Well, we've given up on the lazy days of summer, and moved on to life in First Grade. Today is Natalie's first day of First Grade =) Which is WAY less emotional since we homeschool. As much as my kids can drive me crazy, just the thought of sending them away to school makes my heart hurt.
I've mentioned before that this particular pregnancy has turned me into an organization junkie, especially since I've been in the second trimester. So, I've been organizing everything I can get my hands on over here. I emptied and cleaned out the school cabinet, organized it with new school supplies, got all of our bills and home paper work in order, set up a new filing system for the school year, and set up a household binder.
Here are the before and after pics for the school cabinet:
The household binder idea comes from a cute little blog called Family Fun Notebook. It has a section for a calendar, our schedule, school & co-op information, meals & recipes, household chores, grocery lists, and things we need to keep track of for our farm animals. The only thing that I am still working on is a daily schedule. While I like my stuff to be organized and look nice and neat (in theory, anyway...in practice it is a different story), my use of time is no so much in the same boat. I like making colorful, pretty-looking schedules and chore charts on the computer, but I really struggle sticking to them. So, I've been checking out schedules on other blogs and asking friends how they run their days, and I think I may have something that will work for now. My schedule tends to change and adjust often, because with little ones, it's hard to keep the same pace all the time...especially when new babies come, and you throw in nursing, diaper changes, and naps at random times throughout the day. So, after perusing different resources, I've come to realize a few very important things about making a schedule:
1. There is no absolutely correct way to make a schedule.
2. While there is no one right way to schedule your day, there is only one correct way to start your day: on your knees in prayer!
3. Your schedule should be flexible, easily adjustable, and not too rigid. I actually read a book that recommended you put a spot in your schedule called "do something spontaneous"! Really?! It's not spontaneous if it's on the schedule...The majority of the time, I try to stick to my schedule, but I have no problems dropping everything from time to time to go do something fun when a friend calls; or, when the kids obviously need a break from the regular routine of life, to just stop and be with them (maybe read books on the couch for an hour, go to the park, or go have a picnic outside);
or, if I'm just lazy that day....
4. You should start your day as early as possible, without compromising Mom's need for adequate rest (so, if you want to start your day at 5:30 in the morning, by all means, go for it, but make sure you are rested enough to get through the day without unleashing wrath on everyone due to lack of sleep...be reasonable on this one).
5. Schedules should fit the family, not the other way around. It's not about changing your entire family life for the sake of a schedule, but finding a schedule that fits the family, and keeps everyone on task. A schedule should help everyone find the best and most efficient use of time without adding undue stress.
So, there you go! My rules and tips on schedules
that I always follow. And, in case you are wondering, the schedule I came up with is not locked into specific times. It flows more like this: as soon as we wake up, we say morning prayers, make the beds, and have breakfast. After breakfast, we clean the kitchen, tidy up toys/bedrooms, get dressed, brush hair & teeth, and start laundry. And, so on. Now, we do get up at the same time each morning, and start school at the same time each day, and try to get the kids in bed by a certain time...outside of that, it's goes more like this: after item A is finished, move on to the next...whatever time it happens to be is fine with me, as long as it gets done according to my standards (standards depend on the age of the person doing a certain task, of course). Oh, and during the summer and on holidays, my schedule is tossed out the window! I still have a routine, to save us from going insane, but it's way more lax than when we are in school.
As far as curriculum goes, we decided to go with Our Lady of the Rosary Homeschool. So far, I think I like it. The content is very good...it's a very traditional Catholic approach, including the Latin Mass, but until I've had a chance to really implement everything, I can't give an adequate review just yet. It's definitely not as well-laid out and planned as say, Seton, but I really like the texts and materials. So, while I think it will take a little bit more planning and time on my part to get everything into my lesson plan book, I think the effort will be worth it for the type of education my kids will receive from it. But, again, like with my schedule, I have no problems re-evaluating as the year goes on and changing if need be.
I found this really neat site that laid out a homeschool file system that I am implementing this year. I think it will really help me save time, and stay on task. You can see the full explanation of how the system works here at the Springs of Joy Homeschooling Blog. I didn't do it exactly like she did, but I followed the basic concept. For one, I only have 9 weeks at a time in my file box, instead of the whole year. After each quarter is over, I'll reload the box for the next quarter. I also don't have files for the Liturgical Seasons...if there is something special I want to do for that, I'll just put the stuff in the weekly folder that it goes in. Basically, I have 9 folders each for Natalie and Andrew (1 for each week of the quarter), and I put everything in the weekly folder that they need to do that week. Natalie's has workbook pages, loose leaf paper for writing out spelling words, blank sheets for painting, etc...If it wasn't something I could rip out of a workbook and put in the folder (like a text book or reader), I put that under her desk. Andrew's just has a few things in his in case he wants to "do school". I give him the option, because he's only 3. Sometimes he wants to sit and color, or do an activity sheet, but not always. This morning, he joined in about halfway through. I bought a Pre-K book at Target for him, and I have a bunch of alphabet and number sheets that I use for his folders. I also keep my teacher files in there: my lesson plan book, spelling lists, quarterly exams, grading sheets...and, in the back, is a folder for completed work. At the end of the quarter, all the weekly folders should be empty, and the completed work folder full, so I'll just empty out the completed work folder, put it in a separate labeled file in case I need it later for records, and then refill the box with stuff for the next quarter.
Here is my 9-week file box:
And the tabs (I need to add tabs for weeks 8 & 9):
On Sundays, I take out the file for the coming week, and put it in a portfolio with tabs for each day of the week (so everything for Monday goes under the Monday tab, etc..)...that way, each day, she can just go to town on her workbook pages after I have presented the lessons for each subject.
Here is Ms. Natalie with her weekly work folder:
**please note the Holy Family in the picture..she chose that page for the picture because of Them =)
And, here is all three of them for Natalie's first day of First Grade!:
**please note the toothbrushes...Andrew was quite adamant about being able to see them in the picture...it's the only reason he agreed to be in it in the first place...boys!
And, Ms. Rachel...that little girls is quite the studious one ;)
Her very first masterpiece =)
Now, I just need a name for our little school! And, hopefully my motivation stays high...I'm good about staying on track in the beginning, but once I start losing steam, and have to rely on my own self-discipline, that's when the trouble starts....