Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homeschool Organization 2012

Teacher Planning Day 2012!! Grant took the girls to his parents for the weekend to give me time to plan and organize for school this year.  My house was insanely quiet for 2 days. I had really been looking forward to it and I enjoyed the time and got a lot done but by the end I was standing at the door waiting for them to come home.

To the planning!
After reading around I decided on a 12 month schedule. I am pretending that I will postmark my letter to the state on August 13 and therefor have until August 13, 2013 to get through all of the plans and have an evaluation done. I don't know how I will feel next summer but as of right now I would like to have an unofficial evaluation next year to make sure I will be doing it right when it really counts.

I used The Planted Trees as a planning reference...this is after searching online for months and reading schedule after schedule. I like her simple schedule.  I also like that her kids are all young and she's teaching them several subjects together. Her eclectic curricula box is also appealing to me. I didn't end up using her exact plans but I like that she got me thinking in a good direction...

First things first.  I stacked up all of the books, workbooks, curriculum that I have been collecting over the last year. It was a mess. Then I went to Target to walk around while I convinced myself that I really want to homeschool.
Unorganized mess!!

I finally came home after a stop at Tan's Asian Cafe for some hot and sour soup and spring rolls. Then I had a piece of chocolate, and rearranged the stacks into subjects, put aside things I like but won't be using within the next few months, recycled a stack of finished workbooks that we don't need to save, and set aside a stack for Goodwill. And then I perused Facebook for a few minutes.

Organized into subjects!

Here are the subjects I want to teach this year:
Reading (Zola) / Letter Recognition and Sounds (Niva)
Math (Miquon for Zola / Manipulatives and Number Recognition for Niva)
Art History (11 Artists specifically)
Presidents (brief intros)
U.S. History
Science (Hands-on experiments)
Bible (Jesus Story Book Bible Curriculum)
Maps and Country Studies

Things causing me anxiety:
I'm afraid to write in the workbooks. How crazy is this? That's what they are for!- yells one side of my brain. But what if you want to use them again for Niva? Or sell them later??- yells the other side of my brain.  So I hold my breath until one side passes out and that's how I decide or perhaps I say that I will always be able to find another book  I like better or at least as much if we decide to something similar again, right? right?  It's okay to write in the workbooks.... It's okay to write in the workbooks...

I'm nervous about losing our loosey-goosey, what do we feel like doing? schedule. Perhaps I'm afraid of self-discipline? Or more like failing at self-discipline... I went to an amazing beginning homeschool meeting recently. Seasoned homeschooling parents mentioned things like figure out what works for your family and make sure to relax- no one mentioned the amount of self-analyzation that comes out of homeschool planning.

Day 2 of Planning:
Spent some time wandering around Goodwill..and Target (again!) Then I worked on organizing our everything room that houses Grant's desk space, the girls art space, my sewing and crafts space, dress-up clothes and homeschool stuff. That helped clear my brain.

I googled 'homeschool plans' for at least the 1,367th time. Read through the same stuff.  Tried to print some planning calendars... found out our printer isn't working with our laptop...forced me to come up with another idea.
Eventually I felt so frustrated that I left the house again (how many times have I done this in 24 hours? I'm losing count)... bought a new huge desk calendar and another brightly colored milk crate came home to eat the leftover chinese food... and I'm ready to go again.

We are going to have 4 weekish cycles. I don't want to write out a plan for each day on the calendar because life changes, things happen and I know we will have to adjust. So I'm going to write out 3-day four week cycles- which means I am guessing we will have home lessons 3 days a week (the other days will be for Little Bird Learning Co-op, field trips, Wilderness Wednesdays, Math Club, weekends, and probably down time) and each daily schedule will be the same for three days of schooling. Which should mean that each week we have a different schedule and every four weeks it rotates. Looks like this:

Week A:
Morning Time
Art History

Week B:
Morning Time
Maps/Country Studies

Week C:
Morning Time

Week D:
Morning Time
U.S. History

We will study Advent for the month of December instead of the rotating subjects and Bible curriculum. So 11 weeks for each rotating subject.
We will also have our co-op's monthly theme woven into our daily studies. And I plan for us to create one lap book per month.

The visual organization of all of this is what has taken me the longest time to figure out but I think I've got it! Last year I had some ideas of things I wanted Zola to learn and I had some materials but they were spread out on different shelves and after a few weeks things really fizzled. We did stuff but it was definitely on a what we were feeling like that day schedule and by the end of the school year I was agitated and she was asking for more learning time that I couldn't pull off. Thank goodness for our co-op giving us some regular structure!

Here's how I finally organized our stuff for this year: (pic of plastic milk crates)

Crate #1
One hanging file for each month.
In each file: One manila folder to create the lapbook, the artist book for the month, any small books to go along with the co-op, science, history or world cultures theme, seasonal worksheets and project ideas
(I may also add book lists so I know what to look for on our library days or to reserve ahead of time.)

Crate #2
The hanging file for the current month.
Bob Books
Hooked on Phonics
Pocket for calendar pieces
President flashcards
The Jesus Storybook Bible and activity guide
Miquon Math
Workbooks for Niva
U.S. History book
Children Like Me
Papers for our pocket chart
Science experiements book
Geography workbook
Map book
(This is our daily box!)

That's our basic organization!
Coming soon: Record-keeping and Curriculum Specifics!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Importance and Intentionality

These are the two words floating around my head space the most these days.  I guess we should do a homeschool lesson on the letter 'I'...

I am still cleaning out our house.  Still giving things away.  Still putting things up to sell. Still filling up my husbands precious truck with things that I am deciding on.

Why? Why am I doing this to our house, to our things, to our lives? Why is this IMPORTANT?

1. My husband is a tall guy.  He has long feet.  He wants to be able to walk from the front of our house to the back without stepping on things or stubbing his toe on a piece of furniture that I've shoved into the last available wall space. I am tired of denying him this request.

2. Time.  It takes a lot of time each day to put everything away.  It takes a lot of time to do a lot of laundry each week.  It takes a lot of time to wash all of the dirty dishes.  It takes a lot of time away from the fun and good things.

3. Pretty space.  Perhaps this should be one of the least things to worry about but I agree with the idea that if your space looks nice you will be eager to keep it that way.

4. A chaotic living space makes for a chaotic brain space.  I like some chaos..when I'm feeling inspired and working on some art or some writing I like to fling things around..I like paint splatters on the wall and I LOVE our bumpy, knobby, discolored, ugly kitchen floor because it reminds me of enjoying life even if it means some fabric may get stuck when I iron on the linoleum.  But within the chaos there has to be room for tranquility and peace. If I have a messy art space today then I need to feel confident my kitchen can easily be clean.  If I've cooked a feast for 10 and used all the dishes and piled them on the counters then I need to be able to go into my clean art space and take a breather. My kids need an organized space to help organize their thoughts and allow them space to meditate and plan and create.

5. Life's fullness doesn't have to come from stuff (or food...a whole other post some day)...

which leads to INTENTIONALITY:

I try to be intentional with my words.  I love words.  I love writing. I love thinking about words and rolling them around my head arena.  That's why I love emailing and messaging on facebook better than talking on the phone- because I can think more about the words first...But guess what.  I love my family even more than words.  And shouldn't that mean I am even more intentional with how I spend my time with them?

I mean look at these girls!  They are so fun to be around, and adorable, and fun, and silly, and so smart, and fun, and they will never be these ages again.
And look at this guy! Well half of his face, because I have short arms..haha... This guy is so awesome, pointy whiskers and all! Why would I rather feel stressed about cleaning up and then have to spend all evening cleaning up if I want things to be clean for the next day instead of hanging out with him? Wait, I WOULDN'T!

Goal: Get my house to a place where Grant and I can spend 20 minutes after the girls go to bed tidying up and putting things back into place and then hang out the rest of the evening.

Goal: Be able to sweep my floor every day if I so choose- and not just sweep around the clutter.

Goal: Have a reasonable amount of regular dirty dishes..maybe eventually I'll get to having no dirty dishes at the end of the day but I'm not there yet...

Goal: Be able to walk from one side of the house to the other each night without stepping on something.

Goal: Be able to spend 5-15 minutes each evening preparing for activities with my girls the next day- laying out craft stuff, packing lunches, rotating toys as needed.

Goal: Entryway- 3 pairs of shoes per person in the entry at any given time.  Umbrellas. Basket for gloves, scarves, hats.  One coat/jacket per person in the entry at any given time.  One tote bag and one diaper bag in the entry at any given time.

Goal: Speficic art and music space for the girls in the back room....currently in progress...

Goal: Make a list of what's important for us as a family to do/have around each day and each week.  Get rid of the rest.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Can she do it? Yes she can!

There are four months until my next birthday.  And only 9 things left on my 29 things to do before I turn 29 list.  This is nothing short of amazing. I've already completed more than any other year.  Here's what I have left:

4. Open an Etsy shop - this feels overwhelming and stressful but I don’t think it should. I just need to make a few things, take pictures and post them. I get freaked because I make myself feel like this would have to be my entire life’s work outside of raising my kids of course. This is still freaking me out.  I had a bunch of skirts cut and ready to stock for summer but that season is over.  Now I have a bunch of girl's Halloween skirts cut and ready to sew...if I can get them done in the next two weeks I can open shop ready for the holiday.  I'm having such a hard time catching up my every day regular life that adding this is hard.
7. Make living room curtains- with the fabric I’ve had that’s just waiting for me to cut into it…peach and green and brown… The fabric is mostly cut and ready to sew! Trying to decide to sew these or work on etsy stuff or more sewing projects for other people.
8. Knit something, anything…it could be a potholder…I just want to give it a try. I may put this off for another year.
10. Read at least half of the Newberry Award winners since 1922. I think I'm close but haven't counted in a while..
14. Do the Financial Peace University stuff with Grant. At least once a week we discuss that we want to do this.
18. Figure how to make a buttonhole with my sewing machine.
21. Tie-Dye! I have a craft playdate set up for October so hopefully we will do this with friends!
27. Try a bottle of the Middle Sister wine that I found at Target but haven’t purchased. Maybe I'll try it with my sister's the next time we are all together...

I'd also like to add: Lose 20lbs.  Yep, it's out there now.  I haven't been taking care of myself as I should.  I have not been putting on my oxygen mask before helping others.  I've been stress-eating whole pans of brownies and bowls of ice cream.  I've been snacking on junk crackers and not drinking enough water.  And drinking waaaayy too much diet coke. I have been walking a few times a week but I should/could do more.

80% of losing this weight is going to be diet.  I've started to plan my meals better.  I freezer cooked a bunch of healthy breakfasts today.  I have to plan so that I don't get caught up in eating on the go. 

I'm also looking into figuring out how to make some gym time work for me during the week. 

I think I should probably start a food journal but I'm not sure how to work that out.

Mostly I want to make sure I'm focusing on healthy changes and never mention the words, fat or diet- especially to Zola.

Things that would NOT be helpful for me to hear:
Why are you worrying? You don't need to lose weight!
Oh just enjoy life and eat what you want!
Look at these brownies I just made for you!
Good to hear you're finally doing this.
I noticed you'd gained some weight.

Things that would be helpful for me to hear:
I've been trying to lose weight too, want to encourage each other?
I want to go to the gym too, want to meet up there?
I found some healthy recipes that I love, want me to share?

4 months until my birthday.  Lots of goals. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Inspiration Today:

Meet the Crunchy Catholic Momma.  I was introduced to her a couple weeks ago by my wonderful friend, Holly.  I am in love with the Crunchy Catholic Momma's lifestyle...leaving the city to live a simpler life in the country.  This is probably my husband's number one dream. (Right, babe?)

But it's her post that I linked to for today that is rolling around in my head.  We have a daily life flow...but I would consider it more of a loose schedule than a rhythm.  But I want a rhythm!  I've tried something like this before but only centered around chores and it didn't last long. 

I think my kids would love this.  I think they would love knowing what we are going to do each day.  I think they would love not being quite so sporatic. 

My issue, because of course I always have some issue with everything, is that I am an all or nothing kind of personality.  If I create a rhythm and then something comes up like planning for a party or a trip and I get thrown off then it is sooooo hard for me to reconnect with my plan and start again.  We have a velcro wall calendar that I like to use with the girls.  You can always tell when something has come up to throw off our mornign circle time because that's where the dates stop and it may stay on June halfway through August before I try again.

For today I will think on what our weekly rhythm should be...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back-Talking 3 Year Old For Sale.

I love this kid:
This is her riding at horse camp a few weeks ago.

But today she has refused to do anything I ask of her.  She's yelled "NO!" at least 12 times.  She refused to get out of the car in 100 degree weather.  She refused to get dressed. She refused to share with her sister.  She refused to go the bathroom even though she was doing the 'dance' and I knew she had to go.  She refused to take a nap.  She refused to let me hug her. 

Days like this are trying and make me wonder if my sanity will survive homeschooling.

But we are going to keep trying and hopefully Zola and I will hug and make up when she's done taking a break in my room.

I need about 2 more solid hours of planning to get ready for this year.  Zola has been working on some worksheets in her binders, so that's good.  But I need to break down all of our lessons into weekly agendas so I have a timeline and a goal.

I am also still feeling that simplification bug itching me.  We are putting so much time and energy into picking stuff up.  Some days I feel so frustrated with myself because I'm cleaning and organizing and picking up and I know my girls just want me to sit down with them. But if I take a day and just play with them then I the cleaning stuff builds up and takes more time later.  Where is the balance?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Teacher Planning Day

Officially I am still in the cleaning out process... unofficially I am totally annoyed by it and stuck for the moment so I'm moving on with my life and keeping plans to clear out more stuff as I figure out what needs to go. But I must add that we've found the less stuff (toys, etc) we have out in the living space the more the girls actually play with their things. Good to know but hard to live out. It's also interesting to see the things they most play with- a box of wooden shapes and sticks from the craft area, blankets and pillows, books, dolls and stuffed animals, art stuff and dress-up.

And today is Teacher Planning Day! My first one ever for homeschool. I am loving it and hating at the same time. My table is covered in notebooks, folders, lists, curriculum, workbooks, pens, craft magazines, cups of green tea, calendars, page protectors... I'm getting there but I think it's going to take more than one day.

I started out by creating a list of subjects and goals within those subjects- things I want to work on with Zola this year. (this year means from now until next August) I am trying to set a pace for us but I've never done this before so I guess I won't see how it works until I'm looking behind us- and that is a very scary thing. I want to be able to say that if I do A, B and C then she will read and know how to add and grow a flower and recite the 50 states. But really all I can do is take into account what I know about Zola and come up with lessons that fit her and hope she will learn. It's frightening and thrilling at the same time to know I am responsible for the things my kids are learning.

Once I had the goals made I made a list next to each subject of materials to use...

Goal List for Zola August 2011-August 2012:

- Vowel Sounds
- Sight Words
- Blending Letter Sounds
- Word Families
- Letter Writing
(Hooked on Phonics Pre-K Level 1 and 2, Kindergarten Level 1 and 2, BOB books from library?, worksheets, WYKNTK)

- Count to 100
- Simple Adding and Subtraction
- Measuring; bigger vs. smaller, etc.
- Patterns
- Sorting
- Writing Numbers
- Money Identification
(Cooking with mom, Block Manipulatives; use number stickers to order and count, pattern art, mazes, worksheets, WYKNTK)

- U.S. and World Maps
- North, South, East and West
- Presidents
(wall maps, president and flag flashcards, money, WYKNTK)

- Baked Clay Statues
- Famous Paintings
- Weaving and/or Knitting
- Sewing
- Circle Time Music
- Seasonal Activities
(WYKNTK, Art manipulatives, monthly self-portrait)

- Growing Plants
- Seasons and Weather
- Animal Needs
- People Needs
- 5 Senses
- Protecting Our Planet
- Magnets
(WYKNTK, nature journal, experiment journal?)

I have no idea what I'm doing for this yet... We have The Jesus Storybook Bible and love it but I feel like I want to do something more specific using the stories and I'm not sure if I have the energy to create it all myself. So....this is still an argh for me.

WYKNTK = What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know I was introduced to this book by my lovely friend, Ann, who did pre-k homeschool with her daughter this past year. It's a whole series and I had been checking them out from the library but just found my own copy at Border's going out of business sale. The preschool version is good but we've already done most of it on our own so I'm using the Kindergarten book as jumping off place for us this year.

This is not an exhaustive list but it gives me a place to start. We can add or take away as needed. And our co-op hasn't had a planning day yet so I haven't included those units but I'm hoping they will coincide with my goals to make our months cohesive.

I have two 3-ring binders for Zola. One pink and one purple and each as a Hello Kitty folder in it. I'm going to let her decorate the outside with paint, markers and stickers and one binder will be for math worksheets and the other for reading and writing. She will be able to do worksheets each day and as she completes them she will get stickers and then she can take them off the rings and put them in the folder.

For myself I have a binder with my yearly planner (I tried but I just can't get used to a digital one..I need it in writing) and my lesson planner and a folder for things I want to try or lists of curriculum or whatever.

In my lesson planner I'm going to break down the Hooked On Phonics and list the lessons to do each week- then we can decide as our schedule dictates if we do more than one in a row or one every other day or whatever. That way it will take us about 12 weeks to complete the Pre-K levels and hopefully we can start the Kindergarten levels in January. I think she's going to love being able to read. She's already sound-spelling words when we talk so now we need to connect those sounds to the visual words on a page.

We've been doing math around the house and Grant started adding and subtracting with her and she's catching on pretty quick so we'll work with manipulatives for more of that.

History and Geography is going to be new for us. We do some map stuff with our hallway wall maps and we talk about places when we go on trips but I'm excited about doing more of this and curious to see how she catches on. And history is just more story which we do love in this house so I think it will be fun.

Art and Music are already constants in our daily life so this seems like it will be easy to continue. I would like to do more planning so I have a list of activities and supplies in order. This will lessen the last minute stress of wanting to do something but not knowing what or not having the supplies on hand.

Science is mostly about nature and being outside this year. Hopefully the weather will cool off soon and we get outdoors! I know our co-op is excited about doing this together.

Bible...until I decide what else to do we will continue with our praying together and talking about God and learning some songs and stories...

Zola has also started helping plan meals and cook more. Last week she made pancakes for dinner- she mixed, poured and flipped and she loved that made it for all of us. I would like to find more recipes she can do herself to keep her interested.

I also made myself a binder of arts and crafts activities. Now when I see something fun online or in a magazine I can just print it or cut it out and put it in there and then instead of paging through a stack of books every time I want to find a project I have an easy visual of a bunch of age-appropriate things we can do. This should make planning easier.

Now that I have my goals written out I want to create weekly lessons for the next few months to keep us on track and give me less to do on a week to week basis.

Oh! And a great site I found today for my homeschool and other teacher friends: Donnayoung I read through it today and am using some of her charts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Step 3- Sewing Space

This is a hard space for me... I like to do a lot of different kinds of arts and crafts... Sewing, painting, drawing, paper crafts like cards and scrapbook stuff, wire working, stuff to craft with the girls... it's usually a very messy space and when it's messy I don't feel motivated to do anything.

I need to pare it down. But that is HARD. I went through my fabric and pulled out a garbage bag full to give away. I actually cried when I put it in Grant's truck. But that was a week ago and honestly if you ask me right now what's in that bag I can't even remember!

Here's my new sewing space:

I love, love, love that I can tuck it all in to this cabinet and close the door! This whole very large cabinet was given to me by way of a phone from my lovely friend, Elizabeth who heard our friend, Beth was getting rid of it and she got it from Sarah who got it from Julia who got it when it came with a house she bought (at least I think that's how it all went down...). But I consider myself it's one true love. This thing is a monster..huge and heavy and absolutely perfect for me. It seems to be handmade and it feels like me. Here's some more stuff I have in it:

The top cabinets open to show all of my paper crafting supplies, floss thread, markers, crayons, pens, pencils, a bag of mismatched socks to turn into puppets, cards, spray adhesives (must keep up high away from the kiddos) and some empty baby food jars and lids.

These fishing tackle boxes are perfect for holding my sewing supplies. It took three to house my embroidery floss.

And one for pins, safety and straight, small thread, snaps, buckles, bobbins, needles..

And one more for my thread. I made the compartments the right size for each color and have the matching bobbin in there with it! I used to have them all jumbled in a drawer so now they won't get tangled any more! Plus organizing my thread was on my to-do list this year so I can cross it off!