Four months ago I implemented a school cards system for our homeschool. It’s a system that I developed in order to meet our family’s academic needs. I’m loving this system because school is getting done and the children are in charge of their own school. I love helping them foster independence and having them learn personal responsibilities. So, what is this school cards system?
To start, I make a list of all the subjects and activities each student needs to accomplish on any given day. Next, I make cards for each subject or activity. Each student has a stack of cards that he must go through everyday. All the cards, printed in each child’s preferred color, start in the front slot of an organizer I made out of a cardboard box and duct tape. When a subject or activity is completed, the student puts that specific card in the back slot. When all the cards are placed in the back slot, it means the child has completed all the work for that day. Once that’s done, the student earns a sticker. All the cards get put in the front slot again for the next day.
Children going through their cards determining what activities to do next:
As an example of what I have on these cards, my fifth grader’s cards include the following:
Physical education: Jumping Jacks (100), push-ups (20), leg lifts (50), twisters (20), jump rope (100), sit-ups (10)
Academics: Math, McCall/Crabb reading tests, science, Chinese, writing, typing, Bible copywork, grammar, Life of Fred, history, Flashmaster (math flash cards), Latin
Arts: Piano, Online art lesson with Mark Kistler
Misc: Reading with his younger sister, personal reading
Depending on the child’s ability, I adjust the number of repetitions for each PE exercise. With this system I can easily add a card or take out a card when the need arises. All the cards consist of independent work and work that require my help. I work with one child at a time and while I’m teaching one, the rest of them are to do the work that don’t require my help. Eventually every child completes both the independent and student/teacher work each day. As life would have it, I don’t always get to finish all the student/teacher work with each child. When this happens, the child’s work is considered completed for the day if and only all of his independent work is completed. I will not fault them for not completing the work that I’m unable to do with them. So, the student receives a sticker for that day. This is quite freeing for me as a teacher. There were days where I didn’t feel particularly motivated, or I felt ill, or something unexpected happened. I can easily declare all the student/teacher work done and the children may happily place a sticker for their independent work. Subjects such as Latin, science, history, and writing are only done every other day or every two days while the rest of the subjects are done on a daily basis.
I also developed a reward system for all the stickers the student earn. For every four stickers earned, the student may redeem it for twenty minutes of video game time. They may choose to redeem their twenty minutes immediately or they can wait to accrue another four stickers and redeem forty minutes. The maximum redemption is 80 minutes. Another rule is that they may only redeem their stickers after they have completed all their school work and chores. This way we won’t run into conflict of interest. They can happily play their game uninterrupted. After testing this system out for four months, I’m still very happy with it. I no longer have to ask each child what he/she needs to do. I used to have to rattle off a list of work that each child has to complete for the day. I got confused myself and so did the kids. All the school work they needed to do were lodged deep in my brain and they weren’t clear about what they needed to do. Now everyone is on the same page. If a child is goofing off, he/she can’t claim that they have completed all their work when I can clearly see that they haven’t cleared all their cards for the day.
The top row of stickers corresponding with Matthew’s name is crossed off, which indicates he has redeemed his stickers.
Along the way, I added bonus stickers to reward hard work. When a student completes a full curriculum, i.e. Saxon Math 1, he gets four stickers. Finishing a whole grade of subject is a big accomplishment and I want to recognize their perseverance through it all. These bonus stickers motivate them and help them plug away each day.
PE time! Some push-ups, jumping jacks, and leg lifts.