"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Homeschool Organization 101

I've had several people ask me how we do homeschool, so I thought I would take a break from the crafting posts to explain it here. If you're not interested, feel free to skip it.

We've been homeschooling for 14 years, have graduated one, with the next oldest graduating in another month or so, as soon as she finishes her math ;) Now we're starting over with a seven year old finishing up first grade, and a two year old and soon-to-be newborn coming along too. So by the time we finish, we will have been homeschooling consecutively for at least 31 years :) unless the Lord should permit us to have more children, in which case it will be longer! I love homeschooling, and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world - not even a billion dollars.

As for the organizing of supplies, we used to have a ton of room for our homeschool room. When we lived in the house we are attempting to have moved across the country, we had a large family room that we converted into a school room. I don't have a good picture of it after we got it all set up ... just this one. (The exercise equipment didn't stay in there long).

We had bookshelves all around the room (you can only see a small fraction of them here). This was taken right after we moved in. Eventually we put up educational posters and on the wall to the right that you can't see, we had a huge bulletin board with a piece of fabric that had the map of the US on it. We used 3x5 card - one for each state - connected them with yarn to the capitol of each state, and listed all the state details on each card - capital, population, flag, flower, etc. It was a cool room.

Now we live in literally half the space, in a two bedroom duplex with three kids at home, and one on the way in a couple months (five total kids, but one out on his own). So now, this is the only space we have inside the house for school stuff.

This cabinet is 2 feet wide, and crammed into a corner of our dining room, with the dining room table pushed up against it. It holds all our daily homeschool stuff, along with my daycare preschool supplies. We have a ton of other books and supplies (literally) which are stored in the garage on bookshelves and in boxes. But for the most part, this is what we use daily.

So here's a look from the top down. The top holds our globe and all my preschool supplies for the daycare - crafts, awards, daily lessons, etc. We have another globe with a dry erase surface, which lives on the table.

The first real shelf holds most of our resources and curricula. We also keep our dictionaries and reference books here and below (you'll see them in a minute), along with daily packets for preschool - Monday through Friday, so I don't have to get that big crate off the top of the cabinet every day.

The clear box on this next shelf is full of all kinds of goodies - scissors, glue, magnifying glasses, tape, and other office supplies. The shelf also holds a bag of markers, twistable crayons, a note cube, and our Handbook Of Nature Study.

Under that we have the books that are too tall for the top shelf - atlases and reference material mostly. The blue organizer holds drawers of pencils, colored pencils, fat markers, skinny markers and pens. The pencil sharpener lives on top of that, along with our heavy-duty 3 hold punch, another pencil box, and a huge set of crayons. The white drawers are my secret weapon, and I'll explain them to you in just a moment.

The keyboard tray is where I keep my daily record-keeping supplies for the daycare (calendar, receipt book, etc.)

This bottom section is all our overflow stuff, stored behind closed cabinet doors. There are reams of computer paper, extra spiral notebooks, card stock paper, colored folders for making into Lapbooks, sheet protectors, extra markers, tape, and manipulatives. We buy everything in bulk. (The markers were given to us by a preschool at the end of the school year.)

So now, I will explain my secret weapon, the white drawers. We had been starting to see a bad attitude out of the 7 year old when it came time to work on school. There was a lot of arguing and misery involved. I figured out the best way to take the arguing out of it was to de-personalize it (if that makes sense) and give him more choices. So now, instead of mom telling him what to do constantly, he has this set of drawers to do it. Each day's work is divided up and labeled, so that all he has to do is go through each drawer for that day's assignments. I'll start at the top and show you what I did...

On top, we have our big box of math blocks from Math-U-See. This is a double set. I can't say enough positive stuff about this math curriculum. My just-turned-seven-year-old-first-grader has just started the fourth grade book. (I should say too that we pay no attention whatsoever to grade level. We just do what comes next, as you can probably tell.) It's an awesome program. He understand the reason why you use a particular math function rather than just how to do it. This program was also a life saver for our 18 year old daughter who really struggled with math until we switched to this curriculum. Now she understands it and even enjoys it (most of the time - ha). Okay, moving on...

This first drawer alternates what is in it. We are very eclectic homeschoolers. We use whatever I like for each subject, and many times just make it up on our own. I've found over years of homeschooling that there is no single homeschool curriculum that meets the needs of each student completely. So, I just take what I like from the wide variety of choices, and go merrily on my way! Yesterday it was full of "nature." We try to keep up a nature journal similar to what is done in the Charlotte Mason method. We don't always have time to take nature hikes, but when we do, we collect nature to draw later. We're greatly looking forward to the summer, when we can get out and explore more. We have identification guides for trees, wildflowers, insects, etc. and are looking forward to getting outside with them. It's been a long winter. Today, instead of nature, there is a geography project in that drawer.

This is the math assignments for the week. The first page is a multiplication review page. The third grade book was all about multiplication, clear up to the point of multiplying thousands times hundreds (ie 497,382 x 978), so he knows how to multiply. I just wanted him to be faster. In order to encourage my son to learn his multiplication facts lightening fast without having a fight over flashcards, I started having him take these speed tests. Each day, he races against his own time. He has to beat his fastest time. If he does, he gets to pick a treat out of the candy dish (which has old Christmas candy and suckers from the bank). He has greatly improved. The daily work also contains 2-3 pages from the current book. That's how we're so far ahead. Each day, students are only supposed to do one page, but we've always done 2-3 because he can do it without too much trouble. We also homeschool year-round (no set schedule in the summer, but still some work each week). So it's not that he's a math genius or anything. It's just that this is what works for us.

The next drawer is full of handwriting pages. We're using A Beka for handwriting. I love their cursive font. We've been doing cursive since the beginning of first grade, and his cursive is much neater than his printing. I just ordered the second grade cursive book, so we'll be starting that within a week or two - again, we usually do two pages/day.

I didn't take specific pictures of the other drawers. But generally he has five "subjects" to work on each day - with math and cursive writing every day. Right now we're in the middle of a book study for Language Arts skills from Progeny Press (and we use the Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading, which we also love), and we are studying explorers using Homeschool in the Woods materials. We do a lot of extras for things like geography and science. Both of those are very literature based, using good books as our base. I hate textbooks, and think they just kill any enthusiasm kids might have for a subject. We also don't use worksheets other than for math and cursive writing. I prefer hands-on activities that kids are more active in doing.

So that's an overview of our system of homeschooling. Hope you enjoyed the tour :)


  1. Hi Judi,

    I was wondering, do you like writing letters? I love writing letters and getting special envelopes addressed to me in my mailbox that are not bills!!! Was wondering if you'd like to write? I know I'm younger but it seems like we have lots in common. No worries if you don't want to :)

  2. Sarah that sounds great :) I'd love to write back and forth to you! Email me at tjboyce@juno.com and I will send you my mailing address. I'd rather not put that on the blog ;)

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