Thursday, August 26, 2010

Homeschool Prep and Organization

So, I am hoping to get our homeschooling year started up at the end of next week with a "fun day" in which we will explore our books and materials as well as starting up our circle time and going over some of the new routines that I hope to implement. Then we will start A week (or weeks, depending on how quickly or slowly we will be moving along) either at the end of the week or on the following Monday.

One major thing that will help us to begin the homeschooling journey is this table! Above, the girls were pretending it was a boat, before Chris put the legs back on it! This table is new to us - we traded tables with my parents!

I love how big it is... it makes our "bookroom" (now the schoolroom, I suppose!) look like a conference room with it sitting there in the center! It will give us much more space to spread out than the old table, which was square and only seated four. The main problem with the old table, though, was that it was tiled on top. That was great for cleaning up paint or sticky stuff, but it made drawing and writing very bumpy! So, now we have a smooth work surface...

...well, almost smooth. If you look closely (or click to enlarge), you can see the indentation made by my youngest brother. He was apparently addressing an envelope, because his first and last name are visible as well as the street address, although you can tell that he repositioned the envelope after writing part of the street number. It was my dad who told me to look for this - but he said it was Stephen who wrote his name on the table. But I even made a rubbing to prove it:
It says Tim!

Here are a few of my reference books (and my wedding photo album, which happens to fit on this shelf well!). I have been working on organizing the bookshelves, and this shelf has some that Iwill use this year and others that I just want to remind myself that I have for future reference. A couple of these are textbooks from my college classes - a word book that has printables in the back for making word sort cards, and a PE book. I hated PE in school, because it was just the two most athletic girls as team captains who chose teams, and the PE teacher went to watch the boys play while we played stickball on our own. In college I learned that PE was actually supposed to be skills instruction (imagine that!), beginning with things like traveling through space, balancing, jumping... so we will be doing a 10 minute movement activity each day, and I am hoping this book will be useful (it better be - as I recall, it was one of the more expensive textbooks!).

I found this pocket chart at the Target dollar spot... gotta love that dollar spot! We will put words in it that are relevant each week... for instance, A week will include apple, St. Anne, and angels. I also have a word box in which we will put words on index cards... words that Caroline learns through our weekly Alphabet Path story and the weekly saint story. Eventually we will use these cards to find patterns in spelling, rhyming words, and other patterns such as long and short vowels, etc.

Here is another shelf of materials... the left side is for religious books that will be used for read-alouds and "tea time" - a weekly event in which we will have tea and a yummy treat (bye bye, diet? hopefully it won't go completely out the window!) while reading aloud from the Catholic Children's Treasure Box books, the New Catholic Children's Bible (just arrived today and not appearing in the above photo), A Life of Our Lord for Children, and My Jesus and I. I also have a Bible that was mine, which is written on a second grade level and will make a good reference. Also on this shelf, we have a sketchbook to be used for various drawings, and Little Folks' Number Practice, which is an introduction to letter formation and concepts.

On the shelves below this one, I plan to rotate "work activities" for both girls on a weekly basis. There will be a separate shelf for each of them and they will choose activities from here every morning while I do the breakfast dishes - at least, that is the plan for now. Cecilia will have her own activities so she feels included, and at any point if she asks to "do school" with us, I will have a shelf of activities at the ready for her.

Here is one of our art supply shelves: construction paper and paints/brushes. The shelf under that holds clipboards for use during nature study or other outdoor activities (and we use them on long trips in the van!). There is also a plastic storage box there in which we can keep ongoing projects that might have small pieces or cut-outs that need to be glued, like a lapbook.

Here is one of our den closets, which is where I am storing the work activities (on the top two shelves). The shelf below those holds a bunch or reference books that are not likely to be useful right away, but we are holding on to them.

The shelf above is in the same closet (gotta love whoever put in all these closets with shelves before we moved it!) and on the top, we have musical instruments and some small puppets and feltboard figures. Then we have a shelf full of puzzles and some math manipulatives. Toys are on the shelves below these.

Here are our pencils... we had them in old jars, and then I saw this post and decided we could do that as a fun craft (since Caroline was already asking me if we could do some kind of art project that very morning!).

I am planning to paint little wooden saints for each letter of the Alphabet Path. Here is St. Anne (with young Mary alongside her, or as Caroline calls her, "kid Mary"). They are incomplete here (need hands and hair!)... I hope to make a few of them each week or two so they will be ready for their corresponding letter.

Here's my awesome craft closet. I cleaned it (can you even tell? lol).

I love the shoe organizer on the back wall... can't remember where I first saw that idea, but it keeps things organized, visible, and accessible.

The orange basket on the table surface is our Alphabet Path essentials basket. I have the books we will be using each week in it: A Flower Fairies Alphabet, An Alphabet of Catholic Saints, God's Alphabet, a reference book of saints, Museum ABC, our Alphabet Path binder (where all the copywork and illustrations for the fairies and saints will be kept, along with the Alphabet Path stories themselves). I downloaded Startwrite handwriting software to make the copywork sheets... Caroline will start out with lots of tracing of letters in the form of the poetry from the books as we work on proper formation. We will also use the poetry in the books for memory work... not that Caroline's memory needs any work! ;)

Our art supply shelf before the pencils jars got their makeovers. I also bought new markers and crayons, a surprise for the first day of school!

And here is my file crate... this is the backbone of my organization. I have a file folder for each letter along the Alphabet Path (I have finished labeling the tabs since taking this photo - I reused a file crate from my teacher days where I had a file for each week of the school year). Behind those, I have a file for each month. So in the letter files, I have each Alphabet Path story printed out and ready, along with any coloring sheets, craft stuff, projects (like parts of an "All About Me" lapbook in the A file), and I will have the copywork pages in here as well. I also have a Word document for each letter with the books for each week, songs and nursery rhymes, project ideas, cooking ideas, etc., and I will print each week's to have as a guide for what we'll be doing. If I have any new books related to any letters, I will tuck them in between the folders. I have some angel books hidden behind the A file, for instance. In the monthly files, I will keep things that are seasonal/liturgical year-related. For instance, I have a coloring page of Our Lady of the Rosary in the October file. Advent and Christmas stuff can go in the December file.

I am also going to be making use of interlibrary loan quite often, it appears. We will have several books relating to each letter and to our science themes, and I am not sure yet if I will have Caroline do some narrations of some stories this year or if we'll wait until next year. I do think I will have her narrate any field trips we take so we can store those in a memory book with photos for her.

At the end of the year, the plan is for her to have completed (or finished halfway, depending on our pace):
* the Alphabet Path binder of copywork and illustrations
* a notebook of picture studies from Museum ABC (probably will be contained in a report cover or folder with prongs... in college, all our professors called those folders "duotangs," which we were baffled by... nobody else calls them that, and we couldn't figure out what they were at first!)
* a notebook of field trip narrations and illustrations with some photos
* possibly a notebook of story book narrations
* the Numbers Practice book, and maybe a math notebook of sorts
* the beginnings of a nature study sketchbook

So, that is where we are at now... I still have to type in all the poems from the saints book to make the copywork sheets, and organize the circle time songs, and lots of other details... so this may be my last post for a bit while I spend this next week getting things tweaked before we begin our adventure - I am excited!!


Tiny Actions said...

Everything looks great! Your painted saints look great. I hope you and your girls enjoy the alphabet path just as much as my kiddos. Kindergarten is truly a special time. Enjoy!

ViolinMama said...

I LOVE this post! It was VERY helpful to me as a new homeschooler. I need all the tips I can get, plus the reminders of keeping faith the central focus. I feel so pressured for 1st grade to work on the skills. Your classroom and storage is amazing! Love your materials!! What do you do at circle time exactly? How do you start your day? I don't feel I have a good morning start. We start with prayer, the calendar - but I feel "off". I also want to start talking more about Saints and such - so maybe circle time is the perfect time as we start our day? I also want to do the Alphabet Path with our little one, modified. Love Elizabeth Foss!

I'd love any tips or posts you have to share. I'm not trying to plug, mostly just share and hope for any tips from homeschooling moms with my other blog where I journal my attempt at homeschooling. Kris comments there too. Any tips - let me know!

Much appreciation!

That Married Couple said...

Your plans sound terrific! Good luck and have a great time!

Xhonane Olivas said...

wonderful start!!! Congratulations Erin, you are so organized!! I am sure your girls will enjoy their schoolroom and their classes as well! Looka like a lot of fun!

Carrie said...

looks like you are ready! Have you seen the site: They are having a massive sale right now on downloadable and printable stuff. Tons of free downloads right now and I purchased a year's worth of "teacher bookbags" (monthly printouts of neat cool stuff to do, multiage) for just $13. hundreds of pages of neat stuff for each month of the year. I thought you might be interested! The sale ends today or tomorrow though.

Mrs. Peppers said...

where did you get your construction paper holder? I am looking for one of those!

Erin said...

The construction paper is actually in a puzzle storage box... I put flat cardboard pieces in there on the metal rungs designed for the puzzles to hold the construction paper. Somebody gave me the box so I'm not sure where to buy one... I am thinking maybe an office supply store would have some sort of heavy-duty cardboard organizer specifically designed to hold paper?