Home School Organization

Since I have shared our curriculum selections for this year and our schedule and set up I thought a post about how I organize everything.

First I should say that I love to organize, I like to try to make things as simple for myself as possible.  I like for the kids to know where everything goes.  I don’t like clutter or not knowing where something is.  There are still a few areas that tend to get cluttered like my kitchen counters, because it a convenient place to put anything that I want out the way, but our school materials are well organized.  So here is what is working for us right now.

These are before and after pictures. I had some more materials that I needed space for this year so I purchased a 5 drawer organizer. I had just math manipulatives and language arts in that corner last year. This corner is just right around the corner from the kitchen table where we do our school work. This makes it easy for me to grab out the materials when we are starting that lesson.

Here is what is on top of the cart. We have our alphabet stamps, markers, and our art supply organizer. Thanks to my friend Debi who blogged about this art supply organizer, it was just what we needed. We did have the markers in the organizer but we had to remove them because my toddler loves to color himself so much.

The top two drawers of our 5 drawers has coloring and activity books, one drawer for Jude and one drawer for Annika.

The next drawer has our All About Spelling card and letter tiles and some of our materials for Connecting with History.

The next drawer hold our Noeo Science Biology curriculum, experiment kits, and books.

The last drawer has all our RightStart Math manipulatives.

Here is a picture of our “wall pouches” which is our workbox system. Here is a view of our bookshelf and other wall organizers. All I have to do is pull the books from the shelves for the lessons we are on for the day.

These are the shelves we have for our Montessori Materials in our hearth room.

Music and Art Shelf

Shelves for our morning faith and virtues time.  I plan a separate post to explain a little more about this.

Our School Schedule and School Set Up

This is the schedule that I have worked out for our school year.  When I shared my big list of curriculum for the year, I knew it would all make more sense if I posted our schedule to show how we structure our lessons into our day.

This schedule is just for me and I am very flexible when it comes to the times in our schedule.  With the teething toddler and his mixed up wake up time I have not been getting my morning exercise time in and I hope to be able to get back to that soon, I really miss that time.  We don’t often start our morning faith and virtues time until 8:30.  Generally our morning language arts time goes quicker than the 1 1/2 hours listed.  We sometimes have outside time before our morning lessons.  I stagger our morning language arts time, I first work with Jude one on one for his first two lessons, then he has a short break.  Then after the break, I work with Annika and Brandon, while Jude does independent lessons.  Zane is always tagging along during Annika and Brandon’s time and I have activities that he can do during this time.

We are still using a modified version of Sue Patrick’s Workbox System, which we refer to as our wall pouches.  Jude and Annika both have their wall pouches and this kind of visual system works really well for Jude.  I like this system because it is a great way for me to stay organized.

These are my current charts of what I put into their wall pouches each day.

I have future posts to come on home school material organization, our morning faith and virtues time, our preschool and kindergarten letter of the week program, and some tips on ways to save on home school materials.

School Year 2010/2011

I spent a lot a time thinking about and planning our school year over the past few months.  I spent a lot of time deciding what I wanted to use for curriculum this year and what worked last year and what subjects I wanted to make sure to include this year.  When I first was discerning whether to home school I read the book Real Learning: Education in the Heart of my Home, I love to reread this book.  This book introduced me to the  Charlotte Mason Method of education, which I then learned more about, and knew I wanted to use.  I also read a great deal about the Montessori Method when I started homeschooling and believe this method provides a great foundation in education for children under 6.  So as I thought about this year and what curriculum to use I knew I didn’t want a “boxed” curriculum but I didn’t really want to create all my own curriculum either and I looked again into using the curriculum at Mater Amabilis.  I had looked at this curriculum in the past but now it seemed to be the perfect fit for us.  Annika is doing the Prep Level and Jude is doing Level 1B for 1st grade. I am using most all the recommended books for the kids but of course making it my own too.  I am already loving their recommended books and I think it is the perfect fit for us.

So what does our day look like?  Well last year  I started using Sue Patrick’s Workbox System and I made this system work for us last year and the curriculum we used.  I have tweaked this system again to work for us doing Mater Amabilis.  I like the workbox system because it helps me stay organized and it gives the kids a concrete view of what they will be completing everyday.  Especially when things get busy it keeps us reminded of what has been done and what needs to be done.  Before the pictures I will tell you we are using the kitchen for table work.  Our small kids size tables are too inviting for toddler hands who like to grab at materials 🙂

Here is a picture of what I refer to as our “wall pouches”.  We work these from the bottom up.  They hold their seven lessons for the day.  When we complete a lesson they put their “sticker” on the wall showing it has been completed.  Some of the lessons are seperate and some we do together.

Close up of Jude’s wall pouches.

These are our workboxes.  When I have an individual lesson with one child from the above pouches the other child can work on the independent work from their boxes.  These are fun things for the kids, things I know they enjoy.

I put a little book shelf in the kitchen with the books we use for our lessons.  If you notice on the shelf their are plenty of library books and I also was able to purchase many of my Mater Amabilis books used or a few free from Paperbackswap.com.  I have a weekly schedule chart for both Jude and Annika with the days of the week and their 7 lessons each day and what book we will use for the day.  So in the evening I just use that chart and grab my items from the bookshelf, super simple.

I have a couple of boxes on top of the shelf, one holds our music cd’s and music curriculum and the other is my daycare child’s box with activities for him to do when Jude and Annika are working on school.

These are wall organizers that well need a little organizing right now 🙂  They hold fun activity books for the kids, my recipe binder, some paper for art, and other odds and ends.

This is our montessori area that is downstairs.

The kids and I start our day with a prayer and then work on school for an hour before our 2 daycare children arrive.  Then we take a break and go outside and play and finish the rest of the lessons throughout the day.  It’s easy to grab books from their pouches and take them to the living room to read while the toddlers play.  It is a pretty easy going routine and it seems to be working for us.

I plan to do some more posts about some of the resources/curriculum and books we are using this year.

Our Workboxes

I’ve been fiddling with our Workbox System most of the year trying to fit this system to meet the needs of Jude and Annika. Since we moved we have used them pretty sporadically. Over the past month I have moved them up to our kitchen and with our daily routine Jude and Annika work on them at different points during the day. They have been pretty excited to use them after breakfast or after we come in from outside before lunch. Annika has started on Right Start Math over the past few weeks and is picking up on this quickly. I try to put a variety of things in their boxes each day for them to work on. I also set up some different activities in the morning for my daycare child to work on if he is interested.

The flow of our day generally consists of breakfast and workbox time. Once our daycare child arrives we do circle time where we do songs, a story and discussion from our weekly theme, and some finger plays. Lately we have been circle time outside because of the lovely weather. We then spend time outside and then come inside and play or do workboxes before lunch. Jude and Annika do not nap and so they generally spend leisure time playing in the afternoon or are allowed to watch a video. The kids do plenty of learning on their own like yesterday afternoon when Jude was using his Thomas Train Magazine and practicing writing out the train names on his magnet board. Jude and Annika love to sit with books and “read” them to each other and me. Annika is really loving Dr. Suess books right now. We have been reading Jude stories from this Thomas the Train book each night and we finally finished the whole book.
Our Workboxes

Cutting is the activity they usually reach for first. Jude is loving this Kumon Book and Annika is working in this book.

New Year New Post

We are back into the swing of things after moving and enjoying the holidays. We have a new learning area and I have changed around the structure of our day and things are starting to flow quite nicely. I’m going to revive my blog a little since we have plenty to share.

Right now I am working one on one with Jude in the morning doing his math and reading lesssons. Then in the afteroon when the other kids are napping we say afternoon prayers and Jude and Annika both do lessons with our mass kit. Then we go downstairs and they work on their workboxes while I am working on my own school work. They both have 9 boxes set up and they can work on any boxes they like. Some days they are doing more boxes than others and some days they are very intense on working on just a few. This structure seems to be working really well for us.

I also have added to this blog a list of read alouds for 2010. Our current book is Stuart Little, we just finished Charlotte’s Web. I thought it would be fun to share what chapter books we read for the year. I am reading these books with Jude and this has become special time I spend with him after Annika and Zane are asleep.

Some pictures of our learning area. Yes the floor tiles were taken up and we have not yet put anything down yet, planning to this spring, so please ignore the floor ugliness.

Jude and Annika’s table and workboxes.

Book shelf with materials.

My desk so I can work on making materials for school and work on my own school work in the afternoon.

Upstairs is our prayer space and altar with mass kit.

Workboxing

As I have mentioned in previous posts we are using Workboxes this year to organize our homeschooling. This post gives a good overview of what workboxes are and how they are used. If you google workboxes you will find a whole lot of information on how to implement this system in a variety of ways. This has helped me tremendously stay organized and has helped with getting the kids to work independently. Here are some more details about how this system works for us and I thought I would share what I am putting into Jude and Annika’s workboxes. Since I took these pictures I have made some changes and now Annika only has 9 boxes, 12 was just too much for her.

On the side of each of their shelves are schedule strips, they take the number off this strip and put in on the cooresponding box that they are going to work on. When they complete the box it goes on the floor, the shelves being emptied is a visual reminder to the child of the work they have completed and how much they have left to do. I also have some “work with mom” cards to put on boxes that I do with them, the other boxes they do on their own.
Schedule Strips

Front of boxes

Our workboxes are not worked through all at once. We have circle time, a morning activity, outside time, and story time that Jude and Annika do with our daycare kids. The daycare kids are working on activity trays or playing while Jude and Annika do their workboxes.

Jude’s Boxes (Boxes 1 and 2 are the same everyday)
1 How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
2 Righstart Math
3 Language Activity, find the letter tile to complete the beginning letter sound of the objects pictured.

4 Fun Box, doing some workbox pages out of Thomas the Train Magazine
5 Fine Motor Skills, sorting various objects into dixie cups
6 Writing, sandpaper letters of the letters of his name to trace and a chalkboard to write his name on

7 Fine Motor Skills, cutting sheet
8 Language, prereader
9 Art, Oil Pastels and paper

10 Religion, I was reading a few pages out of Little Acts of Grace each day
12 Fun Box, phonics pouches with language objects
12 Fun Box, when he is all finished he gets to play his Leapster

Annika’s boxes
1 Language, 3 part cards of fruits
2 Fun, chalk board to draw on
3 Fine motor skills, pasting sheet and coloring sheet

4 Fine motor skills, cutting sheet
5 Art, Oil pastels and paper
6 Math, Sandpaper numbers and buttons to place as counters

7 Fun, Envelope Game
8 Fun, Phonics pouches with language objects
9 Fine motor skills, sorting objects into dixie cups

10 Religion, reading an Alphabet of Catholic Saints
11 Fine motor skills, lacing butterfly
12 Fun, time to play leapster

There you have it, that’s a glimpse into how we are workboxing. In the afternoon during nap time I load up the boxes for the next day. I generally work on making any new materials on the weekend for the week ahead.

A New School Year Has Begun

Even though I have done preschool with Jude at home the past few years homeschooling seems more official now that he is a Kindergartner. This past month I have spent tons of time reading books and looking over materials to decide what would be best for our school year. I also have been worked very hard putting together a schedule. We did a trial run last Friday of our new schedule and we had our first official school day today. It seems that my planning has paid off and I think our schedule is going to work well for all of us. We still have a few details to work out, like giving our school a name. Jude and I were thinking of ideas for that today and I hope to have a name by weeks end.

Here’s a walk through our day.

First the morning schedule. Jude and Annika have schedules posted on the refrigerator of what they need to do in the morning to get ready. I will say as with all the schedules there is some wiggle room. I am not a stickler for getting the kids promptly up at 7:00 if they get up by 7:30 that is fine.

Here is the setup for school this is the Workbox System. When I first started reading about this system I knew it would be perfect for us. It gives me organization and it is a great motivational system to get the kids to work on their school work. This system works mainly the same for both Jude and Annika except I don’t require Annika to complete all of her boxes but that really hasn’t been a problem. The kids are doing this at the kitchen table together except Jude’s first two lessons of the day Math and Reading are done in the Learning Room. The Learning Room is also used for any center activities that I have down for the kids that day.
Jude’s boxes

Annika’s boxes

Hard at work

While Jude and Annika are working at the table my two daycare children who are both 2 1/2 work in the living room. Activities trays our set up on a long table for them to choose from. Having them in the living room and Jude and Annika in the kitchen helps me to be able to spend time with all of them but minimizes distractions.

This is the table they work at.

After our initial hour of the day doing workboxes or learning trays we all get together in the living room for circle time. I am still using our Little Acorn Learning child care guides for our circle times, weekly themes, and daily activities.

For my organization I have our daily activities on a calendar and our daily rhythm.

This week our theme is squirrels and nuts.
We made sweet glazed pecans today for our activity and also sampled different types of nuts.

Here we are enjoying our pecans and apple slices for morning snack outside. Don’t you love my daycare kiddos boots, he wears them all the time lately, so cute.

And our first day of school would not be complete without a few pictures of Jude and Annika together. And if you are wondering Zane was on my back while we were outside 🙂


After we are done outside the kids finish up their workboxes or my daycare kids play until lunch is ready.

In the afternoon my little ones rest and Jude and Annika have quiet play and are allowed to each pick a PBS show to watch from earlier in the morning. During rest time is when I get to clean up and organize the work boxes for the next day.

I will post more at a later time about what curriculum we are using to fill up our workboxes. Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our day!