Monday, August 16, 2010

First School Days

The scientist

The newest Student in the house

Today we started off the first of many school days in the 2010-2011 school year! Of course I stayed up way too late trying to make sure everything was ready, and it wasn't. But I wasn't disappointed, why? Because I have a new mantra....High goals, low expectations.

My Class of 3 waiting for Mom to stop snappin pics and start teaching!
What in the world does that mean? It means I have goals of keeping everyone on track and on time, completing everything planned every day, cramming loads of knowledge into the kids and enjoying the process. But what is realistic for me to expect? The reality of teaching a First grader, a K4, Tot-school with a 2 year old while nursing and loving a 3 month old is that diaper explosions and interrupted naps will throw us off schedule. Some lessons will take longer than allotted for or not go as planned cutting into other time, and there will be enough frustrations, disobedience, complaining and tears to go around. So with that in mind, I will determine to accomplish my goals, but when things go haywire as they oft do......I'll have expected that!

With that being said, Today actually went unexpectedly well! We ate lunch 15 minutes late but ended 30 minutes earlier than scheduled! Don't ask how....I dunno. And even with Liora waking early and snack messes and phone calls.....the kids had a great time getting back into things....and in all honesty, so did I!

How we do it:

1. I use the workbox system by: Sue Patrick. It's amazing, I'll tell you why. All the student work is organized into workboxes (each subject having it's own box), this way materials for each subject are located in the box~you prepare them the day, night or morning before school. They help with scheduling, planning and organizing all your materials! You can use just about anything from shoeboxes on a shoe rack to what we are using this year~ plastic drawers purchased at Walmart (see photo below). In short, each child is given a schedule and (I call them "tickets") with clip art images of each subject. Each drawer has a number that corresponds with their schedule, in that drawer is everything they will need for Math, Spelling! It also helps the kids know what they have finished and what is coming up!
Here is a close up of the boxes, full of supplies and finished for the day~you can see the kids have added their "tickets" to the box as a sign they have worked on that subject.

2. We are including Gracia in Tot-school this year. Okay maybe that is a fun way of saying, I am trying to include Gracia and have some fun/educational activities for her to do so she'll be less of a distraction and be part of the fun! It's only fair, besides she's just-turned-two-going-on-four anyway!

Lapbooks that add fun AND learning in one folder!

3. I've written out a schedule for myself and all four kids (including potty breaks~okay I'm kidding about that) in order to make sure everything gets done around here. It may sound restrictive and totally un-fun, but it's actually kind of  freeing. And along with my "low expectations"....I know we might not always make it everyday, but at least there is a plan!

4. I've written out a daily subject list. I won't do every subject everday (Bible, Lang Arts and Math are everyday)~ Thursdays are special Science Experiment Days, Tuesday and Thursdays are Art......That way I have a little leeway each day, and each day is a little different.

5. Sneak in the fun. Any subject can have hands on activities involved, and at these young ages I think that is a must. There are great websites and blogs out there to glean great ideas from! Like Confessions of a Homeschooler and Homeschool Creations. Include art projects or activities from Making Learning Fun. It does take time and effort to add a little pizzaz to your current curriculum if you aren't happy with what you've got or your child seems a little bored. But it's SO worth it. It really is.

We are making Observation Journals here....colored cardstock, Nat Geo Mags, glue stick and I get to use my laminator AND my Binding machine to finish them off!

6. I'm starting circle time with the kids this year. I've found some great printables from both Homeschool creations as well as 1+1+1. These are talented, dedicated homeschool Mom's that have made tons of free printables for you to download and use! From lapbooks, to filefolder games to great ideas all around! USE them!!! Our circle time will include Awana verse review time as well as "discussions" from Ellie's Calvert curriculum and some of the components of what I've found. I think it's a great way to start off the morning right!

Our circle time and reading~aloud nook
7. Use your Computer! My Mom blessed us by leaving her desktop for us to use. I am going to convert it into our school computer, making a little "computer lab" for the kids. Whether you use Starfall (a free phonics and reading site) or pay for Click n Kids (an awesome phonics program, you can find 40% off coupon codes for! ) or buy educational CD's from Walmart......use your computer! I have found this is an excellent way of teaching the same subject to 2 kids at once. One day Jonah will start off on the Computer with a Click n Kids lesson while I give Ellie some one-on-one time with phonics or spelling. Then they switch! It's Ellie's turn for some computer time and Jonah and I have some one-on-one time!

The dark little area on the right hand side is our computer lab! All in one room making it easy for me to help both kids at once!

8. Teach the same curriculum to as many age groups as possible. For Language Arts and Math Jonah and Ellie work with different curricula. But for all of the other subjects we are using the same across the board. that means for Bible, Science, History and Art we are learning the same things together. I have opted to stay at Jonah's level for all of those subjects. Ellie may not grasp all of of the concepts, but there is no harm in being exposed to a little higher level. In fact I have found that she does really well learning right along with us, neither of the kids is bored, it's a win~win!!!

I really do have high hopes for this school year. I am such a teacher at heart, I can't help but to jump right in and over do it......yup right in over my head as usual. But I'm also not afraid to let go of what doesn't work and try new things that just may work. Hopefully you'll find a few helpful hints in this post, Happy New School Year to YOU!!!

These are some happy faces (sorry they are dark, I don't have photoshop running 100% to lighten them up yet!)
Dramatic Ellie~kins


  1. So great Tia!!! Your school room looks awesome! Are you all moved in? I start kindergarten with Cadi on August 30th! I cannot wait! I am hoping to do a few home school posts of my own this week. In two years when I have a second grader, a preschooler, and a toddler, I will definitely be looking to you for tips!! {grin} Enjoy....

  2. Wow! I love your plans and your attitude! I have a 5 year old, 2 year old, and one due soon. It makes for an interesting day but a good attitude makes a huge difference!

  3. This is my first time to your site. I'm really impressed, you seem to have it totally together!! Your post is inspiring me. I'll be starting soon, but I feel very unorganized. I have a 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 yrd old...and the 1/2 is very important to them! Really they are almost 4 and 6. this will be my 2nd year, but my first with a curriculum. Thanks for sharing your great attitude and ideas! btw... love the music on here!

  4. Morgan and Chellie~ Thank you for the compliments! I definitely don't have it all together, I think each school year is a work in progress! And with all the different age groups it can be hard to juggle sometimes! I have found when I get stressed, the fun stops and so does the learning! I want my kids to really love learning like I do! Hope you stick around for a while! Thanks for reading!

  5. Aloha Tia,
    Awesome post! I live on Oahu as well and love the Lord. I am entertaining the idea of homeschooling my daughter-I need lots of ideas!!



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