If it's something that I have discovered, it's how our classroom changes. Constantly. It seems that it, itself, is a living breathing thing (mostly because it is where we do our work), so that things get put up, taken down, moved, added to, or removed all together. I'm lucky in the fact that we keep it picked up so that the small space doesn't feel confined (unless you close the pocket door). I'm also lucky that this was a playroom before The Monk became school age, so I had already painted the walls with rolling hills and trees, which helps when we are inside, plus it adds a sense of whimsy to our day. We have a snuggle area for read-a-louds and there is a small closet that allows us to store all of our odds and ends that we need for various school supplies and art projects. Our workbox station remains out of the way (for those interested in workboxes, you should check out this site - she gives excellent advice about how to start that up!), and we were able to hang a small bullatin board that I'm able to change once a month (just because it's fun!).
Spring is my second favorite season (running a close second to fall), so I always feel as though I have to revamp whatever isn't working in my life and around the house as a way of cleaning out the old and getting on with the new (I've always felt that New Years should begin in March rather than January). Since there is an air of rebirth and renewal in the spring, going through clothes, washing the windows and drapes, and reviewing curriculum are some of the things that I like to do as the sun is shining longer and the days are getting warmer.
That being said, I have pulled out all of my paperwork and binders and whatever what-nots that I started with when I began planning to homeschool last year and I have decided that I need to really start getting my act together and clean out what has and hasn't been working for us.
One of the things that hasn't been working is not having a set schedule. I tried having a really tight schedule when we started and then that transformed into no schedule at all. Now it's come back to we need a routine, but not anything that is too strict or confining (The Monk HAS to have wiggle room - pun intended). So I have developed a schedule that I think is very right for us (it even includes afternoon tea at 3 so that we can have a snack and just hang out before The Hubs gets home and the wild rumpus of dinner, bath, and bed begins).
Another change that needs to happen right now is my being more organized about how and what The Monk is learning. That being said, I've finally broken down and checked is learning against the CCSS. Ugh. I know, I thought that I left that in the classroom as well, but our state requires that he take a national standardized test in the 3rd grade, so I figured I might as well check to see where we are at (above in reading, behind in math). That being said, I have to get my act together and have a system that works for me to be able to track and monitor his growth. It sort of takes all the fun out of things, but it is a necessary evil, especially for me to feel like I am being successful as his teacher (elementary curriculum is very different from what I was doing while teaching middle school). I have piecemealed some things and am getting ready to sit down and sift through it all so that I can spring clean myself into feeling better about what I'm doing (btw, I found the great teaching binder here). Hopefully during the household purges and deep cleaning and the seed planting and everything else that leads me to love spring, I can get myself and The Monk on a better track towards success.
The Monk and I have finally started to hit a really great groove. It took some time, but we've discovered that if we start a little later in the morning (around 10) and that if we work pretty hard, then we can finish up around 1. Which is nice, but it has left me feeling as though I am missing something in providing him with a well-rounded education. That we are not doing enough (which is probably a leftover piece from my public school days, but I can't seem to shake the feeling). That being said, one night over dinner during parent/teacher conferences, the family decided that we needed to bump things up a bit since we now had a pretty solid routine. So, in the next few weeks we are going to be adding more to our day.
The Monk already does morning pages (which is really nice, because it gets him into his desk and allows him to start getting focused for the day), but I don't think that there is enough to them, so I've decided to add more by the way of calendar pages as well (I took them from here and re-vamped them to our needs). We have also decided that we needed to add more to our curriculum in general, so as we start 3rd grade in May (yea, I know, but I teach year round and we take LOTS of days off, so we don't really follow any specific set school schedule), we are going to add in some Spanish (The Hubs and I already speak it, so we need to get the boy on board), as well as specific Spelling and Grammar courses. I need to build our curriculum up slowly, but, hopefully, but the time May rolls around, I'll be ready to introduce the new and improved lessons to the boy. Whoo hoo!
The holidays were a little hectic for us (from cabin fever due to snow, traveling to visit relatives, and some rather large family accidents), so I didn't have my laptop out as often as I would have liked, nor did I manage to get much teaching done - but I counted it as a much needed break, so now we are back where we belong, at the table and ready to conquer.
I am so getting a boxed curriculum and only going to stress about enhancing it and tweaking it to make it more fun. This whole trying to come up with everything on my own and plan it is far to freaking stressful for me and I totally feel as though I have no earthly idea what I am doing. And I think that a lot of that stress in transferring to my teaching, which is putting a strain on the whole thing.
Ok, so it's been awhile, but I never really could have guessed how busy I would become with staying at home. I had thought that there would be all the time in the world to keep up with this blog and such, but I find that simply isn't the case...at least not for now. We are still adjusting to the life of being at home. Where I imagined time spent with The Monkey as playful and full of engaging activities. Little did I realize that it would be a constant struggle to keep The Monk at the table to learn. His distraction is really high and there are some days that his ADHD just won't allow him to concentrate for an extended period of time. I often feel that I am spending more time nagging him to do his work than I am in teaching him. I know that it is still an adjustment period and that we both are trying to figure out how to work together to make this a successful endeavor, but it still a struggle.
One thing that I've had to tweak is the time we spend learning at the table. I've learned that I have to give him brain breaks, That he can't just sit and do the work (half the time, he can't even focus for more than 15 minutes without staring off into space), so we have to do something that gets him away from the table and allows his little body to do some wiggling. But, there is still a part of me that gets frustrated and looses patience. A lot of this is because I just want him to do the work, especially since I know that he can. But he gives up rather easily and often times just fights me because he feels like it. We are still straightening out personality conflicts, but I know that we will eventually figure it out.
Something else that has had to be tweaked is what we are doing on a given day. I'm a Type A personality. I like order and schedules and routine. My son, however, is NOT a Type A. He's more of a B (or Z, actually), who really likes just being free with his time to do his own thing when he wants to do it. This isn't working for me, who, as a classroom teacher, is used to order and schedules. I've really had to learn to let this go for myself, otherwise I was frustrated and angry because we weren't getting things done when I wanted to get them done. I'm starting to figure out that we need A/B days. We weren't fitting everything in because The Monk just can't do it. His active mind just won't allow him to focus for that much time on end. So, we are now doing math, science, and social studies on one day, reading, writing, spelling, art, etc., on another. This way things get broken up and he doesn't feel trapped by routine. Again, this is a struggle for me, but something that I'm will to try so long as he is getting something out of it. Now, I just have to work on getting him to concentrate on the task at hand. Oh boy.
Ok, so the picture isn't the best, but it gives you a basic idea of how we are going to be spending our day. Granted, it probably won't be on the dot or, on some days, even close to anywhere near being in that order. It just helps me (who is OCD) have some semblance of a routine. It will also help The Monk, as he needs to have some sort of routine to help him move along during the day. We were also very lucky this year because our local school district was more than willing to allow The Monk to go to his old public school for daily specials (PE, art, computers, music, library) so that he could get those things and have an interaction with his friends. This was very helpful to us b/c it gives me a small break in the middle of the day and it helps get Monk outside and with his many friends that he still has at his old school.
Well, after much searching and some begging and pleading with well-known publishers of teacher planners, I still wasn't able to find (or have one created) a planner that met my specific needs or artistic desire for something pretty and functional. So, alright then. I set about and created my own. It is still not the perfect piece of professional quality that I would have loved, but it is colorful, creative, and, if I may say so myself, rather awesome. It is tailored to meet my (and The Monk's) needs for his learning and my record keeping. Everything is in a rather larger 3" binder, but at least everything is together and it is able to hold my spiral that I've used for my planning/pacing guide. I have all my records, weekly calendars, monthly planning pages, and family activities in one place. Like I said, it's not perfect, but I'm content and confident that this will see me through the year. I sure hope so with all the time, energy, and resources that went into creating this thing. Now onto the next homeschooling prep project - a resource binder for The Monk to use.
I still have not found that "perfect" planner. I have contacted Erin Condren (who makes AMAZING planners for teachers - just not for homeschoolers) to see if she and her crew would be willing to create a planner that I can really love using. So far, they are taking it under consideration. Hmm. Once again, I am left to my own devices to create something that I'm going to enjoy using and is also beautiful as well. The sad part is, I cannot afford the printer cartridges it's going to require for me to print all this off, as well as the binding process that would really make my planner to resemble something that was mass marketed. Ah well. Part of the process of homeschooling, I suppose, is letting go of the posh and stylized way things are done and rely on the more simplistic, homemade approach to the way of life. The city girl in me still has a hard time with this way of life sometimes (my father wants us to make our patio furniture out of pallets...my Crate and Barrel tastes have a hard time digesting something actually make out of a crate and barrel). I digress - back to the planner. I'm trying really hard to cope with the idea that I'm making my own planner and I'm trying to accept the fact that, although it is not as professional, it is still lovely - I think. Sigh...I don't know.
This is what they look like, but I'm thinking that I'm going to have to fix it. There's something that still isn't quite right...
I'm trying to remember that change is a natural occurrence and that impermanence is a way of life. So, I'm pretty sure that the majority of our curriculum is going to be a fluid thing that is going to be adjusted and fine-tuning over the weeks and months of our learning. I have begun working creating a planning/pacing guide that I can use to guide my instruction throughout the course of the year (you can take the teacher out of the classroom...), and I'm feeling pretty confident about the structure of the various subjects that I'm going to be teaching and how our days will be laid out (for the most part, again, I'm trying to keep in mind fluid instruction). I know that not everyday is going to follow what I have planned and laid out (despite my OCD desire for it to do so) and that there will be days when either the Monk or I just are feeling it, but I also know that as long as I have a game plan, then there is always a plan that I can use to guide us through what needs to be accomplished. And, although it is taking me FOREVER to get all the subjects mapped out and organized, I know that it will be the most helpful thing that I've done to prep myself for my new role as a homeschool teacher vs. a public one whose planning guide is typically figured out by a third party. I also feel as though it will make me more in touch with the exact needs of my son. And isn't that the whole point?