Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Our Schoolroom

I love looking at where other people conduct their homeschool. I realize that everyone does not have an official schoolroom, but all of us homeschoolers have some sort of dedicated space for our materials and such. You may have all of your craft supplies in your kitchen, your schoolbooks on shelves in your den, and your children may complete their schoolwork in their bedrooms. You may have turned your formal dining room into your schoolroom (I did this in our previous home), or you may be using an extra bedroom. You may use your kitchen table and couches in your den for all of your schoolwork. But no matter where you store your materials or teach your lessons, I feel like most of us tend to use our comfortable living spaces for at least some of our schoolwork.

We built our home five and half years ago, and I had a room in our basement completely finished out to be our schoolroom. I designed the room to store all of our school and craft supplies as well as have room to actually conduct school. We don't do all our schoolwork in our schoolroom, but we are able to if we want. One advantage of having a designated room for school is that all of the materials and supplies are contained in one room. If you have made a big mess, you can close the door. You don't have to clean off the table every time you need to eat. However, even though we have a separate schoolroom, I try my best to keep it clean and tidy on a daily basis. It makes the environment more conducive to learning.

Here is a tour of my schoolroom. I hope it gives you some ideas for your learning areas.

When you walk in the room and look to the left, this is what you see: a marker board and calendar on the wall, and a set of bookshelves. The colored bins on the right have books organized by subject (astronomy, human body, rocks and minerals, etc.)
The calendar is mostly for my younger children, and I use it on a daily basis to teach the days of the week and the months of the year. Since taking these pictures, I have hung the days of the week, months of the year, and number words and numbers (1-20) on the wall underneath the marker board. These will be used for teaching Sam.

In the picture below, you can see the entire wall. The closed door leads to my supply closet, and the open door leads to the foyer of the basement.

Behind the marker board is a walk in closet with floor to ceiling shelves along one wall. I have a U.S. map hung on the wall across from the shelves. Beside the shelves I hung the Sonlight markable map, and I keep a large trash can inside this closet too. The shelves hold the children's work buckets, various craft supplies, school materials, and my collection of preschool/early elementary activities.

Sitting in front of the marker board is our table. Sometimes the children sit here to do their daily independent work. The table is useful for all kinds of craft activities, and it is where I sit when I am helping a child do his schoolwork. If I am reading aloud to the children in the schoolroom, they all usually sit around this table, drawing or coloring while I read. The rug underneath the table extends beyond the table which gives the children a comfortable place to play. I usually put the preschool activities of the day on different squares on the rug.

This is the door that leads into the schoolroom. A couple of years ago I took most of the posters and school-like decorations off of the schoolroom walls. I felt like it was just too cluttered and busy. Last week when I was cleaning out and organizing the schoolroom, I came across a box of stored wall hangings.....Leah was in there with me, and thought that the posters and things were so pretty! So she and I decorated the schoolroom walls--every inch of it! We hung things on all of the doors and even on the bathroom wall! Then Jimmy replaced all of the burned out light bulbs. When my other children entered the schoolroom, they were so surprised! Everyone seemed pleased by the bright new look.

Most of the decorations have either an astronomy or human body theme. Those are the two subjects that Leah and Clay will be studying next year using the Apologia Elementary Science books.

the door to the storage room
that is the paint easel to the left

the bathroom wall

When you look to right when entering the schoolroom, you will see a wall of two desks. The larger desk holds my teacher books, mailing supplies, and various other office type supplies. Sometimes a child may do his schoolwork here. The smaller desk holds the computer where the children do their Teaching Textbooks math courses. A printer/copier is in between the two desks. Julie and Clay will also use this computer for their Sonlight geography work for Core 5 this year. The bathroom is to the left of the larger desk.

In front of the back wall of the schoolroom sits a rocking chair, and behind it a refrigerator (which holds mostly drinks). I usually sit in the rocking chair when I am reading aloud, and I have rocked babies for hours while helping children do their schoolwork in that chair! When I was so sick while pregnant with Leah and Sam, I reclined most of the morning in that chair---helping the children as best I could.

To the left of the refrigerator is a long countertop with cabinets above and below. The large drawers are my filing drawers. The cabinets below store craft items, and the ones above store paint supplies and all of my scrapbooking materials. The countertop is very useful for drying art projects.

The left wall holds our piano, paper cabinet, and bookshelves (pictured at the beginning of this post).

Outside the schoolroom door, where you enter the foyer, I have baskets for shoes, hooks for coats, and another bookshelf. This bookshelf stores all of our animal books and some of our history books. The baskets on top of the bookshelf holds our Revolutionary War books.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my schoolroom! While we don't do all of our schoolwork in this room, I am so grateful for this wonderful room.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Kossuth 5K

Saturday, our family ran the Kossuth High School 5K. This was the first annual race, and it was officially called The Aggie Stampede. We really had a nice time in Kossuth, in spite of the 90 degree temperatures and 95% humidity! At 8:00 in the morning!
As in most races, after all is said and done, some members of our family are pleased with their race time and experience, and some.....are not. In my opinion, we all ran very well, considering the heat factor! Especially Jimmy. He had a fantastic race time (20:50). I ran about two and a half minutes slower than my last 5K. I think I am just overall getting slower! All times are listed in the left sidebar under Race Results.
Megan graciously agreed to meet us at 7:30 to keep up with Leah and Sam during the race (and for 30 minutes before while we registered and warmed-up). She was having so much fun after the race that she stayed until the 10:00 awards ceremony! Megan took many great pictures, but I cannot figure out how to get them on my blog. (She emailed them which usually works, but for some reason it is not working this time.)

Megan, Julie, and Me
Can't you see how very hot it is?

Sam, climbing a tree.
If there is a tree around, my children will climb it!

Our whole family after the awards presentation

In our various age groups, Jimmy won 1st, I won 2nd, Olivia won 3rd, Julie won 1st, and Clay won 3rd.
Julie was also the overall female winner, and I must say that this is the biggest race trophy ever!!

Julie and Austin, the overall winners

We spent the rest of the day in nearby Corinth, visiting with Russ and Megan, Jenny and her children, and Granmomma and Pop. We all enjoyed a delicious lunch at Borroum's Drug Store.

More Atlanta Pictures

When I blogged about the boys' trip to Atlanta, I just used the only pictures that were downloaded on Jimmy's computer at the time--they were all taken with his phone. After reading my blog a couple of days ago, Jimmy asked me why didn't I use any of the pictures that he had taken with his camera. I didn't realize that there were other pictures!

So here are some more, better quality pictures from the trip.

Clay, Sam, Warren, and Will
eating at the Varsity

Sam and Clay outside the Braves stadium

Sam talking to me on the phone

another picture outside the stadium

Sam's view from the top

And a couple of more Stone Mountain pictures:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Homeschool Planning

My idea is that for every minute I spend planning and preparing for the upcoming school year, I actually save myself hours of headache once we actually begin. The reason that I spend so much time organizing the children's binders and making them various checklists is because I want to train my children to complete their schoolwork independently as much as possible. However, I do spend a good deal of time reading out loud to them, studying the Bible with them, and for the younger ones, teaching new math and grammar concepts. I also "do science" with Leah (1st) and Clay (6th), and I try to read the older girls Apologia science books periodically so I have some idea of what they are studying. I also work Olivia's math lesson with her every day.

When we are in the middle of our school day, I don't want the children to have to wait on me for their next assignment. For those subjects that are not "do the next page or the next math lesson", they need a plan. For the upper level Apologia science courses, they like to know how many pages do they need to read/work each day. As I have studied my Sonlight instructor guides (IG), I have found Julie and Clay have a daily independent reading assignment (like read chapters 2-4, or read pages 44-60), plus the Core that they will be doing also has daily assignments in a geography notebook.

That is why for every subject possible, I make them a daily lesson plan. I really don't want them dragging out my teacher books to get their next assignment, or finding me and asking me (like when I am in the middle of a reading lesson with Leah) how many chapters in their book are they required to read that day. Again, it seems like a lot of trouble right now (actually, I enjoy it), but it saves so much time throughout the school year. I also think it fosters their working independently. They are able to get their work buckets, look at their daily assignments, complete them, and check them off. I am always available to answer questions, but having these plans and checklists allows them to be productive until it is their turn to work with me.

Here is how I organized my Sonlight IGs, Core K and 5

the two big (and one small) blue Sonlight binders

The Sonlight IG have plans for 36 weeks. Each week's plan is printed on one page. There is also one page per week for Language Arts instruction. The big blue binders come with 36 numbered tabs, and I put each week's history/geography/Bible/read aloud and language arts plan (2 pages total) behind each week's tab. Then I pulled each week's study guides for read alouds, readers (independent reading), and history/geography, and placed them behind the appropriate week tab. If a study guide is used for more than one week, after we are through with the current week, I will move the study guide to the next tab to be used the next week. That should take about 5 seconds. I also put the language arts instruction notes and student pages behind each week's tab. So, behind tab 1 is every single thing I will need for week one of Sonlight; behind tab 2 is week two's pages, etc.

The big blue Sonlight binders are very, very big! In my opinion, too big to lug around each day, and it is difficult to quickly flip to the weeks in the second half of the book. So, to make things easier, I am pulling 3 weeks worth of tabs from Core K and Core 5 ands placing them into a smaller, more manageable 3 ring binder for daily use.

the inside of my smaller Sonlight binder

the outside of the smaller binder

At the end of the three weeks, I plan to place tabs 1-3 back into the big blue binder, and put weeks 4-6 in my smaller binder. I think this will take about one minute or less, once every three weeks. I will also move any study guides from week 3 to week 4 if needed. When we are through with a study guide that is used for multiple weeks, I plan to replace it back behind the tab where it was first used.

This really sounds more complicated than it really is! For a couple hours of work, I now have my IG all organized and ready for the entire school year!

I put all our Sonlight books for the year on shelves in my schoolroom. The top shelf holds Leah's books, the middle shelf has reference books and Olivia's literature books, and the third shelf holds the Core 5 books.

the books

I pulled all of the books I would need for the first three or four weeks of school for Leah and Sam and placed them inside this portable bin. I will probably add Julie and Clay's current Core 5 books to this bin also. This way they can easily find the books they need each day.

the books we'll use the first few weeks

The last steps in organizing my Sonlight materials were to find a place for the markable wall map and timeline books. I hung the map on the wall inside our schoolroom supply closet (a walk-in closet), and I stored the timeline books on the shelf with all of the Sonlight books.

Each day after our history/geography read aloud time, the children will mark on the map the location we read about, and they will also insert the appropriate people inside their timeline books.

the markable world map

I am really looking forward to our school year! I love reading aloud to my children so much, and I know that we are going to love doing Sonlight. It may take us all day! But we will be making special memories and learning a lot too.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Homeschool Organization: Workbuckets

In past posts, I have referred to my children's workbuckets, and some of you have asked what a workbucket is.

Well, it is just a dishpan that I bought from Dollar General to hold each child's schoolbooks and related items.

I keep the workbuckets on shelves in the schoolroom closet.

Storing the children's schoolbooks in the workbucket allows them to take the workbucket anywhere they need to in order to complete their schoolwork. Some of my children like to do their independent work in their bedrooms or another quiet part of the house. The workbuckets are handy for carrying schoolwork in the car and also for just carrying their books from the closet to the schoolroom table. I like having a portable, central location for each child to store his schoolbooks.

This is Olivia's workbucket, all ready for the upcoming school year.

I have organized the children's daily work assignments in two different ways over the years. In the past, I labeled 5 two pocket folders with the days of the week. Inside each folder I stored all of that child's work for that day--math pages, copywork, grammar pages, book to read, etc. When the child had completed all of the work inside the folder, they knew that they were through with their independent work for the day. This method required that I spend time each weekend preparing the folders for the upcoming week---I tore out pages in math workbooks and made the necessary copies for other subjects. To me, this method works well for younger children. The folders fit nicely inside the workbucket, and they are easily portable as well.

The other method for organizing my children's daily work is my current method. Each child has a 3 ring binder with tabs for the various subjects. In the front of the binder I have laminated copies of items like times tables, maps, conversion charts, prepositions, linking verbs, etc. These items are followed by the tabs.

The first tab is entitled "Daily Work". I type a checklist for each week, usually fitting 3 or 4 weeks worth of checklists on one page. Each of the child's subjects are typed on the checklist, and they simply check off each box as they complete their work for that day. The checklist does not have that day's specific assignment, just a box to check off when they are through with that subject. This method works better for older children. They know to simply do the next lesson or page in their various workbooks. For subjects that have more involved daily assignments, I will type a specific lesson plan for that subject. These plans are stored behind that subject's tab.

Olivia's daily checklist

For subjects such as the upper level Apologia science course, I make laminated pages to serve as further dividers behind that subject's tab. Behind Olivia's Chemistry tab, the first pages are her daily lesson plans (I print these out from DonnaYoung.org). Each day Olivia will complete the daily assignment listed on her lesson plan page, and then cross out the box beside Chemistry on her daily checklist.

The further divisions behind the Chemistry tab are Vocabulary Words, Own Your Own, Experiments, and Study Guide. I placed notebook paper behind each divider for her work.

a laminated divider behind the Chemistry tab

The binder method requires more time before school begins, but then I don't have weekly preparations throughout the year.

For Leah (1st grade), I will be doing all of her school work with her, so she doesn't have a checklist, binder or daily folders. Well, she and Sam both have 3 ring binders, but they are to store any special things made throughout the year.

For upcoming posts I will be sharing my ideas about the following:

organizing the Sonlight binders
my daily school schedule
where we do school
the layout of my schoolroom
my updated preschool list

Have I forgotten anything? I will be glad to share ideas for things you have questions about.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Boys Went to Atlanta

Jimmy has been off work this week, and he and the boys made a spontaneous two day trip to Atlanta. He knew that I was feeling a little bit stressed about my upcoming school year and my lack of time to plan and prepare, so he surprised me with taking the boys on a road trip.

Since I didn't go, I will have to use my imagination to blog about their fabulous trip. One note: this is only the 4th time Sam has been away from me overnight. It was the very first time for me to be in my own home without Sam. It was strange. Quiet and productive, but strange.

Here they are, ready to go

It takes about 5 hours or so to get to Atlanta from here. I am not sure what they did on the way, but they met Jimmy's cousin, Warren, and his 4 year old boy for supper at the Varsity. Then they all went to a Braves game!

Sam at the top of the stadium. They had seats much closer to the field, but Jimmy said that Sam got restless after a little while, so they walked up to the top.

After the game, the boys spent the night with Warren and Holly and their family. The next morning they left to spend some time at Stone Mountain.

a doughnut snack before the mountain

Although it was a very hot day, Jimmy, Clay, and Sam enjoyed many outdoor activities at Stone Mountain.

Sam on the zip line

Sam playing putt putt golf

Sam and Clay enjoying their lunch

Sam's hair-do after all of that playing in the hot sun.

When they got inside the car to begin their trip home, the thermometer confirmed what they already knew--it was a hot day!

Jimmy and boys stopped by the Bass Pro Shop in Birmingham on their way home. Since it was air-conditioned, they really enjoyed their time there.

Clay and Sam at the Bass Pro Shop

Although I got a whole lot done while they were gone, I missed them terribly. The house was very quiet! The girls enjoyed two full days of leisure, and I worked almost constantly in my schoolroom.

I think I am completely ready for school!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Homeschool Organization: Trying to Begin

Except for organizing my school supplies, I have not done anything to prepare for our upcoming school year which begins August 9th.

I am using a new curriculum for Julie (8th) and Clay (6th) this year, Sonlight. I used Sonlight for Leah last year, and I liked it so much that I ordered it for everyone but Olivia for this upcoming year. I am not sure where to begin to figure it all out! I joined the Sonlight forums and Yahoo group, but I am not sure what question to post! I realize that Sonlight recommends that you use one core for all of your children, but I didn't listen to that advice. I am using Core 5 for Julie and Clay, Core K for Leah, and Core Pre 3/4 for Sam.

Sam's Core is basically reading quality books to him. I have already been reading these books to him at naptime and bedtime throughout the summer, so I really don't have much planning to do for him. I will just check off each book as I read it, and do some of the suggested activities that go along with each book as we go through our school year. I do have one set of readiness workbooks that I want him to complete (drawing lines in mazes, circling which item doesn't belong, etc,), but again that will not require much planning. He will just do the next page each day. I have a few other goals for Sam for this year. I need to list them somewhere so I won't forget to complete them.

I felt like Leah (1st grade) and Clay and Julie were just too far apart in school to combine them in one Core. Plus I really want Leah to work through all of the Sonlight Cores in order. So I have them in two different Cores. I am not sure how this is going to work, time-wise.

Are any of you Sonlight users using two different cores at one time? Can you leave me a comment telling me how it works, or leave a link to some ideas?

I also am working (in my head) on our school schedule for next year. I am not sure how it is all going to work. I know that I will need time to do geometry with Olivia, plus she may need help in Chemistry too (good thing that Jimmy's college degree is in chemistry!). I plan to get out my Managers of Their Homes little colored squares and see what I can come up with.

So, now I am off to work on school organization and planning today....hopefully! It seems like every day after I do my regular housework, laundry, errands, and clean the kitchen 17 times, the day is gone, and I have done no schoolwork.

Maybe today will be different. Maybe I won't blog, read blogs, get on Facebook, or play Words With Friends until my school year is all planned and organized. Please still comment if you have any Sonlight advice or any scheduling advice in general.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning 101

I have talked with several ladies over the summer who wanted some ideas about menu planning and grocery shopping. I am basically going to restate my ideas, but it has been quite a while since I blogged about this subject.

There are numerous ways to menu plan, grocery shop, and save money. This is just what works for me.

Make a list of the items that you commonly buy at your local grocery store.
The next time you grocery shop, take a notebook with you and create a list of these items as you walk through the store. When you get home, type the list in columns, listing each item in the order that it appears as you walk through your store. You will have to use a tiny font to get it all on one page. Make sure you list everything that you buy, even if you do not buy the item every week. Print ten or more copies of this master grocery list and store all but one of them in your home management binder, a file, in your daily plan book, or somewhere that you can find the list each week. Tape one copy of your master grocery list inside your pantry door or on the front of your refrigerator.

Teach your family about the Master Grocery list.
Tell them to highlight (with a highlighter marker) any item that they use the last of or that they notice that is running low. You do the same.

Make a list of 15 or 20 Supper Menus.
Think of all of the meals that you serve for supper and put them on the list. You could do the same for breakfast and lunch if you want. I only list suppers, because we have the same type things for breakfast (cereal, oatmeal, toast, eggs, pancakes, waffles, etc.) and lunch (sandwiches, nachos, tortilla roll-ups, leftovers, etc) each week. Currently I have 21 suppers printed out and taped inside my pantry door. I make a new list four or five times a year.

On Sundays clip the coupons from the newspaper.
This takes me about an hour each week. I am definitely not a Coupon Queen. I have never bought a cart full of groceries for $7, but I do regularly save $20-28 each week by using coupons, and that is worth one hour of time to me. I do not shop at 15 different stores each week, and I do not clip coupons for products that my family does not use. I know that I would save more money by shopping each store's sale, and I could donate those items that I get for very little money or even free (by using coupons on things I don't use), but I just make time for one store, one visit a week. I buy groceries at Kroger one day each week, and I shop at Walmart for various toiletries and other things one day each month.

I store my coupons in alphabetical order (by the name of the product; like cereal, candy, and cleaners are all on the "C" page) in a 3-ring binder inside baseball card page protectors. I have to fold some of the coupons to fit inside the slots.

On Wednesdays study the grocery store's sale paper.
The sale paper is available either inside the newspaper or online. I note what is on sale, especially if I have a coupon for that item. I begin making my weekly shopping list. I stock up on staples when they are on sale, and I try to combine coupons with the sale when possible. So, if Rice Krispies are on sale for $1.97, and I have 3 coupons for $.50 off (which Kroger will double to $1.00) I will buy 3 boxes of Rice Krispies for $.97 each. I use Rice Krispies for Rice Krispie treats which I make about once a week. Now I have enough Rice Krispies for the next 3 weeks, and by that time they will be on sale again.

I have found that I can buy shampoo and toothpaste for under a dollar per item by buying when they are on sale and with a coupon. I stock up at those times.

Use your Master Supper Menu List to complete your shopping list.
After highlighting the on sale items that I will be buying that week (and writing the letter C beside each item that has a coupon), I then look at the calendar and see how many suppers I will need to prepare for the upcoming week. Next, I highlight all of the ingredients I will need to cook each supper, plus my regular breakfast and lunch items. Before highlighting the necessary items on the grocery list, I first check in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer to make sure I don't already have it on hand.

Since you and your family members have been highlighting items throughout the week, you shouldn't forget anything.

Pick a day, and go grocery shopping!
I usually go on Fridays or Saturdays. The earlier in the day, the better for me. If you get in a routine of going on the same day each week, it is easier to estimate how much of regular items to buy each week. Anything that becomes routine and you don't have to think about it, shortens your planning time. For example, I know that I buy 6 gallons of milk each week, so I just highlight milk without thinking about how much will we need this week.

This method works for me!
You can visit We Are That Family to find out what works for other families too!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Julie!

Yesterday was Julie's 13th birthday. Now we have two teenagers! Right now our children's ages are: Olivia--15, Julie--13, Clay--11, Leah--6, and Sam--4. We are done with children's birthdays until January.

We had a most wonderful day yesterday. We spent the entire day together as a family, and stayed home all day until we went out to dinner. It was both relaxing and fun, and I think Julie had a great day.

I surprised Julie with a Snow Cone theme for her birthday table. The centerpiece was a snow cone machine, and I decorated the rest of the table with colorful snow cone cups, straws, and snow cone syrup.

the table

the snow cone machine

Everyone wanted to eat a snow cone as soon as they saw the table, but I made them wait until after breakfast! Julie requested blueberry pancakes, and I made them with blueberries freshly picked from our blueberry bushes just minutes before mixing them in. Delicious!

After breakfast, we moved on to present opening! Julie received gifts and cards from our immediate and extended family. Leah and Sam helped her open her gifts, and we were all delighted by her excitement.

the gift chair

Julie, happily opening her gifts

After all of the gifts were opened and admired, everyone was ready to try out the snow cone machine. So we moved the party outside to our back porch, and we stayed out there the rest of the day. All of the children quickly learned how to operate the snow cone machine! They enjoyed snow cones flavored with cherry, blue raspberry, watermelon, green apple, and grape syrup. They made me one with coke! Sam loved the snow cones. He ate at least 10 snow cones! In addition to my coke snow cone, I also tried a green apple. It really was tasty.

The birthday girl enjoying one of many snow cones



We let the birthday child choose the activities for the day, and Julie chose to stay home and play games and swim. So that is what we did. We all played games in the pool, getting out periodically to enjoy another snow cone. We came inside briefly for lunch and birthday cake. Julie doesn't really care for traditional birthday cake, so I made her a fruit pizza.

the birthday cake with 13 candles

We headed back outside after our yummy cake. It was board game time. First we played Cranium, sitting on the back porch (and eating snow cones the entire time), and then we played Guesstures--while in the pool. At first all players stayed in the pool while playing, but Sam and Leah kept splashing too near the cards (imagine that!). So the person who was doing the charades had to stand outside the pool while the guessers stayed in the water. It was so much fun! After a couple of rounds of play, we decided to use only the high point cards which made the game even more hilarious.

Clay, acting out his cards

Julie, enjoying the pool

Around 5:00, we all came inside to get ready to go out for supper. Julie requested that we eat at Atlanta Bread. When we arrived there, a sign on the door read that they were closed for the night due to a small fire. So we needed a plan B, but Julie could not decide where she wanted to eat. While she was thinking about it, I took her to Hobby Lobby so she could buy some knitting needles with her birthday money. After much, much deliberation, she finally decided on Kyoto's! Yummy!

All of the children posing outside of the restaurant.
Sam thinks that the blue sailboat shirt and navy shorts make a cute outfit. In fact, he has worn this outfit for 3 days straight! I am washing it today!

To wrap up Julie's 13th birthday celebration, this morning I took her to get a pedicure. I got one too, and it was the first pedicure for both of us. We enjoyed our relaxing time together, and we both have pretty pink toenails!