Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recipe: Winter Root Pudding

My friend Patsy gave this sweet potato recipe to me years ago. It is absolutely delish!!!! My kids love it as it's pumped full of sugar and fat, which is why we save it for special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays.

Winter Root Pudding
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 c. melted butter
3 eggs beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 Tblsp. vanilla

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 flour
1/2 cup butter, softened

Mix together and pour into a 9 x 9 pan, which has been sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle on the topping. Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 minutes.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Scoring Your Doctor

There are few websites out there that allow you to rate your doctor's care as well as look and see how other people have rated their doctors. This could a useful tool though I imagine it could be abused (ratings are anonymous and an ex-spouse or jealous co-worker could do some damage) but all in all I think it's a great idea.

If you'd check it out here are a couple of links:

There is even a website where you can rate your prescription drugs:

If you are familiar with these or other medical rating services, please leave a comment and tell us what you think.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saving and Organizing Children's Art Projects

Here is a great blog post (with pictures and step-by-step instructions) from Ariane: Save Every Last Art and Craft Your Kids Make… Forever… in One Small Box!
I know our house tends to get overrun with the multitude of paper mache, ceramics, posterboard, lapbooks, etc. from homeschooling creative children. I thought you might be interested in my latest blog post on how to preserve the projects without needing to rent a storage unit. The post contains step-by-step directions on techniques for saving the various children's art/science projects.
Check out the rest of Ariane's blog while you're there and you'll learn loads about home photography and video. Great stuff: My Photo Video: Helping Capture the Best Memories of Your Life

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sacred Heart Books Discount

I saw in mater et magistra (Catholic homeschooling magazine) that Sacred Heart Books discounts all their books and texts 15% all the time so no coupon needed. Plus they have free shipping for orders over $25. That is a sweet deal.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Paying for College Without Going Broke

ADDENDUM: The live webinar went great! You can watch the recording for free:
How to Pay for College Without Breaking Your Bank

Homeschool Connections is hosting a free webinar on How to Pay for College Without Breaking Your Bank.

I don't know about you, but this is a hot topic at my house. Not just when talking about my 19- and 17-year olds, but the 9- and 7-year olds too! This is one free event I'll not be missing!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fee-Free Weekend This Weekend

This is short notice, but just in case ...

From my friend Lisa:

Visit this site for a state-by-state list of participating parks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Discount Code: Ecce Homo Press

Joan Stromberg of Ecce Homo Press has created a discount code just for Thrifty Homeschoolers! To receive 10% off any online order just use the code THRIFTY. It's good until October 31, 2009.

If you are not familiar with Ecce Homo they produce all kinds of wonderful items with Catholic homeschoolers in mind:
For the Love of Literature
Little Flowers Girls Club
Blue Knight Boys Club
Little Women Hospitality
Our Lady's Honor Guard
Glory of America series

Ecce Homo comes from John 19:5, Behold the Man.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coupon Code: Adoremus Books

In the current issue of mater et magistra (Catholic homeschooling magazine) Adoremus Books has a discount code for 10% off online orders. The expiration date is 10/01/2009. MAG709

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Free Stuff from NASA for Homeschoolers!

Last week Domenico Ruggiero gave an awesome webinar on his work at NASA. It was a wonderful learning experience for my family. The great news is that the webinar was recorded and you can watch it yourself at: One Small Step for Parents, One Giant Leap for Homeschool Kids: Insights from a NASA Engineer.

If you have a child with the least bit interest in aerospace, astronomy or engineering, you absolutely should not miss this one.

PLUS, Domenico arranged with NASA to give away all kinds of neat NASA goodies -- posters, decals, rulers, and more. To receive these giveaways drop Domenico an email. He'll email back a form so you can choose what you would like to receive. But don't wait! The deadline is August 19, 2009.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Back to School Sales are Already Here!

Can you believe it's August already? Wasn't it just yesterday when we were putting the books back on the shelf and planning trips to the beach?

This week I've already taken advantage of several back-to-school sales. I got pencils, paper, glue sticks, folders, spiral notebooks for as little as one penny and as much as ten cents. All found at Wal-Mart, Staples, and Meijers.

Start watching those sales fliers if you aren't already and get out there to stock up for the whole year. At 90% off on key supplies you can't afford to stay home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coupon for Online Classes

Homeschool Connections has a $10 off coupon that is good until August 1, 2009. The code is c4w5b7.

To use, just go to the website and click on the class you would like to enroll your high school student in. When you register just put in the code at checkout and click on Apply.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Buying Clothes in the Off Season

One way to save money on clothes, is to buy off season. If your favorite store is having a huge end-of-the-season sale, take advantage of it. You'll have to estimate your child's size for the next year though. If you have a big family like me, WRITE IT DOWN! You won't be saving much money if you buy the wrong sizes! (Though with seven children, it will fit someone eventually .)

Same goes with garage and yard sales. Even though you'll most likely be hitting the garage sales in the summer, don't forget to pick up winter coats and snow boots!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Old Schoolhouse Sale

I'm not familiar with this product, but it's 50% off so I figured I should pass it on. If you know about it and it's on your "I need to buy" list then now may be the time to buy it.

This Old Schoolhouse is having a great deal on the When I Grow Up, I Want to Be series. It's an interactive way to help guide the kids to better understand the world around them and learn about the many professiosn that people are involved in and love.

The cool thing about the series is that it covers everything from skills needed, how much money you can expect to make and what really goes on each day. It looks really cool and my daughter is looking forward to starting it.

The special offer (lasts for the month of June) and is half price for the entire series. Anyway, here's the link:

And free shipping too!

Friday, May 29, 2009

2-Dollar Books

Sophia Institute Press is having a $2 sale and some of the titles are pretty darn good. Go check it out.

Other books for Catholic parents.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Botany and Astronomy Notebooking Journal

Apologia is now producing notebooking journals that accompany each of the elementary science books. Both Botany and Astronomy are now available. You can see samples on the Apologia website here:

These journals are beautiful spiral bound notebooks that will save you time and money. You won't have to print and keep up with your child's notebook pages, buy and maintain page protectors, or purchase and compile binders...everything that makes notebooking time-consuming and labor intensive for mom. Also, your child will adore having their own notebooking journal.

Each of the notebooking journals include:
  • A daily schedule for those who like to have a plan or would like their children to complete the book on their own
  • Templates for written narrations, the notebooking activities and experiments
  • Review Questions
  • Scripture Copywork, with both print and cursive practice
  • Reading lists and additional activities, projects, experiments for each lesson
  • An appendix with beautiful, full-color, lapbook-style Miniature Books
  • Field Trip Sheets to keep a record field trips
  • A Final Review with fifty questions the students can answer either orally or in writing to show off all they remember and know at the end of the course.
See the sample pages here:




Jeannie is giving away four Astronomy Notebooking Journals and four Botany Notebooking Journals to bloggers who post about this on their site. Visit her blog to learn more about this contest:

The contest ends on in one week on May 29th! That way I'll have the weekend to send them before I go to the Illinois conference.

So blog away!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Organizing My Homeschool

Wednesday's live webinar Homeschool Organization 102 was fantastic. The audience was great -- participating to the fullest, sharing their best tips, advice, and websites.

The event was recorded and you may view it for free: Homeschool Organization 102. Enjoy.

Thank you to the sponsors of this event who make it possible for Homeschool Connections to bring it to you for free:
Ecce Homo Press
Love 2 Learn
Living Math

Monday, May 04, 2009

Survey: Homeschool Connections Courses and Webinars

Walter and I are spending the month of May scheduling courses, seminars, and free webinars through the end of 2009. We'd like your help if you don't mind. In fact, this is a great opportunity for you, as you will have a direct input on what we schedule.

Click Here to take survey

Our goal is to serve the homeschool community and prayerfully this survey will help us do just that. Please feel free to pass this link onto other homeschoolers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Free Math and Science Online Conference Talk

Bringing Joy to Your Homeschool Math and Science Lessons

This is a remake of the original webinar with the same name. Since we experienced some audio and visual challenges with the first one we wanted to improve your experience by trying it all over again. It worked! Enjoy!

Literature isn't just for reading! You can teach math, science, language arts, and more using living books. This is the third in a series of three talks on the topic of teaching through real books.

Have you ever said out loud, "I hate math!" Or, "Math was my worst subject!" Was science always a tough subject for you? Do you struggle wondering how you can bring the fullness of the subject to your children? If so, you've come to the right place.

In this talk Maureen Wittmann shows you how to let go of your math and science phobia and keep from passing it onto your children. Math can be fun and interesting. Really. You just need to look at it in a new light. Science can go beyond the kitchen experiments and come alive in a child's imagination. Really.

Maureen brings lots of books with her for show and tell. You'll leave this online seminar loaded with book titles, fresh ideas, and practical tips. You won't want to miss it!

Maureen is the author of For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects Through Literature published by Ecce Homo Press, available from your favorite bookseller or

To sign up for other live webinars from Homeschool Connections, please visit

To view recordings of past webinars, please visit

Thank you to our sponsors who make it possible to bring these webinars to you for free:
Living Math
Ecce Homo Press

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Pen Eating Sofa

If you're getting short on pens and pencils don't go out to the store to buy new ones. Just do what I do -- put your hand in between the cushions of your sofa and you'll be sure to find anywhere from 5 to 10 pens and pencils. You'll save a ton of money doing this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Recession Proof Jobs

A good article from Readers Digest:
9 Recession-Proof Careers

"Think of basic human needs, the things we can't do without," says Shatkin. They provide what he calls "little islands" of employment in this economy. For example, he says, we will always need sewage and water treatment. Challenger says the food industry is a core area: "People have to eat, and the global population is increasing."

In a down economy, people don't buy new cars—they repair their old ones. People turn to their clergy for comfort. Funeral directors will always have jobs. And since pets are very much a part of the family, veterinarians and veterinary technicians will continue to be in demand.

Also check out the links to other job-search related articles:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Job Hunting in a Recession

Years ago, during the recession in the 80's, I worked as a recruiter. This article from the Wall Street Journal is an excellent piece on recession proofing your job search:
The Interview That'll Bag a Job
At an interview, you want to stand out for the right reasons. To do so, you'll need to leave your baggage and anxiety at the door. For starters, wait until 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time to announce yourself. Arriving any sooner "shows that you're not respectful of the time the hiring manager put aside for you," says Ms. Loubaton, adding that a candidate who arrived an hour early made workers uncomfortable. "Companies really don't want someone camped out in their lobby."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Recipe: Mixed Green Salad with Pecans, Goat Cheese, and Dried Cherries

This is an awesome salad. It's so beautiful and delicious that it's one you'll want to make whenever you go visiting. I first tasted it when my friend Lynette brought it for a gathering at my home. Now I'll be making it to take to my friend Linda's house for Easter.

1 pound mixed greens (I like to add some baby spinach too)
1 small to medium red onion, sliced thinly
4 - 6 oz. crumbled feta cheese (I buy a block of it and crumble myself - cheaper & only a few seconds of extra work)
1/2 cup dried cherries (craisens work okay and are cheaper)
1 cup sugar coated pecans
1 green pear (optional)
Light raspberry vinaigrette

Make your sugar coated pecans and raspberry vinaigrette ahead of time.

Place mixed greens in a very large bowl. Add the feta (goat cheese), dried cherries, red onions, and pecans. Toss with 1/4 cup of the dressing or to taste.

Core and thinly slice your green pear and place on top of the salad for a pretty finishing touch.

Recipe: Light Raspberry Vinaigrette

Some raspberry vinaigrettes taste too strong for me. I suppose because they are so heavy on the raspberry or because they include Dijon mustard. Now, personally, I love Dijon but I'm not sure it belongs in this recipe. Here is a lighter version. It is sweet, but in my opinion it has just the right amount of raspberry flavor:

1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco (optional)
6 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoon dried parsley (or 6 T. freshly chopped)
1 cup olive oil

Mix well. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Note: Try it in this recipe and you'll impress all your friends.

Recipe: Sugar Coated Pecans for Salad

I have an awesome recipe for salad that includes candied pecans. Store bought cost way too much money. Instead, purchase pecans when on sale (I found bulk pecans for half price this week via Easter sales) and make your own. Then store in an airtight container. Once you've made these, you'll never want to put plain ole' nuts into salad again.

This is the recipe I use for salad pecans:
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups pecan halves
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 300°F

In medium sized bowl, combine egg white, water, and vanilla, Beat until foamy. Stir in pecans with wooden spoons until they're well coated with the egg white mixture. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine sugar and salt. Pour over the moist pecans and stir to coat evenly. (I do all this in my Kitchenaid mixer bowl.)

In preheated oven, gently melt butter in jelly roll pan. Carefully remove pan from oven and stir nuts into melted butter. Spread nuts evenly and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, making sure they don't burn.

Remove from oven and spoon to wax paper to cool.

I put the jelly roll pan immediately into the sink with hot water for easy cleaning.

Once cooled, break up the pecans.

If you're making the sugar coated pecans just for nibbling, you may want to add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the sugar mixture.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Free Math Stuff

If you could use a little free help in the area of math, from kindergarten through high school, I've been posting loads of cool links over at Unity of Truth (math and science blog).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free Coloring Pages and More

If your children like it when you print out coloring pages, mazes and the such then you've got to visit Dover Children's Book Sampler. I'm signed up for the newsletter. Once a week I get an email to links so I may print out samples of their reproducibles. It's worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

American Government and the Constitution for Homeschoolers

Homeschool Connections is proud to announce their first ever online class for homeschooled high school students and it's sure to be great!

If you are not familiar with Homeschool Connections, we provide free webinars for homeschool parents as well as online classes at a reasonable price for homeschooled students.

Course Description:
Democracy, Government & Citizenship
American government has been called the most radical experiment in self-governing in human history based on its unique system of democracy and citizen involvement. Learn how the fundamental elements of American government are supposed to work, how they actually work, and the role and responsibility each citizen has in our government and our future."

Instructor's Biography:
Ed Rivet has a B.S. in Pre-Law and Public Policy and a Master's in Public Administration both from Michigan State University. He served three years as a legislative aide in the Michigan House of Representatives. For 21 years Ed has served as the Right to Life of Michigan's Legislative Director. He has written and helped enact dozens of laws, including the nation's first complete ban on human cloning, and banning assisted suicide in the face of the assault on human life by Jack Kevorkian and Geoffrey Fieger. Ed was the director of the state of Michigan's largest all-volunteer citizen petition drive which also was the state's most accurate petition drive ever, 97.3% valid signatures. Ed has done countless media interviews, appearing in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, plus live interviews on CNN and Good Morning America.

Seven-week course for $87.50. Seating is limited to 25 students.

Dates and Time:
Classes will begin Friday, March 27, 2009 and meet every Friday through May 8, 2009 with Good Friday off. The time will begin 12:00 PM Eastern Time and end at 1:15 PM.

Enrollment Period:
Enrollment will close on March 20, 2009. This will provide students time to learn about the educational software Moodle and the instructor time to provide a syllabus and Welcome.

Misc. Details:
All coursework will be provided by the instructor or available online for free. Homework and research projects will be given and graded. Mr. Rivet will be available via email in between classes to answer questions and take comments.

Equipment requirements:
Students are required to have high-speed internet and a headset with microphone. If you do not own a headset, you can find them for a reasonable price at Amazon.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Free Pocket Constitution

Free copies of the US Constitution are available from The Heritage Foundation at:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Buying Groceries Online is having a big sale on groceries. Whoda ever thunk that Amazon would get into groceries, but hey they seem to be getting into everything else from shoes to electronics these days so why not groceries. So, go check out the 40% off sale.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Online Classes for Homeschool Students / Free Help for Homeschool Parents

I'd like to share some awesome news with you.

First, I've decided to partner with Walter Crawford and Homeschool Connections. I love the webinar concept so much that I want to be an active part of it. Kind of like that Schick (or was it Gillette?) CEO who loved their razors so much that he bought the company.

Second, all live and recorded webinars are now free! Yes, FREE!

Third, we're going to offer online classes for high school students and possibly middle school students. There will be a fee for that but it'll be very reasonable. More information on that will be forthcoming in a few days.

In the meantime, here are links to my upcoming free talks:
Bringing an Appreciation of Art and Music to Your Homeschool
Bringing Joy to Your Homeschool Math and Science Lessons

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Make Shades From Broken Mini-Blinds

The best thing you can do to be thriftier is to learn to re-use old or broken items. Here is a great post from the Little Green Notebook Blog on how to make old, broken mini-blinds with clear-cut instructions and pictures. Very cool!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Homeschool Dads Night Out

UPDATE: All Homeschool Connections webinars are now FREE!

I've been doing some research and have found that motivational and educational webinars (online seminars) run from $50 to $500. That's a lot of money! Fortunately for the homeschooling community webinars are coming onto the market with us in mind and with our pocket books in mind. For example:

From Walter Crawford:
Dr. Mary Kay Clark and Gene McGuirk discuss with you the significance a dad can have in the success in everyone's homeschool efforts.

If you are a dad, they will provide you practical advice and encouragement on how to be the best homeschool dad you can be. If you are a mom, they will provide you insight on how to leverage the expertise of your husband. Please come and participate in this wonderful discussion with some of the most experienced homeschoolers around.
The fun starts at 7:30 PM Central Time on Wednesday, March 11, 2009. It's only $5 to register. To find out more and/or register visit Homeschool Connections: Homeschool Dads. (If you get a message about time difference just click Yes -- that has just started happening to me in the past day.)

And while you're there, check out the other offerings from Homeschool Connections. Recorded and live events run from Free to $10.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Win One-Year Subscription to mater et magistra

The Teaching History with Real Books webinar went great. Those things are so fun to do. I think all the attendees enjoyed the experience too. If you weren't able to make it but would still like to learn more about using literature in your homeschool, you're in luck. The entire webinar is available for download for a mere $4. Just go to: How to Teach History with Real Books.

My next webinar is Teaching Music and Art Appreciation with Real Books on Wednesday March 4th at 7:30 PM Central. Hillside Education will be giving away a free subscription to mater et magistra to one luck attendee! It's such a perfect tie-in as the talk is on art and mater et magistra is the most beautiful little magazine you've ever seen. For those who already subscribe, Hillside will simply add a year to your subscription or you can give it away as a gift.

There are also free Mom's Night Out events to check out too. I plan on attending. Now that I'm out in the country, I need all the mom chat time I can get!

UPDATE: All Homeschool Connections webinars are now FREE!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Win a Free Book

One lucky attendee to the Teaching History with Real Books webinar will get a free copy of For the Love of Literature. Autographed no less!

You get to attend a fun mini-conference from the comfort of your own home AND possibly win an awesome door prize. Hey, life doesn't get much better!

See you there!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Free Online Chat and Other Offerings from Homeschool Connections

Hey, have you been longing for a Ladies Night Out? Yearning for an evening of chatting with some other homeschool moms? Well, have I got a cool opportunity for you: Mom's Night Out While In on February 19th at 7:30 Central Time. This will be a free monthly get together to chat and hang out without leaving the comfort of your home. This is especially nice for moms who may be feeling isolated due to the lack of a local homeschool community.

I've already registered and I hope to see several of you there! Space is limited to only 30 participants to keep the event cozy so don't wait too long to sign up.

On another but similar note . . . being an awesome techno genius, I finally figured out how to get to the recorded webinars directly instead of sending you to the home website and then making you search for the right link. Oh, okay, I admit it, I'm not a techno genius and Walter sent the direct links to me.

Anyhoo, here they are:

Homeschool Organization 101: FREE

Caring Connections: Maximizing the Benefits of Homeschool Family Relationships with Danielle Bean: $2.oo

And while you're there, don't forget to sign up for my upcoming webinar:
How to Teach History with Real Books
The fee is $10 but it is money well spent. It'll be fun as well as informational! Perfect to beat the February Blahs.

UPDATE: The Feb. Mom's Night Out While In is all filled up. But there are still openings for March and April. Also, there are still a few seats for the Teaching History with Real Books online conference.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Re-use Tip: Even More Baskets

LEGO's in a plastic tub. Library books in dishpans or laundry baskets. What can you reuse?

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Baskets for Organizing

I love the old dishwasher silverware basket used for art supplies!

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wicker Baskets

I have found wicker baskets to be great for organizing my household and school. They can hold just about anything, be stashed just about anyplace, and look attractive to boot.

Smaller baskets can hold computer CD's, school receipts, or desk supplies. Medium baskets can hold papers to grade, Playstation controls, or computer cords. The larger baskets can hold newspapers, library books, or toys.

They can be found at thrift shops, garage sales, and clearance tables. Don't spend too much money on them.

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wire Baskets from Office Store

Probably one of the best pieces advice I ever got on organizing the kids' school books was from my friend Terri. She had baskets lining the large window sill in her dining room. Each child had his or her own basket to keep schoolwork. Putting this into practice is very simple and a big help in keeping track of school books.

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Organizing Texts with Plastic Tubs

These plastic tubs (totes) are labeled and decorated by the children.

One for each child.

Can be easily carried from room to room, or to a co-op class.


For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Labeling and Color Coding Binders

Keeping track of subjects:

Binders labeled, color coded, and stored in a plastic tub.

Label tub with student’s name.


For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Dry Erase Boards

To make your own homeschool white board visit Firmly Planted: Our Homeschool Journey.

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Using Paint to Organize

Use magnetic paint (or magnetic primer paint) to change any surface into a magnetic board. You can also use chalkboard paint, dry erase (whiteboard) paint, or a magnetic/chalkboard paint combination.

In this picture the fridge is turned into a chalkboard.

Visit Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News for all the particulars.

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Thirteen Years of Organization

Today's guest blogger is Diane.
Here are a few things I do that have worked really well for us.

We have a tower bookcase that is about 12 inches across and has five shelves. So, it is tall and skinny. That creates five sturdy cubbies. Each cubby has enough room for a child’s schoolbooks for the year. Here they keep the books while they are not in use. Not only does it keep them handy for the kids, but it is handy for me to find the books when I am making lesson plans or checking papers.

On each side of the tower is a regular bookcase, each 28 inches across and just as high as the tower bookcase. On one side of the tower, I have arranged the shelves so that we have 3 of those stacking file trays. There is a stacking file of five, one for each kid, for kids to put work into when it is completed. The other stack of five is for me to put the work when I have checked it so that they can file it in their “completed work” notebook. The third stack of trays (not visible in the picture) has a tray for 4 different kinds of paper: notebook paper, printer paper, manuscript paper, and scrap paper. In the other bookcase, I keep notebooks with lesson plans and various other materials I use fairly frequently. They are an arm’s length away from my desk so that it is very convenient when grading and doing lesson plans.

Perpendicular and right next to the bookshelves is my desk. On my desk, I have priority space for the items I need to use to grade papers. I have a notebook for each kid with answer keys. I have the stickers, prize tickets, calculator and grading pens I like to use all here, easy to reach. So, this is all a teacher’s corner to me. I try to keep the desk clean (note the word try) so that it is easy to sit down and check the papers every afternoon or evening.

A great thing we found at a thrift store for about $50 is a cabinet that has 8 shallow drawers. It has a safety mechanism that only one drawer can open at a time. Each drawer opens fully. This is sooo perfect for all the school supplies. Since the drawers are shallow, everything is easy to see. We have a drawer for science supplies, craft supplies, regular school supplies, cd’s and tapes, puzzles and 2 misc drawers.

For the kids’ workspaces, we have different things for different kids. We have three desks in the formal living room. Two of the kids who need to use word processors a lot have computers. The oldest child, a senior, has a desk in his room, but often uses a computer in the school room. I work with the younger 2 children at a table in the schoolroom. The first grader has a small desk in the schoolroom for her seatwork. We used to have desks and computers in the kids’ bedrooms because the little kids made so much noise during their playtime, but found that too much time was wasted playing with computer settings and such, so all the computers came out in to the open where I can monitor them better.

We have been homeschooling for 13 years. We have changed around our organization a lot of times, but the tower bookcase and its accompanying stacking trays and desk right by have been the anchor for quite a while. Also, so as not to discourage newbies, I would like to emphasize that it took a while to get all the shelves and stuff. We bought the tower bookcase new, but someone gave us the bookcases. We got my great metal desk for about $35 at an auction. We bought two computer desks new, but two of them came really cheap from a garage sale. Someone gave us the school table and the little school desk. I think our file cabinets were about $12 or so each at an auction. Overall, God has really blessed us!!!

Below are pictures of all of this. I didn’t clean anything up in order to take the pictures, but it just so happened that I had cleaned off my desk in anticipation of grading papers. There can be a lot of clutter when homeschooling six kids at once!

Thank you Diane!

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Organizing with Tackle Boxes / Free Planning

Today's guest blogger is Beth

For organizing the classroom I have some pictures you can share. I use "tackle boxes" for several materials but I have to give credit for that idea to Suzanne at JMJ Publishing who shows in detail using it with particular works. This is the storage/organization folder. (Click for the pictures.)

For planning (and recordkeeping) I use Home School Inc., a free web based online planner.


Thank you Beth!

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Recordkeeping and Organizing the Homeschool with Three Boys

Before putting in my two cents worth, I'm going to share with you tips from other homeschoolers. The posts for the next three days come from members of the Thrifty Homeschool Yahoo Group. Today's guest blogger is Elizabeth.

I'm a HSM of 3 boys, 2 which are in the 4th grade and 1 in the 3rd. We have been homeschooling for 3 years. We are blessed to have an extra bedroom downstairs that is our classroom. I painted a chalkboard on one wall. Each child has his own desk, which was given to us. I also have a desk. We have a couple of small bookcases, one for their reading books and one for my reference and teacher books. We also have a small table that serves as our science center, complete with a microscope. I use another small table with bins for art supplies above what they have in their desks, such as construction paper, drawing paper, extra crayons and markers. The walls are covered with maps, charts and their projects. The boys are responsible for their desks, folders and papers. I'm responsible for mine, and right now, their desks look somewhat better than mine.

Planning for us is, well, not an exact science. We usually get started by 8am. I do not have a set time schedule for each subject. That way if we need more time for one subject, I won't stress out that we don't have time. I do pretty much plan the lessons by the week and have an overview of what we should accomplish for the year. We do attend a homeschool group 2 times a month, usually. I like for us to be flexible. You never know when a learning oppertunity will happen.

Recordkeeping I take very seriously as family on my husband's side do not "approve" of homeschooling. They have mentioned to another family member that if they think the boys are not learning anything, they will call the authorities. So, I have a "Mommy" notebook, which is a 5 subject spiral notebook. In one section, I keep track of our hours. The state of Missouri says we have to have 1000 hours of school. In another section, I keep track of what we did for that day. This is a cross between lesson plans and what we actually did. It works for us and it fills another requirement for the state. My boys like grades, so I grade papers and tests. In another section, is the grade book. The 4th section is set up for me use for the library. When I'm wanting books on a certain subject, this is where I jot it down. This notebook goes with me to the library. The 5 section is used for notes to myself. If a boy is not catching on quite as well, I will write a note to remind myself to give him extra work or extra time to help him. Also I have a small filing cabinet in the classroom to keep their papers in for each year. The state requires samples, I keep everything.

I guess that's about it for now. Thank you for letting me voice what I do.
Thank you Elizabeth!

For more on organizing, you can download the recorded webinar Organizing Your Classroom 101 for free at Homeschool Connections. Click on the link that says Recorded Events.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Organizing Your Homeschool 101

I'd like to start the new year off by getting my homeschool well organized in the new house as well as help you get it together at your house. So, I've put together a series of posts to run over the next couple of weeks so we can work on this together.

For today, I'll simply share a quote from Holly Pierlot:
I believe the way we keep our homes deeply affects the quality of our homeschooling. The home ought to be both functional, to meet our needs, and beautiful, to inspire our spirits.

-- From the essay, Place of Function and Beauty: Getting Our Homes in Order, found in The Catholic Homeschool Companion (Sophia Press). Bold mine.

Addendum: Click here for links to free webinars on homeschool planning and organization.