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!