Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Organization Post

It's a new school year - our third for M1 to be at home.  It somehow doesn't seem right that I've been doing this for 2.1 years now, but one thing I've learned is that organization is crucial.  Don't have the right equipment?  There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth on the kids' part.  Don't have a good set-up?  There will be much pulling of hair on the parents' part. 

The first year, I was winging it, as I believe all first-year parents are... or all parents in general, if I'm honest.  It's all a crapshoot until the kids are independent, isn't it?  I thought I had a good set-up because I more or less followed what was written in The Well-Trained Mind, i.e. my homeschooling tome of excellence.  Academically, it worked.  Logistically?  Not so much.  I actually felt freer to modify curriculum choices than I did to modify set-up choices.  Go figure. 

Sometime last year, I started to realize that various aspects of my day were entirely too cumbersome.  To paraphrase Dr. Phil, they weren't workin' for me.  I realized that M1 was frustrated when he had to do certain things - using a ruler, for instance, was a nightmare - and that I was frustrated about other stuff - finding needed workbooks on the homeschool shelf took more time than it should have.  But I didn't have the energy to deal with reorganizing in the middle of the school year, and so I sucked it up and went on, mentally vowing to remedy the situation before the beginning of third grade.

And I did.

First, I fixed the school supply problem:

Yes, it's a ruler.  BUT!  It's a ruler that has a part that sticks up in the middle, and it's fairly transparent, so it's perfect for M1, who likes to hold a ruler in the middle and who likes to be able to see what he's doing (whoda thunk??).  This particular device has already come in handy several times.

I also bought something I had always dismissed as a useless accessory for a family with just one student at home.  I bought an electric pencil sharpener, and it is now one of my best friends.  M1 used to spend 10-15 minutes every day sharpening his pencils, and that was assuming that the lead didn't break halfway through the process.  If it did, the time doubled.  Now one quick hop to the pencil sharpener is all it takes, and the odds of the lead breaking are way, way lower... and aren't as consequential! 

One thing that is burdensome for me but quite helpful for M1 is a schedule.  I feel that if I have his lesson plans stuck in a Word document where I can see, modify, and check off the tasks, that should be good enough... but it isn't.  M1 likes to see what's coming next.  He likes to know what errands and chores he will be dealing with each day.  He likes the feeling of crossing items off a list.  So while filling out a schedule may be a massive pain in the derriere on my part, it's sped up our daily process immensely.  M1 is now motivated to get through his work accurately and quickly so he has "extra time" at the end of the day.  The schedule indicates that we don't get done with school until nearly 3 p.m., but we haven't had a day yet that's taken us past noon, and M1 feels that this extra time is a bonus!  I love psychological games.

This is my filing notebook.  M1 chose his schedule for at least the first semester (he claims for the entire year), and so I was able to set up a huge binder with sections for each subject, in the order that we do them:  Spelling/Grammar, Math, Writing, History, Science, and electives (Latin, Spanish, and art).  He loves being able to file his own work, and at the end of the semester or year - whenever the binder is full - I'll be able to give this to him because he loves to go back and see how he's progressed.  Writing paper is at the front of the binder so I can see when we're getting low and replenish the supply from my stash tucked away in an undisclosed location.

Finally, the homeschool cabinet.  It's neat, which makes the OCD part of me extremely happy.  It's arranged by subject - from left, science, history, language arts, math, and electives - with curriculum on the left and resources on the right.  M1 loves it, too, because he knows where things are and can get whatever he needs in an instant. 

Art supplies fill the bottom shelf.  We have more art supplies in another cabinet, but these are the ones that the kids are free to use any time... the other cabinet holds things like the hot glue gun, feathers, sand for art projects, clay, etc.  I'm extremely proud of the fact that it all fits into one cabinet after this long.

That, in a nutshell, is school this year.  Of course, if you're interested in what curricula we use or how we implement our schooldays, please check it out here.

Happy Hump Day!


Kylie said...

Awesome job on getting organised. I can almost hear it in your voice how happy you are....doesn't it make all the difference :-)

Brilliant Creations said...

We must be on the same wave length this year. With Little Man I needed a more organized approach, and a child with more independence! Thus, the notebook! We have ours arranged by day, then by subject/time, etc. I'm hoping it works all year, and not just in the beginning because it's new and fun. Fingers crossed!