Thursday, September 1, 2011

My homeschool planner

I searched, searched, and searched some more to find that "perfect" planner.  The one that would make this homeschool journey easier, keep us on track, organized and ready to go....

It didn't exist.  Well, at least I never found it.  I did like the organizer over at, but wasn't willing to pay that much for an organizer that I couldn't edit, and they had some subjects listed that didn't fit our day.  I do use which is a free online planner.  It does it's job, but I'm a paper kind of girl on certain things, this being one of them.

So, what do you do when you can't find your perfect planner?  You make your own!  I looked through the free forms, taking advice from so many seasoned homeschoolers.  I hated the forms.  They were generic, plain, and didn't fit me.

Sooo, I went all out, and designed from scratch.  I have to admit, I somewhat went off of that super snazzy planner over at Well Planned Day, and tweaked it to fit my family.  I also should admit that I did all this in Pages, which is a Mac version of Microsoft Word.  I'm quite impressed with myself.  ;)  Basically what I am saying is, if you can create a shape or text box in a Word-type program, you can do this too!  And it took a lot less time than all the searching I did.  Sheeesh!  I'll never have that time back...

Anyway, here it is, in all it's glory.  It's not professional, but it gets the job done.  I used the ProClick binding machine to bind it myself.  That thing has paid for itself already!  (You can see my review on that in an earlier post).

Cover; I laminated scrapbook paper and kept the covers slightly larger than my pages.

Attendance page

Our year schedule, and our local schools schedule (so we can plan around her friends)

Weekly schedule, using a form from Simply Charlotte Mason

Daily schedule, form from Simply Charlotte Mason.  (I later created my own in Pages)

Calendar and monthly notes.  Books needed this month, field trips and activities, and monthly bills.

Close-up (I apologize, it did not want to rotate)

Our first week, almost filled in

A blank view

Close-up of Monday-Wednesday (left side)

Close-up of Thurs-Sun (right side).  I made a box for weekly priorities, the dinner menu, and our weekend activities.  

So far, the only thing I would change is that I wish I'd have made a larger notes section.  

What kind of planner do you use?  Are you a paper or electronic type of person?  I would LOVE to see a good iPad planner app that would sync online (like my cozi app).  For now, I use my paper planner and and it works for me!

Our education room

A few months ago, Coco Bear decided she wanted to room with Jujubee in the bunkbeds.  So, I took full advantage of this (once they were settled, of course!) and we are using Coco's room as the education room.  Some people prefer not to have a school-like room.  I, however, need the organization and like being able to have everything in one place.  We're on day 3, and while we do some subjects out in other area's of the house, we tend to start our day here, with our version of circle time, and seatwork like math, handwriting, etc.

It's not fancy, but it's ours.  We actually spend a lot of time in here when it isn't school time as well.  
Our desks

My area, and a closeup of my organizer.  It keeps all my teacher manuals, pens, etc close at hand.  It has a place for files (I put the materials for Monday-Friday in those ahead of time), and it spins so I can get to all four sides.  I LOVE this thing.  I think it is called "The Desk Apprentice".  I got it at staples on sale, and used a coupon.  :) 
I also have a file cart under my desk where I keep important papers, like our intent to homeschool papers, extra forms, etc.

Lennon (dog) spends a lot of time in here with us.  We all love our window seat!  Our bookshelf is nearly filled and we have a huge one downstairs also filled. 

Below is an earlier view of the closet portion of our room.  

Workboxes with detachable (velcro) subject tags.  
I keep our library books in the pink basket on top so we don't lose them.

I laminated a sheet of paper with the subject name to use as a dry erase "to do" list for each subject.

Our subject binders where completed work goes at the end of the week.

Right side of our closet houses different types of paper, supplies, binding and laminating machines and more.
Left side houses books we aren't using this year, math manipulatives, extra notebooks, paper, copy paper.  That's my recorder from college hanging in the tan bag.  ha!  memories...

A few games we play often. (My wedding dress and the girls baptismal dress on the side.  Nicely preserved, don't you think?!)

And that's it!  I am not sure how I would manage this without our education room.  I know plenty of people do, but just looking at what all we use daily makes me wonder how they do it!   

Monday, August 29, 2011

Our first day

First day jitters... I think I was more excited last night than they were!  Anticipation of how today would go, wondering if we'd throw in the towel before our second subject...  ;)  Thankfully, our first day went wonderfully!

The girls were dressed before I could even tell them to do their chores, and ate their oatmeal, blueberries and yogurt quickly.  Jujubee was so excited she kept telling me she couldn't wait another hour until school started.  However, mommy has more morning chores than they do, so we didn't start until 9:00.

We sang the morning song, said the pledge, and read a story at Coco Bear's level, and then the girls sat at their desks.  They love having it set up as our education room.  I'm sure we will gravitate toward other rooms too, but we are very fortunate to have a room where we can keep everything.

Jujubee worked hard, and we had a lot of fun getting through our morning classes.  I have them set up as workboxes, where everything for a specific subject is in a box.  That way she just has to pull the box out, we work on that subject, and when we're done with it, we put it away and pull a new box.  

When she got to her science workbox, her to-do sheet said "get your shoes and backpack on."  It also had her backpack in it, with her science materials in it.  So we went to the park, did our science, drew in our nature journals, and waited for her surprise to come.  I had called her Grandparents to come have lunch with us.  Grandpa took them for a walk down the (currently dry) creek.

I also took this opportunity to have Grandma and Grandpa fill out some information for Jujubee's "My family history" project.  :)

We couldn't have had better weather.  The day was gorgeous!  After lunch, everyone was tired, so we went home for a nap.  Jujubee read to me, and wrote in her reading journal.  Then we were done for the day until daddy read Stuart Little as part of literature before bed.  I love that he gets to be a part of our "school day".  

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's almost time!

Our "homeschool journey" will officially start on Monday.  I have planned for this for months, agonizing over curriculum, purchasing curriculum, gathering books and supplies, organizing our supplies, our room, planning our days.  Monday, it will all be put into action.  We are all excited, Jujubee is antsy and wishes we could start (several days ago).  I am also very worried.

What is there to be worried about?  I've planned, prepared, planned some more.  But what if I fail?  This is their education, their future!  I have to do it right...  right?

Lately, I have met some amazing moms, both online and in my personal life.  They have taught me many things, but most importantly, that there is no "right" way.  That is the beauty of homeschool!  The only "right way" is the way that works for us.  So if something isn't working out, we have the opportunity to change it!  Not so in public school, or private even.  They have a curriculum, and that is it for the rest of the year.  Wether it works for you, or not.  No matter if you understand, or you click with your teacher, your class is moving on.  But with homeschooling, you have choices!  So many choices!

I've often had the thought cross my mind that the curriculum I have chosen or created will not work for us.  Well, guess what?  If it doesn't work, we will change it!  We can buy a new one, sell our old one, or we will adjust it to fit our needs.  It's that simple!  And if that doesn't work, we can ask for help.  There are so many wonderful resources available to homeschooling families.  We do not need to feel alone in this journey.

To all my fellow homeschooling families, I wish you peace on your journey this year.  Take heart in knowing you are doing what is right for you, and your family - no matter what choice you make.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Today I realized something.  While using a new app for my iPad (HomeBudget), I came to the shocking reality of needing to *actually* budget.  Normally, we do very well with budgeting, meaning we have always been able to pay our bills.  We don't carry a balance on anything except the mortgage.  Although we do pay for everything with our Discover (or Visa, if Discover isn't accepted) we pay them off monthly.  It has benefited us greatly to do this, because we get 1-5% or more back on everything.

Lately, expense after expense has been coming up, and after inputing everything into this new app, I realized if we don't make some changes, we could be in trouble in the near future.  My job, as a stay-at-home-mom, is to be in charge of the home, the finances, etc.  And I have been doing a good job, but not a "great" job.

So basically what I'm getting at, is although I knew we were making big changes in our lives by getting ready to homeschool (Monday!  Eeek!), we will also be making more changes from finances, to schedules, menus and food...  It's kind of ironic that Mommy will be learning/improving "math" and "home economics" right alongside the girls.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our homeschool curriculum choices for first grade

I've talked about it before, but now that everything is finalized I want to share it with you.  We are following the Charlotte Mason Method, and mixing in a little Classical Education.  Those words probably mean nothing or very little to you if you are not a homeschooling family, and possibly even if you are!  Basically, it is just a guide on how we homeschool.

I spent months researching curriculums, reading books, reviews, talking to other moms.  My favorite resources to figure it all out have been Simply Charlotte Mason website, the book The Well Trained Mind, as well as the forums on the Well Trained Mind website, and an amazing group on Cafemom called Homeschooling Moms.  Finally this is what we decided on:

Math - Saxon 1
Spelling - All About Spelling, level 1
Handwriting - Handwriting without tears, my printing book
History - Story of the World, Ancient Times
Science - Outdoor Secrets, and we will be doing our own body curriculum after we complete OS
Poetry - Favorite Poems Old & New, and A Child's Garden of Verses
Personal Development - A Child's Book of Character Building, Book 1
Art - Drawing with Children
Music - World's greatest composers series, starting with Bach
Nature Study - using Hours in the Out-of-doors as a guide, as well as the Handbook of Nature Study
Reading - reading books relating to our Science and History
Literature - following the literature list on
Grammar (will not start until second semester) - English for the Thoughtful Child

Wow, so that seems like a lot.  But the nice thing is that with the method's I am using, most lessons only take 15-20 minute, and of course we do not do every subject every day.  We started Handwriting over the summer, and are about halfway through that book, so we are trying to decide if we should move on to the next HWOT book, or start doing copywork like the CM method suggests.

Another great thing about the method we are using, is that it uses "living books" instead of a lot of text books for subjects like science, history, etc.  So that means, my library has been an amazing resource!  It has saved me so much money, and so far, they have had every book we will need for the first month or two, or a very good substitution.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I'm loving this new binding machine

I love to personalize things.  Shirts, purses, backpacks, notebooks, anything I possibly can.  Mainly because there is never anything out in shopping world that is exactly "me".  So now that we have begun our "homeschool journey" I have found myself unsatisfied with the selection of plain notebooks out there, and the cute ones cost entirely too much money.  Plus, they are never exactly what I need.

Which brings me to my quest for the perfect notebooks!  If you can't find what you are looking for out there, make your own!  While reading one of my favorite blogs, Satori Smiles I came across a post about her creating her own notebooks with a binding machine.  I immediately fell in love with the idea, and promptly purchased one from Office Depot online, as well as some spines, and different types of paper.   (If you plan on doing this, be sure to check for online coupon codes!  I saved a bundle and it shipped free to my home!)

It seems expensive, but after coupons, and taking into account that I can use this for years, it is well worth it.  So far, I have created a reading log, some drawing pads, my own homeschool planner (a whole other post!), 3 nature journals, and a dictation notebook.  It is well on it's way for paying for itself already!

This is my first project with the ProClick; a reading log!

Isn't it adorable?  I cut down 12x12 scrapbook paper for the outside cover, added a sticker to the front, and used unpunched, ruled paper for the inside (also purchased at Office Depot).  It was so easy that I find myself looking for things to bind daily.  

Here are some pics of how I made a drawing pad.  First, you gather your supplies.  The blue thing is the actual binding machine.  In front of that is the spine, my paper, and the binding tool.

Stick the paper in the binding machine, making sure it is nice and even.  I did about 4 sheets at a time.  

Then you pull that little black handle you see at the top, and make it come down to the bottom.  Presto!  You have holes in your paper!

Line the holes up with the binding spine. 

As you can tell, mine is a little bigger than I need, so you just trim it to size.  They cut easy with a pair of scissors.

Then, you will need to close the first couple rings on your own, they snap together very easily.  You could snap the entire thing with your fingers, but the little tool is included so, why not? You just run the tool down the spine, squeezing it.

And you're done!  Sometimes I add a pretty cover made of heavy card stock, sometimes I laminate the cover if it is going to be used a lot, or has a possibility of getting wet (nature journal).  

I have to warn you though, it is highly addicting.  Before you know it you may start binding your monthly bills together.  


Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer break is almost here!

It's been a LONG school year, and we're counting down the days!  After today, there are only 4 more days of public school before we will be on summer break, and starting our homeschool journey in the fall.  It amazes me how far we have come in the last few months.  We only just started considering homeschooling in December/January, finally made the decision to do it in the beginning of April (after an amazing time at the Cincinnati Midwest Homeschool Convention) and here we are in June! 

It took me a while to decide what materials we'd be using for each subject, but I have them planned out now and everything has arrived.  Using the steps from on "Planning your CM Education" I have mapped out our plan for the year, terms, week and day as far as what we'd like to get done in first grade, and how many days a week/what parts of the day we would do things.  (Now that is a good feeling!)

Now for the fun stuff!  I'm currently gathering inspiration for decorating our resource room.  I know many people choose not to have a designated room, but I'm the type of gal who will do better if everything is in one room, I know where everything is, and its all organized and pretty!  I think Julia is too, so for now, we're going to have a "school room".  Of course, we'll spend plenty of our time outside of the school room, but having a place for everything, and a door to shut to signal the day is over will be nice. 

The quest for the perfect homeschool planner is also going on now.  I cannot decide if I want to go the computer route or the good old fashioned paper and pencil.  There are some good planners online, and I'm leaning toward because it is pretty thorough, and best of all - FREE :)  Plus it keeps all your info online, so if your computer crashes, it's still there!  I'm a paper and pencil girl at heart, but have heard the erasing and re-scheduling can be a serious motivation killer. 

So for now, we're still researching, planning, and going to be enjoying our summer together!  May even throw a vacation in there!  :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Our homeschool "trial run"

After a very long weekend of Julia being sick, we decided to keep her home Monday.  She still was weak, but feeling much better.  So what better time to try homeschooling!?  We will be perfecting our schedule and using different materials in the fall, but wanted to get a general idea of how things would go.

We started our day off the traditional way, breakfast and morning chores, then she wanted to do the "if you're happy and you know it song".  I knew Chelsey, my younger daughter, liked this song, but it was a hoot watching them both sing and dance to it!  I decided to work on Calendar because it seems like that has been lacking at her actual school, and then we did the "Days of the week" song.  They both loved it as well (sung to the Addams family theme song you can find it here).

I wrote a little guide of what subjects to do on our whiteboard, and did a variety, even though we will do less per day in the fall I was surprised how much we were able to get done!  Even with an extra long math session (we watched a video by mathtacular for about 45 minutes because she was really enjoying it) we finished "school" by 1:30, including lunch.  Here is a brief description of what we did:

Literature:  I read to her from a book called "Be a friend to trees", which actually lead into our science.  It was a very descriptive book and she enjoyed it.
Writing/Spelling:  Julia copied a paragraph from the book, and I verbally asked her to spell words.
Art: used finger paints to paint a picture about something from the book (she drew an orange tree)
Science/Nature:  we went outside and followed an ant.  The ant was carrying another bug, and we followed it "home" to its ant hill.  Julia enjoyed watching the ants try to find the hole on the ant hill. 
Gym:  played outside on the slide, counted how many jump ropes she could do, kicked the ball up and down the hill.
Math:  watched the mathtacular video, did a worksheet on addition
Geography: used her Tag reader and map of the US to locate the states and find out information on them.

It was a fun day, and it gave me the "I can do it" feeling that I needed.  We are both excited to start in the fall and use the curriculum I have planned out.  It was nice to be able to include Chelsey, but also a challenge.  I'll definitely have to have little activities set up for her to do when I need one-to-one time with Julia.  For now it worked well just letting her do a mini version of what we were doing.  (pencil and paper during writing/spelling, letting her finger paint, etc.)  We also did the math and geography during nap time which worked out nicely. 

Overall it was a great day!  Today she is home again, I just don't think her immune system is ready.  She will probably go back to school tomorrow, and I will miss her :)  We used today, and I wasn't really impressed.  It has been suggested to me several times by other homeschooling moms, but it is not quite up to par with what I want to teach.  It also doesn't remember what you were doing if you happen to x-out the screen.  When you go back all the subjects are listed again, which frustrated Julia because she thought she had to do them all over again.  It also listed subjects several times in one day.  It's a free online curriculum, so I suppose you get what you pay for.  :)  We will stick to the Charlotte Mason method and maybe use Head of the Class for those crazy busy days. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The homeschool leap

Being a product of public school myself, I never dreamed of sending my child to a private school, and homeschooling?  Riiiight...  So what am I doing reading everything I can get my eyes on regarding homeschool? 

A few months ago, we found out my daughter (currently in public kindergarten) was having some problems in computer class.  It wasn't that she couldn't do it, she has been reading, writing, etc for quite some time.  She was bored.  The repetition of the state computer program made her so frustrated that she would be in tears.  One day, we got a note saying that the teacher was concerned about her frustration in computer lab.  I called, and found out she had been criying every single Tuesday (computer day) and this most recent lab, had been sent to the hall to sit, alone.  She cried so hard, she became physically ill, throwing up. 

I was shocked and had no idea this was going on!  When she would come home from school, she would never tell me this, she always told me she had a good day.  So we worked on it, and worked on it for months.  I went into lab with her, showing her it was okay.  I talked with the teacher, I'd go in after school and do lab with her.  Still, every Monday night, she would worry so much about Tuesday that she wouldn't sleep.  She'd cry during lab.  We tried bribing her, reasoning with her, getting mad at her.  We didn't know what to do, and neither did her teacher.  She would start dreading Tuesday on Friday!  I felt so bad for her, but didn't know how to help her. 

She has always been an emotional kid, I was when I was little and I still am.  But never quite to this extent.  So my husband and I started looking at our options.  We could either keep her in a school that doesn't understand her, and doesn't have time to deal with her the way she needs, or we could try something different.  Private school and homeschooling became our options.  Leaning towards a local Private School, we went as far as enrolling her for next year, but I still didn't feel comfortable. 

I read everything I could about homeschooling, but hadn't quite convinced hubby.  Finally, I talked him into going to the Midwest Homeschool Convention.  One class, and I could tell he was sold, even if he didn't admit it.  We were there for 2 days, taking all the classes we could fit in, browsing the vendor hall, talking to other homeschoolers.  When he finally decided it was a good idea, he told me what sold him on it. 

"I looked around at all the kids that were here.  They were sitting quietly, listening, obeying their parents.  They were respectful, dressed modestly, and well behaved.  That is what sold me."  For the rest of our time at the convention, we paid close attention to the kids attending.  He was right!  These kids were the most well behaved group of kids we'd ever seen!  Thousands of families were there, and not once did we hear a child disrespect their parents, run away from them, or say rude things.  They sat quietly during the lectures, paying attention, or at least quietly sitting with an activity.  We were impressed.

We went with intentions of using the curriculum in the Ohio Virtual Academy, and came out deciding to take the whole thing on ourselves.  Now leaning towards the Charlotte Mason method as well as Classical method.  (Another post!) 

It is May, and I'm counting the days (25!) left of public school so we can begin our journey.  Maybe it will work, maybe it won't.  But this is where our hearts have led us, so we can't deny our calling.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How one decision can change your life completely...

Before our first daughter was born, we were a pretty typical couple.  Married, house, two cars, two decent jobs, middle class.  In 2003 we decided I should quit the job I hated and go back to college to get a degree in Early Childhood Education.  Looking back, this single decision changed our entire life path.  Had I not went back to college, I probably would still be working at that job, probably excelling, probably making a decent amount of money, but I can be 99% sure of one thing.  I would not be happy.

I graduated in May of 2005, and have not used my degree in a job setting once.  We planned for our first child to arrive shortly after graduation, and she did.  In July of 2005 we had our first daughter - Julia, and had the biggest change in our lives.  We were parents!  For the first time in our lives we had to really think about someone else's life and how we were affecting it.  Obviously, we thought about others before, but this tiny person relied completely on us to make good decisions, because she could not.  It was up to us, and from the moment we got the confirmation on the pregnancy test, we have taken that job very seriously.

When I say that I have not used my degree in a "job" setting, I definitely do not mean I have not used the knowledge I gained while I was in college.  That knowledge is what changed me the most, and I am eternally greatful for that.  Had I not taken those classes, I shudder to think of the decisions I would have made differently.  My parenting style is completley different now than it would have been.  I now research everything, reading until my eyes hurt, talking to people in similar situations for advice, watching informational videos, and researching some more. 

Unfortunately, we are not always supported in the decisions we make as parents.  Family, those who are supposed to be there to support you the most, are often the ones who question you or make you feel bad about your choices.  I take pride in the decisions my husband and I have made so far, regardless of who agrees or disagrees with them.  We did not decide one day to just "do" the things we do.  We have put more thought and research into each decision, than we ever imagined possible.  But at the end of the day, we feel good about them, and that is what matters.