Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘organization’

Filing Day

No, this is not a day to talk about filing taxes.  However, I may have a bit of filing leftover from the last few weeks of schoolwork.

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Yikes! (These papers go back to January!)

Yeah, I know.

There must come a time when we all recognize our weaknesses, right?!  I love to be organized, but I am not entirely disciplined to file at the end of each week.  I was doing really well at first, filing school papers in each child’s binder at the end of each day.

Yep, didn’t last too long.

Then I started getting piles of papers on my desk, not attractive and very distracting.  Wonders of wonders, I found this cute little green basket at the Dollar Store.  It became our “Turn In” basket.  That really was a good thing by helping Builder and Princess know where to place those finished products.  Unfortunately, the papers looked so neat and nice in that perfect little green basket that they haven’t quite made it into those perfect little school binders.

Sigh.

So, I find myself at the end of the school year shifting, organizing, and filing many many papers.  And you know what…that is completely ok with me.  Is it ideal to file every day or even once a week?  Sure.  Is it ok that I did not file weekly and now will make my way through this sea of papers and have a great binder of work for each one of them?  Yes.

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Again, as with many things homeschool, I find myself realizing…it’s ok.  Either, or.  This way or that.  It works; it gets done.  I don’t have to stress about either way.  I love that at the end of my kids school career, they will have a binder for each year of their learning.  They will have fun looking back at what they have learned, remembering fun projects, and seeing the milestones they reached along the way.

And of course, they will be taking all 12 binders with them!!!

And you? ~  What are some of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to school organization?

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Finishing Up

Oh sweet heavens, tomorrow is our last “official” day of school!  

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(insert Hallelujah chorus!)

We will take a six-seven week break and start up again after July 4th.  Of course, you know in the homeschooling world summer “break” is not always as it seems.  Learning still happens.  A math lesson here, finish up a handwriting book there.  Learning never really ceases, whether it be book work, or life learning.  The nice thing is that it is not structured, and it gives a much needed break both to kids and to Mama!

A question I get this time of year is, “What does your summer look like?  Planning any trips?”  Do you know what…

I have not planned anything!

And that is what makes my heart happy!  I am not one to fill our summer with camps here and summer classes there.  I am ok with my kids getting bored and having to find ways to entertain themselves.  And for that matter, how to get along with each other when they are bored out of their minds.  So much creativity comes from boredom.  So, I guess you could say my summer plans are to instigate boredom.  (We may go bowling, take some walks, maybe a fun cooking class at our local chocolate store…yum…but overall, not a whole lot planned.)

However, on the schooling front, I do have some goals in mind that I would like to accomplish.

Goal #1 – clean out the school cubbies

This, unfortunately, has become our place to “stuff” school items.

cubbies

 

With my son moving into fourth grade and my daughter moving in to second grade, there are many things stored in these cubbies that we simply don’t need anymore.  And, since space for school organization is at a premium here at our homestead, some things need to go.  Not to mention dusting, eek.  I won’t tell you how long it has been since I’ve done that!

Goal #2 – curriculum

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Yes, that.  We don’t use an all-inclusive curriculum.  I like to piece together this and that to fit each kid’s personality and learning style.  With that, I have a few items I want to reevaluate.  With Builder moving into fourth grade, a couple more subjects are going to be added to the mix, so I want to take a look at his schedule and how to fit it all in.  I am not a fan of doing everything everyday.  Our schedule is a little more block schedule-esque.

Goal #3 – the house

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As seen in a former post, Spinning Plates, I am not strong in keeping multiple aspects of life going at once.  Yes, I am a woman, but multi-tasking is not a strength of mine.  In light of that, when school is going, the house suffers.  Yes, my kids help, but they are still learning.  So much still rests on me, or me informing the kids of what needs to be done.  This takes mental, physical, and in some cases emotional energy, which during the school year just isn’t there many times.  So I am hoping much will be accomplished on the inside, and around the outside of the house.

Goal #4 – scrapbooking

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This is a personal goal.  With Builder and Princess getting a little older, I am finding a little more “me time” here and there.  I used to scrapbook before having the kids, and this is something I want to get back to doing.  I have a feeling the kids will get into it as well and can learn how to collect and keep their own treasured memories.

And there you have it.

My plans and hopes for this summer.  I know full well, it will be over before I know it and that is just fine.  I am blessed and joyful that we get to spend our time together learning and growing as a family, in season and out.

And You? ~ What are some of your summer goals?

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

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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

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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.

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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?

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.

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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?

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.

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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?

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