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This blog is written for homeschoolers, many of us living on one income in a two-income economy. Prayerfully, we will discover the fruits of living frugally . . . together. And maybe share a tip or two.
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!
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.
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.Thank you Elizabeth!
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.
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.