Sunday, July 10, 2011

Introducing 5K Academy

I've been lining up my little ducks in a row, getting ready for the new school year. We are official "homeschoolers" now that the little kids are no longer using the public virtual school. Big Guy is still officially a part of Lawrence Virtual School, but we are doing some other coursework, as well. All of this means that we had to register our "school" with the state, and so we have named ourselves the 5K Academy!

Our plans to school throughout the summer fizzled out a bit. Miss G's reaction on the "first day of second grade" in early June was, "Why am I being PUNISHED with summer school???" I figured that a good attitude about learning was more important than my notions about year round schooling, so we have just worked on a few little projects and done LOTS of reading (and Little Guy has been taking part in all of that, as well). Big Guy has actually been fairly inspired to do schoolwork, because he figures if he works hard enough, he might be able to get some 9th grade work in before he hits high school next year. We haven't done quite as much as we expected, but he's gotten some good work done, in between Boy Scout camp last week, chess camp next week, and other summer fun.

I thought it might be fun to review some of our homeschool plans for the year, and some of the unexpected things that I have found to be really useful. Not curriculum (though I might do a future post about that), but actual supplies that make our lives easier every day! Some of them I never would have guessed would be so important to our success! A few of these include:

* a date stamp. Really, the motivational power of being able to date stamp a paper to show that it is DONE cannot be overestimated. Even Big Guy likes to do it! And there is a (good natured) tussle every morning to see who gets to change the date!

*Good quality colored pencils. Pencils are my coloring tool of choice. Crayons can't get enough good detail work, and markers simultaneously dry out and end up all over the kids in addition to the paper. I have a really nice set of 48 Prismacolor pencils that I hoarded for a long time as my "grown up" pencils, but have finally allowed the kiddos to use (as long as the set STAYS TOGETHER!!). Regular old colored pencils (Rose and Crayola, etc.) are okay, but there typically aren't a ton of colors, and sometimes the colors aren't as vivid as I'd like.

*Dry erase boards of various sizes. We have small, slate-sized ones for when we are working together at the desk on math or something, wall mounted ones for art work, schedule notes, etc. and a multi-purpose easel with a white board, too. They help reduce the amount of scratch paper we use, and it feels like a treat for the little kids to do math, grammar, hangman, etc. on a board. But what to use on them? Dry erase markers are okay, but they dry out really quickly (especially with small kids who forget to cap them), and again, there is the issue of getting ink on body parts instead of boards. Which leads me to...

*Dry erase crayons, which I just discovered. I LOVE them. Nice bold colors, they don't dry out or stain hands. A big hit.

*A 3 hole punch. For putting endless pieces of paper into various notebooks, portfolios, etc.

*Wall hanging folder holder. This is one of my favorite organizational tools! There is a pocket for each subject that holds the assignments for the day, so as they work on each subject, they grab the appropriate file folder plus any necessary books, and when they are done with the subject, the completed work goes in a basket sitting at the foot of the wall hanger. So then when I am doing my planning time, I can just grab everything out of the basket, do any grading, filing, etc. and then refill the folders and stick them back in their slots. It has made organizing the day much easier, because the kids can always see what work they still have to do, and if I am occupied with one of the other kids, they can start work on the next subject without me.

*Storage clipboards. I have one of these for each big kid (a clipboard that opens up so papers, supplies, etc. can be stored inside). If we want to take our schoolwork on the road and do our work at the library or the coffeeshop or even just the backyard, we can put the day's worth of papers, pencils, etc. inside it and go!

*Audiobooks, audiobooks, audiobooks! My kids and I love them! We listen to them going to sleep, in the car, while playing and coloring... Miss G would like to use them as we do other schoolwork, but Ifind it too distracting. Jim Weiss is one of our favorite storytellers for everything from Egyptian and Greek myths to Robin Hood to Sherlock Holmes!

*One of the supplies I am eager to use much LESS of this year is the computer. Both of the big kids used online curricula, and I felt that we spent all of our time attached to a laptop, especially since they like to use them for fun sometimes, too. Big Guy is still doing an online curriculum this year (though a he is doing a couple of subjects, such as math and logic, offline), but we are going "old school" this year with the little kids. All of my curriculum choices are book based (with the possible exception of Spanish, if we decide to continue it this year for Miss G). More details on that later, though!

There is lots more, I'm sure, but these are a few of the things that I learned to love using this year. And I'm getting excited for our new year in August! Time to get in the car and drive Big Guy out to Lindsborg for a week of chess camp! Miss G is off to three weeks of theater day camp beginning tomorrow, and couldn't be more excited!

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