Personal Development

How a To-Do List Can Be a Homeschoolers Secret Weapon

by Therusticfive-

Two Sunday’s ago, we talked about goal setting, so today I want to talk about another powerful tool for our homeschoolers… the to-do list.
So why a to-do list?
To-do lists with Title of article

To-do lists help us stay productive and focused on our goals. It helps us prioritize our day. This is true for even our natural learners.

The Key Elements to the List

Child-led List

The most important element to a natural learning to-do list is that it is the child’s list. It needs to be based on how they want to prioritize their day and what they want to accomplish. When it’s an adult imposed list, there is no ownership for the child. It may not contain things that are truly important to them which can cause avoidance or other negative behaviors. This means you as the parent need to be open to what your child puts on their list.

The littlest ones will need guidance. If they are verbal enough, ask them what they want to do. If they aren’t that verbal yet like our 17 month old, then simply include things you know they like on their to do list. For example, Scout loves building with blocks, reading books with us, coloring, playing outside, etc. These are some of the items I include on her to-do list.

Consistent Time 

Another key element is making sure to write their to-do list at a consistent time each day. Some people like me prefer to do them the night before. It helps ease my anxiety at night which helps me sleep better. Others prefer to do them in the morning as part of their daily routine. You may want to try both for about a week or so to see which is best for your child. Then be sure to stick with the routine.

Review the List

Be sure to review the list several times a day. If you wrote the night before, go over it at the start of the day as part of your morning routine. The children can cross items off the list as they complete them and then look to see what is next on their list. I recommend reviewing the list at least 3 times, once in the morning, once at lunch time, and once at dinner.

Keep the List Small

The size of the list will vary for each child. Keep it simple. Children can’t realistically do 100 things in the day, so be sure to help guide them to narrow down their list. Vice versa, older children may need more than two items on their lists. Again, the number will depend on the age, maturity, and level of comfort with to-do lists for each child.

*If you are in the beginning stages of using to-do lists, remember it’s more about teaching the process than it is actually using the list.


I like to add a nighttime reflection with the kiddos. What went well on the list? What didn’t go so well? Was there something they should have included on the list but didn’t? Was there something they should have not included with their list?

The self-reflection helps them to truly learn how to use a to-do list with items that are a priority. It also helps them to see what is important to them and not so important. Along with what needs to be done vs. what they want to do instead.

What should a homeschoolers to-do list include?

This completely depends on the child and their interests. However, here is a list of some ideas…

  1. Chores
  2. Outdoor Time
  3. Play Time
  4. Painting
  5. Play Dough Play
  6. Minecraft Time
  7. Book Time
  8. Time with Mom or Dad Alone
  9. Trip to the Library
  10. Research a Topic
  11. Build with Legos
  12. Go for Hike

What Type of To-Do List Works Best?

Well again, this is completely dependent on the child and what works best for them. There are many ways to do a to-do list.

Paper-Pencil List

There’s the good ole paper-pencil list. Sometimes people including children need to physically write it down to help them think.

*Some kiddos especially younger ones might draw pictures instead of writing down the words. Whatever works best for them!


There are many apps available via phones or tablets. You and your homeschooler will just have to try different ones until you find the one that works best for them.


Planners are another great place to keep to do lists handy. Planners allow them to keep track of important dates, their goals and their to-do lists.

*If you need documentation of your child’s learning, a planner with daily to-do lists, goals, and dates would be a great resource to either use or look back through when you are compiling your documentation.

Over all, To-do lists are a great tool for children to learn to use to keep them productive and motivated. It also helps them to learn how to prioritize.  They can be used by any kiddo including traditional homeschoolers, unschoolers, and even children in a school system. Just remember giving your child the lead whether you agree with their to-do list or not is what will be key to them truly learning the importance to a to-do list.

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I’m Melissa Dow, M.ED. I am a wife, mama of 2 and a bonus mama of 1. A former public school educator with 7 years of experience in both special education and general education who is on a new journey to help parents guide their children to uncover their true passions in order to find their life purpose. I love spending time out in nature whether hiking, running, camping, canoeing or just playing in our backyard (aka our outdoor classroom). I also enjoy reading, learning new things, organic gardening and creating our a simple life.

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  1. workingmommyabroad

    This is so interesting, I always wonder what a homeschooling day looks like

    16 . 01 . 2017
  2. Esther

    As a former homeschooler, I can attest that to-do-lists are a must. The day can get away from you so easily if you don’t have a plan.

    16 . 01 . 2017
  3. HideTheChocolate

    Daily task list that I generate from Homeschool Tracker have saved me from insanity. To do lists are great!

    16 . 01 . 2017
  4. theforeverteacher

    As a former teacher…. I could not agree with you more!! I would make the list the day before and made the list with my students. It gave them a sense of ownership and they knew 100% what we were doing for the day

    16 . 01 . 2017
  5. Dearlyndsey

    I love this idea. Do you do the list along with what they have planned school wise for that day?

    16 . 01 . 2017
  6. susanhomeschooling

    I love to-do lists. They really help me stay on task!

    17 . 01 . 2017
  7. Therusticfive

    I only homeschool my toddler, so a lot of her to do list is free play which is her learning time. My step son includes his reading time and chores on his, but he doesn’t have any school work to complete when he’s with us.

    17 . 01 . 2017
  8. Branson Merrill

    My 6yo loves to make lists… for himself, for me, for his dad… to do lists for all! LOL!

    17 . 01 . 2017
  9. sally (@lovestalgia)

    This is awesome! I do some homeschool activities with my daughter but we are not that organized and it’s not very formal. I’m still debating whether to homeschool her or send her to school.

    17 . 01 . 2017
  10. Kim S

    Love this! I just write everything in my planner and keep my planner visible and in front of me all day

    17 . 01 . 2017
  11. Amanda Wells

    What a great idea to include fun activities and breaks on their to-do list! Thanks!

    17 . 01 . 2017
  12. Catherine

    I have kept to-do lists and planners since I was in high school. Love them! They help keep me on track and motivate me to have all those boxes checked by the end of the day. As homeschoolers I have made plans for our days and even posted them for the kids to see, but I love the idea of including the kids into what they want to accomplish each day. Thanks for the tip, my brain is already buzzing with how to get this working in our house. 🙂

    21 . 01 . 2017
  13. Meagan

    This is such a great idea. I may need to start this with my two.

    23 . 01 . 2017

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