Growing Every Day

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.

Photo Aug 08, 9 12 33 AM

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.)

Photo Aug 08, 9 11 19 AM

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.)

Photo Aug 08, 9 12 33 AM

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.

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.

Photo Aug 08, 11 41 27 AM

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.

Photo Aug 08, 9 10 35 AM

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?

Hieroglyphs

For our first 6 week block, we are studying Ancient Egypt.  It has been fun looking at the pyramids in Giza, the Sphinx (and discovering its mythological roots).  Of course for my code loving Builder, looking at and exploring ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs has been a blast.hieroglyphics-429863_1280

We have been using a lapbook, which is not my favorite, but we are adding some fun activities to enhance the straight-forward learning of facts.  Upon starting to look at the hieroglyphics on such pieces as the Rosetta stone and from pyramids and tombs, I wanted Builder to be able to try it out himself.  The trouble here is that writing is not his favorite and drawing pictures probably less.  That is why I went on the hunt for a website that would allow him to experience writing in hieroglyphs and what I found was so much fun, I wanted to share it with you.

Over at discoveringegypt.com, a great resource, they have a fun Qwerty style hieroglyph keyboard (click here to try it out).  If this is something you are studying (or even if you are not), you have to give it a try.  Builder and Princess, both spent at least 40 minutes experimenting with words, names, and generally having fun with the symbols.  It was actually quite beneficial, since they could each interact with the keyboard at their own level of word knowledge.

What will your name look like in hieroglyphs?

School Starts

We as humans never stop learning, however, with that said, we do take a break in our formal training in knowledge.  Yep, we have come to the close of our six weeks off during the summer.

We are currently in the third week of our 2016-2017 school year.  Princess is now in Kindergarten and Builder is in 2nd grade.  Though grades get a little in the gray area when speaking of learning, knowledge, skills in the homeschool arena.  I like to have them in “grades” according to how many years we have been “officially doing school”, or where they would be roughly according to age in public school.  It just seems to help them answer those inevitable questions from friends, acquaintances, relatives…”What grade are you in?”  I have also found that it has helped Builder feel a sense of accomplishment to achieve a new “grade”.

The primary reason for this post is to share with you, and record as memory for myself, our first day of school this year.  Last year was actually our second year to do a first day of school celebration and I saw it solidify some and morph a little this year.

Here’s how it went:

Donuts

Yep, those wonderfully scrumptious (low cost) goodies.  My kids love to go to the donut shop.  This year, my hubby took the day off to join in our first day celebration and I hope that will be a new tradition for the long haul.Photo Jul 11, 9 58 46 AM

 

School Supplies

These two must truly be my kids because I think they could have shopped for supplies for hours.  They LOVE new school/organizational supplies as much as I do!  We controlled ourselves and bought only that which was essential to start the year.  That way we can come back after public school starts and grab some other items at the really great bargains.

Photo Jul 20, 9 10 32 AM

They each get to choose a special binder for the year.

School Year Shirt

For the past two years, the kids have been able to pick one “special school shirt” for the new school year.  This is the shirt they take a picture in at the beginning of the school year.

Lunch and All About Me

After our treasure hunt for supplies and a shirt, the next stop was home for a break and some lunch.  After lunch, I had the kids fill out an All About Me sheet that I found over at Yellow Bliss Road.  Then Daddy took their beginning of the year school pics.All-About-Me-Free-Printables

Playground and Sno-Cones

After pics, we talked about what special thing we wanted to go and do.  The kids had been dying to go to one of their favorite playgrounds, which we hadn’t had a chance to visit for a long while.  So the rest of the afternoon was spent at one of their favorite playgrounds and then a trip for sno-cones afterward.

Success

It was a great day.  Our goal this year was to celebrate our new beginning to the year, but we also had a very real need to keep it a low cost day.  Though the clothing part got a little more expensive than I had wanted (something to take note and remedy next year).  Overall, a very fun-filled celebration of our first day of school.  Looking forward to the next ten or eleven of them!

Rainy Day

Why do I continue to look for the perfect curriculum?  To me it is like the brass ring on a merry-go-round.  I can’t seem to stop reaching for it!  I know that each curriculum has its pros and cons.  Even in my philosophy of education, I believe that no one curriculum is right for everyone.

So why am I still looking!?!?

Recently, we have found the free home curriculum Easy Peasy over at http://www.allinonehomeschool.com.  And you know, I really like it.  We have been using it for three weeks now and it seems to fit really well into what we are doing.

But…

Now, as we go, Builder needs to move on in math.  Princess needs to skip a whole week!  Yeesh.  And I find myself doing the eclectic thing by bringing in the science, spelling, and handwriting that I want and feel is right for Builder.

Yes…

I need to remind myself that truly, I know what is right for my kids.  Deep down, I know if they are challenged, bored, or struggling.  I know if they need to move on, slow down, or speed up.  Or even, just take a break.  It is ok, to pull in this, push out that, and start over again if need be.  It’s ok to jump full force into a sunny day and play outside or go to the park instead of getting all tasks done.  And vice versa, it’s ok on a sunny day to get done what we need to.

In point, this schooling at home thing is far more fluid than what I am used to and comfortable with.  The lessons I learn each and everyday, match or far exceed what my kiddos are learning.  Or maybe, just maybe, they are learning with me and from my mistakes and successes.

Lord, lead me, lead them, lead us.


On a lighter note, springtime is on us in full force.  So, to go along with that oh so sweet sound of rain, we are giving our hands a try at making our own raindrop display.  I’m thinking this may spin off into a full blown water cycle unit.  We shall see.

Here is the project I found over at www.pre-kpages.com:

raindrop suncatchers fine motor for preschool

For full instructions and pictures to boot, click here or on the link above.  What follows are my abbreviated instructions:

  1.  Find a handful of blue crayons.  They can be all the same blue, or different shades of blue.
  2. Peel the papers (great fine-motor skill).
  3. Sharpen crayons over a medium to large piece of wax paper.  Until the wax paper has a good sprinkling of wax shavings.
  4. Place an equal size piece of wax paper on top and iron on the lowest setting.  It only takes a quick moment to melt wax.  Let cool.
  5. Draw raindrop shapes on the wax paper and cut.
  6. Use a hole punch and string to tie onto your raindrops and display.

I will update with pictures once our raindrops are proudly displayed.  I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

Handwriting Happiness

Wow, life has taken a jump to hyper speed recently!  It can be amazing how fast each day goes and before you know it months have gone by.  I like writing more lengthy detailed posts, but for the time being I may simply be popping up some great resources and short updates of what we are doing, here in our little schoolhouse.

I do want to invite you to follow my The Learning Leaf facebook page.  Facebook is where I will be posting most of the resources and activities that we are doing daily/weekly.  It is a wealth of information whether you homeschool, teach public school, or have littles at home.

Today’s share is this fun FREE gem that I found via pinterest.  It was created by Lacey Yates (find her blog here) and is housed on her store at www.teacherspayteachers.com.

Handwriting is a focus write now for my Princess.  She has most letters down, but a few still need some work.  She enjoyed this simple, yet rich page of activities.  She loves to color, and the uppercase/lowercase practice is much appreciated by her momma.  These sheets are long enough to get a good amount of practice, but short enough that she doesn’t lose interest.

Handwriting clip

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