Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Homes Cool

We started homeschooling in November. It was a perfect storm of badness for both kids and we decided that, rather than fight it out on both fronts, we'd pull them and homeschool.  We had been dedicated public schoolers before, even though I kind of joked about homeschooling every year, when I got tired of getting up at 6:30 or packing lunches or going out in the cold every morning. I was PTA president, vice president, committee chairs for numerous activities, room parent, etc.  I BELIEVED in public school, until I didn't.

Because the kids are home full time, I also quit my job, so I could be here all the time.  That left very little money left over for curriculums (despite my parents' very generous offer to purchase anything we needed for school, because even when I'm pretty sure I'm screwing up entirely, they are all in) so I'm making due with free stuff from the internet.  It's been fine and I don't feel like I'm really missing anything, but I needed a system to organize everything.

I use Evernote and DropBox for all of our downloaded materials. I use drop box to store anything I've downloaded, plus our lesson plan and things I've created (I'm a HUGE nerd and I love making PowerPoint presentations for the the kids).  I use Evernote to store all of the bookmarks to all of the millions of webpages that I might want to use one day.  This is the only thing I've found Evernote useful for, since I was never able make it work for actual note taking. So digitally, we were covered.  I've organized all my files and I can whatever I need, easily.  The paper were a different story.

Because so much is online, I end up printing a lot of stuff, like writing sheets, math practice worksheets, Social Studies maps, etc. I read blogs all over the place about how people organize their stuff and none of them really worked for me. I thought about workboxes , but they take up so much space.  I looked at modifying them with hanging folders, but space was again an issue.  I also don't like the idea that I need to do something with them every single day.

I eventually settled on 2 inch ring binders.  Partly, because we had them on hand and partly because they are big enough to hold everything easily.

I started with a plain binder (they can decorate them however they want to personalize them).

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Then I put in tabbed dividers with pockets, left over from the public school supply list.  They are just a few dollars at Walmart, though.  There are seven tabs in this folder, one for each day of the week, plus a couple of extras.

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I sat down when we first started and planned until Christmas break, because my brain was totally overloaded and I couldn't think past that.  Over Christmas break, I planned out the rest of the year.  We'll be done before Memorial Day! I use Excel because, as much as I like Powerpoints, I like spreadsheets even more.  There are plenty of planner sites and downloads out there but Excel works for me.  Every Sunday, I sit down with my computer and I go through that week's lesson plan.  I add the math (I have a space for it, but I stopped putting it in early because we kept having to edit the lesson plan when a lesson took more days than I thought it would) for the week, I go to my links, that I save in the spreadsheet and print out anything they will meed for that week.  I create my Powerpoints, etc.  Then I take all those printouts and I put them in the folders in the binder.  So Monday, they sit down at the table at 8 (because I start school at 8, because we need to get it done), they get out their planners and they copy down Monday's work.  Then, they are free to do as the please. If they are really feeling math, they can get a jump on it, if they are kind of dreading it, they can do writing or reading first.  I'm here, if they need help or have questions, but they can work on their own, for the most part.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom had knee surgery and needed help getting around for a couple of days.  WF went and stayed with her on Thursday and I sent his school stuff with him.  I got a call Thursday night, wanting him to stay another day.  She said "you'll have to bring his school stuff out for tomorrow"  I said "Nope, that's all there in his binder"  It has been important this week as well, because I've been sick and I haven't felt much like teaching, but we have got to get stuff done.  I opened up a couple of things on my computer this morning (copy work, writing prompt, and an editing worksheet) and left for the doctor's office.  They worked, on their own, for the hour that I was gone and now, I can go lay down.  They have everything that they need, for the whole week, right at their finger tips.

I put a "turn in" folder in the back, for them to put their completed work that I haven't collected in every day.  I also don't collect papers every day.  My kids need to learn to hold on to things for more than 5 minutes, so I collect papers a couple of times a week, but I do look at them at the end of each day to make sure they are done.

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In the front, I put cheap three ring pouches, that, again, are left overs from school, but are super cheap at walmart.  I check every day to make sure that it has three sharpen pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a highlighter, and a pen.  I do that while I'm checking assignments each afternoon.

I also put in their planners, and a three ring notebook in the binders.

In the front pouch, I put the printout of the week's work so they have a reference for what they are supposed to be doing each day.  I'm pretty strict with our schedule, but we don't do every subject every day.  We do Math, Writing, and Spelling everyday and we alternate reading (M,W,F) and Science and Social Studies (T, TH).

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I sewed them bags to store their binders in, with webbed straps that fit over the back of their desk chair (Backpacks or string bags or anything big enough to fit the binder in would be fine. I just had some cool leftover fabric, so I zipped some bags together).  That way, when I say "Come work at the table" or "I'm sick of this house, lets go work at the library", they only need to grab their bag and they have everything they need at hand.