21 November 2013

My Home Management Binder Project #1

I am a paper packrat! It's kind of hard not to be when you homeschool. There are papers to be copied, papers to be completed, papers to be corrected, papers to be corralled... Papers, papers, everywhere!

While researching something school-related, I stumbled across the site for Mom's Tool Belt. After reading through her blog, I realized that a large binder to hold everything related to the day-to-day operation of my home just had to be my next project! So, I started doing lots of googling of terms like "household binder," "home management binder," and "household notebook." There are tons of blog posts out there on the subject! Lot of great freebies, too!

The Mom's Tool Belt option has a price tag of $24.95, which gives you a lifetime membership. Translation: Pay $24.95, get free downloads any time she offers a new product. I signed up for a free sample, and with the download came a coupon discount of $5. I realized that I really liked a lot of the options that Mom's Tool Belt had to offer, so after a week of research I decided to make the purchase.

My home management binder is still a work in progress, and probably will be for some time as I figure out what works and what doesn't, but it has a nice cover and I'm beginning to figure out which sections I want it to contain. So far I have financial, homemaking, and meals & recipes sections. I have also placed a few weekly planner sheets at the front of the binder to give them a trial run. So far, the format seems to work for me. I also want to include sections for our big move that's coming up in a few months and for the current house once it becomes our rental property. Everything I have included to this point has come from Mom's Tool Belt, but I have also found several freebies that may prove useful to my project.

There were several options and combinations for covers, and I think I made the right choice with this one. I really, really love it!

I'm using small Post-Its for the tabs until I'm ready to print the permanent ones.  

A great worksheet that will be perfect for keeping track of things like checking the batteries in the smoke detectors,  putting rinse agent in the dishwasher, and replacing furnace filters.

I tweaked the .xls file for this to add extra lines under the meals section to include snacks.

In the meantime, I also found a free blog planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler. It was so colorful and beautiful that I downloaded it, printed it up, and took it to Office Depot to have it bound. I paid less than $5 to have it spiral bound with the addition of a back cover and a clear front cover. Isn't it beautiful? (It would be even more beautiful if I hadn't been having difficulty getting a great shot!)

As you can see, I have already had to make adjustments to my blog scheduling!

Well there you have it... the beginning of my new home management binder. Do you have a household notebook to keep things in order? If so, which sections are the most useful to you?

Please be sure to check out part two of my binder project!

05 November 2013

Letting the Kids Take Over

Well, we are on our six-week break one-week break following our second six-week period of school. (Twelve weeks down!!! Yay!!!) I think we were all ready for this one! Overall, I think it was a productive period.

I didn't get a lot of resistance about school, except in the IEW that I started with H. And that wasn't really resistance--it was more just that she's not thrilled about it. We are still just doing the key word outlines. She says it doesn't make sense to her, so I'm taking it really slow. I'm also trying to find the perfect spelling program for her, as she is not a confident speller and has never liked imaginative spelling. She would rather just not write than try to guess how a word is spelled.

The assignment books have been great at giving the girls a visual of what needs to be done. And in the few instances where we decided to move something to a different day, it was nice to not have to copy it over again. However, I did find myself wanting to tweak the organization just a tad.

Last week, I was blessed to have been able to attend a meeting where Joanne Calderwood was the guest speaker. She talked about how she prepares her children to be independent students as soon as they are ready. She sits down with them at the beginning of the school year with a stack of books. She guides them through the process of figuring out how many lessons have to be done before the end of the year, then by the halfway point, then by quarter. She allows them to come up with a schedule that will help them achieve their goals. They are given planners, which they use to keep track of what they have completed. (She also requires mastery of all school work, but that's not what my current focus is! There may be another post about that.)

While my students are not quite there yet, I do see the many benefits of passing the proverbial reins to them. Through much prayer, thought, and discussion with the girls, we have come up with what I think will be the first step in being able to make that happen. Instead of handing them their assignment books on a daily basis, on Monday I'm going to provide them with something (probably a file folder) containing all of their assignments for the week. We will still use the Post-It notes and the assignment book, as that system is working extremely well, but they will just move the assignment from the file folder to the assignment book after they complete it.

Not only will they be able to say, "I'm in a math mood today, I'm going to do three lessons," but they will also begin working on valuable time management skills and taking some ownership over their schedule and their school work.

H already sees one of the perks of this system: She wants to get all of the stuff she doesn't like done first, so that she can do the fun stuff for the rest of the week.

I think it might be a little difficult for me not to micromanage at first, but isn't the goal of homeschooling to raise independent learners?

What are your thoughts on letting your children take more control over their learning? Do you let them have a say in how things are done?

05 October 2013

Is this the one?

The new writing program has arrived! I've had a lot of experience with IEW through our homeschool co-op, and K is taking it at co-op this year. H doesn't really seem to like the approach that Writing Strands uses, so we're going to try All Things Fun & Fascinating and see how it goes.

Which writing programs have you found to be a good fit in your homeschool?

30 September 2013

Assignment Books

We are revamping the way we plan things once again! It's just a minor change this time though. Instead of directly writing the girls' daily assignments into their assignment books, I decided Post-it notes might be a better way to go. This allows me to easily take an assignment that was partially finished, or one that wasn't finished at all, and move it to the next day. I find that with K's new history and science approach, there is always at least one thing that has to be moved to the next day. Otherwise, it's just too long of a day for her. I'm also throwing in a lot of extras this year, such as outlining and logic, so sometimes I decide to let them have a break from those, in the interest of ending school on a happy note. Hopefully, this new approach will be a great timesaver. 

What's your favorite method for daily planning of your school day?

09 August 2013

New To-Do List (which is actually a chart!)

In the interest of bringing better organization to my life, I typed "post it to do list" into Pinterest. (And, let's face it, I also wanted to play around with my brand new Pinterest account!)There were a lot of great ideas on there, including this one, which ended up being basically what I did, except that I put mine on poster board instead of a chalk board.

While I was standing in the middle of the Wal-Mart office supply area, a really friendly employee walked up and asked if I was looking for something specific. I told her I was trying to put together some sort of Post-It to-do list, and she gave me a couple suggestions. After brainstorming with her for about five minutes, this is what we came up with: 

DSCN2586 001

I color coded the main categories where I usually have things to be done: my blog, school, home, co-op, and misc. It's super easy to add new items and take down the ones you've done. If I do things out of order, it doesn't bother me, since I have the ability to move the Post-Its around. (I have always disliked having a #3 item crossed off of a list before a #2 item!)

I love that now I have a visual of what I need to get done. Having a list of things to cross off is helpful for me if I have things that need to be done immediately and in a certain order, but it doesn't help me to remember the things that need to be done at some point in the near future. Now I can have the best of both worlds!

08 August 2013

Learning Outside the Box Blog Hop - Sports (Week #1)

Welcome to the first Learning Outside the Box Blog Hop post! Let me start off by saying that I came up with six topics and put them down on note cards. I had my daughter draw one, and of course she drew the hardest one: home improvement/home organization projects. I didn't want to throw that one out there just yet, so I had my other daughter draw the next one. Sports it is!

Only one of my girls is actually in a sport, and that is K. She takes horseback riding lessons once a week in the summer. She has expressed some interest in eventually competing, but I've told her she needs to get past small jumps and trotting in order for me to consider paying for year-round lessons. 

She did just try cantering a couple weeks ago, but only did it for about three seconds. Then she started yelling, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" She then informed me (Yes, "informed!" That's what she does. She decides, then informs me of her decisions!) that she's not going to canter again for a long time. She might do it when she's 10, but she might wait longer than that!

DSCN2551 001This is the horse she rides: Lucy. She had just learned how to give Lucy a bath and then lead her around for a few minutes. 

DSCN2552 001


You're next in the blog hop! Grab the button code below the button and place it at the end of your post. Then link up to us below that!

Life's Hope Classical Academy

07 August 2013

Wordless Wednesday - August 7, 2013

DSCN2625 001Kid's Shelves - K (blue shelf), H (pink shelf), J (learning toys)

DSCN2626 001Reorganized shelves

DSCN2627 001Projects from co-op (coral, keepsake box, Native American headdress, Native American dart, flower from my toddler)

DSCN2629 001Supply boxes, magazine holders for workbooks and teacher's guides, school store items, newspapers for arts and crafts

Wordless Wednesday on Only Passionate Curiosity

06 August 2013

First Day of School 2013

Our first day of school was an incredibly productive one with minimal complaints! We went over the new "daily binders" first, which currently contain calendars, an attendance sheet, "I Can" lists (whicht can be used as a general guideline of what to expect to learn over the next year), and temperature graphs. I also purchased 50-cent composition books to write down each girl's daily assignments, and I explained the use of these. I presented them each with a 5-color pack of highlighters to use to highlight the assignments as they are completed. (Highlighting the assignments throughout the day may have been their favorite part of the day!)

Once we had all of that first-day stuff done, they tackled their assignment list. After a little over an hour, they took a 15-minute break. They didn't even complain when I told them it was time to return. (This is usually where I begin to lose H's attention!) By the time lunch rolled around, all that H had left was her grammar assignment (her least favorite because she doesn't like to write a lot!), and all K had left was her cursive and her history. After they ate their lunch, I let them go off to play so that I could try to get Little Man down for his nap. (This didn't exactly work, but that's a whole different blog, I think!) When I called them up from the play room, they came up, again without complaint, and got back to work. (This is usually the part where I have pretty much lost them both, unless I turn on the threats!)

All in all, I really couldn't have asked for a better first day of school!

DSCN2614 001

K's First Day of School Picture

DSCN2616 001

H's First Day of School Picture

05 August 2013

Blog Hop Announcement

I'm super excited to announce that I'm going to be hosting my first blog hop! I'm still trying to iron out all the technical details, but here are the details of the hop. 

It's going to be semi-themed. The posts need to be about things that are educational for your children without being academic in nature, such as sewing, cooking, and sports. Each week during the hop I'll announce a theme. However, if the theme happens to be something like sewing and you have three boys who wouldn't go near a needle and thread, you don't have to stick to the theme! Just post something that they do like to do!

As I get the technical side of things figured out, you'll see this post change a bit. I'll send out a new post once I get things all set to go!

Life's Hope Classical Academy


31 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday - July 31, 2013

Before pictures of the school room shelving units:

Wordless Wednesday on Only Passionate Curiosity

21 July 2013

Planning Methods, Part II

If you missed the first part of my planning system, here's the link. Once I get my lesson plans written onto my six-week planner sheets, I put them into our V Planner, which is an elaborate Excel spreadsheet. We will be using V Planner V3 this year. It's different from the one we used last year, and I'm still trying to decide if I like it better or not. It does give you the option to record a semester class, but all of our classes run throughout the entire year, so that isn't something I necessarily need. However, it's not so different that it's going to turn me off from using it. I'm just used to the look of the version I'm using now.

Below is a screen shot of what part of a subject page, or S Sheet, looks like. The planner allows you to use either a date system or a number system. I prefer the number system, so I just put all the assignments in without regard to the dates. For example, if I were putting in history assignments, which are only done two days per week, I would just list the assignments out with no blank rows in the planner, just like I did for math. 

V Planner V3 S Sheet

As you can see from the example above, I use the same worksheet for both my planning and my record keeping. I love this feature! I don't do grades for all the subjects, but my girls love getting their grammar and math graded, so I grade all their daily work and tests and record them in my V Planner. I can also print out a report card at the end of a term.

After all of my lesson plans for the six-weeks are planned out, I take the assignments and transfer them from the subject file folders where I was keeping them organized to the assignment box. The assignment box is a plastic file folder box that holds legal-sized folders. 

Assignment Box

I have 30 hanging file folders that are labeled with the numbers 1-30. These represent the 30 school days within our six-week term. Each hanging file folder currently has two legal file folders in it. The one with the left tab is for K and the one with the middle tab is for H. (Once J gets to school age, if I'm still using this same system, he'll have the right tab.) When I'm putting the assignments into the folders, I make sure that I put them into the folder with the number that corresponds to the number on the planning sheet. For example, if I have #4 X'd out because it's a co-op day, I don't put any assignments into the #4 folder in the assignment box. 

Each day, I take all of the assignments from the daily folder and put them into the girls drawers. These are actually different from the workboxes that I used to use. I had an opportunity to purchase rainbow drawers at Sam's Club, and since the drawers were a bit bigger than what I was using, I switched. 

There is no rhyme or reason to which assignments go in which drawers. I like to loosely follow a routine for our school day, but my students don't always want math at math time, so as long as they are working on one of their assignments, I give them some leeway on their individual subjects. 

After the six-week session, I take any unfinished assignments and assign them again at the beginning of the six-week session. I also use this time to reassess what is working and what is not working. I can plan to spend more time or less time per topic for the next six weeks, or I can plan to double up assignments or skip lessons that I think are already mastered. 

18 July 2013

My Planning Methods

I've been putting off this post for a long time, since I know it's destined to be a long, detailed one. However, it's that time of year when the homeschool forums are all abuzz about which planner type to use: computer program, iPad app, spreadsheet, or good old-fashioned pencil and paper. So, here I am, trying to make my contribution.

First of all, we school year round, beginning the first full week of August, which happens to be August 5th this year. My school year is then broken down into six-week segments of school followed by one week for a break. By doing our schedule this way, we end up with 42 weeks of school, or approximately 210 days. (We also take off two days for Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, and most of July.) This works out well, because we don't stress too much if math doesn't get done on a day or if someone is sick for three days or if there's a birthday party on a Friday afternoon. Also, after about the 5th week of school, everyone seems about ready for a break, so if we can just make it through one more week...

During the week off, I plan ahead for the next six weeks. Planning any further ahead drives me nuts, since you never know what's going to happen during the six weeks. Sometimes we take longer on a topic than originally thought, sometimes we are ahead of where we needed to be, and sometimes we decide to completely switch direction with what we're doing. This particularly tends to happen with literature. The new six-week session is like a fresh start. I cannot stand having my lesson plan book all scribbled and moved around and on the wrong date, etc.

Which brings me to my lesson plans. I don't actually use a book. I tried that with K back in her preschool days when we were trying to follow Letter of the Week, and it lasted for like a minute. What I do now not only breaks things up into smaller time chunks, but it also breaks up the subjects. Having things smaller makes them more manageable for me. I think this will be my third year doing my planning like this, and I have made tweaks along the way.

I begin with Donna Young's Six-Week Planner. I made a master of this that has the planning boxes numbered to correspond with our assignment box. (I'll talk more about the assignment box in a later post.)

At the top I jot down any notes that I need for the session, like a list of supplies I will need for science projects or a reminder that I want H to continue working on her addition facts. Then, I cross off any dates that will not be school days. For example, we attend two semesters of co-op during the year, which takes place on Thursdays. Those will be X'd off, since we won't be doing our "normal" subjects on those days. Once I've done that, I put in the lesson plans for the term and staple the sheet onto the front of a file folder. Inside the file folder, I put the actual assignments to keep them all together and organized until I get them into the assignment box.

Once I begin getting subjects all planned out, I will add the assignments into the planner. My planner is an elaborate spreadsheet file created by Donna Young. It truly is the most perfect planner/record keeper I have run across. I will go into more detail about the latest version of this planner in my next post. In the meantime, here is my post about the version we used for the 2012-13 school year.

Next up: Planning Methods, Part II

17 July 2013

Getting Prepped for Science

I finally did it! I finally purchased the Elemental Science (ES) Biology for the Logic Stage ebook! I am really excited to start this program in a few weeks, and I think that K is, too. We will probably have to begin the program without a microscope, but I hope to obtain one soon enough that we only miss one lesson that needs it.

I sat down over the weekend and printed out all the pages. I did the teacher's guide two-sided, but I wanted to do the student guide one-sided, so that we didn't have to worry about anything going through to the other side or smudges getting on facing pages.

It's impressive what 262 pages in a binder looks like!

We still have to obtain the spines, which are the Encyclopedia of Nature by DK Publishing and The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia, and of course, the microscope and probably a set of prepared slides. Then we will be all set to get started on what looks like a magnificent program for my 9-year-old scientist!

11 July 2013

3rd-Grade Mini Office

In light of recent frustration over multiplication facts, I have realized that updated versions of the girls' mini offices may be a fantastic idea! They made some a few years ago and used them briefly, but at the time, they consisted of things like colors, numbers, and the printed alphabet for H and addition, coins, and days of the week for K.

For H, I wanted to include things that she was currently working on, in addition to the things that I hope to include in her studies later in the year. As a minimum, I wanted to have an addition table, Roman numerals, a chart of the colors of Math-U-See blocks, place value, coins, capitalization rules, books of the Bible, and months of the year.

I still had the saved files that contained the days of the week, months of the year, and books of the Bible that were done in Word format, so I printed those up first. Then I began a search for mini offices on Google, where I found tons of great JPG files and PDFs to download and print. I found some great, ready to use files on abcteach.com, and squidoo.com provided links to many more. For math, I was lucky enough to come across this wonderful blog post, where the author had already done all the work of putting together a PDF that coincides with Math-U-See.

Then, it came down to how exactly did I want to do the mini office. I had originally planned on doing one that had the folder flaps folded and then glued together like how we normally do a lapbook, but then I ran across a nice accordion-shaped one. I ultimately decided to go with what I knew, and I think it turned out well.

Armed with the printed materials, I set to work. The result was one folder of MUS references, one folder with additional math references (and the books of the Bible), and one folder with grammar references. I plan on getting these laminated individually before I attach them to one another, but first I want to get a copy of our cursive alphabet small enough to put in the empty space on the grammar folder.

MUS folder including making 10, clocks, skip counting, and Decimal Street. (I'm pretty sure that H already has the colors of the blocks memorized, but I do not, so that chart is more for me than it is for her!)

Miscellaneous math items, including Roman numerals, money, thermometer showing both Fahrenheit and Celsius, Gallon Man,  spelling numbers to 20, and an addition chart. A Books of the Bible list is also included on the right flap. 

In addition to tips for correcting sentences, types of sentences, capitalization rules, days of the week, and months of the year are also included in the grammar folder. The months of the year chart also includes the number of days in each month. The upper left corner will be where the cursive alphabet goes. 

03 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday

The Fertile Crescent 


Modern Day Middle East

27 June 2013

The Timeline Notebook

We have finally made a decision regarding the history timeline for K's history course. We are going to do a timeline notebook in a binder. I have begun printing out blank timeline sheets from the Contented at Home website. We are printing them one-sided and putting them into page protectors. This will give us the option of taking the pages out and lying them down side-by-side to achieve the complete timeline effect when the need arises. Once we actually get into some history that has definitive dates, I'll post some pictures of the timeline binder in progress.

25 June 2013

The First Farmers

I couldn't have asked for a better start to K's new history program. Not only did she do an outstanding job on all of her work, but she loved it while doing it!

After reading about the early farmers, she decided that she wanted to do further study on how the early farmers tamed animals. We didn't find a ton of information about how, but she was satisfied with what she did learn about the topic. 

Her week-end summary is below: 


Despite a few spelling errors, I think that she did a fantastic job! She has had a few formal lessons in writing, but I have never really sat down and walked her through writing a report of this nature. All I told her was to write three or four paragraphs about what she had learned throughout the week and to try her best to keep the paragraphs on topic. I was really surprised when she came back to me with more than a page of writing. I cannot wait to see what she is able to come up with once co-op starts back up and she gets into her writing class.

17 June 2013

The New History

Today began the final five weeks of the 2012-13 school year. It is bittersweet in a way, especially when you consider I am going to have a 5th grader soon. Where has the time gone?

K began her new history course today. I think she did a very good job. However, we haven't decided on a timeline yet and I'm still waiting on the geography coloring book to get here. For her first subtopic to learn more in depth, she has chosen the taming of animals. Basically, she wants to learn more about how the early farmers were able to domesticate sheep and cows. If we cannot find adequate information at the library, she is going to research the fertile crescent instead. I'm eager to see how she does on her outlining tomorrow and on her summary Friday.

15 June 2013

History Decisions

We have finally decided which way to go with K's 5th-grade history. We are just going to keep it simple and do it a la The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM).

We will be using Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History as our spine for the year. On Mondays, she will be reading the weekly topic page(s) in the spine text. After reading, she will write down several facts that she finds interesting about the topic. Then she will mark all the important dates onto a timeline and find the location discussed on a map. I am also ordering a geography coloring book for her to use for her map work.

On Wednesdays, she will do additional reading/research about something else that she wants to learn regarding the topic. For example, if the main topic was about the earliest farmers, she may decide that she wants to know more about the shaduf. After reading more about the shaduf, she will then use a short section of her additional reading to make an outline. At the 5th-grade level, TWTM suggests that the outline only needs to be a Roman numeral with a main topic sentence about each paragraph.

Fridays will be used to write a short summary about what was learned about the topic of the week.

In order to get our feet wet with the new method, we are going to be starting the new history course during our last 5-week session of the 2012-13 school year, which starts this coming Monday. I'm sure there will be some hand holding that needs to take place for a while until she gets the hang of the new history routine. I'm confident, though, that this will be the perfect fit for her learning style and that she will pick it up quickly.

29 March 2013

Science Thoughts

The research into science options for next year is now in full swing! Before I get into what I've researched, let me give a brief explanation about the method explained in The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM). (Note: Susan Wise Bauer [SWB] is much better at explaining this than I am, so if you're wanting to do this in your homeschool, I highly suggest reading it directly from her lips! If you're just family wanting to read my blog, this should suffice!) 

The basic premise that is recommended for 5th grade science, or logic stage biology, is to spend 3 hours per week doing biology, broken up into two days. The first day, the student should spend about an hour and a half doing experiments using the scientific method. As they do the experiment, they should fill out lab sheets and make sketches. The second day is used for reading about the topic of the experiment and writing a short summary of what they learned. I think a paragraph or two is what is expected at this point. For the experiments, SWB suggests several intermediate and advanced science kits to choose from, including a blood typing kit, a small dissection kit that contains small critters such as worms, and a carnivorous plant biodome, just to name a few.

This approach to science looks like it's right up K's alley! She loves hands-on things, and she loves writing about what she learns! The only caveat is that if my ambitious daughter manages to work her way through every single experiment kit, which is quite possible, it will cost over $400. That's a little pricey for one year of science for one student, if you ask me! Especially since a lot of the kits are consumable and would have to be repurchased for H in a couple years.

I went to TWTM forums and asked about this and was pointed to Elemental Science. Some wonderful homeschooling parents, who happen to have degrees in science, decided to make a curriculum that closely followed TWTM approach to science. (You can read about them here.) After looking through the logic stage biology sample, I think I might be sold! As always, I reserve the right to change my mind a hundred times before purchasing, but at least I have a viable option.

So, here are the options that I think I have it narrowed down to for science for next year:

Option 1: Follow TWTM on my own, allowing K's interests to determine which science kits we start with. If we go with this approach, I found some experiment books at the library that look promising to use along with the kits to save some money.

Option 2: Elemental Science's Biology for the Logic Stage. This is the option that I'm currently leaning toward, for a few reasons. First of all, it's all laid out for me. K won't get to chose her experiments, but I don't think she'll mind. She will probably happily follow the student guide, checking things off as she completes them. Not only are the experiments all laid out for you, but they provide the experiment sheets, sketches for the student to color and label, 2-day or 5-day schedules for you to follow, and unit tests. In addition, you can purchase a kit that contains a lot of the items you will need for the experiments. No more having to gather every single item for every single experiment. 

For 3rd-grade science for H, I was leaning toward Real Science 4 Kids (RS4K) Elementary Chemistry, which looks like a really solid program. RS4K is also one of the options that SWB suggests in TWTM if you don't want to pull together your own stuff. Now I'm thinking I might do Elemental Science Chemistry for the Grammar Stage instead. It will end up being quite a bit cheaper, as I can get the teacher's guide and the student guide for $17 as an ebook, compared to $67 for just the books for RS4K. ($97 for all of the items I was going to get, not including materials for the experiments.) Even if I purchase the kit from Elemental Science, I'll be at $77, so it's the cheaper option by far. She will also continue on with Apologia Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day at our homeschool co-op.