Our homeschooling plan is divided into three parts: workbook time, mom+me activities, and screen time. The mom+me activities are exactly what you think they would be (making cookies, doing art projects, trips to the library) and the screen time is either computer programs or apps on the iPad. Although both of those components took some research, neither were as complicated to plan initially as our workbook time so I thought I’d show you the system we eventually came up with.
First, let me give you a peek at our current homeschool storage system. If you remember, we used to keep activities in a mobile organizer, divided by subject. That actually worked really well last summer, but once Calvin-zilla figured out that the drawers contained interesting and ever-changing items, that storage system was toast. We now use the organizer to hold different colors of construction paper and our homeschool stuff is organized on three shelves of our bookcase. By the way, I so wish this was a pin-able Martha Stewart inspired example of stylized living, but it’s not because I haven’t gotten that far. So, the homeschool stuff and my work stuff all cohabitate on some basic IKEA shelves for the moment.
The top shelf is split between my current notebooks and a selection of homeschool and parenting materials. A few activity books are up there but it’s mostly a place for me to go to get inspired about activities for the coming week or to grab some parenting wisdom when I want to throw the children out the window.
The middle shelf is just crayons and other materials at the moment (not even worth sharing) but the shelf below it has all of the workbook pages we use for Eva’s binder divided into subjects. Yes, Mama Crazypants here murdered the vast majority of Eva’s workbooks so I could three-hole-punch them or put them into page protectors. Why is that an improvement, you may ask?
1 – Breaking up the workbooks gives me more of an opportunity to have Eva do a variety of pages on the same day by mixing styles, skill levels, and subjects.
2 – Putting some of the workbook pages into page protectors means that Eva can use dry erase markers to complete them and then we can erase her work and use that same page again.
3 – Sometimes my OCD just needs to be indulged. Otherwise I start pulling out my label maker and ain’t nobody got time for that.
When we decided to give homeschooling a solid try, Eva had a stack of workbooks and activity books that she had collected over the years. Occasionally she would pull one down and do a few pages, but mostly they just sat around in stacks with the coloring books. In the first week of homeschool, we started to make our way through one of the workbooks, but we got hung up because the pages were both too difficult and too easy and Eva got bored very quickly and started getting lazy about completing them. Having them divided by subject and easy to pull out works for us.
Each subject binder starts with pages that have been pulled because Eva found them too challenging. This happens sometimes and since I really don’t want her to be frustrated, if she gets stuck we just pull that worksheet and sub in another from the same subject.
Each binder is further divided to keep like worksheets together. For example, the math binder starts will all of the really easy pages about numbers together and the more advanced counting and sequencing pages are in the next section. The pages I slipped into page protectors are mixed in with everything else so I can find them easily. If Eva’s done that page a few times, I eventually pull it out of the page protector and let her finish it for the last time unless it’s a really great one that I want to save for her brother (and that’s a pretty small stack).
Eva’s homeschool worksheet binder looks like this:
Inside, she has a zipper pouch for her school materials and a set of workbook pages for the week.
The pouch has pencils, a sharpener, dry-erase markers, and a dry-erase eraser. She doesn’t use the pencils very often, so we usually grab the art jar of crayons as well when we start workbook time.
The workbook pages are divided by days. I had to create the dividers using Post-It brand tabs stuck to page protectors because the pre-made dividers I purchased can’t be seen around the page protectors. Eva can easily find the right day and then make her way through the following pages, determining for herself if they’re a crayon or a dry erase page. The mix is random but generally I do a few letter pages, a math page, a life-skills page, and a coloring page for every day. It might sound like a lot but it doesn’t take her very long and the coloring page is optional.
I like this system but if I had to do it again I wouldn’t bother putting very many pages into page protectors. In fact, I’d probably make a separate binder just with worksheets in page protectors so Eva could do that one in the car or if she asked for it. I feel like it was more hassle than it was worth and took too much time. Also, I started with cheap page protectors from Target that were more of a film than a glossy cover. I finally switched to harder, glossier protectors that I bought in bulk at Costco but that was even more time and money spent on this project.
Another downside to this plan is that Eva does much better when she’s self-directed than when the work is assigned. For example, today we did three letter sheets, an art sheet, a matching sheet, and a connect-the-dots. She was sluggish through all of the worksheets until she got to the connect-the-dots and once she was finished with that, she asked for more. I let her get into the math binder and she pulled out about twenty worksheets and completed them all on her own. This is a good thing…even if my internal OCD was yelling, “Nooo! You’re not scheduled to learn that until next week!” So, I can’t say for sure that this would be a good plan forever. Eva just does want Eva wants to do most of the time.
And a little update on the homeschooling:
Well, after my mini-meltdown regarding how homeschool sort of sucks and nobody was enjoying it, our family took our two week vacation to Walt Disney World and I left all of the homeschool work in Utah to see if a break was enough to snap us out of our funk. The result is that it did and it didn’t. Our vacation did get us out of the routine of Eva crying in frustration before homeschooling even began, but I don’t know that she’s enjoying it as much as I want her to. She does her work happily but she misses her friends something fierce and we’re already moving back to a place of being a little weary of how much time we spend together.
To combat these things, I’ve added the super scary why-can’t-they-stop-selling-peanut-butter-bars gymnastics class back to our schedule, dropped two of our mom-and-me projects that we had scheduled in the afternoons each week, and brought back more free play time. We’re also continuing our search for Eva’s next school adventure. We were very close to sealing the deal with a local private school but sadly we hit a financial impasse when we decided we didn’t want to split our kids up. As it stands, we’re still looking around but I feel like we make progress every day on how comfortable we are with Eva in situations that might be challenging for her (like being in a classroom that isn’t nut-free). Two steps forward, one step back…
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