Agile Homeschool Update

Last year, I wrote about how we use an agile approach for homeschool. Since then, we’ve refined our approach. This school year, we updated our board to reflect some of those changes.

Agile Homeschool Board 1

Agile Homeschool Board 2

A few things to note about our board:

  1. We have a Scheduled swim lane at the top for calendar items that will affect how much other schoolwork we can plan in a day. Usually music lessons, bike practice, and field trips end up here. These cards don’t move, they just help everyone avoid overcommitting.
  2. There’s a swimlane for things that need to be done together. In the morning, everyone will agree when to do this. When our boys were younger, this swimlane was much more full. These days, work is more independent.
  3. The remaining four swimlanes are for individual work. My wife, Dawn, and each of our three boys have their own lanes. Each day, they pull from two input queue columns—the one for the day, which is work that has to be done that day, and the Anytime column, which is work that just needs to happen sometime that week.
  4. Though we don’t call it out on the board, we have a WIP limit of 1 per person on Doing.
  5. In the individual swimlanes, color indicates policy and work item type. Pink cards can go straight to Done. Yellow cards need to go to Ready for Review. Dawn or I will review the work and either move it to Done or add a corrections sticky to the original sticky and move it back into an input queue. Orange cards are chores rather than schoolwork.

Every Friday afternoon, we plan for the next week and refill the board. This takes a little while, so we’ve made the board so it hangs on hooks in the laundry room and can be moved. That way, we can plan somewhere more comfortable.

The core of the board is still the standard Planned → In Progress → Done workflow, but we’ve added variations that allow us to make better decisions about what to do at any particular moment.

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  1. Love it Richard. I wish I had been more diligent about this when my kids were younger. We used a backlog to build a house but didn’t even think of a task board way back then. The cool thing though, when my older daughter went off to college she texted me a picture of her Scrum Board and post-its on her window.

  2. Hi Richard,
    Love your posting. The big challenge in my house is to get a buy in from my wife to follow this. Nonetheless i keep trying to convince and also used it for 2 event planning and execution successfully but then it got dropped and i need to revive it again.
    Would love to hear an update from you on how it ha been going for your family in last few years?

    1. Thanks for the comment, Sumit. You’re right, we’re due for another update. We’re still going strong with this, but things look somewhat different now with 2 of our boys well into high school, so an update might be useful to others with older kids.

      1. Hi Richard, I’d love an update as well if you can find the time. Starting this fall I’ll have two homeschooled kids in high school, part of it at home and part dual-enrollment in a local community college, so our average week has changed dramatically from the elementary/middle school days.

        1. Hi DK,

          We experienced a lot of change in our life with our older two boys getting into high school, too (seniors next year!). However, not a whole lot changed with respect to our use of agile for coordinating school and chores, so there’s not much of an update to provide that would be relevant to our average reader here. Probably the only significant change is how much they manage the content on the board themselves now, especially for courses that we’re not running ourselves.

  3. Hi Richard, I am a retired Agile Scrum Master and Coach. My wife and I have 5 young children, ages 3-12, and have decided to home-school due to Covid-19. I had thought of using Agile and Kanban as well, so I was very interested to see your website and posting. Any updates since it is now 2020? In retrospect, any advice? We are considering an more open home-schooling approach rather than a strict curriculum to leverage their interests and talents, but I have concerns regarding college entry requirements. Appreciate your thoughts. Thank you, Dan Gormley

    1. Hi, Dan. Looks like you found our post from earlier this year, which has some retrospective advice.

      There was definitely a tension between letting our boys follow their interests and ensuring we ended up with a transcript that makes sense to colleges. For our youngest, who’s currently a high school junior, we made a target transcript during his freshman year to get a sense of how much room he had to explore and still cover the essentials for the colleges he’s interested in. So far, that seems better than trying to reverse engineer a transcript from a non-traditional curriculum.