Thursday, July 25, 2013

Our School Room in 2013

Yesterday's post included some photos of our book bins and shelves... so here is a little more on those, as well as some basic organizational changes I have made to our school room area.

Last year, I had some of our books up high in the den, above the TV/stereo, and that just wasn't convenient.  So this year, I got a few extra bins and sorted the books into them and put a few others on the shelf below the bins.  My thought is that Caroline can just pull down the bin of morning work and pull from it at the table and then put it all back on the top of the bookcase.  Having the bookshelves better organized with all the various books and resources we will use makes me feel less frazzled - and it also shows me just how many books we actually use!!  It really is a lot, yet we typically (if the day goes relatively smoothly, like only a few toddler tantrums, ha) only work from around 8:45ish until noon and then a little bit of finishing up between 1 and 2 while Lucy (hopefully!) naps alone.  We just cover a large variety of books over a week's time.

A few other things I did to better organize our school room... First, our school room is a central room in the house.  It connects to the hall, the kitchen, and the large den.  It was a former den before somebody added on the large den many years before we bought this house.  I like that it is close to the kitchen, the bathroom, and the couches in the den.  It also has a huge closet, which I love, because I store all kinds of art supplies in it, and the toddler hasn't figured out that she can open it yet! ;)  I use the large doors of the closet to hang stuff on... I hung up some bird number cards this year for Cecilia:

I also have a "computer desk" in the school room... with no computer on it.  My laptop lives under the couch, where its charger is, and where I can enjoy it while being lazy on the couch. ;)  But I often take it to the school table, the kitchen counter, etc.  So, the computer desk just gets used as a regular desk for me.  I still rarely sit and work at it - it is really more of a glorified bookshelf at this point!  The printer is on the top, along with printer paper and cardstock, and then supplies we use frequently like tape, pens, paper clips, stapler, 3 hole punch, digital camera... those are all kept up here out of Lucy's reach.

stuff I don't want Lucy to get!

I have some "master binders" here as well - one for Caroline and one for Cecilia which I keep documents in to show what they have done: lists of poems memorized, books read, chapters read in history books, and that sort of thing.  I hope these will be complete records to show what they have read and used over their school years.  Mostly, they are checklists, because I find it simple to type up a list of all the chapters in a history book, have Caroline check them off as they have been read/narrated, and then filed away in the binder.  We can keep track of where we are throughout the year and then also have a completed record of what was done.  I found this idea on a few homeschool websites/blogs and love it!  I especially love the idea of a record of books read - I now have Caroline write down the title and author and date when she finishes reading a book, either just for fun or related to school.

I also have my liturgical year binders here - one for Lent/Easter/Advent/Christmas, and one for Ordinary Time.  Any ideas, prayers, and recipes are filed in these.  The electric pencil sharpener doubles as a bookend, ha.

And this is as clean as my desk has ever been.  If my husband is reading this, he's thinking, "Ain't that the truth!"  I even figured out what to do with my collection of Emerson Hart autographs that was slowly growing on my desk:

I stuck them on the inside of the desk using adhesive photo corners.  See, if I was really and truly obsessed, I would have framed them in archival-quality frames and hung them on a wall alongside professional photos of my children, right?  The drumstick is in the cup that holds pens, permanent markers, and other non-Lucy items!  The cup is a pretty piece of pottery but is concealed (from Lucy, of course) by the little picture frame, which displays three drawings Cecilia made on a notepad in a hotel a year or two ago...

This is my Kindergarten file crate.  I tried using it again in first and second grade, and it just wasn't as useful.  In K, I do things by the letter, so this system works great for filing anything related to the letter A in the Aa file: angels, apples, St. Anne, etc.  For example, I have some fingernail decals and the book The Fire Cat in the Ff week folder.  I have some lima beans painted to look like ladybugs as a math manipulative in the Ll folder.  Some letters last 2 weeks... most of them do, actually... but some get finished in just a week, like Qq.

Here is Cecilia's shelf of "work activities."  I pull out puzzles, games, manipulatives, etc. that go along with the letter we are doing... so since we began Aa this week, we have some alphabet puzzles, an abacus and number cards, puzzles of America (comma United States of ;), an acorn letter file folder game, and our Plan Toys preschool alphabet activity.  Cecilia pulls these out at the beginning of the school day while Caroline does her "morning work" - you know, in that time where I am trying to finish my cup of tea and breakfast, clean yogurt out of the toddler's hair, maybe do a few dishes, and check email or print/look up last minute stuff for our school day...

My new system... I got this partway through last year to replace my "unfinished work gets stacked randomly on top of the unused file crate" system.  I just finally nailed it to the wall this week, ha.  It is out of Lucy's reach, and the front file is for Cecilia's work, the middle for Caroline's, and the back slot for joint work or art projects, coloring pages, etc.  Now they have a place to stash copywork papers that aren't finished... I like to have Caroline only work at copywork for 7 minute chunks o time to ensure it is her best, neatest work - the longer they write, the more tired their hands get and the sloppier the writing.  Cecilia only does 4-5 minutes, and hers is only tracing so far.  But this guarantees that they won't finish a page in one sitting, so having a safe place to store the papers is necessary. 

If they are working on a more complicated project (say, a lapbook with several smaller components that are cut out and assembled), then they keep all the papers and such in their own project boxes - just simple rubbermaid-type plastic boxes with snap-on lids.

 I know this photo was in the last post, but it shows our Circle Time/Morning Basket stuff... I printed up the list of what we do each day so I don't forget something like the monthly poem or to do counting patterns with both kids, etc.  All of the books plus this laminated cardstock list get stored in the orange basket by the couch where we do this after morning work/work activities time each day.

Here is Caroline's morning work list - also on laminated cardstock.  each day, she can get started right after breakfast because she can check this list and know whether to write in her journal, do a page in her maps workbook, or review Spanish... it is all right here.  I told her she can even check it off with an overhead marker if she wants, but she has opted not to so far.

I also have a laminated schedule for each child for each day of the week.  Here is Cecilia's Monday schedule.  It just lists the daily tasks and the general order.  No times listed because it is more of an order than a strict time schedule.  It ensures we get to most of what we should each day.

And here is Caroline's Monday schedule.  She can follow this pretty well on her own - I have put an asterisk next to each task that she is expected to be able to do alone, or at least with very minimal help from me.  I tried to stagger things so that I'd be working with Cecilia while Caroline was working alone and vice versa.  After her morning work, she is free to begin the daily tasks since I have begun each day with one or two things she does on her own.

So, that is just a little explanation of how I attempt to organize things so the days can go as smoothly as possible (since little kid interruptions are certain to throw us off here and there anyway, like when my 22 month old was pointing to the top of the closet, howling and saying, "Hidey hole!!!" over and over as we attempted to do Circle Time today).  So far, it has worked well for us.  If anyone would like to share how you organize your school room and materials, I'd love to hear about it in a comment or a link to your own post!


Carrie said...

I love reading about how others organize! This is the first year EVER that I don't have the first piece of anything ready for our school year. I plan on getting everything at the expo this weekend. After I figure out what we are doing. Kind of starting from scratch for this coming year.
I like reading this though because it gave me some ideas for things to do to get them more independent. Do you make new checklists for each day? I like to plan nine weeks at a time so I'm thinking I *could* make daily assignments but then they might change...but I do like having things done ahead. I am also busy planning out some busy boxes for Ruby which I am VERY excited about! I am hoping for great success with those so I can actually get more schoolwork done this year. It got very difficult about halfway through last school year!

Amy said...

Great job! Very organized and your desk looks wonderful. Hope you are having a good first week.

Erin said...

Carrie, I would love to hear about your toddler busy boxes or see photos or something when you are done with them! Sometimes I sit Lucy by a tub of dry rice on the kitchen floor to keep her busy... by the third child, I am over the obsessing about it making a mess when she spills it on the floor. My other kids did that. But this child, after about ten minutes of sitting and playing with it, will actually grab two fistfuls of rice, stand up and run halfway across the kitchen, and then fling it. I don't mind sweeping dry rice from a portion of my floor, but when it starts to spread across the house - it's over! So I need some good ideas for her!

For the checklists - they are designed to last all year! We mostly read from books, so there will be something on there like "Ancient Egypt reading" and we will just pick up where we left off the last day we did that particular subject. For math, we just get as far as we get - I think it is hard to plan out exactly what lesson number we'll be on by a particular date. If I have something on there like a workbook page from the maps workbook, it will just say, "Do one page from Maps workbook." Caroline just does the next one.

Carrie said...

A lot of my ideas are coming from Pinterest, and I may end up not doing the rainbow rice or the beans and such because I could very well see her doing the same exact thing. I am HOPING that it won't be that bad. A few months makes a big difference, so I'm hoping she will be over that a little bit.
My list so far includes things you probably have! large beading, pool noodle beading, velcro stick building, clothespin color matching with paint swatches, play doh mats, seasonal sensory boxes, pipe cleaners activities, just tons of stuff from pinterest!

Erin said...

I'm going to have to look up velcro stick building - I hadn't heard of that. We do have clothespin color matching and play doh and big beads... stuff that is still just a tad too advanced for a 22 month old. She would eat our play doh, ha, although I just made it recently so at least it is fresh! I may let her try that... if she'll stay at the table with it! But you are so right that a few months makes a big difference at this age! Right now I get things like beads out for her and she just dumps them everywhere, ha. One thing she actually will do for a few minutes is to push poker chips through a slot cut in the lid of an empty yogurt container - the big size, not individual serving size. Then she usually gets the lid cut off and dumps them, but at least she is occupied for a little while, and it is a good fine motor activity.