Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cheapo homeschool solutions

As any homeschooling mom will tell you, cheap solutions are often the best solutions. (Tell that to some of my teacher friends. The lists parents get at back to school time make my frugal hair curl! But that's a soapbox for another time.)

First up is the way we track our subjects every day. We had the problem that halfway (or less) through a day's lessons, the boys would ask me how much work they had left to do. My response would either be a patient litany of how much we still had to accomplish, or (more often) the response, "We have left what we have left." I had to come up with a better solution. I thought about making a way to keep track during the morning of what had been done and what still remained. I brainstormed magnets for the fridge that could be moved from one side to the other, a white-board that could be checked off, a list on the chalkboard that could be erased... but those all required me to either purchase something or do some kind of set up every day. I wasn't willing to add another task, no matter how small, to our day.

Then I came up with this solution:

Simple and cheap. They're just index cards, with the subjects of the day listed, one on each card. Each boy has his own color (which goes along with me color-coding my kids, but that's for another post) so it's clear who has done what. They each have a pile at the beginning of the morning, and as they complete subjects, they put the corresponding card away. When they have no more cards left, they have no more work! (It's a great time-saver for me, too. I don't have to keep a running tally in my head of what we have & haven't done.) I did get fancy-shmancy prepping for this year, since I "laminated" them between two sheets of clear contact paper for durability.

I can't remember where I picked up my next idea - it was a homeschooling blog. If you know where, let me know. I'd like to give this woman some credit! (Edited to add: Lindsay found it for me! This idea is from Kimberlee at Pondered in My Heart. Thanks, Lindsay!)

The idea was this: use milk jug lids for spelling practice! Write a letter on each lid, and let the kids practice spelling by switching the lids around. This is PERFECT for my boys, who avoid writing like it's the Black Death.

I store my lids in an old shoebox in the homeschool cabinet. I've since refined my lids so that all the vowels are blue, and all the consonants are orange.

If you look closely at the picture, you can see piles of subject cards, too. And a spoon. Hmm. So there you go! Cheap and cheerful!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just like I've been sayin'!

This article articulates what I, as a mother of boys, see every day. It's one of the reasons we chose to homeschool. I remember talking about this very phenomenon in one of my Methods classes in college: we talked about how boys in elementary school are dis-served, because schools are set up in a way that is better for (quieter, less active, less impulsive) girls.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Because I promised - here's my storage solution

Because I promised more than a month ago, and then FORGOT! (gasp!) I am now posting these pictures of our storage solution for the boys' room.

Here is where we started. One little bookcase, not nearly big enough to hold all of their books. There were also three small baskets that went on the middle shelf between the book shelves, to hold toys. In addition, there was a shelf on the wall above the bookcase, which we used to display trophies. We took it down when we painted. Sorry that you don't get to see it, but you're really not missing much.

One day at Target, I spotted a little storage unit, made of cubicles. It looked something like this. I thought, "Oh, yeah, right. I need about 20 of those for my kids' stuff." And then it dawned on me, "I need 20 of those for my kids stuff!" I went to Hubby with my idea. He told me that those cubes would be a snap to build, and so we (*cough* he) worked out dimensions, priced the wood and materials (screws, paint, and sandpaper), and built them!

We purchased some fabric bins from Target, because I knew I'd need someplace for the boys to corral their action figures, toy cars, and miscellaneous gear. Hubby measured the dimensions of the fabric bins, getting an idea of how big the cubes should be. He also had the stroke of genius to make the lower 1/3 of the cube wall less enclosed, thus getting the clothes hamper, Lego bin, and Plan Toys garage sorted away, too.

So there you have it! Doesn't it look great? You'll notice in the lower right, he built that shelf up off the floor just a bit, to allow for air flow from the vent. And it works perfectly. Now the boys have so much more room to play, since the new beds & storage unit are in. Perfect!