Getting homeschool organized for 2012-2013 part 2

Okay here’s where I get a little more detailed on my BPA way of things. It’ll work for other approaches too but this is my take, at least for this year. 🙂 This post addresses filing and BPA stuff in general. You can see how this system folds all of life in together.

weekly folders.Okay this is the front of the weekly folder. It has the family weekly planner stapled to the front. This has my menu plan, activities and to do list. So handy!

inside file folder. Inside the folder you can see how it holds all our life: brochures, postcard reminders, recipes to try, school handouts, it’s all in this little folder. You can see life in context each week. This is more visual for me even than a planner list. I can see what all is going on this week and only this week–each little weekly capsule. Then of course all these activities go onto my monthly planner calendar I carry with me so I can see a month at a time.

In my files I keep a folder for Masters. When I have to make a copy from the NP lessons for a graphic organizer or some such thing I will probably use again I make a few extra copies and keep them here. Then I have extras for when I forget or when I might be low on printer ink. 🙂

Up front in the top drawer of my filing cabinet (I have four glorious drawers!) I have 7 folders, one for each principle. Into these I put clippings, printouts and more that help me illustrate these principles in every day life (especially to my middle and high schooler). it helps spark conversations and  bring these principles into the everyday. This is one of my favorite things!

Now that school is starting I have taken my homekeeping notebook out of my tote. It now holds a season of folders, my Noah Plan lessons for third grade (the spiral) and my school planner (the black binder). I use these beautiful planners from Home Educating Family Association and I have removed the spiral and put the pages in the notebook so I can add things as I need to in some file pockets and such.

I hope this is helpful to you! In the next installment I’ll show you my organizational tips. I love in a small home but we don’t do without in our homeschool just because we are short on space.

Getting homeschool organized for 2012-2013 part 1

Staying organized as a home educator isn’t easy. There are papers, plans and projects all over the house, and unlike a traditional classroom we can’t shut the door and go home. Options are everywhere online these days. A simple Google search can yield more ideas than you can shake an organizer at. This is my current system and I thought I ‘d share it in case it should fit your family in some way. Thanks to Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight for all her posts on her File Crate System. I’ve tweaked it a bit for my needs but here goes.

Here is a peek inside my filing cabinet, which is in my dining area.

Each week has its own file folder.. The folders are grouped according to season as Dawn suggested.

You can see the circled numbers on the tabs. Those are the weeks for school. Each week is labeled according to what week of the school year it is. Inside each folder are the things I need for that week: printables, brochures, maps, etc all fit right into the folder. Because I use a curriculum this year that is all laid out for me I could make a list of all the materials I needed for each week and get organized before the start of the year. This makes things so much easier for me!

As the year goes on and I come across things for different topics I can just slip them into the file folders. The little sticky note is to list things that don’t fit: materials needed, web sites, etc. This folder also holds things I need/use everyday. [More on these details in the next post.]

I then have a portable file crate that I got at Target. This holds stuff I need at my fingertips.

In here I have a season of school file folders, my homekeeping notebook and my school planner. I also have a file for things that don’t fit anything in particular.

There are things like crafts and recipes to try, web site addresses and things we would like to get around to one day. This gets too full and I have to toss things sometimes and file other things.

As you will see in part 2, this helps organize my whole life and it shows how homeschool is integrated into all of living. In part 3 I’ll post some of my tips and tricks for getting organized. How do you organize your homeschool materials?

How to live like a homeschooler–even if you’re not one

Being a parent of a non-homeschooled child, you are probably busy and think you don’t have time (or energy) to do more where your child’s education is concerned. But your child can benefit from some of small ways home educators (especially BPA educators) approach education. Delegating your child’s education to a school does not absolve you of your responsibility to be your child’s most important teacher. Here are a few easy ways you can take more leadership of your child’s education.

Be involved in their education. Check homework, ask questions about lectures. Offer more than the school is offering. Go beyond, even if it’s only small things like checking out an extra book from the library on the topic.

Look for biblical principles in the everyday. Make the vocabulary and reasoning part of your family’s daily dialogue. Filter everything you can through the Bible and have deep conversations about life in real time. This is how your children learn how to reason and helps them refine their worldview.

Make your whole lives about learning. No one only learns in certain locations or during certain hours. Make your home a haven of learning. Set up a science center and/or a reading corner related to what they are learning. Cooking, laundry and chores are also times to learn math, science and life skills. Thinking about these simple tasks in a new way can open up a new avenue to connect with your child educationally. Bringing Biblical principles into the subject (like science)  brings life to learning that will inspire for life in a gentle way.

Read aloud–and read a lot. Mealtimes and car rides are great times to squeeze in extra literary goodness. Offer your child a reading list, especially in the summer. Add to the list your child’s teacher gives and if your child has a choice of books to read, offer a literary classic, a “living book.” (see some of my previous posts on literature.)

Learn alongside your children. Ask them questions and allow them to teach you something. Dig in and learn beyond the homework, which is probably fill in the blank or one word answers. Take a topic and together see what you can learn that s not fact-oriented.

Look for ways to incorporate their learning styles. Homework is a good time to let your child embrace their learning style. Making up songs to study for a test, walking and learning, drawing and doodling can all be done during homework time and help your child get more out of their homework.

Embrace individuality. As long as they are following the teacher’s instructions, why not let your child use colored paper, write with a colored pen, use a cool computer font or anything else that will help your child take ownership of their own learning. Help them make projects their own, not just something they were told to complete. Encourage creative expression every chance you can.

Take field trips. Weekends are for enjoying. Make them fun AND educational. Zoos, museums, aquariums, fire houses all make fun family outings that create memories and offer learning at the same time.

What suggestions do you have?

Shaking up home education (guest post)

The internet has a funny way of making with world smaller. It also has a way of opening doors to connect with people you would otherwise never meet. SisterLisa has become just such a friend. We are doing a bit of a blog cross pollination. Here’s her post.

It took me just over a year to shake the strict standardized style of education when I brought my kids home. Our homeschool days seemed so sterile, cold, rigid, and bland. I needed to draw out the adventure, intrigue, and exploratory imaginations of my children and the itemized memorization of facts wasn’t a success. How were we going to break out of the mold, how could I get the minds of my children off the conveyor belt of dictation, and how could I restore the youthful crusade for adventure they had before kindergarten?

I decided I would have to break the mold and halt all stagnant studying that was putting my kids into a slumber. I had to wake them up! Sometimes education can become so mundane that we get lulled into an almost hypnotic trance of numbness. We needed a spark, a jolt of excitement. I needed to go for the shock factor. So we put down the schedule and headed up to the hills to go for a hike.

What? No school today? Was this spur of the moment field trip mom’s fancy way of saying she hadn’t carefully scheduled out the lesson plans for the week? They were apprehensive about what I was doing, then again so was I. They sense that in us. They knew I was trying to fly by the seat of my pants that day and somehow it made them all a bit nervous, wondering what I was up to. I think we all had those inner butterflies and wondering if we would get in trouble for this. No classroom, no textbooks, no schedule. What was I thinking?

We packed up the water bottles and snacks, grabbed the sunblock and tied up our shoe laces. We were going to brave the outdoors as our classroom that day, we were facing what it meant to be organic homeschoolers. We needed to get out of the house and head out for some sunshine!

As we hiked up the small mountain before us, my son noticed an odd looking rock at the top and recognized it from a previous trail excursion with daddy. “Mom, look! It’s Monkey Face Mountain!” Such an odd name for a rock, but that’s just what it was, a rock formation that looked like a monkey face. It was my first opportunity that day to spontaneously teach some history about the city we live in. My oldest daughter joined the conversation as she shared about a report she once wrote about the woman who founded the city alongside her husband. General Bidwell and his wife Annie created a heritage for our town. This was the very park that she donated to the city in her will and we began discussing the importance of respecting the legacy she left us with and why it was important to her that we keep the park clean and as natural as possible.

The conversation turned toward recycling and how the homeless helped to keep the park tidy as they collected any cans left by irresponsible hikers. When we finally reached the top, we could see the whole city beautifully garnished in green trees for as far as we could see. The history lesson continued on as I explained how Annie Bidwell and her husband imported trees from all over the world into the town and how our town has the nickname of The City of Trees. Then, right before my eyes and ears, I heard the most amazing thing as we sat on that mountain. Their imaginations began to flow again as they embarked on an imaginative adventure of day dreaming about walking trees and monkey mountain coming to life to join the adventure with us. The day of spontaneous learning had finally sparked and together we broke the mold of traditional learning.

We had so much fun that day and as we hiked down the mountain we planned to head straight to the library to find books about environmentalism, the history of our city, and social studies about how to be a community. My older two girls went straight for the library’s computer to look for books while I directed my younger two to the children’s section. We found an array of books on these topics for all their ages and turned the day into a vast unit study that the whole family could enjoy together. This was the kind of organic living that my heart desired for so long. This is what has helped to instill in my children a heart for this beautiful planet they live on. This was just the beginning of my daughter’s passion to speak up when rain forests are being destroyed unnecessarily.

Something new was birthed in my children that day, a charity of the heart for this home away from home. A new passion for living in the kingdom while still on earth, a passion to learn how to be a participating member of the Kingdom, a passion to be charitable, a reason to live and to learn how to bring the Kingdom to earth and how to care for the earth.

This was how we broke out of the box. It was a leap of faith to follow my heart, trusting in God to guide us that day, living in the spontaneous moment that only homeschooling could afford us. It is with much excitement that I share with you what gave us a new birth experience with our homeschooling.

1. Homeschool by faith: Lesson plans and schedules are great and needful, but spontaneous learning can happen anywhere.

2. Fear not: Don’t be afraid to follow the guidance of your heavenly Father in your homeschool.

3. Listen to your heart: He gives us the desires of our hearts and it is safe to listen within. The Spirit will teach you all things and bring to remembrance the things He has taught you.

4. Use your imagination: If we want our children to tap into imaginative learning, we must do so by example.

5. Be willing to use a variety of books: It’s ok to grab an elementary age book with beautiful illustrations to break open the imagination of your older children. Allow the whole family to participate in the learning adventure with many resources on the subjects you’re introducing to them.

Do you have any additional thoughts to spark the imaginations in homeschooled children?

Sisterlisa blogs at The HomeSpun Life and is a Contrib

7 wonders of the [homeschool] world

I know there are a lot more than 7 wonders, but I tried to narrow it to 7 themes that all others would fit under.

1. Reading. Teaching your own child to read is the first step on the road to lifelong learning. I call it the Golden Ticket. In my opinions it is the greatest gift you can give your children outside of salvation. And you can do it all by yourself (with some good phonics books).

2. Graduation. You homeschooled your own child. They made it. You made it. And you didn’t need a school system to pull it off. That’s pretty wonderful.

3. Affordability. It’s not expensive to educate your child yourself, unless you choose to spend the dough. It doesn’t take $4000 per child per year to educate your child. Score.

4. Individuality. There’s seemingly no end to this one. Individuality of lessons, religion, methods, children, diets, schedule etc. are but a few ways that you can customize each child’s learning experience. This is wonderful, not spoiling. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn in such an environment.

5. Rabbit trails. When something interests your family you can swerve your lessons right into it. You can’t do that in a classroom setting

6. Camaraderie. You are able to form close relationships with own family, a “values in action” exercise because your children see how you live day-to-day.  And home educators are a tight knit and friendly community. No one is more willing to share wisdom, information and materials than homeschoolers are.

7. Seamlessness. School and life are not separated, they are celebrated. All of life becomes learning and all the world becomes a classroom.

What’s on your “seven wonders” list?

Homeschool secret sauce

Ever had something so finger lickin’ good that you just had to have the recipe? So you work up the courage to ask and when you get it you realize you can’t duplicate it because there’s one ingredient you don’t have–secret sauce.

It’s a blend of spices and flavorings so potent, so tasty, so irresistible that you can’t help eating it until your tummy aches. Even then you want more. You liked it so much that just thinking about it makes your mouth water. When you get some you are already thinking about the next time you can get some. That’s some serious gastric goodness.

So have you ever met a homeschool family that left you feeling like that? They seem to really enjoy what they are doing. They are inspiring and you think they have something you want to duplicate. You leave wondering how on earth you can recreate what you are craving. Well, I’m about to give you the recipe to the secret sauce so you can create your own taste-tingling recipe at home and put your own twist on it. It’s not a mystery but it is important.

This secret sauce is the key to maintaining for the long haul, for keeping things hoppin’ and happenin’. Keep in mind this is generic secret sauce. Your own secret sauce may include devotions, prayer time or something else. That’s how you make it your own secret sauce. If you think things are stale, maybe a dash of special sauce is just what you need.

Portable teacher’s desk

These little craft caddies are so handy. Since we usually have school at the table and the desk is in the other room, I put together all the little things that I need through the day. Some things in this cute caddy:

  • glue sticks
  • stapler
  • 3 hole punch
  • reward stickers
  • E-Z grader & red pen
  • Dry Wipe markers, eraser & cleaner
  • Sticky notes
  • brads & paper clips
  • tape
  • hole reinforcements
  • scissors
  • small Bible

I also created a paper caddy with an accordion folder. In there I have all kinds of papers and handouts. It’s grab-and-go easy. These two little tools make homeschooling a little easier for us.

Open house–us in a nutshell

I haven’t updated on our family in a while, and since we are starting a new school year soon (and since it’s open house time at The Homeschool Lounge) I thought I’d bring you up to speed on my brood.

I should start by saying in this open house post that we homeschool because we feel we are called to do it. That is not the case for everyone, but it is for us. And we plan to continue through high school. We do not have a room dedicated to school, so learning happens all over the house (and outside). All of life is school, so we are always learning something. We use the Biblical Principle Approach method and if you are so inclined you can see a link to my philosophy of education in the sidebar.

We school year-round pretty much. We use notebooks. We watch TV. We eat too much fast food and not enough veggies. Sometimes we sleep too late and sometimes we argue. We are not dresses-only. We have no problem with home educators who do things differently than we do.

We also love God with all our hearts. we love to read His word and do good deeds (in secret). We leave each other love notes in our mailboxes and love a good movie together. Music is important to us and you can almost always hear some around here. Prayer is a vital part of our everyday lives as well.

Now on to the kiddos: 

Princess G is going into 6th grade. She has grown a lot internally and has been able to take on more responsibility. We are proud of her. Her interest is science, particularly the human body. She loves to work on the computer and visit with friends. She plays the piano too.

Princess S is going into 3rd grade. She LOVES the performing arts. She’s a soft-spoken young lady who makes sure we are always entertained with her stories and songs. She plays piano and has won several awards.

Prince J is 5 and all boy. He loves cars and running super fast in his white lace ups. He recently learned to read, so he got his Golden Ticket on the literacy train. He will start kindergarten lessons. He’s going into his second year of piano lessons.

Prince M, at almost 17 months, is last but certainly not least. He’s learning new words to say every day and he’s a lover, not a fighter. Since he could hold one he’s loved books–hardback books–preferring them over most other toys. God only knows what’s in store for this terrific little guy.

Since I’ll be adding one more to our school day (more formally) I’m looking forward to the challenges and rewards another child brings to the mix. They hall have such unique perspectives and talents that getting them all together is never ever boring. We are also incorporating some ideas from Sue Patrick’s Workbox system. I think it’s going to bring a new vitality to our days that we’ve been lacking. I can go on about all the resources we will be using this year, but perhaps in another post, as this is a pretty big nutshell already.

If I should be so fortunate as to win something from the open house, my first choice would be a one year family subscription to Big Universe and my second choice would be cool shirts from the Homeschool boutique. The rest are great too and I’d love to win anything!

25 uses for index cards

I am in love with index cards. Have been for a long time. They are just so, well, handy. There are whole books devoted to using them in your homeschool, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Flash cards. That’s a no-brainer, right?
  • Matching games.
  • Making puzzles.
  • Making 3-D objects.
  • writing out lesson plans.
  • collecting ideas for a paper or a book. they can be shuffled in any order until you are happy
  • Phonics: putting parts of words on cards to match up together.
  • Mental math. Put answers on cards and scatter on the floor. Read problem aloud and when they solve it they pounce on the right answer.
  • Life size board game. Put directions on index cards and create a path through the house. Use big dice and the kids become the playing pieces, following the directions on the cards.
  • For preschoolers: pictures on the cards help them communicate their feelings. They can point to the face that matches how they feel.
  • Use them like soccer warnings. They get cards as discipline. Green, then yellow, then red. You can assign discipline as your family sees necessary.
  • Create a flip book.
  • Write chores to check off.
  • Cut a slit in the end and wind stray ribbon on it. The slit holds the end of the ribbon.
  • Keep a grocery list in your pocket.
  • Lay several out and draw a road on them. Now your boy has a portable road he can assemble anywhere he goes.
  • Make bookmarks for a friend.
  • Recipes. Put one on the quick bread you give to a friend.
  • punch holes and they become lace up cards.
  • Keep a card file organized by month. Use it for birthdays, seasonal chores and other monthly duties.
  • Use them as little canvases for mini fridge art.
  • Make a countdown calendar. Number and decorate the cards and put them in order. Fold one card to make an easel and lean the cards on it. Each day the kids can move the card to the back and see how many days are left.
  • Make a speech. Practice it and then give the speech in front of friends and family.
  • Write or draw your clothes on the cards–Bottoms, tops. Mix and match to create new fashions from your same old clothes.
  • Write your memory work on the cards so you can put them in your pocket for memory work on the fly.