credit Recordkeeping Templateclick to download

In Alabama, you don’t have to be a legal homeschool student until second grade. As such, this past year was our first year to have to “count days” – i.e., school for a particular number of full school days.

We do not school all year, but the nature of our lives tends to swing toward the educational side, even in the summertime. Plus, I’ve decided to get Ali to do one lesson of math each morning during the summer to keep her brain from getting sloshy.

(Yes, that’s a verifiable school-child condition.)

Fortunately, her math curriculum came with an entire book of review sheets that we didn’t need during the school year, so we started the review book from the lesson we left off at and are going backwards. This seems weird to Ali. This seems perfectly logical to me.

BJU Math 3

By keeping up with our summer school log, we can count the things we do this summer as school days toward next school year. Not so that we can slack off next year, but so that we aren’t as stressed about getting our required 165-175 of days, and we can take off a few extra days around Christmas and other holidays.

Plus, I won’t feel guilty about the fact that I want to have a proper 1950’s summer and not start actual school until Labor Day.

Our school log will not look this busy all summer, especially since the kids are about to get a ten day break from me, but we had a busy first week…

Free Summer School Credit Recordkeeping Template

I, for one, find this extra bit of paperwork highly worthwhile – especially since by doing it, our summer can be just a little bit longer.

Click here to download the template for both sheets.

The Consignment Report.

I’m a hoarder by default.

It’s not that I want to be a hoarder – I want more than anything to get rid of tons of stuff in an efficient manner and live a less cluttery life.

Well, more than anything…except for using my time to do anything but that. I always have too much going on to get around to it.

And so, the clutter builds up and builds up until it becomes a health hazard.

Such was the state of our kid’s clothing collection.

At first, I could use the excuse that we might have more offspring. But once we went through with The Vasectomy, that reason became invalid.

Then, the reason was because my sister-in-law and I had thoroughly swapped our collections (I got all her boy stuff and she got all my girl stuff), and it was going to be too much trouble to de-sort. That excuse lasted a delightfully long time. But finally, we forced ourselves to Mom Up and unsort eight years of kid’s clothes.

Then there was the decision of how best to get rid of it all. I began experimenting, very scientifically, to find the best method – combining easiness with decent return. I’ve mentioned my efforts a few times over the past six months, and I promised many of you a full report of my findings.

Besides donating my clothes, which I have done as well, there were two avenues that I actually attempted – I’m sure there are a lot more options out there, but these were the ones that seemed most reasonable to me:

1. ThredUp
2. Kids Market (Local option but you probably have one of these, too.)

Because of the timing of my initial cleanout (Kids Market only occurs twice a year), I started with ThredUp.

In short, ThredUp is a web-based consignment shop. They send you a giant shipping bag (postage pre-paid), and you send it back containing your clothes. They pay you upfront what they decide each item is worth, then they sell it on the website.

I already had a bag I’d ordered two years ago that I’d never actually used (because I don’t make time for this stuff.) Their policies are simple to follow: wash your clothes, put them in the bag, and drop it off at FedEx. They sort, throw out or donate what they don’t want, and then deposit your payment immediately into your PayPal account.

The catch is that they’re VERY particular about brand names, and those preferences sometimes change. They accept Osh Kosh but not Carters – and also not Osh Kosh’s Target brand. They accept Gap but not Old Navy, Gymboree but not Children’s Place.

I found it difficult at first to sort through the brands and figure out what they did and didn’t take, but once I got the ones I frequent memorized, it wasn’t hard. Then I realized that I could sell a lot of my clothes that didn’t fit anymore, and I got more excited. (They accept women’s and kid’s clothes and accessories – no men’s items.)

I sent a bag back holding about 20 items of mine and the kid’s old clothes, and waited excitedly. And waited. Turns out that Alabama is a seriously long way from California when shipped by the most economical shipping (which I can’t complain about since ThredUp covers the shipping.)

Finally, my bag arrived and I waited another week to see my payout. My first bag landed me $43.69. I was pretty thrilled – it wasn’t much per item, but everything I had put in that bag was stuff that neither I nor the children would ever wear again, and I had done virtually no work to prepare it to be sold, so nearly $50 upfront for clutter seemed like a good deal.

I hurriedly sent two more bags in, both of which netted about the same as the first one.

Which is when I started to get blood-thirsty.

Which was my mistake.

I went through my closet more closely, looking for stuff I probably wouldn’t wear again. And I even culled my jeans collection, something I hold very dear to my heart. I even sent them two diaper bags, after checking for their brand names, thinking that this would be the best payout yet.

But of course it was that bag that got a grumpy sorter. One who decided that all of those items that had been difficult for me to part with were worthless – two pairs of designer jeans, two expensive diaper bags, and several other really nice items.

I realized I was more attached to my stuff than I thought when I found out that these items had been thrown out or donated. I considered crying. Instead, I emailed back and forth to plead my case, and finally got escalated to a manager who approved a credit for what I said the items had been worth. It took a while and I learned my lesson: only send stuff to ThredUp that you’re not attached to. Treat it, as I did with my first three bags, as a way to get rid of clutter and make a little extra cash on the side. If you do that, you’ll be happy. If you try to start making money with ThredUp, you’ll likely get disappointed at some point.

Final Report: I sent in 5 bags, each bag containing approximately 20-30 items, and was paid a total of $301.84. Not bad at all for nearly zero work, and I will definitely do it again.

My next experiment was Kids Market. This is a local consignment monstrosity that is highly organized and well-entrenched into the Mommy Circles in which I run. I have multiple friends who volunteer to work 20 hours at this sale – JUST to get the privilege of shopping first.

Crazy. Right?

But apparently if you’re the first shopper you get to buy up all the things from the inexperienced sellers that undervalue their goods. They swear it’s worth it.

As opposed to ThredUp, you set your own prices for Kid’s Market, and you get to keep 2/3 of the selling price – which is a pretty hefty percentage. Unlike ThredUp, you get paid afterwards and only if the items sell. You can choose whether to pick up your leftovers after the sale or donate them. Since the main purpose of this adventure was to de-clutter, I chose the donate option.

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The catch is, it’s a LOT of work. I won’t rehash it since I already blogged about it here, but it involves washing, printing barcodes, pinning, grouping, writing description / color / brand / size for each item, taping, bleeding from all the pinning, and other such sorts of often painful activities. And then when you arrive to drop off your items, you have to sort them all yourself in the giant SuperCenter that is Kid’s Market.

Pro Tip: Take an energetic child with you on delivery day. Do NOT take an impatient toddler.

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My expert friends gave me pricing advice, bundling advice (they recommended bundling my clothes into outfits and sets as often as possible, even sets such as “four pairs of pajamas”), and hanging advice (do NOT pin all your clothes facing the wrong direction), and in the end I spent about 10-15 hours preparing my clothes for Kid’s Market.

Final Report: I put 167 bundles of items in the sale – I have no idea how many individual items, but it was A LOT. I priced on the high side of the recommendations, thinking that they’d at least sell on the half off days if I priced too high. Of my 167 items, only 87 sold. If everything I’d put in the sale had sold before the half off days, I had the potential earning of $796. My actual earnings were $357.67.

(And yes. I made a spreadsheet. Just for you guys. And for me. Because I live for spreadsheets.)

Kids Market

(The $59 item that sold was a baby swing, in case you’re wondering – unlike ThredUp, Kid’s Market takes all manner of baby equipment, kid’s games, video games, and more.)

As you can see, I should have priced a bunch of $6 items for perhaps $4, and maybe some $5 items for $3. But ultimately, I still cleaned out a massive load of clothes, so that does make me happy.

However, the work involved in preparing all of those clothes to depart from my house was not, in my opinion, worth the output. So I either need to get better at pricing, or just donate, take a chunky tax write-off, and be done with it all.

What are your tips for getting rid of kid’s clothes?

Moms Need Retreats.

A couple of months ago, my husband gave me an assignment. He demanded that I plan a trip for the moms in our small group. He also made the suggestion that changed everything.

“Pick a date. You’re going no matter what. And whoever can join you, great.”

…Because we’ve tried this before, and it’s never worked. At least once a year, all of us mothers start talking about how very much we need to get away, and dream about a beach trip. Or a mountain trip. Or whatever, as long as no one is asking us to wipe their butt or pour their juice or fix their Lego creation for the fifth time in five minutes.

(Because we love our children. Very much. And to be able to love one’s children very much, one must escape from said children. Regularly.)

But anyway. Every other time we start planning, we start by suggesting weekends until we run out of weekends, and never is there ever a weekend that we’re all available. So Chris’ suggestion of “If this is just you, great. If it’s everyone, great. Just plan it and see who can come” was brilliant.

And it totally worked. Because six out of nine of the moms were able to make it work.

IMG_3350l-r: Kristin, me, Nikki, Kelly, Anne, and Ashley.

See these happy shiny faces? These Mommies are all loving their kids better this week – because they left for the weekend.

(We were super sad that the other three moms couldn’t go, but as soon as I got back, Chris told me he’d “obligated” me that morning at church to plan a make-up trip for the others, and for any other moms who wanted/needed a repeat.)

I headed north early on Friday so that I could get us set up in our rental house and get a run in before our weekend of laziness kicked in. But it rained on me all the way, so I felt magnetically drawn to stop at Noccalula Falls in Gadsden on the way up – to see what it looked like at overflow levels.

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For comparison, this was the same waterfall last August:

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It was totally worth getting my feet sloshy-wet to see.

It was still raining when I arrived at our destination, Gorham’s Bluff, and the moisture made the view of Lake Guntersville eerily steamy.

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I ran while I waited on the other moms to arrive, and managed to scare a herd of deer and a rabbit with my apparently intimidating presence (either that or they don’t approve of leggings as pants, either.)

I highly enjoyed the beautiful views,

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which was good, because as soon as it quit raining, everything became completely enshrouded in fog. The valley was white nothingness, and the lodge immediately looked like the setting for a murder mystery, just like the first time Chris and I visited.

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When the other moms arrived, they didn’t even believe me that there was a valley beneath the clouds. We spent the evening chatting and doing nothing, just as all moms dream of doing every evening.

The next morning, the fog was still there, and they still doubted my stories of views and valleys. We biked and walked around the property, disappearing and reappearing in the fog, all feeling very much like we had just entered into a Hollywood thriller, and we were going to start being picked off one by one any minute.

Foggy Bicycle Riding

It was deliciously exciting.

Bicycling into the fog

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Then, right as we were about to leave for a small road trip (literally – I was driving away), the fog lifted. Everyone jumped out of my car and eagerly ran to the edge of the ridge to see what was below.

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And they believed me at last. Redemption felt fantastic.

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Then we continued on. They had all read my stories of Unclaimed Baggage, and wanted to experience it for themselves. And let me tell you – six moms loose in that store with no kids nagging to leave is a mighty force.

Besides almost all of us finding things we actually bought and loved, we also discovered some very special garments.

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The review happening here was, “Eight dollars for the best night of my life? Yes ma’am!”

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We texted pictures to our husbands, knowing full well we were making their weirdest dreams come true.

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And then we found the shoes.

Oh, the shoes that people pack to fly on a plane. WHERE are these people going? HOW do they have such good balance? And WHAT do they do to make it through security without their footwear being declared a weapon?

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It took Ashley a full five minutes to get into these shoes, and she could not let go of the rack, but the effect was totally worth it.

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Nikki’s were an iridescent purple/green magical color-changing shoe – totally meant to be worn in a production of Wicked.

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And when Kristin, the tallest member of our group, put on her selected pair,

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We knew it was time for a photo op with Ashley, the shortest member of the group.

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Because it was the Mommy version of Shaq and Kevin Hart.

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We went back to Gorham’s Bluff and soaked in the majesty of our surroundings.

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We found their waterfall,

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The Old Lady Arm Tree,

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And the best place to hang off the mountain and watch the storms in the distance.

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…which is when Kelly and Kristin spotted it.

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A blue van in the bottom of the ravine.

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We all clamored to the edge to get a better view, all while postulating wildly about how it arrived at its destination.

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Was it a high school kid’s prank?

Someone who got lost in the fog?

A victim of the North Alabama Mafia?

WHAT. HAPPENED.

I of all people cannot let a mystery lie, so I asked the innkeeper later, after one of our beautiful meals.

She said, “A blue van? We don’t know about a blue van. There’s a really old car somewhere else down there…but it’s not a blue van. I guess I’ll be needing to call the Sheriff’s department…”

My eyes widened. I schemed as to how I could stay indefinitely at the fog-covered inn to write my first True Crime novel. Or if I could rappel off the mountain and discover the secrets for myself.

The other moms peacefully wiled away the afternoon reading, gazing, and talking, while my brain paced back and forth in my head, trying to solve The Mystery of The Blue Van.

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Which I didn’t do. Yet. But you better believe I returned to the scene of the crime at sunset – just to make sure nothing had changed.

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On Sunday before I left, I took a final bike ride, and I made a last round of photography before I left,

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and then I drove back home, back to real life – and, back to a tornado.

And that’s why Moms need retreats. Because our lives are often a tornado – sometimes literally, but most of the time figuratively.