Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Backpacking - My New Organizational System

Random image of backpacks to keep Anna happy and to introduce my post.
(of which Jessica forgot to give credit so I will have to chastise her anyways :P-Anna)

Many of us have already started our new school year.  Some of you took pictures to commemorate the
moment. Some of you bought your kids school supplies, clothes, and new backpacks. 

I went to Target.  I bought some school supplies and a backpack for each of my children.  In that backpack I put the following: Crayons, scissors, glue, colored pencils, number 2 pencils, a big eraser, a red pen, a box of washable markers, a notebook, a journal, and a folder.

I have it broken down like this:

My oldest is 12 and in 6/7th grade (I am combining the years).
In her backpack is the aforementioned supplies, plus her books - Math U See, Easy Grammar, Real Science 4 Kids textbook and lab book, and whatever reading assignment she has (currently an Encyclopedia Brown book).
Every week I make the copies of her work from her Easy Grammar Book and mark the day I want her to work it, and put that in her folder.

She works the MUS at her own pace, doing at least one worksheet a day.  She has been flying through this book and in 4 weeks of school has completed 10 units. WOOP!
Anyway, she also has her list of prepositions and her list of helping verbs in her notebook, where she keeps her notes. She has also written out her times tables, measurement conversions (inches to feet, pints to quarts, etc), and notes about other math things that may sometimes give her trouble.

She has to journal a few sentences everyday.  Nothing major, I just check for completion.

Quin's Backpack and the Contents
My two 2nd graders have the supplies I got for them and their Math U See workbooks, their Real Science 4 Kids lab books and their current Explode the Code workbook. They also have their journal, their spiral bound notebook, and a folder.
The folder has not been used for anything yet, but it is there if I need it.  They draw pictures in their journal. The notebook is where they practice their names and any letters or numbers that I want them to work on.

My K-4 baby has her Math U See workbook and her ETC workbook, plus all the supplies the others have.  She has a folder but nothing is in it yet.  She also has a journal and a spiral notebook.  The spiral notebook is where she practices writing her name. She draws pictures in her journal.

Our Complete Setup - All Four Kids' Backpacks and my Teacher Box
I have a small box that contains my planner, the teacher's manuals and DVD's for the MUS, Beks' Explode the Code, Mystery of History book, the RS4K's teacher's manuals, folder for each child that holds a page of ideas for each of them & completed work I want to hold on to, the box of Bob Books we are currently working on, the book I am working on reading with all of them, the MUS blocks, and a pack of construction paper. I am considering getting a rolling bag of some kind so I can make this system ultra portable.

In the mornings, I tell all the kids to grab their backpacks and I grab my box.  They have all their supplies they need. Pencils, paper, workbooks, crayons, etc.  No more hunting down glue sticks or markers.  No more hunting down the MUS DVD's.  They are not allowed to open their backpacks out side of the kitchen, where we do school, ever.  Never, never, never.  When they get done with their work, they put all their stuff back and put the backpack in the designated spot in the schoolroom.

The benefits have been numerous.  If we want to do school elsewhere, we just grab the backpacks and I get the box and we are off!
No more looking for misplaced books or supplies.
It has been particularly good for my ADHD child, to have all her stuff in one spot.
The kids had a grand time picking out their backpacks!

I love this method!  I have been really surprised at how well this works for us. :)

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On the Go Planner Review and Well Planned Day Sweepstakes!

Every year about this time I start my search for a new purse sized planner. I know, I know, my fancy pants i-phone has all sorts of planner options and aps, but I remember by writing. Besides, there is just something more fun about crossing off days until an event.

I have reviewed The Well Planned Day before and it definitely ranks among my favorite homeschool planners, so this year I was very excited to get my hands on one of the Well Planned Day On the Go personal planners!

I suppose you could go up to Wal-mart and find any number of boring functional planners for a bit less than the On the Go that retails for right around $15, but who wants boring? This planner is more than functional. The first thing you notice is the eye catching cover which is just beautiful. It is something that I have come to expect from the Well Planned Day designers. In the front of the planner are several home management pages that cover everything from budgeting to your grocery list and house work. These are also throughout the planner. Of course, there are also monthly planner pages with plenty of space to take notes on activities and other important what-nots, but what I really like is that the planner doesn't just offer you a place to keep up with co-op classes and play dates. It offers encouragement, biblical encouragement. Each new month features and encouraging quote and at the beginning is a great encouraging piece written by Johnathan Edwards.

Besides offering The Well Planned Day teacher planner and the On the Go Planner, Well planned day also offers student planners for both younger and high school students. They have recently started offering downloadable planners as well!

Be sure to go take a look at the sneak peek of all of the Well Planned Day planners. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Now for the fun part! The Home Educating Family Publishing Company has offered me ONE (1) Well Planned Day Planner valued at $24.95 to give to one of my readers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why You SHOULD Compare Yourself to Others

I was browsing around on my personal Facebook page when I asked a question on a fellow bloggers site. She had mentioned that their schedule was more rigorous this year than in previous years. Having been interested in what constitutes a "rigorous" school year for a few months now I asked her what she thought made it rigorous because I was curious to see if our schedule would be what she considered rigorous. My mistake was that I used the dreaded "c word"...compare.

I cannot even begin to count the number of blogs I have read telling me not to compare myself with other homeschool moms. But I am going to take this in the opposite direction. Follow me for a moment. What if there is nothing wrong with a little comparison? What if in fact it is even healthy to do this?

Let me do the ever popular blog list thing for you on why I think some comparing can be healthy:

1. It may help us to identify gaps that we didn't realize we had. I planned our school year down to the letter. I purchased the curriculum, put it in my planner and was very happy with what I had done. Then I went to read what others were doing. It all looked great! Except for one thing, I had completely forgotten to choose a handwriting program! It wasn't that I hadn't planned on doing it and reading someone elses choices made me think I had to. It was that I had planned on it and completely forgotten! I probably would have noticed it later on down the line but it sure was nice to catch it early on!

2. It may help us realize that we are over doing it. I know sometimes in my desire not to have the above mentioned "gaps" that I every now and then over do it. It is sometimes helpful to go read and compare what I am doing to what others are doing so that I can see when maybe I am doing just a tad too much.

3. It may introduce us to new products that we otherwise might have missed. I regularly compare our curriculum choices to others and I am so glad I do! I was recently introduced to Mystery of History through a friend. I had never heard of it before then and now it is one of my favorite curriculums!

4. I may help us see where we have strengths and weaknesses. I am going to admit it. I am lazy. I know, you look at my blog or my Facebook and you think, WHAT?! (at least I hope so haha!), but the truth is I struggle to maintain momentum sometimes and comparing myself to others helps me know when I am dropping the ball. You know how you tend to do better when you know you are being graded or when you see someone else doing better than you? Call it a little healthy one-sided competition. On the flip-side, I have compared myself to find out that I am just fine and that I need to stop panicking about things that really do not matter or that I have actually gotten right. I certainly don't go tell those people that I am "competing" with them, but I do find that doing a bit of comparison is encouraging to me.

Recently a few friends and I got together and started lamenting about our homes and the housework we hadn't been getting done. I am sitting in a clean house right now. Want to know why? Because we have been sending photos to each other comparing our homes. By seeing what my friends were able to do it let me know that I was hanging on to excuses about why I couldn't have a clean house and homeschool at the same time. I now know that I can get it done because they are. I am out of excuses.

You can compare without changing what you are doing or who you are, and there are definitely times when you should not compare yourself to others. If you find you are easily persuaded to change things simply based on what others are doing or if they go against your conscience for example. There are times when life changes your circumstances and things like this have to be taken into account of course. I would never suggest that you compare and change your convictions, curricula or character based on what others are doing, but I do think there can be a healthy side to comparison that is regularly over looked in the "Be Yourself" mantra.

So what are your thoughts? Is it ever a good thing to compare what you are doing to what others are doing?

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