Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Homeschool "Classroom"

So now that you have decided to homeschool, you are probably thinking of where and how you can create a classroom atmosphere in your home? Right? 

Hmmm I wonder if my husband would mind me turning his "man cave" into the classroom? Or what about the garage? Maybe the attic? Perhaps build an addition onto our house? Oh wait I have the perfect solution, we can move into a bigger house, with a bonus room!!!

Well maybe you haven't had any of those extreme thoughts....but I know when I first decided to homeschool I was brainstorming like crazy.  We live in a 3 bedroom, 1550 square foot home, and all the bedrooms were being used ....well as bedrooms.  So I had to get a little creative!

Here is what I did:

My husband was going to be gone on a missions trip to Fiji for 3 weeks in August of 2009.  I got this grand idea in my head to transform our formal living room into a Homeschool Classroom/Playroom while he was gone.  It would be a fun project and help the time fly by!  It was the one room in our home that really was wasted space.  It had a beautiful brown leather couch, chair/ottoman, and a large coffee table but unfortunately we hardly ever used that room.  Instead of the couches being sat on, my girls thought the furniture was a perfect jungle gym. 

I had a very short lived thought of "surprising" my husband with this project but quickly remembered how things turned out last time I had tried surprising him.  Back in 2005, while my husband was gone on his first missions trip to Fiji, I had decided to "Surprise" my husband with brand new carpet and tile flooring (Ladies don't try this in your homes....may prove to be disastrous).  So immediately after he left I set to work on hiring someone to replace the carpet throughout our entire house and put tile flooring in our entryway, kitchen, and dining room.  I had a large chunk of money coming my way from a car accident settlement and decided to use a portion on this project.  So fast forward 2 weeks, the new carpet is in, tile is laid, furniture back in walks my husband after arriving home from the airport....drum roll please...he walked in and looked around (not smiling), walked around some more (still not smiling), walked throughout the entire house (not saying a word and still not smiling).  Lets just say my "surprise" wasn't well received.  Oh and the guy I had hired did a lousy job on everything.  (Don't worry we laugh about it now and the carpet color has grown on him!!)

So the second time around I was smart enough to get my husband on board with my project idea and in agreement on how much I could spend!!  Several months before the project was to take place I found a Pottery Barn Wall Storage Unit and a table/chairs set on craigslist.  We purchased it and stored it in the garage until it was time for the makeover.  The day he left on his trip, I got to work....meaning I had some strong, buff, guys come over and move our furniture out to the garage and the homeschool furniture into the house.  I added in a few other pieces of furniture and here is the finished result.  It is now a space that is used all throughout the day and I love it! 

I have been to numerous homeschool families homes and it is so fun to see how each is so unique and creative with the space they are given.  Hopefully this encourages you that it is possible to take whatever space you have and turn any area into a "Classroom"....if this is the route you choose to take.  Some families keep it very casual & laidback and simply work at the dining room table (hey that works too!)

Here are some other examples of homeschool classrooms!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Extreme Makeover "Homeschool" Edition

One of the biggest challenges to the day can often be the challenge of being on top of everything and everyone, having a plan, and being organized.   When you add homeschooling into the mix it can be even more challenging to stay on top of it all.  I just wanted to share some tips on organization and ideas to help your days run as smoothly as possible and your homeschool experience to be delightful!

Makeover #1: Have a "flexible" Schedule
One of the benefits to homeschooling is the freedom we have to throw the schedule out the window when/if needed.  I feel very blessed that I am not a "slave" to someone else's schedule and if we decide to bag school for the day and go on a fun outing...well by golly we can.  However, it is nice to have a daily routine that my children and I typically follow (this helps with my sanity).

Here is what a typical day might look like in our home this 2011/2012 school year:  (I have already had to tweak my's all about flexibility!)
7:30 - Everyone is waking up/getting dressed
8:00-8:20 - Breakfast (read from our Table Talk devotional)
8:30-8:50 - Piano practice w/oldest
9:00-9:30 Math (I have one who struggles w/math so like to get it done first thing)
9:30-11:00 - "Exhibition Earth" Geography/Missions
11:00-11:30 - Snack/Recess
(11:00-12:30 - run any errands if need be)
11:30-12:30 -  Daily Chores/Free Play when all done (see chore chart below)
12:30-1:00- Getting lunch ready/free play time
1:00-1:30 - Lunch (reading from our Apologia Astronomy Science Book)
1:30- Lay toddler down for a nap
1:30-2:30 - Language Arts/ Apologia Science Notebook
(2:15-2:45 - Thursdays only Piano lessons)
2:30-3:30- Rest Time
3:30- toddler up from nap
3:30-5:00 - Free Play/Run errands
5:00-5:30 - Prep Dinner
5:30-6:00 - Dinner time
6:00-7:30 -Family time, Awanas 1x week
7:30 -Get ready for bed
8:00 - Kids in bed/lights out
Some other great examples of routine are "Our getting there routine", "Whats a typical day like?", "Daily Schedule".

Makeover #2: Get a Homeschool Planner

This Weekly Homeschool Planner was created by Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations and it is fully editable! The pages come in a pdf format and can be typed in, edited, and saved on your computer.  You simply print them off as needed. What this means is that if you purchase this planner you can reuse it year after year after year! 

So, here is what is included!
This fully-editable pdf planner includes:
138 planning pages (8 1/2" x 11")
12 blank month-at-a-glance pages
40 weeks of weekly planning and journal sheets
Preschool planning sheets
Field trip/Event plan sheets
Yearly curriculum planning sheets
Yearly planning and evaluation sheets
Yearly attendance tracking sheets
Field trip/Event plan sheets
Daily to-do lists
Main dish menu planner
Customizable chore charts
Important contacts info
Additional note space
Standardized testing and yearly assessment result tracking
Homeschooling requirement planning

Take a peek at a sample of the planner!

Makeover #3: Assign everyone certain chores/responsibilities!

IMG_0334webIt doesn't take much for our home to go from clean to crazy!  I don't strive to have a "perfect" home where everything is always neat and tidy....but I do strive for a clean living environment and I do strive to teach my kids work ethics (and that it takes us all working together to get things done).  My motto is "work hard, play hard"!!

My kids are still fairly young but that doesn't mean they can't be assigned age appropriate chores.  This year we are implementing an Interactive Kids Chore Chart created by Erica of Confessions of a Homeschooler.  I ordered my Pocket Chart through Amazon.   I laminated everything using  
3mil pouches

Check out these awesome Chore Chart Printables as well!

Makeover #4: Workboxes and other kinds of boxes

Workboxes are another tool that can help you to be more organized and on top of homeschooling.  Workboxes are not something I currently use but it's definitely something I am keeping in mind for the future.  Instead of trying to explain what workboxes are and how they work I am just going to send you here to learn more!  Erica does a great job explaining them because she uses them!!  Also Jolanthe has some great Workbox Activity Cards

For this next school year, I am using a File Folder system for "Exhibition Earth" to help me be organized.  A typical school year is 36 weeks.  So I added 36+ file folders, each representing a week of school.  The first file folder is our "Intro to Geography week", then 31 file folders for each country we are studying, 2 file folders for the "Christmas around the World" portion and another 2 weeks going through some Kids of Courage downloads.  I also have a few extra file folders for additional materials that go along with our studies.

I love the plastic totes for each child's school curriculum.   I sit them on our school table and that way most everything I need is in arms' reach.  It's also great for taking on the go if need be.  Another great organizational tool = Art Boxes!  

Makeover #5: Invest in some Bookshelves and/or Wall storage units

Whether or not you have a room set aside for need a place to store your homeschool curriculum, books, art/craft supplies, and other educational materials.  We were able to transform our family room into a school/play area and purchased a used wall storage unit that has been a lifesaver! 

Sometimes you have to get pretty creative with the space that you have but you can go to places like The Container Store or IKEA to help give your homeschooling mess a makeover!

Makeover #6: Meal Planning

We've all been's 4:55 and you are standing in your kitchen, staring in your cupboards or refrigerator wondering what in the world to make for dinner (that can be ready in 5 minutes!).   It's another macaroni and cheese night!! 

It is such a wonderful feeling to have a meal in the crock pot by 11am or to know ahead of time what you are going to make for dinner and also know you have all the ingredients.  Why?  because you planned ahead.

Some suggestions are a Printable Meal Planner or Monthly Meal Planner (have you noticed yet how much I reference these 2 blogs....they are amazing!!)

I don't like feeling scatterbrained or stressed out, which can happen very easily.  I am thankful for tools like the ones listed above that have definitely been a huge help in my day to day life.