Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘organization’

Bottoms, Bellies, and Bins

Yeah, kind of a strange title.  Let me explain…

In the past 2-3 weeks, I have seen a huge improvement of Builder and Princess settling down to do their morning work.  Morning is when we largely focus on our math and word work.  I believe three things have contributed to this increase in productivity, and decrease in whining/complaining about getting started with schoolwork.

#1 – a table

Photo Feb 16, 12 52 51 PM

This sounds simple and obvious, but in our house we did not have a place we could all gather and work on things at the same time.  At least, we didn’t have a place relatively workable for all of us.  We could sit at the kitchen table, but that was really too high for the kids to work comfortably.  So, we purchased what is called an activity table.  One day, I pictured us all sitting around a table at their sitting height.  I loved this idea and did some research.  I knew this was an investment I was willing to make in our homeschool and found a basic 2′ x 4′ school table.  The table’s height is adjustable up to a normal desk height which allows it to grow with us through the years.  Builder and Princess just know that when it is school time, we gather together at the “oak table”,  as Builder likes to call it, and get to work.  Having a work space at their own height, I believe, is key.

#2 – a snack

This little key was found quite by accident, which I notice is how many things come to be.  We had breakfast early one day, so as we were sitting down at our new school table I asked if the kids wanted a snack.  Of course, they did.  Lo and behold, they sat eating their snack and then were ready to move on to work since they were already sitting and poised, ready for action.  This is what we have done for the last couple of weeks.  When it is time to transition to school, we move to the table, have a snack, and get to work.  Sometimes they finish their snack before getting started.  Sometimes they start working while eating.  Either way, this mama is happy.

#3 – student bins

Photo Mar 07, 12 21 57 PM (1)

This is something that has helped me and the kids.  We have designated a rainbow drawer for each child.  Any printed material, manipulatives, glue sticks, etc. that may be needed for work that day is placed in the bin and set on the table for the beginning of school time.  This helps me keep accountable as well as helping Builder and Princess see the scope of what needs to be done for the day.  It also helps them know how close they are to finishing, and I think that has helped overall.  If it is not a printed material, a sticky note can be placed in the bin and thrown away once the activity is completed.  When their work is finished, they place it on my desk.  When their bin is empty they can put it back in the rainbow drawer stacker.

So there you have it…a place for bottoms, something in their bellies, bins for the days work.  Three very small things that have made a big difference in our school day.

Your Turn to Play ~ What is one of your most valuable routines or tools?

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.

Photo Aug 08, 11 41 27 AM

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?

Organization: Daily/Weekly Sheets

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.

Photo Aug 29, 3 50 05 PM

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?

Organization: 3-Ring Binders

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?

A Few of My Favorite Things

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.  (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.)

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. (To find out more details about our routine, click here.)

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?

On Our Way

Yes, we are still here!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Focus Forward, I have spent much time with the Lord working on household organization and time management.  By no means do I have it down pat, but I am further along than I was in December.  I have purged items from the house, eliminating much of the clutter (not all, but much).  A daily household focus has been set, such as Monday is laundry, Tuesday is floors, etc.  This has been great, because Mason has now caught on to each daily focus and likes to help.

And then there is the biggie…

…planning the school year.  This was a struggle for me.  My natural desire was to set a calendar with days on, days off, holidays, etc.  Then an accusing voice came in saying that I need to just go with the flow and not be so structured.  After all, I said I didn’t want to simply copy a public school setting for our homeschool.  I wanted more freedom, didn’t I?

This really took me pressing in with the Lord to seek what He had for me and my children.  He led me to the passage of Jesus feeding the five thousand (Mark 6).  Before feeding the multitude Jesus had them sit…in groups of 50 and 100.

He organized them!

After defeating that nagging accusatory voice of the devil, I felt free to begin planning and organizing our year.  Once I realized this whole thing is about us and what’s right for our school/family, I decided to tackle the school year calendar.  There really are so many options out there.  You can follow the local public school calendar, year round school, online school, and everything in between.  I have always been a fan of year round school.  To me, it makes more sense to have frequent small breaks, rather than one huge break giving plenty of time to forget important building concepts.

This is why I chose to do a 6 weeks on, 2 weeks off calendar.  “Officially” it is called a 30-10 calendar meaning 30 days on, 10 days off.  Wanting to schedule 180 days of school, I started highlighting six week sessions.  It turns out to be six sessions total.

 This is perfect.

I can break up the planning of curriculum into six separate six week sessions.  Planning one session at a time seems much less daunting to me than having to plan the whole year or even a nine week chunk.

I shifted days around during Thanksgiving and Christmas, left some days in around Labor day that I’m sure we may make up some other time.  However, I knew if I tried to guess all the days we wouldn’t be “at school”, I would be second guessing the whole calendar!  So, I scheduled around the holidays, and left the rest to flow with the Lord during the year.  Here is our 2014-2015 school calendar:

2014-2015

After tweaking the holidays weeks, I found that our schedule ended the first week of June.  Perfect!  This allows four weeks off before starting the next school year with the first full week of July.  I am excited to walk through our first year with the Lord, Mason, Madison, my hubby, and many others who will make this possible.  There is much excitement to experience first-hand how the Lord will tailor our lessons and learning to each of our individual personalities, as learner and teacher.

Next step, curriculum…

 

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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