I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I’m getting there! For the past few weeks, I’ve been drooling all over this organizational blog and this interior design/craft/recycling blog and I’ve gotten SO many ideas as to how I can make our space work better for us, and make things look nicer, too!
Here are some of the simple changes we’ve made around here recently that have really made a huge difference! They’re not quite as nice as those you’ll find on these sites (baby steps, baby steps!) but they’re working for us!
The School Stuff:
I never wanted to be one of those moms who followed a “curriculum” or had a scheduled “school time” every day. I never wanted the kids to do workbooks or assigned reading, or follow a structured math program. No, I wanted to be the cool mom who taught her kids fractions while she was cooking and biology while walking through the woods. But I’ve come to realize that I NEED STRUCTURE! Without it, I intend to do everything while actually doing absolutely nothing. So, enter the homeschool workbox system. I’ve mentioned the workbox system before (an idea I got here), but thought I’d go into a little more detail and explain how our system works (it’s set up a little differently than the one mentioned in the link):
First, I didn’t want to use a bulky filing box for all the kids work and I didn’t want to have to put all of the kid’s work materials in the workbox. Instead, our workbox system utilizes a variety of boxes and folders. Here is our setup:
The workboxes themselves are just simple plastic file boxes we got from Office Depot and inside we have folders with each subject the kids are working on (more on this, in #3.) Our workbox materials (books they’re currently reading, violin/cello books, etc.) are located to the left of our workboxes, and our activity boxes are below. I’m working to get more stuff in our activity boxes, but for right now, they hold I Spy bottles, Cuisenaire rods (we didn’t get them from Amazon, but you can find them there) and a clothes pin color wheel for the little ones. To the right of our workbox shelf, we have miscellaneous project boxes which, at the moment, hold paint sets and stationary for writing cards, but hopefully will eventually hold more fun projects like sensory tubs, activity boards, and art baskets (along with a thousand other ideas I’ve gotten from this site.) You can’t see it in this picture, but on top of the bookshelf is a letter tray, where the kids put their completed work, for me to review and correct as needed.
Just as Julie has her boxes set up, the first page in our workbox is a laminated sheet that says “look what I did today!”
Each folder has it’s own laminated velcro tab that they pull off and put on the “look what I did today” page as they complete the task:
Rather than putting additional tabs on the front of the file boxes, I created a separate paper for miscellaneous activities that don’t go in folders, inside the workbox:
And extra cards featuring subjects or activities we’re not working on that day are located in zip-lock bags in the back of their workboxes. The number cards correspond to the activity boxes, so whenever the kids see a number card, they know to pull the activity box with that number and work with whatever is inside.
The Folders Inside the Workboxes
The folders inside the workboxes each have all the materials needed for that activity, unless the materials needed are too bulky (in which case they go in the activity boxes or the workbox materials box.) For instance, their reading folder doesn’t contain the books they’re reading, but it does contain the worksheets that correspond to their books. Their math folder contains the math CD they’re currently working on (we use Teaching Textbooks), scrap paper, and any support materials they need. The math folders also contain multiplication flashcards, time worksheets, and number recognition flashcards for the kids working on those things. Writing folders will either have trace worksheets inside, or scrap paper to write a letter to a friend on, which I’ll check and correct before they re-write it on their stationary. If they’re writing a letter, their writing folder will also contain a laminated sheet with the addresses of all the friends/relatives they like to write letters to.
My favorite folder is the violin folder. We found these great Stay-Put Folders at Kroger, which were a bit pricey but well worth it! Inside, we have the kid’s practice charts, all the notes I take from each lesson, and stickers for their practice charts which are contained in a handy little pocket inside each folder.
(behind the current lesson notes, we also keep any music the kids are currently working on, that isn’t contained in their music books. Their music books and note flashcards are located in the Workbox Materials file boxes.)
One great idea we came up with was to give the kids different stickers for the amount of time they practice. For short practices, they earn a plain little smiley face, but for long practices they have a variety of stickers to choose from – sparkly hearts, puffy insects, musical notes, etc. I’m not great about keeping their practice charts up to date (this one doesn’t have the amount of stickers it should), but the older girls really get into this and they LOVE to fill their charts with stickers!
Kids Craft Shelf:
I posted a picture of the kids craft/coloring shelf before:
but we’ve re-vamped it a little to get rid of the little drawer which used to contain crayons and markers, and now have these items in small jars across the top shelf so they’re easily accessible and easy to keep track of:
I also found a use for some glass milk jars we’ve had in our cabinets for a really long time:
We put all our spare change in these, and this is what the kid’s allowance money comes out of each week. It’s nice, because we don’t have to budget for their allowance money and it also helps us to pay them a little each day, as they complete their tasks, rather than once a week. On Fridays when Jon gets paid, we change these out for dollar bills and put aside the kids tithe and offering money in special jars, until we have enough set aside to send somewhere.
I’m also planning to put together something like this for responsibilities they can take on to earn extra money:
(How-To article located Here.)
And speaking of glass jars, a friend gave these to me a while ago, and they’ve been great for storing beans, rice, and pastas:
To the right are the puzzles, and to the left are the puzzle pieces! Each puzzle has a letter sticker on the back, and each box has a corresponding letter on the back of it:
No more lost puzzle pieces!
We also made this great “responsibilities” chart for the kids to mark off every time they get their chores done within the time frame allotted (we have trouble with one of our children procrastinating and playing during chore time.) If the kids earn an “X” in every box that week, they get a special treat on Monday!
And lastly, my very very favorite organizational idea came from I Heart Organizing. Unfortunately, I can’t find her post about it, but the end result is supposed to look something like this:
(There is a tutorial posted Here)
Of course, we have a lot more socks, and I didn’t want to wait until I could gather the materials to make something like this, so for now we’re using the not-so-cute-but-just-as-effective version:
(sorry the colors are wonky, we have way too much going on in that room with the RED carpet to get any kind of consistent white balance in there. That’s my next big project… pull up that horrible red carpet in the girl’s room!!!)
This is located on the wall right next to our over-the-door organizer, which contains things like socks, underwear, and headcoverings:
One of the best ideas EVER.
This weeks best project: The Restoration Wall…
I take no responsibility for this idea, whatsoever. It was 100% God.
Lately, I’ve been having a bit of trouble with one of my girls. It seems that she’s going through a stage right now where we’re having a lot of miscommunications, and when she does something wrong and I correct her, she’s been easily offended over my correction. After one particularly tough time with her, I started to pray and ask God for HELP!!! figuring out what to do, and how I could restore our relationship. This was the idea that popped into my head:
It doesn’t look like much, but this is what my kids and I are calling our “Restoration Wall.” Every time we have a situation come up where reconciliation just isn’t possible through talking (which seems to be the case much more often with this one child than with the others), we go and make a flower together. We don’t have to talk while we’re making it, we just sit and work together to draw and color and decorate the flower. When we’re done, we each write down on the back of the flower the thing that we did wrong, according to the other person. Once that is written, we scribble out each others words, kiss over each others words, kiss each other, and stick the flower to the wall. Eventually, we’ll either be gluing these flowers directly to the wall, or we’ll create some kind of big frame where we’ll display our flowers, permanently. The idea is that “love covers a multitude of sins” and by writing our wrongs down on the back of the flowers, scribbling them out, kissing them and then gluing them so that the words will never be seen again, we’re “covering” our sins symbolically and, I think, spiritually as well. Both times my daughter and I have made one of these flowers, she’s come into the project unwilling to talk and in tears, and left the table smiling and happy. I love it!!!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!