Monday, January 30, 2012

My "Everything Box" for AAS

Here are some pictures of how I organize my All About Spelling Supplies. This is my "everything box"--everything we need except our magnetic whiteboard is in here.

The Teacher Manuals are on top:

Under those you can see the Review boxes. My kids each chose a sticker to identify their box.

I love the AAS boxes because they fit the cards exactly--no sliding around or cards falling over. But before I had these, I found the best thing that worked was the $1 Sterilite flip-top boxes:

Those hold about 2 levels of cards each.

Taking a peek inside our Review box...

You can see that I have modified the review box to fit our needs. I like to have one daily review tab with all of the current cards, instead of a separate tab for each type of card. (I do keep the different types separated once they are mastered though). It's simpler to get my mind around one daily review tab instead of 3, LOL! So I took some of the tabs and turned them around, which is why they appear white.

The first tab is the daily review tab for me, and the 2nd and 3rd white tabs are for once a week review that I do between the daily review and "mastered" tabs. This is something I added because my kids needed extra review to make things "stick," and this has really helped us. After a card goes through the white tabs, I put the mastered Sound, Phonogram, and Key cards in their respective mastered tabs. I review these once every month or two. The Word cards get reviewed again a month later, and after that they go in the "Mastered" tab until time for the scheduled mastered review. If they pass that, the word card is "retired," but if a card is missed at any time, I put it back in daily review.

I love that it's so easy to modify the review for our needs. I also keep some blank cards in the back of each child's box so that I can add in words they miss from the reinforcement lists or from their writing.

Underneath the boxes I have a folder for my supplies:

The kids keep a folder with their supplies in their workboxes. Their folders contain all of the Word Banks and other pages from AAS, plus blank paper to write on for things like the Writing Station. I also keep some blank paper in case they run out, so we don't have to go looking for it, plus stickers to put on their progress charts. I prefer to do the Writing Station on paper so that I can keep them--sometimes they write cute things!

Then I have a hand-held whiteboard, marker, and eraser--my dd likes to write her words on that, while my son prefers paper. (They could also write on the big white board, we just happened to have this one around and made use of it!).

I like to use the "Progress Charts" as a bookmark in the books, especially since sometimes I have 2 kids in the same book. Then I can easily see where each is, and it keeps the progress charts handy too!

When the kids were younger, we used the File Folder Game & Phonogram Bingo for an occasional change of pace.
Finally, some baggies with extra tiles and materials:

Typing it out, it seems like more than it is, LOL! But each day I just grab my "everything box," and we are set to go. I even have a pencil in my box so that I can lightly mark where we stop in the lesson. Then we can easily pick up there the next day without having to guess where we were.

Our tiles are on a magnetic whiteboard on the closet door in our family room/school room. I hung it vertically because I didn't have room for the horizontal layout.

What are your best organizing tips?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Win a $50 AAS or AAR Gift Certificate!

Enter to win a $50 gift certificate good toward the purchase of any All About Reading or All About Spelling materials! Deadline is Monday, January 23rd. Click to see all of the details on the AALP forum!

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Do-able Decluttering!

I have to pass on this gem I recently discovered: The Declutter Calendar. This is awesome! It breaks things down into very doable parts (and if you miss a day, don't worry about it, just pick up with the next day). Every day there is some small task to do, such as sort through your spices, throw away expired medicines, or clear off the top of your night stand.

You can print off the calendars a month at a time, or print the whole year.

Happy Decluttering!

Friday, January 13, 2012

34% of Kids Struggle With Reading!

If you didn't get a chance to hear Marie Rippel's webinar on How to Make sure Your Child is Not Among the 34% That Struggle With Reading (hosted by TOS), check it out. She had amazing research and information to share. The US Department of Education reports that 66% of children are below proficiency in reading by 8th grade. Staggering. She shared 5 essential research-based qualities that a reading program should include, and more. I think you'll find this one well worth your time.

Letter Knowledge

You might also want to read some of the articles in the Resource Center.

Merry :-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Helps for a Home School Slump!

Do you feel like your in the doldrums? Like things just aren't going well, and you wish you could be inspired, renewed, excited again? I think we all go through times like this. While I don't think it's realistic to expect that we always be excited, I definitely relate to wanting to pull out of a slump. Here are 10 things I look at when I'm in a slump:

1, Are you taking care of yourself? Eating right and drinking lots of water? Getting enough sleep at night (or are you burning the candle at both ends while you look for something to motivate/excite/inspire)? Getting exercise? (fresh air and a bit of sunshine can be hard to come by in winter months if you are in a cold climate but are VERY important to your emotional well-being. Get outside when you can, but get some kind of exercise at least 3 times a week, outside or not.) Spending time with God in the Word and in prayer? (Even just 10-15 minutes in the word followed by a prayer walk can be so uplifting! Or choose a meaningful verse to meditate on and memorize.)

2, Character issues with the kids--nothing can make school more a drudgery than kids who are at each other all the time. Evaluate this and come up with a plan on how to work on some issues. Be positive--show kids what TO do and not just what NOT to do, encourage them, spend time in training and not just reactive discipline--help them make some necessary changes. I sometimes ask my kids--"what kind of home do you want to live in? One where there is constant fighting and strife? Or one where we get along, have fun, encourage each other?" and so on.

3, Are you trying to do it all yourself, or are you involving the kids in regular chores and household items?

4, Clutter--sometimes what discourages me is a closet that's gotten out of hand, or the guest room (aka "catch-all room"), or a school area, or my desk...maybe spending some time decluttering this week would help you feel refreshed and ready to go.

5, Curriculum issues--is there a curriculum that has become a drudgery, not because of the subject matter, but because of the way the curriculum works? Maybe it's not a fit for your child, or maybe it doesn't fit your teaching style. Can it be tweaked? Can you make some changes to it over break that will make it more doable? Or do you need to purge it and try something new?

6, Has school taken over your life so that if they kids have a question about God or growing up, you feel like you don't have time to answer because you have to get school done? Is everything you are doing necessary? Maybe it is--there ARE some very busy seasons...but it's worth investigating.

7, Similar to that...are you too busy in life in general? Too many outside activities, too much volunteer time at church or other places? Does your family have time to just relax some evenings, can you just play a game sometimes or do another fun family activity?

8, Do you get out at all, even once a month, with a girlfriend or two, just to do something fun?

9, Do you have something each week to look forward to? For my kids, it's Friday Friend Day. Actually we all look forward to this. We do a half-day of school on Friday and then spend the afternoon at a friend's house. Usually we all go to one house, and the mom and I talk while the kids play. But sometimes the kids go different places and I might enjoy some quiet at home; or the kids might have friends over but since they are occupied I still get a bit of time for myself.

10, Meals--maybe you're in a meal slump, and just having some different meals to look forward to might perk up your week. It's funny how my kids will get so excited about certain foods, like having a taco bar, or nachos for the super bowl, or pizza night (homemade or order in). Something like that can make a family night a fun tradition to look forward to.

Evaluate and change something up if you need to. And let me know your ideas for pulling out of a slump, I need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Organization: A Typical Day

So, now that I've done all this work organizing, what does a typical day look like at my house?

8am: We're night owls, so we don't start very early. Ideally I wake the kids up at 8:00, they get dressed and straighten their rooms while I have my quiet time, and we all come down for breakfast by 8:30. In reality...sometimes we've all been known to snooze until 8:30 or 8:45 and barely make it down by 9, and I have to make time for my quiet time later in the day.

I throw a load of laundry in before breakfast many days.

Breakfast is cereal, nothing exciting. I tend to eat faster than my kids, and clean up the kitchen while they finish--empty the dishwasher, fill it, wipe counters etc... Sometimes I start a crock pot meal or grind wheat and get some bread rising. I wish I did these things more often, but hey, I do them sometimes!

9:00 The kids clean up their dishes, and then we go over to the couch for family devotions--usually around 9 or 9:30. When my husband is able to, he joins us, which I really love. He has so much knowledge to add to whatever we read, and great insights. He has chronic Lyme disease though, and often is sleeping during this time.

9:30 After Bible, around 9:30 or 10, my son reads history while I work one on one with my daughter. I have a "tutoring time" with each child. During this time we go over the previous day's work--what went well, what needs correcting, and any special instructions for today. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes for my daughter. Then I read history to her. She takes notes as I read, which helps her concentrate and remember things. She actually came up with this idea on her own after not doing well on a test. I love it when my kids think about how they best learn and discover how to help themselves!

If I have a busier day ahead of me, she'll read history on her own, but we prefer to share this time when we can.

Finally we do spelling together, and then she moves on to reading for 30 minutes. I usually move the laundry to the dryer at this point, after pulling out yesterday's laundry from the dryer. If my daughter and I finished early enough I have time to get it folded.

10:30 About 10:30 or 11 my son has finished reading history, and he comes down for one on one with Mom. We spend 10-20 minutes going over what he read in history, and then another 5-20 minutes discussing algebra. (He loves to tell me about his daily history reading! He'd rather dump algebra though!) Sometimes we also discuss science or a writing assignment. On lighter days I have him narrate from his reading. If it's a new math lesson day (with Math-U-See), we watch the dvd and work some practice problems, then he goes to work on math, usually around 11 or 11:30.

DD will work on language arts (either grammar or writing--we're alternating these topics this year) for about 30 minutes.

I might finish folding that basket of laundry about now. Or, if I have bread rising, it might be time to knead again now. Or my husband might be coming or going, depending on how he's feeling, so we touch base or he sees something that needs to be done, or he comes home with a few groceries and the kids and I take a break to get the bags and put them away. I also tend to make a pot of coffee about now, so I can enjoy a cup when I'm ready to sit down at the computer.

11:30 Time to start my online job answering emails for All About Learning Press. Sometimes I work for 1-2 hours straight, sometimes the kids need me to stop and help with a subject and my logged time is in 20 or 30 minute increments. I try to stay flexible here--I love my job but the kids and dh need me too. I strive to be interrupt-able!

12:00 Around noon my daughter moves on to science on the laptop downstairs (she's using an online curriculum that includes lots of experiments.) Sometimes she requires my help getting materials or setting up an experiment (like the time we made plasma grapes in the microwave), but often she does this independently.

When my son is done with math he moves on to science. On a good day he'll finish that by our 1pm lunch time.

1:00 Yes, we eat lunch at 1! It's a habit I started earlier on in our school days, when I wanted the psychological edge of finishing school by lunchtime to last another year or two! Gone are those days, we no longer finish by lunch time...but the 1pm time has stuck!

We all grab our own, or sometimes we cook for each other (it's fun to have older kids who can make eggs or noodles or other simple items).

1:30 On Tuesdays and Wednesdays we often play a game together--board games, card games...just two of us, all 3, or rarely my husband is able to join and all 4 of us play. Mondays are busier though--my daughter babysits from 1-4, and my son has a guitar lesson, so we don't play on that day. Fridays we only do a half-day of school (typically math, reading, and history as those subjects need the most time this year), and in the afternoons we go to a friend's house. Thursdays this year I've been writing in the afternoons.

2:00 After lunch the kids finish up school. My son will usually finish science and go for a bike ride or walk, then we do spelling together. Then he does lit and writing for 30 minutes each. Both kids spend about 10 minutes a day on Bible memory, 30 minutes practicing their instruments, and 15-30 minutes doing family service (a daily job like cleaning the bathroom, sweeping & mopping the kitchen or an entry-way, vacuuming etc...)

I try to have the kids take their folded clothes upstairs on one of their trips up. If 2 or 3 baskets are waiting to be folded, we might all have a folding party in the afternoon for 20 minutes and get it done together.

Typically I go for a walk after lunch, have my quiet time if I missed it earlier, work again in the afternoon, or help my dh.

4:30 Usually it's 4:30 or 5 when we're done with everything. That's also when I typically remember that I need to cook dinner soon. I have dreams that one day I'll be that mom who pulls meat out of the freezer the night before and menu plans weeks at a time, but that's rarely me. More often it's my son's question of "what's for dinner?" that brings me out of my internal world and reminds me that people are going to be hungry! Sometimes my daughter cooks dinner, occasionally even my son does (I even pay them to do this!)--sometimes they tell me what they're hungry for and then I don't have to decide what to make!

6:30 After dinner we clean up--sometimes I do it, sometimes the kids do. Evenings might be small group Bible study, watching a few shows together, a family game night, time to talk a bit, youth group for the kids, time to run errands, and so on. On busy days I might work online again after dinner.

9pm We usually do read-alouds around this time. Since my oldest is in high school, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to keep up this tradition, but I'm holding on to it as long as possible! We all enjoy it. After this, I correct school work. The kids go to bed around 11, and I go to bed around 12.

Next time I'll discuss curriculum for Organization: My Teacher Supply Box