It's week 2, School Room Week, of the NOT Back-to-School Blog Hop over on Heart of the Matter.
We don't have a dedicated school room, but school definitely dominates our family room. Check it out. As usual, click on any photo to see it full size.
This photo was taken from in front of our kitchen sink, over looking the bar counter, the dining room table, and then into the family room where school takes place. Notice the cattails in the foreground from an earlier blog post, and behind them you can barely see an ugly but comfy yellow chair, and off to the right between the wooden chair and the computer desk is a comfy but ugly green love seat. The shelves and desk are pretty ugly too. Hmmm, I sense a theme there.We do have prettier dreams, however. We are making plans, counting costs, and saving up to put in built in cabinets and shelves along that large west wall of the family room. This is about what we plan. We'll replace the ugly but comfy seats with pretty but comfy seats too.
While I'm at it here, I'll spend the rest of this post talking about our version of the workbox system. Don't know what workboxes are? Well, Squidoo has the best overview that I know of.
I opted to use Sterilite 6.2 quart flat bins instead of plastic shoe boxes, because the idea of folding workbooks to fit in smaller bins just bothers me. The bins I chose allow even extra large books to lay flat. Otherwise my system for my three younger kids is pretty much the same as explained on the above Squidoo page. For my preschooler, the bins with pink numbers, "school" is just a mix of games, puzzles, and other activities that keep her happy while I work with the others. When I first started out with these about three weeks ago I was changing out her things daily, but now I have found she is just as happy if I keep the same items for a full week.
Here is a peek into my 2nd grader's #1 bin. The underside of the lid has the workbox schedule grid for the velcro numbers to go as he finishes each bin. Also, in this bin is where his pencil, crayons, and other school supplies live, and right on top ready for Monday morning is a cardstock page with clip art of a child making her bed and it reads "clean your room". He has to clean his room for the #1 bin to be done and so he can go on with the rest of his school day. My K'er and preschooler have similar #1 bins.
Some people new to workboxes wonder how subjects that are done together with more than one child are dealt with. For example, if I am reading one History book to two or more children what do I do with it? Well, the biggest benefit of the workboxes in our homeschool is the accountability required of me, so it is important to me that all school is in the boxes. So, I just put the do-together items in one child's box and when we get to it the other child (or other children, as the case may be) take a break from their boxes and come along too. Again, we are only about three weeks into this workbox system, but it is working very, very well so far. I'll post a workbox update come January or February, as I am often curious how people's systems work in the long term.
Lastly, I'll show you my 6th grader's workfolder system, which has a similar premise but is a bit different in execution. I take no credit for the idea; I pretty much copied, almost exactly, the idea from this blog post from Homeschool Creations. For me, this is the perfect solution for kids (and moms) that could benefit from the general workbox idea, but that feel they are too old for a dozen or so boxes. Also, it is quite compact, so it would be a great small space workbox solution as well.
I found this comb bound plastic eight pocket folder at Wal-Mart on a low shelf in the school supply section, and bought two of them so that I could undo the comb binding and add four of the pockets from one into the other to have a single workfolder with twelve pockets (and another folder with four pockets that I am using for the Biology mini co-op I am hosting). The first pocket holds the schedule grid, plus has "clean your room" and "gather school supplies" as tasks to complete to call it finished. For items that won't fit easily into the pocket, such as the novel King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry that she is reading this week, I just use a Post-It note and a velcro square that says the subject (some, like this "Reading" one I got from Homeschool Creations' printables and others, like the "Clean your room." one above I made myself).
Using this workfolder has been a huge success so far this school year, all three weeks of it, and I have great hopes that it will continue to be an asset. It keeps her moving forward steadily in all subject areas, keeps me more accountable to keep on top of her work daily, and keeps both of us more motivated to make sure some "fun" things are scheduled in there too. In the next couple days she'll get a chance to do an online video Art Club and work on her quilting project. In just three weeks she has already done more art, hobbies, and extracurriculars (typing at this moment) than she did for all of last year, and all while still getting all her other subjects done too. Scheduling her "fun" stuff in this way doesn't make it less fun, but rather makes it like a reward for working hard.
UPDATE: See this blog post to read how my workbox system is working almost a year later.