Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekly School Summary - ECC Week 1 (Aug. 24-26)

I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!

First Day of School Photo (No, they're not twins; Soprano's just tall for her age. 
Why they're both holding their hands that way, I don't know.)
We had everything mostly ready so we decided to just start school! The kids were too excited to wait any longer. (Really!) I think part of the excitement was that we hadn't let them into the schoolroom for the past 3 weeks while I decorated, stocked, and finished things off.
We knew they'd need time in the room to check it out and explore before we had a real school day so we had the grand reveal on Sunday afternoon.

They had fun checking out their fresh school supplies, personalized spaces, and different resources in our room.

Wednesday morning came and they could barely contain themselves they were so excited to start. (I know I've just used the word 'excited' way too many times but there is no other way to describe how happy they were.) After I took their 'coming down the hallway' pictures (like we do on Christmas morning), I had them start their morning chores.
Now with them being home all the time, I know full well the house will get dirtier and more untidy more often. So I made a 'team work' chart that we'll follow each day for our chore time. Anybody can pitch in (even Mom---maybe) to do our daily tasks or jobs that we'll tackle once a week. They, in their hyper excitement, raced to do the chores so we could start school! That's never happened before!

After our morning tasks and hygiene were taken care of, we headed into the schoolroom.
The day overall went really well. It took a little longer than I was thinking but since it was our first day, we spent time explaining the process of how we'll do things each day, where to put finished papers that need to be checked by mom, and how to use the work schedule and boxes that we had set up.
Tenor completed his typing, math, and reading rather quickly.
Soprano did really well with her math and reading and then had a little difficulty with SOS Spanish. I think a few more lessons will help her understand how the program works. She giggled a lot at the story that was read. (La niña sees la rata. La niña says, "Eek!" La rata says, "Eek!")

After their individual work, we jumped into our first day of MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures. They liked filling out their passport applications but Tenor really wanted his right away. I told him government bureaucracy takes time. They also really liked the Wee Sing song that we listened to. Soprano is in 2nd grade so she's using The Complete Book of Animals and completed 2 of the farm animals worksheets.

After a quick break for lunch, we came back to Language Arts for both and handwriting for Tenor. After, they played outside for awhile and then school was done! I think we did Day 1 rather well. (Going to Olive Garden for dinner to celebrate our first day was just a bonus!)

Day 2 started with a repeat of chore time excitement. We started with our pledges and prayer and then into individual work. Spanish, math, and reading all went pretty well.
Then we worked together on ECC. The younglings enjoyed creating their John 3:16 posters. I found an idea online (I can't remember who's blog----sorry!) where they color copied a few pages from Children of the World to use for the posters. So I followed suit and theys had fun choosing which pictures to include on their posters. We used letter size cardstock so that we can include them in their ECC binders.
After they made good progress on their posters, we had a quick lunch and then started our Maps and Globes project. They did well to draw continents on their clementines, then I helped get the peeling started. Helpful tip: use a Sharpie to draw and not washable markers. We had some serious marker bleeding going on which made the final examination a little difficult. The kids got the point though.

Tenor's (North and South America)

Soprano got the equator down pretty well. The rest was a little... um... sketchy. :)

Mom's (Asia... sort of)

We finished up the day with a PA History worksheet, language arts, and outdoor activity. The whole school day only took 3 hours.

Day 3 (and the last of our first 'week'), we had another great chore time today. I'm not sure who these chore-loving children are but I'll keep them for as long as they want to stay!
Our school day started with pledges and prayer and the usual individual subjects. The actual schoolwork goes well but Soprano is having a little trouble understanding her printed schedule. She persistently will finish and then come to ask me what she should do next.
Her printed schedule has everything in order as does her magazine holder 'workbox.' I'm hoping it's just her age and familiarity with traditional school that makes her hesitant to proceed on her own. We'll keep working on it.
After a million interruptions (Verizon tech fixing the phone, then calling about said phone issue, more phone calls, unexpected friend visiting, Soprano not knowing what to do next), we got to our MFW ECC work.
With a 2nd grader and 4th grader, I try to do all of their 'together' work at the same time and then let them finish up with any individual stuff. Soprano did 2 more worksheets on farm animals from The Complete Book of Animals while Tenor did some 'search and find' exercises with me using the Illustrated World Atlas. I just asked him use the index to find various countries or cities in the atlas. I picked countries where we know people live, have lived, or have been missionaries to try to personalize it.
We quick did language arts and handwriting before stopping to eat.
After lunch, we went outside to do the Backyard Habitat exercise. Soprano wasn't really into it but they both finished. Overall the day took 3 hours.

So we survived our first, somewhat shortened, week of school.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Super Frugal, Yet Meaningful, Wedding Gift

Friends of ours recently got married, and we were delighted to be invited to be part of their special day. Unfortunately, what we wanted to give and what we could afford to give were at opposite ends of the monetary spectrum!
I got to thinking what would I have found most useful as a new bride...... easy recipes! (Bass is giving an amen to that since he had to teach me how to cook spaghetti. I was all over boiling water and making toast though. I had me some skillz! Just sayin')

Over the 11 years that we've been married, I've collected and refined recipes that are well within my cooking comfort level. They were all a mess though: magazine clippings, stained cards, and handwritten gobbledygook. With a wedding gift in mind and my 7 year olds request for me to "give her all my good recipes someday", I started typing.
A few hours and a template in MS Word was all it took to transform my mess into a great archive of usefulness.
I found a super cute photo album at AC Moore and bought it with a 40% off coupon. I also found a wood clothespin at Michaels for $1. Using my Nana's Kitchen (DCWV stack) scrapbook paper, I made a little insert for the photo album cover, and I covered the clothespin. Then I used my Cricut to cut out "spicy" and "sweet".

A few coats of Mod Podge sealed it.
I sorted the freshly printed and typed recipes by category and put them in the album. I also used the Stampin' Up round tab punch to create category dividers. I just used a little ATG tape to stick them to the middle of the photo album page.
A quick card, wrapping paper, and bow, I had a wedding gift ready to go.
(Hint: I always try to wrap my card inside the package for a wedding or shower. That way there's no chance of it coming unattached and lost.)
This gift was definitely a labor of love but now I have all the recipes stored in the computer for future weddings (or for my 7 year old) and I got to update my recipe book too.

Linkin' it up here!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our New School Room!

We recently have set out into the world of homeschooling and part of my "conditional surrender" to actually doing this was to have a school room. If you're interested, you can catch all the details of how and why we decided to homeschool in this post.
I know that we'll probably end up doing school work all over the house or outside or on the road but to have a visually pleasing space where I can shut the door if necessary has been a huge help in getting me to the point of wanting to do this instead of just gritting my teeth through it.

This spare room had some water issues when we moved in. We think we've resolved the problems but we don't want to take chances so all the furniture has plastic or metal feet and the bookshelves are set up on small ceramic tiles. We pulled out carpet and yucky paneling, painted the walls, doors, trim, and floor, and added an electrical outlet and 2 additional light fixtures.
Here's what it looked like when we first saw the house.
Here's what it looked like post-paneling/carpet removal.
Inviting, eh??

After all the down and dirty work, here's what you see when you look straight in from the main door.
And looking from the main door in towards the long wall.
Details: a few lanterns for color
A fun rug (easily movable in case of water) on sale at Ross.
Our quickly filling bookshelves. (On sale at Target.)
A close up of the bookshelves.
On top I have 3 canvas bins from the Target dollar spot (But they were $2.50, so why were they in the dollar spot? I don't think that quite makes sense but they were still a good deal.) One is for math manipulatives, 1 for games and flashcards, and 1 yet to be filled. I also found a file folder box at Target that holds file folders for each kid's school subjects. Throughout the year, I'll file worksheets, random papers, field trip info, and weekly log sheets to be used to compile year-end portfolios. The 2 magazine holders, painted to match our color scheme, hold mom stuff like catalogs.

The next shelf holds fiction books for independent and curriculum reading. I combined lists from a classical Christian school's website and Sonlight to create a list of books for each grade level that I'd like the kids to read. They're voracious readers so I want to try to steer them towards good literature and classic fiction that I remember reading while growing up.

The next somewhat empty shelf holds art/music/Bible/character books, then language arts/literature books, a couple of geography puzzles/play money set/magnifying glass, and computer disks for this year's curriculum.
The next shelf holds magazine holders. I bought several sets at Ikea for super cheap and then painted them to match our room's decor. The left side starts with Soprano's nature study binder (for completed pages) and MFW binder. Her current items (Math, Reading, L/A) are in the first pink mag holder. Her current MFW geography game, flag sticker book, and eventually passport are in the 2nd. Extra lightunits, reader, and math workbook are in the next 2 holders.
The orange ones are for me. I have MFW student sheets for each kid and teacher supplement in one and random current curriculum in the next (PA History worksheets, nature study blank pages, health worksheets).
The other side is similar but holds Tenor's things in reverse order. These will be our sort of version of a workbox. They'll just pull their magazine holder of current stuff and reference their weekly log to see what needs to be completed each day. (That's the plan anyway. We'll see how it works in real life!)
The next shelf holds our MFW books on the far left, other geography and PA history books, then T's globe, and at the far right, science books.
The very bottom has some curriculum we got at a yard sale before we decided on this year's plan that I might use in the future, a magazine file box that holds my current teacher manuals, another canvas bin from Target for library books that we'll borrow for our MFW studies, and then a whole shelf of history books. (If you look closely, you can see the tiles we used to lift the shelves off the floor.)
On the right side, we used command hooks to hang their storage clipboards. They'll use these for their weekly nature walk/study. I found great story sheets at an educational store that have space for a picture at the top and handwriting lines at the bottom that they'll keep in here along with regular and colored pencils. I also tucked a yard stick and meter stick over here.
Another fun Target buy was this butterfly chair. It's really comfy and perfect for a cozy reading spot. We had lanterns left over from our Vacation Bible School to hang in the corner and got a fuzzy, shag rug at Ikea to soften the floor. You can see the curtains hanging there too. That wall had paneling removed (see the before pics above) so it was blank cinderblock with a less-than-pretty sewer pipe running along the entire length. We got Deka wires and clips and Knoppa flat sheets from Ikea to hang and disguise the uglies.
On the short end wall, we set up Tenor's desk area. (We thought it might be best to have the younglings face opposite walls to try to minimize potential annoying and bothering.) The desk is the Vika series from Ikea. We got the white top and white legs for both younglings' desks as well as for the long work table. New spinny chairs, lamps, and wastebaskets were all on sale at Target. I got the cork board at Michael's with a coupon and painted the frame white and then covered it with fabric. I found a super cute bulletin board set at a local education store and used the clip art to decorate his bulletin board. It came with a lot of guitars so I cut letters out with my Cricut, adhered them to the guitars, and then had them laminated. I used a simple piece of ribbon and colorful paperclips to create a name banner.

On his bulletin board are a handwriting chart, grammar/writing cheat sheet, and required reading list (for independent reading time.)
We found this little supply box at Wal-Mart which is perfect for holding freshly sharpened pencils, much needed erasers, and other handy supplies. (No excuses of 'I can't do my work, I don't have a _____.')
Next to his bulletin board hangs a clipboard. I painted the base and then covered it with scrapbook paper in his colors of green and blue (and several coats of Mod Podge.) This will hold his attendance chart and weekly log/assignment sheet.
Moving to the long paneling wall, we have our maps. We used a tri-fold foam display board and a sheet of cardboard to create a map backer. This side has our world map. We hung the US map on the other side. Because it's light-weight foam, I can take it off the wall and flip it around as needed.
Next to the maps we have our clock and large corkboard. On this wall, we put a long Vika table for group study and art projects.

This side has mom's basket of supplies. The little tins were also at the Target dollar spot. (They were actually $1 though.) I have my handy-dandy red pens, dry erase markers, decorated clothespins, notepaper, etc. and tissues for the upcoming fall allergy season.
This is where I will probably sit to correct papers. The little magazine bin I found at Big Lots for $3 has handles which make it super easy to cart around. It will live on the bookshelf when it's not needed.
A close-up of mom's clipboard.
Our big bulletin board has a clip art 'Welcome' and will hold our memory verse of the week. (I found adorable, free printables for MFW's weekly memory verses at Mama Jenn.)
Also on the board are our pledges. (dressed up in MS Publisher)
And classroom rules (also dressed up a bit in Publisher)
I totally borrowed that idea from here and just made them coordinate with our decor scheme.

At the other end of our project table, I have another mesh bin and Target pails with art supplies for the kids.

Just to the left of the main door is the door to the workshop area. I laminated the clip art and poster from our bulletin board set. The star clip art is now announcing 'superstar work' along with a bulldog clip to show off great schoolwork from each kid. The poster (since it's laminated) will function as our whiteboard.

Then next to the workshop door, we're back to Soprano's desk that is the first thing you see when you enter the room. She has the same set-up as Tenor only in her color (pink, in case you missed it.)
Soprano's supply box

Soprano's clipboard
A quick reminder of before:

And after:

Doesn't that just make you want to do school?? We haven't let the kids in since I started decorating and shelving books to try to build their anticipation. They keep trying to sneak a peek though and have said they're totally ready to start school! Here's hoping that enthusiasm will last!

Linking up to this fun blog hop (with tons of great school room ideas)

and a few of these great linky parties!

This redo was featured here:
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