Organizing Chaos

All week we have tackled various areas of organization; filing the old stuff, creating our new portfolios, and putting in the new school books. Today’s project… replenishing our art supplies!

Homeschooling is more than just reading, writing, and reasoning. While those areas are essential, I also want to make sure that my children have an opportunity to be creative and artistic.

The week before we head back to school, the kids and I make sure we do a thorough inspection of our art supplies and restock anything that might be low. Markers are taken out of the box and each one inspected, just to make sure they aren’t dry. Paint bottles are checked, ink pads are tested, and glue bottles are consolidated. We reduce all we can, before determining what needs to be replenished.

Once we have determined what is low (or out), we make a list of all that is needed in order to keep our closet stocked. Then, we thoughtfully add anything that might be wanted. We then head out to Wal-Mart or Target and take advantage of all the back to school sales, using as many coupons and promotions as possible.

Upon returning home, our loot is unpacked and organized into our homeschooling closet. We have a plastic bin just for our adhesive and scissors. We have separate bins for ink pads, card stock, decorative paper, crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Each type of art supply has a separate container, making crafting and cleanup more organized. (It is also a huge time saver.) Each bin is clear so that the children can easily identify which box is needed and a step stool is placed in the closet to help them grab whatever they might need.

Our homeschool closet is now refilled, organized, and ready to go! The kids are excited to know that everything they need is available and mom is excited to know that I won’t be needing to make any last-minute runs to a craft store because we ran out of something!

Do you have a cupboard or closet that you keep your supplies in? How do you keep your’s organized?

 

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Incoming!

Our homeschool closet is cleaned out, our portfolios are ready to go, and we are ready to tackle today’s project… putting in the new school books!

It seems all this week I have been reading posts by other homeschooling families who are getting their curriculum in place and are eagerly ready to start their school year. We, too, are getting things finalized, but with a slightly different twist. Unlike other families, I am not anxiously awaiting the arrival of our books; ours have been here since May!

I have found waiting until the middle or end of summer to order our books, to be stressful. There are several reasons why this doesn’t work for our family.

  1. I don’t enjoy summer knowing that I still have work that will need to be done.
  2. If I wait, I might not get the order in time or it might be backordered.
  3. If I wait, I will need to rush through the curriculum to set up our routine and determine how much work should be done daily.
  4. If I wait, I can’t take advantage of all the great promotions available for those who order early.

Usually, aBeka starts having demos of their curriculum around April. Once I receive their flyer in the mail, I highlight the closest location with a date that suits our schedule. I make sure to add the date to my iCal program and then I start researching. I don’t want to peruse at the demo; I might be led by impulse instead of through prayer. To ensure I am only buying what I need, I will look through aBeka’s website first. From there, I will write down any items that I know are necessary and compile a list with the item numbers and prices. If there are items that I have never seen or items of question, I will write those at the bottom of my list and highlight them. Those are the items that I will review with my husband and pray over. The day of the demo, I check out the items that I might have highlighted, sit down to fill out my form, and then check out. Because I have ordered at a demo, I will save 10% up front and avoid shipping costs. Usually, I save myself about $60 this way!

One of the main reasons I order our books so early, is because I don’t order teacher guides. (I have not found them to be necessary for the younger grades and don’t care to spend money that could be better spent elsewhere.) Due to the fact that I don’t order teacher guides, I must spend a little time planning out our year. I open each text and lay out our lessons, ensuring that everything gets covered. This is very simple but it still needs to be done. For very little work, I am saving myself a great deal of money. On average, textbooks for all four of my children run me $250 per year. Not bad, all things considered!

We usually end our school year just around the beginning of May. By the time we have finished school, our books for the next year are just coming in. I make sure they are all here, I take the time to go through each one (mapping out how many lessons get done a day), and then they get tucked away until the end of July. I am now free to enjoy my summer, knowing everything is here and we are ready to start come fall.

Now that summer is just about over, it is time to put those books on the shelf and do any last-minute reorganizing. I have double checked the books (refreshing my memory about lesson schedules), organized how I want them to be placed in our cupboard, and added any reference materials I thought would be necessary. Ah, what a beautiful sight!

Just two more projects and we will be ready to start on Monday.

When do you order your books? Do you order early? Do you wait? I would enjoy hearing when you choose to get your books and why!

Out With The Old

That time of year has come around again. The time to clean out the homeschooling closet and begin anew. The time to minimize, organize, and prioritize. All summer we have been doing projects, being creative, and having fun. Now it is time to prep for this exciting new year of our learning adventure.

Each day this week, we have assigned ourselves one organizing project that needs to be completed in order for us to be ready next Monday. Today, it was minimizing the amount of items we kept from last year’s schooling and filing what we wanted to keep. 

So, off to the homeschooling closet we went. We pulled all our files out and got to work. We went through our binders and set aside only our main tests, our writing assignments, and work that was special to the kids. We looked at any projects that were sitting out and took stock of them as well. All items that we wanted were carefully labeled and filed in the garage, in mommy’s handy filing bin.

Our closet is now emptied out of anything unwanted or not needed. Ah, that feels nice!

 

Another Exciting Year of Ministry

Most mommies look for creative ways to teach their children life skills, I am no different. Several years ago, having expressed an interest in perhaps trying Girl Scouts, my Bible study leader brought Keepers of the Faith to my attention.

Now, you might ask, what is Keepers of the Faith? Keepers of the Faith consists of two separate programs; Keepers at Home (for girls) and Contenders for the Faith (for boys). Both are Bible based clubs that focus on teaching young people to be Godly men and women. The clubs are run similarly to those of Boy/Girl Scouts; the children attend group a few times a month, they earn badges, and they learn life skills. The difference with Keepers is that we center all we do on the Bible. Our focus is Titus 2; training these young people to be all that God has called them to be.

When Keepers was presented to me, my children were a little young, so I set the idea on the back-burner and set out to pursue other things. However, about two years ago a friend and I began to seriously consider Keepers at Home and actively look for a group. We were made aware of one group, meeting at a local church, but the group seemed a little less active than we would have liked. We were invited to attend a smaller group, consisting of mutual friends; which we tried. As it turned out, that group was mostly preschool girls and their activity level wasn’t quite what our girls were looking for.

On the way home from our second meeting, I asked my daughters what they were looking for. My daughters excitedly replied, “We want to do some sewing. Oh, and some baking! And don’t forget the jewelry making, cooking, and flower arranging!” When I relayed this to my friend, her prompt reply was, “You know the Lord is telling you to do this, right?” I staunchly denied that I needed to have any involvement with running a group. I simply wanted to participate and help out the current leader!

When I got home, my husband asked us how this meeting went. He was treated to the full story and the responses of our girls. He then replied, “You know the Lord is telling you to do this, right?” Oh, man!! It seemed like the Lord really was going to have me step out on a limb.

With much prayer, the Lord showed me what He wanted from the program and how we could make it happen. We started with just some close friends in our home, eight girls in all, and followed what the Lord wanted us to do. We learned a lot in that short five months and my girls were hooked!

Jump to now… We have had so many girls join the group we are now part of church ministry, with about thirty girls in attendance. We meet twice a month, exploring God’s word and learning new skills to help us be better keepers of our homes.

This morning, I had the pleasure of sitting with my pastor’s wife. We went over the upcoming year and all that the Lord has been preparing in our hearts. We shared our vision for the program and where the Lord might be taking it this year. We prayed over the ministry and the girls who will attend; that the Lord would be the center of it all. 

Please join me in praying for this ministry as well! Not just for our group, but for all the groups who will be meeting. That the Lord would be honored and glorified in all we do. Please pray for me, that I will continue to listen to and obey the calling He has given me. Also, if the Lord is willing, that a gentleman from the church would step up and lead Contenders for the Faith. We have not started a boys group yet, but I feel the Lord is leading in that direction.

Do you have a Keepers group? Please let us know, if you do! We would love to hear all the exciting things you have been learning!

¿Usted Habla Español?

I am part Puerto Rican, but my father (the Spanish blood in my genes) left when I was a child and never looked back; thus, I don’t speak Spanish. My mother-in-law is Mexican by birth and my father-in-law Spaniard by birth. Coming to America they wanted to become fluent and so they only spoke English in their home, therefore my husband doesn’t speak Spanish well.

Despite the fact that neither of their parents speak Spanish, our children grew up becoming more and more interested in their hispanic heritage. They love listening to their yaya and yayo (grandma and grandpa) speak fluently and try to figure out what they are saying. They love listening to Spanish music and learning to dance. They even have dresses, brought over from Spain, which they wear as often as possible when they are having play dates at my in-laws. They love Spanish and Mexican cuisine, paella and tacos being the top picks, which makes my in-laws very proud.

It seemed natural when at some point my kids asked if we could start learning Spanish. Always willing to give a learning area a shot, I quickly looked up some good Spanish curriculum for young kid.

The curriculum that best met our families needs was Teach Them Spanish! This curriculum starts as early as PreK and covers a lot of ground. I like the fact that it starts off with everyday items that the children will use; colors, numbers, family members, and parts of their body, are just a few topics covered in PreK. Each new grade level stars off with reviewing what has already been taught and then builds upon it. If you learned 10 colors in PreK, you will review those 10 and add 5 more in K.

The best part of the curriculum, in my opinion, is the fun activity list that accompanies each lesson. Not only does the curriculum offer workbook pages to help you with learning, but it has Bingo games and other ideas to help make learning fun!

For those absolutely new to Spanish, like myself, there are also very helpful teacher pages. These pages follow each lesson, offering suggested questions to ask your student. For example: When studying colors, the teacher pages will teach you how to ask your student what color their shirt is, in Spanish with the English translation next to it. It will then teach you how your students should respond, in Spanish with the English translation beside.

This curriculum has been a lot of fun and we are learning a lot. Come high school, we are going to have to go with a more formal program, but for now this is working for us. The kids are having a blast and my in-laws are having fun supplementing what we are learning.

Do you have a Spanish lesson that you enjoy? I would love to hear suggestions.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Five

Fail-to-planI love it when a plan comes together. That is how I feel when I set about planning my routines. Once we put them into place and they start working for us, it is a beautiful thing.

Now that I have my chores, events, and schooling organized; I need to put them all together and get moving. Once the school year starts, I will need to put all of my organizing together and make these separate schedules work together smoothly. This will help me, once again, see where I might need to do some last-minute rearranging and restructuring. It will also help to see where I have some flexible hours, in case anything should come up.

The first things I want to combine are my chores and my schooling. As I mentioned in Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One; my first ministry is to be a keeper of my home. If the house and my kids’ education cannot be merged smoothly, events need to wait. My weekly schedule with both chores and schooling combined usually looks like this:

Monday:

  • Start load of my laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Tuesday:

  • Start load of kids’ laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Wednesday:

  • Start load of linens right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Thursday:

  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time
  • Mommy does grocery list and menus
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids
  • Grocery Shopping for Mom

Friday:

  • Testing on all core subjects (All of our testing is done Fri.)
  • Collect Library Books and Straighten up House
  • Library
  • Errands
  • Lunch
  • Homeschool Co-op or other Homeschooling Event
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids

Normally we are finished with school anywhere from 2-3pm each day, with the exception of Friday. Friday is quite a bit shorter, but I plan it that way on purpose; counting our library time and our homeschooling events as part of their education.

Once this list of chores and schooling as been combined onto one master schedule; I can now add my events. Knowing that I am pretty busy Monday through Thursday, I usually avoid planning events on those days. Should the need arise though, I am free after 3pm and know I am available. Fridays are usually the days that I try to plan anything special or extra.

With life more organized, we are free to have fun events like this one… Renaissance Night with the homeschool group!

As with most things in life, this schedule isn’t perfect. There are days when we take longer to school or there is an unexpected event which causes us to rearrange our schedule; field trips during the week can cause a temporary change for example. This schedule isn’t meant to be concrete and final, simply a structure that I put into place; one that I am free to move around and fit to my family’s needs.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I pray that the Lord would find me faithful in having obeyed His Word; that my family would be a living example of what He has commanded us to do; that He would be glorified and honored through the keeping of my home, the education of my children, and the ministry we accomplish in our free time. It is not for our own name that we do these things, but His.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One

Fail-to-planRecently a friend who is fairly new to homeschooling gave me a call. She had a lot of questions regarding homeschooling, but mainly her problem seemed to be this, “How do I do it all? How do I clean my house, do my laundry, school my kids, do a million other things, and still remain sane?” My one resounding answer was this: organization! As the old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Now, let me be very clear. I am not perfect, nor do I always plan perfectly. There are many times that I have had to restructure my plan. Things change and so do my family’s needs, but the saying still stands true; I will not accomplish anything if I don’t at least have the building blocks set in place.

That being said, how do we go about setting up our schedules? First things first, know what your priorities are! Being a Christian wife and mom, my priorities are thus: Being a Godly woman, being a Godly wife, and then being a Godly mother. Taking this into account, the first thing I want to do is sit down with a calendar (daily and monthly) and start putting things in place.

The first thing I want to schedule in is my time with God. Some women prefer to do this at the beginning of their day. Great! Some of us prefer lunchtime or when the kiddos are finally in bed. No matter when you decide to do it, make a point of putting it down. Your relationship with God must be firmly in place; from Him will you gain the wisdom and peace to proceed with the rest.

The next thing I might want to schedule in, is chores. The first ministry that I have been given is to be a Keeper of the Home. The Lord has shown me this must come first. If my home is not in order, I have no business being outside of my home doing other things. My chore schedule is as follows (I use this as an example, by all means do what fits your lifestyle, not mine!):

Monday: adult laundry/bathrooms                                                                           Tuesday: children’s laundry/floors and dusting                                                      Wednesday: linens/bathrooms                                                                                  Thursday: grocery list finalized/menu                                                                            Friday: library/errands

Being that it is currently summer time, now is my opportunity to put this schedule to the Fail to Plan: Part Onetest. Is this working for me? Perhaps I need to change some days around to make things work better. I also want to start taking notice of when is the best time to do my chores. I don’t necessarily set a specific time, but setting up blocks of time gives me a general idea of where I might have “free time”.

Chores being designated and set in place, I now want to start having the kiddos get in on the game. Even my youngest who is only five helps out the family. Each of my kiddos is given a task and we all work until the job is done. Our kids need to learn the value of a job well done, working together, and being responsible. Mommy handles the washing of the laundry, but the kiddos help fold and put their own laundry away. Mommy cleans the basins, but the kiddos do the mirrors, floors, and counters in the bathrooms. We have the joy of working side by side and encouraging each other in doing a good job. They will often hear me saying, “Good job, Joseph! Keep it up honey, you are going to be a pro at keeping your home when you are a mommy, Trinity!” The kids will learn to enjoy their chores, have fun working together, and take pride in their work.

Two things I should point out though. One; while the kids are young, they are going to make mistakes. Try not to clean up their messes in front of them. Wait until they are out of sight and preoccupied, then straighten things up. This will prevent them from getting discouraged, but still keep your house to the level of clean you might like. The second is this, be prepared that the kids will complain from time to time. Let’s be honest; work is work! Don’t give in and do the chores yourself! You are only making your job harder in the long run and robbing them of the joy of responsibility.

Once I have my chores pretty much down, then I will be free to start adding other events onto my calendar; slowly and with much prayer.