21 June 2012

What Does Your House Say About You?

We just moved into a new home and are working on getting settled. After our time overseas we are thoroughly enjoying amenities we previously took for granted, such as ceiling fans, a sizable fridge/freezer, and carpeting. We are also trying to make the most of starting over in a new house, including giving considerable thought to where we want to put things and what we really need to keep.

Throughout this process, I've been thinking a lot about what kind of space we create when we make a home. Not just functionality or how it serves our own family members, but what it says about us.

Honestly, it's been a long while since I've been in someone's home and thought, oh I want my own space to be just like this. Or, wow the whole family feels really at ease here. On the contrary, most of the homes we've visited lately have been a lesson in what not to do. 

Following are some questions I started with when considering how we want to organize our family space:

Is it pleasant and comfortable? or intimidating and confining?
Does it say we value people? or we value things?
Does it whisper I'm living in the past? or I'm looking to the future?
Is it open and hospitable to all ages? or is it too restricting?
Do children (mine or visitors) feel like they belong? or like they're on the periphery?

Here's what I want for our home: I want it first and foremost to be welcoming. I want it to be a place where my parents are just as at ease as my four-year-old, where my neighbor would feel cozy popping over for coffee and my grown nieces/nephews would be welcome staying for the weekend. I want it to say, please come in and stay awhile, whether you are two or seventy-two we'd love to have you here. I want it to look clean and uncluttered, but lived in. I want my children to know it's their home, too. I want to use the space we have well, so that it looks and feels open and inviting instead of cramped, which is no small task when you have three little ones and tons of stuff. (I thought I was pretty good at letting go of things but I still have some work to do.) 

What is your home saying?

This post was also shared at Connected Mom.

08 June 2012

A Peek Inside Our Homeschool Binder

As a new-ish home educator, I’m always curious about the day-to-day workings of other homeschooling families. Everything from methods to curriculum (or lack thereof) to working with different ages . . . even the mundane aspects fascinate me. So today I thought I’d share how we organize our homeschooling binder.

I should start by saying that while I love my iCal and Evernote, and I am a quasi-neurotic list-maker, I am not super organized when it comes to our home school. We mostly do child-led learning right now, as our oldest is only six, and up until last week we lived overseas& and weren’t following any particular state guidelines. Still, I knew I should get in the habit of having a central go-to place for notes, ideas, worksheets, and completed projects, and having one binder to keep it all together makes me feel more on top of things. Also, the state we just moved to requires (among other things) a portfolio be kept, so I want to get into the habit from the beginning.

Following is what I keep in our homeschool binder. Right now I only have a binder for E (age 6), although J (age 4) does enjoy “participating” in school as well. (And, in all honesty, what I intended to keep in our binder when we began does not always look like what is actually in our binder at any given time. But this is my ideal starting point.)

1. Current printouts. E is a worksheet kind of gal. She likes to have a piece of paper in front of her when we’re talking about something. She enjoys when I come up with a theme (e.g., country of the week) and then print out corresponding materials (e.g., outline map, flag, fun facts, common animals, foods). This tab includes what interests E right now, and what we are “working on” for the week.

2. Extra printouts. Sometimes I’ll print too many things on one topic. Or we’ll simply not get to it. I never toss/recycle what hasn’t been used, though. We always come back to it, even if that means coloring Christmas trees in March or creating our own Valentines in April. Also, sometimes I may click a link for a printable at one of the many homeschooling blogs I follow and think “oh, that looks cool but it has nothing to do with what we are talking about right now.” Rather than pass it up, I print it anyway and put it here.

3. My own notes and calendar. I admit I slacked on keeping my own idea list current as we became more unschool-ish in our days. While I mostly let E take the lead in what we do and when, there are still things I will steer her toward. I also like to see a printed copy of my monthly calendar at a glance while I’m flipping through my notes. I print a yearly one, too, so I can highlight or block out certain days/weeks (e.g., planned vacations/travel, hubby’s deployments) for a good overview.

4. Curriculum samples. Even though my very favorite “guidelines” about teaching young children are articles such as this one, it is nice to have a point of reference. I print copies of curriculum guidelines for at least two states/districts for her current grade level, as well as one grade level below and above, just to have a rough idea of what we might like to do.

5. Sample work. It helps that E loves a good printout, because I have plenty of options for what to keep here. I hang on to a few pages per week, maybe a math worksheet, some writing or spelling practice, or even random artwork. She recently became fascinated with making her own books . . . usually retellings in her own words of, say, a Care Bear adventure, so I’m keeping all of those as well. I also include here gems I’d want to hold on to as a parent even if we weren’t homeschooling, like when she writes notes to her younger sister: Dear Julia, please stay out of my room, you are bothering me. Love, Eva.

How do you keep your homeschooling days organized?

This post was also shared at Hip Homeschool Moms.