Growing Every Day

Water of Life

Each morning (or most mornings), we start our learning with Bible Time.  I didn’t want this time to become stagnant by doing the same thing every day.  It would be easy to come together, read a chapter of the Bible, discuss, and move on.  Though we do this some days, I wanted this time to include a variety of activities that lead Builder and Princess into knowing God’s heart.  I don’t want them to only know facts about Jesus; I also want them to know His heart.

Many mornings we do read a chapter, find the places on the map, discuss what it would be like in life now.  Builder loves to look at maps and find all the places mentioned in our reading.  Princess loves to play while she listens, and truly she can tell me about what we discussed.  So, I am good with that.

Recently, my desire is that Builder and Princess know the heart of Father globally…for all people.  We have been discussing the issue of access to clean water.  We talked about going out to the puddles on the driveway to get a drink of water when they are thirsty.  Neither kid thought that was a good idea.  Then we talked about the 663 million people on the earth who don’t get to drink the clean water that we have flowing out of our sinks, water bottles, or refrigerator.

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As stated by water.org

We have discussed how clean water is a vital part of being healthy.  Discussions have taken place regarding the fact that many boys and girls have to spend most of their day traveling to and from water sources such as rivers, lakes, and ponds, to gather water for their families.  Because of this, many children are not able to attend school.  When a family, village, or town is provided with access to clean water, children no longer have to perform this duty and are more likely to be able to attend school.  Or they are at least one step closer.  Now, whether those schools have access to clean water is another part of the story.

With all of these details in mind, we have started a fundraiser.  The kids have a bowl in which they are saving money here and there.  We will be saving for this “Water of Life” project until November 1st.

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We humbly ask and invite you to participate with us in our campaign.  Our goal is $300.  After the fundraiser is complete, the company through which we are donating, charity:water, will let us know what country we have helped.  Perfect geography lesson!  charity:water is an organization supported by sponsors so that 100% of donated money goes to providing water for those in need.  If you want to check out more about this organization, click here.

To meet and/or exceed our goal we need only 30 people to give $10, or 60 people to give $5.  Any amount is appreciated in this quest.  Builder and Princess are well on their way, having saved $7 in their money bowl.  Clicking the button below will take you to our campaign page, where you can donate.  Thanks for helping Builder and Princess see the love of Jesus spread throughout the world, by taking care of those who have need of clean water.

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Organization: Routine

We are full into our second six week session.  Life has been going strong and seemingly non-stop.  I am getting tired, but onward!

The last of this organization series deals with our daily routine.  I must confess, this is the least favorite and weakest link of all of ours here at the house.  However, I have learned enough about each one of us to know that if we have no routine at least set in place, nothing gets accomplished…at all.

In the beginning of our journey, we tried having absolutely no schedule.  Didn’t work for us.  Then we moved on to scheduling using specific times such as 10:00 math, etc.  Didn’t work for us.  Next was having a routine and specific minute/hour allotments, such as 20 min for spelling.  Yeah, you can see the flaw in that.  Then we moved to a routine that has a specific order through the day, but no times confining us one way or the other.

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Bingo!  This was it.  It works for us.  Not perfectly everyday, by any means of the imagination, but it does work.  It keeps us on track and we try to follow the best we can.  Also, since there are no specific times, if we need to fit in errands between Lesson time #1 and Lesson time #2, we can sub errands for Break.  If doctors appointments, or my Ladies group take up the morning, we can simply start with Bible time in the afternoon.  A routine is very flexible in this way.

We usually get started each day between 9:00 – 9:30.  This provides a nice amount of time before lunch which ranges between 12:00 – 12:30.  So, there are some natural times built in without being locked into a specific set of times.

As is the game, things are always changing and evolving.  Knowing that we have a starting place from which to adapt, helps me a lot.

Your turn to play ~ How do you structure your days?

Organization: Rainbow Drawers

Today: Rainbow Drawers.

This is one of the simplest, as well as one of the most marvelous, tools of organization we have for our school area.  They are beneficial because it is something useful for both my kids and myself.  How we use them is pretty simple, yet very effective for us.  (To read about some of my other favorite organization tools, click here.)

For Me

The rainbow drawers serve two purposes for me.  The first helps me keep clutter off my desk (very much needed).  The second is that the drawers give me an easy, organized, presentable way to deliver those papers to my children.

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The top two drawers are for Builder to keep essentials such as notepads, slate board, spirals, etc.  Princess has the next two drawers.  The proceeding drawers are labeled by subject areas, with some drawers sharing similar subjects.  Since I use Sunday afternoon as my prep time for the week, I make sure to print and gather everything needed for each lesson/activity.  If those items were to stay on my desk, it would be a nightmare.  So, after printing and gathering, I place the materials in their designated drawer.

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For Them

Princess’s work is still very theme based, so it is difficult to split her items into subjects.  Because of this, I have been placing all her materials in the second of her pink drawers.  This has been working well, and many times she will dig into whatever sheet is next in her drawer.

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For Builder, his daily list will have an asterik beside any subject that has something printed or gathered for the lesson/activity.  As he is working through his list, he knows when to look in a drawer to complete an assignment.

For a while after we purchased the drawers, they sat empty and unused.  I tried this and that, until we found this system that is working for now.  I know this will shift and change as Princess progresses and our needs change.  As for now, this is our system, and we’re sticking to it!

Your Turn to Play – How do you organize all those pesky papers for upcoming lessons?

Well, our one week break is over.  Today is the first day of our second six week session…and both kids are sick!

This is one of those days, I feel extra glad that we homeschool.  No call to the school.  No fear of falling behind on work.  Just wake up, and let them recover without worry or stress.

Onto how I use my Daily and Weekly Sheets:

Where I Start

This is my very generic sheet for the week.  We don’t do all subjects every day and I would lose my brain trying to remember what subject on which day.  So I made a very rough sketch to show what subjects what day.  I use this as my baseline for the weekly schedule.

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Weekly Sheets

It took some trial and error to whether I was a plan by the day, week, moth, year, etc. kinda gal.  I tried it all and came down to weekly planning.  On Sunday afternoon, I take a look at where we left off last week and schedule for the upcoming week.  I only plan a Monday-Thursday schedule, because we inevitably take five days (or more) to do four planned days of work.  Music and Computer are planned for Friday, but that doesn’t always happen at this point in time.  During my Sunday planning time, I make sure to collect all resources needed for the week and to print whatever needs to be printed.  I tuck it all away in our lovely rainbow drawers.  And I am set for the week.

Divider Tabs

I have a weekly plan for Builder and a weekly plan for Princess.  I really like this set up because if the kids get interested in one subject area and want to go on to the next lesson and even the next lesson and more, that is fine.  I have all resources ready to go and I can simply check off the lessons completed.  It doesn’t matter if some of Wednesday is checked off on Monday.  Our goal is simply to complete all lessons by the end of the week.  It works the other way as well, if sick kids, doctors appointments, errands, life, etc. happen throughout the week and we are left completing some tasks on Saturday, we can simply check them off and it still works for that week.  This provides the structure and flexibility that I need.

I keep these sheets on my desk through the week and then they get filed into the front of the kid’s binder when I begin to plan for the next week.  It is also nice, that these weekly sheets filed in their folders creates a record of learning at the end of the year.

Daily Sheets

These are the sheets that Builder and Princess use daily.  They each have their own spiral.  Every night I look at my weekly plan sheet and list out what I would like to be done for the next day.  I also include their household task for the day.

At first we tried using the weekly sheet for Builder and Princess to check off their completed lessons, but it didn’t seem to work well.  The weekly sheet is a bit overwhelming to them, so I started making a daily list and it has worked much better.  It is also teaching a great life skill of list making.  My hope is that as they get older they will begin to take over the job of making their own to-do list.  We don’t keep this spiral in the binder.  Though it could be kept in the binder since it is 3-hole punched.

It is wonderful to finally find a rhythm that is working for us.  This set up paired with our daily routine has helped us accomplish much this year already.

Your Turn To Play – What have you found in your planning that works or doesn’t work so well?

To reiterate from prior posts, organization is very important to me.  I love being organized, though it is not my natural state.  While teaching in the public school system, I eventually began to see how finding organization in my classroom and routines gave me the little extra snippets of time that added up to an additional amount of time that was very beneficial.  It also helped relieve my frustration level when I could reach on my desk and find what I needed within 30-60 seconds rather than hunting for 5-10 minutes.

So, in my natural state, I started out our homeschooling journey being not too organized.  Last year I started my hunt for our best organization.  I have already shared how we have organized our school curriculum/materials (see post here).  Thanks to the wonderful world of Google, I read many a post on schoolwork organization.  After trying file boxes and hanging folders and others, it came down to a 3-ring binder system that works wonderfully for us.

The Beginning

In the front of the binder, in the pocket on the cover side, I have a progress chart.  We use the Easy Peasy curriculum for several of our subjects and I like to keep track of how we are progressing.  On the right side, I keep the weekly schedules that we have finished.  The one I am currently working on stays on my desk until the end of the week.  This also helps me keep track of our 6 week sessions and when they are coming to a close.

The Rest

Under the weekly schedules, there are dividers for each of the subjects.  Most of our core subjects we do a variant of what is on the Easy Peasy curriculum and so a lot of it is online or we are reading and having conversations about the material.  Every so often there are practice worksheets, or lab reports, book reports etc. that are printed and can be filed behind subject dividers.  I chose to use tab dividers that have pockets, that way any book projects or other work that is not conducive to 3-hole punching, I can store in the pocket dividers for that section.

The Benefits

This has been a time and space saver for us.  We do have handwriting books and a spiral in which Builder does his Life of Fred math.  I will likely have each one pick 5-10 pages of the handwriting book that they feel represents their best pages and the spiral being 3-hole punched will be able to be clipped into the binder.

All-in-all the binder system is working well for us.  I do make myself file their papers each day, but it really is not that hard to file 3-5 papers a day.  I find it is worth what it is creating.  It is organized and by the end of the year there will automatically be a portfolio of their work.  Not to mention, Builder and Princess have fun picking out their special binder for the year.

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Also, since I file my weekly schedule sheets in the front, we have a record of days taught, curriculum used, and lesson content covered.  For us, it has been a win-win.

Your Turn to Play –  How do you organize schoolwork?

Organization: Cubbies

Organization is a big deal to me.  It seems I am either organized, or extremely not organized.  So, when it came to schooling at home, I started out in my natural state of not organized.  It did not take me long to realize that I needed to remedy this situation.  After thinking on it for a while, and perusing many a homeschooling and organizational blog, I decided upon cubbies.

I have seen people do the larger 4 x 4 unit, but with only the two kiddos and the space we had, I opted for a 3 x 3 set of cubbies and this works well for us.  Here is a breakdown of how we have organized our cubbies.  (Disclaimer: There was no cleaning before I took the snapshot of our cubbies, so you get dust, a bit of clutter, and all in the pics!!!)

Top Row

The top left and top right cubbies are Builder’s and Princess’s cubbies respectively.  This is where they keep their currently used workbooks, textbooks, Bible, and other resources such as lap books we are completing.  The cubby in the middle is for my teacher guides and other curriculum.

Top Row

Middle Row

The middle row is a sort of hodge podge.  The far left cubby has resources: some former units that are still fun to play with, book resources we have used but the kiddos still find interesting.  The middle cubby is used for crayons and markers (which are not present at this time), glue, dot markers, glitter tubes, scissors, rulers, etc.  The far right cubby is a place for tape, pencil sharpener, clipboards (which are placed in the magazine holder I put on its side), and a few of the fun already used resources that didn’t fit in the left-hand cubby.

Middle Row

Bottom Row

The bottom row is also a resource row.  The far left fabric bin holds our construction paper.  I used hanging files and sorted out the colors to make it easier for Builder and Princess to pick out the colors they want.  It has worked well.  The middle cubby holds our sensory bin materials (or most of them).  The far right bin houses our manipulatives.  This has also worked well, because these things tend to be so hard to organize and being able to simply toss them in the bin and then let the kids rummage when they want or need to use them has been great.  And it looks nice to boot.

Bottom Row

Well, these are our wondrous cubbies – the hub of our school day.

Your Turn to Play – Tell me, what is your favorite organizational tip?

We have been “officially” homeschooling for two years now.  This being what I consider my second-and-a-half year (because I just don’t really know if I can count that first year!).  Anywho, we are starting the fifth week of this year’s schooling and I am beginning to see/feel a rhythm developing (insert angel choir).

In light of this, and thinking over some key elements, I want to share with you 7 items that I use daily and I believe are crucial players in our new found rhythm.  The following will be a list and brief description of my most used items in our homeschool.  The next two or three posts will go into a little more detail in how we use each item.

Cubbies

Oh my wonderful cubbies.  We have a huge lack of storage in our house and so it was important to me to be able to have our school supplies relatively contained.  This piece of furniture allows us to house Builder’s and Princess’s supplies, my teacher guides, and basic school supplies such as crayons, glue, markers, construction paper, math manipulative, pencil sharpener, etc.  (To find out more details about how I use the cubbies, click here.)

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3-Ring Binder and Hole Punch

Yes, these are two very common items that have revolutionized our homeschool lives.  All (or a good representation of) the kids work goes into these binders according to subject.  Each day, I have a time to file any work that goes in for that day.  Not all of our lessons result in paper work, but that which does gives us a great cross-section of work at the end of the year.  This also serves as our portfolio for the year.  (To find out more details about how I use the 3-ring binders, click here.)

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Weekly Plan Sheet and Daily Spiral

The first is a weekly plan sheet for myself.  This helps me keep straight the plan for the week (understanding we have flexibility in this).  However, having a plan ahead of time has helped me stay focused.  The second is a daily spiral for Builder and Princess.  This lets them know the items they need to work toward completing for the day.  Both kiddos love to check off lists, so this works well for them.  (To find out more details about how I use the weekly/daily sheets, click here.)

Rainbow Drawers

I am not sold on the workmanship of these drawers.  They are a little more rickety than expected, but they are priceless in our organization department.  Hindsight, I could probably accomplish the same thing with a paper sorter, though it is fun to have the bright colors in our space.  Overall, they made it into the top seven of my favorite items.  (To find out more details about how I use the rainbow drawers, click here.)

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Routine

Our routine.  This has just come along this year.  More about our routine will be described in a later post, but for now it suffices to say that in finding a routine, life has been made a little easier.  This is not tied to specific times during the day, but a repeating order for each school day.  Again, life happens…doctor appointments, library runs, errands.  What I have found is that we can step out and back in to the routine fairly easily. (To find out more details about our routine, click here.)

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That’s it!  My favorite daily homeschool items.  I hope this may have helped you, as others have helped me find our rhythm.  Stay tuned for following posts describing in more detail how I use these items in my daily dance.

What are some of your favorite homeschool or classroom organizational items?

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