Homeschool Organization: File Folder Games

I love to organize. This was probably my best quality as an employee in my working years. But since having kids, it seems that there is never time to organize! (And I was always good with time-management too!) Lately there has been an ever-growing pile of random games that I printed from teacherspayteachers.com. I love this site! It’s easily searchable by grade, subject, cost, etc, and there are a lot of free items (I have yet to purchase anything). I’ve found fun math and reading games, and the site offers items in many other areas too (like science and history). (OMG, I just discovered that they have foreign language stuff. Looks like I might be printing off some Spanish resources this weekend!) The girls love to play these games. M is still a bit overwhelmed with reading sentences, so I specifically printed games for beginning reading, working on sight words and simple CVC’s (consonant-vowel-consonant). I would randomly print off a game and give it to a child to play with (if they were interested; they always are).

Anyway, I kept printing games, but never took the time to create a system of organization or storage. So last weekend, I finally got around to organizing them into file folders. I even organized our alligator math game and speech target word cards (I get most of my speech cards from TestyYetTrying, a very awesome blog written by an SLP with an apraxic child…who also is venturing into homeschooling) into folders too.

I had envisioned creating a place for each child to keep a folder or two (such as vertical file folder slots or something) and then “assigning” a few folders to each child and switching them out every week. But I haven’t started this yet, and not sure if I will (at the very least, I’m waiting until we hopefully have more “storage” options in the new home). The girls ask to play these frequently anyway. It has been really handy to have around to occupy one child while I’m doing 1-on-1 schooling with the other child. A lot of the games are also fun games to do when we’re doing speech practice, so bonus! So for right now, the folders live in a box, alongside a few “busy bag” games and our homemade geoboards.

The LipperLoppy Life: File Folder Games

The LipperLoppy Life: File Folder Games

Check out the inside-view of one of the folders below. I glued game boards and instructions to the folders (which also means I could print those out on regular paper instead of cardstock) and taped paper pockets to hold any game pieces or cards.

The LipperLoppy Life

The LipperLoppy Life

What are some of your favorite homeschool organization tips?

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A Perfect Storm

First, a little more reflection from yesterday’s post. I really think that I had just been doing too much when we started out this year. I had no time for housework, which really means that the girls had no time for free play. After writing my post yesterday, I feel much more centered and confident about our direction. I really think we need two mornings a week at home. I also think that we can still have 1 activity from a weekly unit theme, and 1 additional activity (math, language, history, etc) for the days that we stay home in the morning. On the busier days (both morning and afternoon outings), I will only plan 1 activity, so that there is still plenty of free play (and read-out-louds will still be every day, regardless). My mantra will be to not interrupt free play, within reason, and to let the girls come to me with interest.

Seriously, today felt like a weight off my shoulders, and a much better pace for all of us. We did a follow-up unit activity and some math in the morning. I was just about to start another activity with them, when I caught myself. I figured if they got bored later in the afternoon (or started to bicker) we could do that, otherwise, we’ve done enough for the day. So so happy about this shift! I was expecting this year to learn about what homeschooling will look like for our family, but I did not anticipate it to be happening in the first month already!

And now, back to my post:

M is a perfectionist. And a stormy one at that.

Thank goodness she is not a perfectionist about her speech (that would be insane!) but when it comes to writing/drawing, she is a perfectionist. We’ve had about 5 instances this past year where M will make a “mistake” and yell, blame me, and be unwilling to find a solution, until the rage eventually passes over her.

This morning, she started to write 18 as 81. I pointed it out to her, ready to help her fix it (we have already learned to use pencils for work so mistakes can be erased easily). She immediately blew up at  me, saying that it was my fault and I should have prevented her from making the mistake. I told her that everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes are wonderful learning opportunities. She just kept yelling at me that she was perfect and she doesn’t make mistakes and it’s my fault. By the end of her rage, I was on the floor crying, ready to admit defeat.

Homeschooling a perfectionist will be a challenge…but I’m up for it.

After she finally calmed down enough to discuss what happened (by the way, there is no point in me trying to discuss the situation when she is that charged with emotion, but I keep doing that, doh!), she really wanted to continue on with the math lesson. I told her that we needed to figure out what will happen the next time she makes a mistake, because she will (we all do), and I do not want to subject myself to such anger and hostility. I love homeschooling her, but that is not healthy, for either of us. So I suggested that she get 2 puppets out and we roleplay. She played the Mama and I played her. M loved acting out the scenario, and I really hope it will help her (roleplaying is supposed to be a great learning and therapeutic tool, right?). I’m thinking of roleplaying the situation frequently, maybe once a week, maybe before we sit down to do writing work? I don’t know, because she has blown up at me once when we were coloring together and I colored something “wrong”, so it’s not easily predictable. I’ve also already ordered this book, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, from the library, but it will be awhile before it’s available (I think I’m #3 on the hold list).

We finished the lesson without another incident, and I feel really good about how it was eventually resolved, even though it was a little bit hairy in the thick of it. (Yes, I can do this, even when I think I can’t!)

I wonder if her perfectionism is overcompensating for her speech, as in she doesn’t have any control over the fact that she is unintelligible to strangers, so she wants to have full control and be completely perfect in other areas of her life? I’ve asked other apraxic parents about it, and there were some similarities, but part of it also might just be her age and maturity level too. Big emotions in little ones is one of the reasons why I think parenting gets harder the older a child gets. It’s so much easier to meet their needs as babies, when all they need is to nurse and be held.

Do you have a perfectionist child? What has worked for you and your little in this situation?

A Lesson for Mama

We had our first minor setback today. The morning had been full with gymnastics class, and between lunch and speech, the girls were happily playing together in the playroom. They had been looking forward to starting a wetlands experiment today (asking about it all morning), so I hesitantly interrupted their play to ask if they wanted me to set that up. They said yes, so I got the materials ready. Then, I interrupted them again to tell them that when they were ready, to come in the kitchen. Well, they were engrossed in their play, so they didn’t stop in the 5 minutes time I had expected. We only had about 20 minutes before we needed to get ready for speech, and I really wanted to do the experiment then, so we wouldn’t need to worry about it when we got back home. I interrupted the girls a third time, and they enthusiastically stopped playing to do the experiment. They both helped with setting up the experiment, and then it was time for us to journal what we did.

M resisted. This was the first time she has ever resisted an activity! I just wanted to get it done. Yes, we could have done the journaling later that day, but…well….I pushed. This was the first time I ever pushed, breaking my own homeschooling creed, if I have one.

Ah, hindsight is everything!

I should have trusted my gut, and kept them playing that whole time. But I have been feeling some pressure (put only on me by myself) to achieve certain tasks each day.

So I am definitely taking today’s experience as a learning lesson for myself.

I want this year to be full of homeschooling experimentation, so I will have a better feel for what works for our family next year, when homeschooling becomes legally official. I imagine that I will always be evaluating how we are doing, it just comes with the territory. And that’s good. Nothing needs to be ever set in stone, and with kids especially, what works one day may not work the next. Now isn’t that a lesson my children have been teaching me over and over!

Anyway, here are a few minor changes I’m going to implement to our routine:

  • M loves the daily routine chart, so I will keep displaying that. But I won’t feel that I need to honor it; if the children are engrossed in something else, I will let them explore that to their fullest.
  • On speech days (which are 4/5 days) I will strive to have the between-lunch-and-speech time just for free play. Even though this is also when the toddler naps, I think it is an important mid-day break for the girls. I’ve said before how important I believe free play is for this age group.
  • It might be that if we only do free play or outings in the mornings, the girls will always want a structured activity after their afternoon snack, and I might try that middle ground first. But I think I will wait until they ask for something from me, or at least keep them aware that it’s their choice.
  • My main daily goals will only include read-alouds, free play, and one structured activity, whether it be something I planned or something that comes up in our living. With speech taking up so much of our time, these are simply just the priorities right now. I will strive to do field trips once a week, and strive to have two mornings a week at home (leaving only 1 extra morning for hiking, second field trip, playdate etc). Lazy mornings can be the best learning!
  • I will structure the “curriculum” probably into unit studies again. This has served us well in the past; we can study a topic in-depth over a week or so, doing a little bit each day, encompassing different subject areas. Exceptions include: the one-on-one language arts work on Monday mornings; weekly reading of short biographies for history; and ensuring we play some math games at least once weekly.

What do you think? Anything I’m missing? Any suggestions, or do you have an experience to share? Homeschooling is just another extension of parenting, and I will need to be trusting my gut and rechecking to see if I am helping my children to where they want to be.

First Day of Homeschool 2012!

Today was our official first day of homeschooling: Kindergarten for M and Preschool for C. I was surprised by how excited M was to be in “kindergarten”, even without having a school to go to. She kept talking about it all day! Today was the first day that I have ever put any emphasis on our homeschooling. And C wanted to be in kindergarten too!

First, I posted a daily schedule for the girls. They really loved knowing/seeing what the plan for the day was. I have planned a daily subject (started easy with Arts/Crafts for today) and kept enough flexibility in the calendar that I shouldn’t rebel too much.

Daily Rhythm Chart

We did our daily reading in our current chapter book (we finished the second book of the My Father’s Dragon trilogy).  After breakfast and getting dressed, and some meltdowns about headbands, we went outside for a photo shoot of the first day. M held a letter K for kindergarten, and C held a letter P for preschool (which she insisted on holding upside-down). The baby also stood in the photo shoot without my insistence (I guess she is trained for photos) but walked away by the end to explore the yard. Then we came inside to fill out a questionnaire. I hope to keep these traditions yearly.

After completing the first-day questionnaire, the girls created an art craft by gluing their letters onto cardstock and decorating with glitter glue and sequins. (Since today was Arts & Crafts Day, I was so tempted to call it done, instead of doing the project I had planned for that afternoon. But I didn’t; both girls love art and are frequently seen at their art table drawing, cutting, or gluing.) M also decided to make her own questionnaire; she wrote Kindergarten on top of a paper, and then itemized 5 lines: 1) her name 2) her favorite word to spell 3) her age 4) her favorite color and 5) her favorite letter. So cute!

Then we piled in the car, with the dog, and went for a mini nature hike. We collected items for our Prickly-Tickly Book. The girls had a lot of fun finding and feeling the different textures (smooth, rough, soft, fuzzy, etc). We do lots of hiking as a family, but this was the first time we’ve focused on a particular sense. Lots of fun!

We came home for lunch and the baby’s nap. We read picture books while eating lunch (my new trick to get more reading in!). Then the girls ran off to play until it was time to leave for speech class. On the way to speech, we made a quick stop at the library to pick up a book on hold. On the drive home from speech we listened to an interview on NPR about feathers, learning that recently discovered Therapod fossils in China have feathers, and that the first feathers were for decoration/color and later evolved into aerodynamic flight feathers. After a snack, we had an impromptu dance party. Then we did an art exploration with Blow-Art Painting.

Blow-Art Painting

One caveat to this project was the inevitable “sucking-in instead of blowing” that my sensory C did. At least I expected and was prepared for it!

oops!

After that, we printed out some paper dolls to color (inspired by the paper doll M colored in her speech class) as well as some unicorn coloring pages. And now it’s more free playtime until Daddy comes home for dinner.

It was a great day, and I hope I stay inspired. I have a long list of activities, organized by subject, in my Evernote (FYI, I highly recommend Evernote…I use it to organize my recipes, homeschooling ideas, etc.!), so it should be easy for me to maintain the schedule. And the girls are just enthusiastic about everything I throw at them, and we spend a lot of time learning about their specific interests too. I think it is a great balance between unschooling and providing some structure. Only time will tell if it works well for our family. I definitely want to experiment a lot during kindergarten year so I have a better idea of our needs when we become official homeschoolers next year.

Wax and Wane

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the natural wax and wane that my family is allowed to experience with structured learning. The spring started out with a lot of structured, mama-directed learning, and ended with less structure and lots of living life to the fullest. These last few weeks we have been hiking a lot, viewing the eclipse, playing with friends, planting gardens, enjoying increased outdoor play and water play, watching the littlest go from first steps to fully walking, and more daily family reading.

My 5-yr-old recently has become alive with questions about her world, and this is an exciting development that I have waited for (I’ve always wondered how much her speech disorder was holding her back). So we have been discussing blood coagulation, camera memory cards, wolf packs, and death (it’s been over a year since my midwife passed away and she is now asking questions about her). I am excited to see my eldest’s self-directed learning develop; it’s going to be a fun year!

We are going to dip back into some structured activities later this week. But I think it’s always important for me to recognize how much the children (and I) learn just from living our lives fully.

  • "Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don't always know what it is. " - John Holt
  • LipperLoppy? what???

    “LipperLoppy” is a word that my daughters invented. It is usually used as a silly adjective or noun. It's a frequent family joke and a good representation of our family's crazy joyful life.
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