growing up good

mothering, homeschooling, and me

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Art Day on the Driveway!

I’ve had this idea in my head of an outside art day rotation, where I’ve got different stations set up and the kids rotate through them, adding on to the project that is already started (or starting a new one, if no one has been at that station yet).

Today, I decided just to do it.  We had a break in the humidity, and it wasn’t too hot, and we had no plans until the afternoon, so I knew if we didn’t do it today it could be awhile.

It took me about 45 minutes to set up, which included taping down paper to the driveway, getting all the supplies needed to each station, and retrieving Edison from the street a few times.

Here are the stations I set up:

Oil Pastels on paper

Painting w/ branches from a shrub

Painting Spider Webs w/ q tips on black paper

Plain old painting w/ the easel

Drawing w/ Markers

Bingo Dotters on paper

And using matchbox cars to paint

I walked them through the stations and gave them the following guidelines: One one child per piece of paper at a time (there were 2 papers per station w/ the exception of the spider webs, there I had 3 because I had an extra sheet).  No whining about “That’s mine.” and explained the collaborative approach to creating- to add on to what’s already there and make it work.

I think I took too long to set up, because by the time I was done Mary was crabby and Edison had no attention span, but other than that it went pretty well. The most popular station was the oil pastels, each child visited that station more than once, with Elliot spending the most time there.

Here are some pics from the hour we spent on the driveway (yes, that’s 45 minutes of set up for only an hour of actual work on art, I had hoped for more but they were starting to get hungry and crabby!):


The Set Up

Spider Webs

Edison's Turn at Oil Pastels

Edison’s Turn at Oil Pastels

Edison letting me know he's all done w/ oil pastels by dumping them out.

Edison letting me know he’s all done w/ oil pastels by dumping them out.

Elliot driving through paint.

Elliot driving through paint.

Mary painting, mostly with purple.

Mary painting, mostly with purple.

Edison is outta here.

Edison is outta here.

I dubbed this area "the Student Lounge", I wanted a place where they could go take a break away from where the others were working.

I dubbed this area “the Student Lounge”, I wanted a place where they could go take a break away from where the others were working.

This is the piece that Elliot worked on the longest. After this shot he added grass in the foreground w/ flowers, more dark blue in the water, a median in the street and a ship in the water. It's one of the best art projects he's ever done.

This is the piece that Elliot worked on the longest. After this shot he added grass in the foreground w/ flowers, more dark blue in the water, a median in the street and a ship in the water. It’s one of the best art projects he’s ever done.




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Gearing up for a new school year!

It is that time of year again. 

I’m up to my knees in our school room clutter, and I’ve put off organizing this room long enough! Just a few more boxes to unpack, but I ran out of bookshelf space 2 boxes ago! I LOVE our new school space- it came with bookshelves, there’s a nice big window, it’s on the main floor, but I’m struggling with how to organize it. I know I can do it, I just need to prioritize our needs and make it work.  

In addition to the physical organization of the space- which is overwhelming and exciting at the same time- I’m also mid-brainstorm as to what our school year will look like on the curriculum front.  


The good news is that there are SO many good option out there.  

The bad news is that there are SO many good options out there.  I can’t possibly do them all (nor can I afford to). 

But…I think I’ve got the major subject areas figured out (so I guess I’m not really mid-brainstorm, more like post-brainstorm).  Thankfully, Elliot is naturally curious, so teaching him isn’t too difficult, I am pretty certain he’ll excel no matter what route I choose.  Mary, on the other hand, is not as straightforward of a learner.  She’s a little more reluctant to try new skills and gets frustrated easily, so she requires me to a be a little more purposeful in instructional strategies.  But, I’m excited to see her confidence in herself build as she learns new things, tries new things, and makes her own adventure in learning. 

My biggest fear of this year: my youngest.  How to give the other 2 the educational attention they need and deserve while also meeting the needs of a very active, very mischievous toddler.  I will be gray by 40, that’s for sure. 



This is the current state of our school room. I’ve got a month to whip this place into shape! 


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Intro to Workboxes!

Before I begin, I feel the need to disclose that this is not my original idea. I first heard about the workbox system from Carissa at 1+1+1=1 (an amazing blog that I love love LOVE).  She goes over her son’s workbox system here.  When I read that, I was intrigued. At the time I was getting overwhelmed with the vast amount of planning that was required to prep lessons every day. As I dug further into her site, I also found her adaptation for preschooler here. Hey, this might work, I thought.  That was several months ago.

What kept me from starting this system right away was:

1) The organization of it. What if I set it all up and it didn’t work after I bought all the supplies and everything? Should I use plastic shoeboxes or the Trofast system from Ikea? Or the cart with all the drawers?

2) I felt like it was too structured. I want flexibility in our school day, to be able to do things together, to play. I wasn’t sure how I could make both work.

3) The holidays happened, travel happened, and the next thing I knew it was January.

So then one day in mid-January, I was on Pinterest, the time-suck of the century (besides facebook, of course), and I came across several variations of workboxes.  I read a little bit on the creator of this system, Sue Patrick. She has a book and e-book describing the process and philosphy behind it, she originally developed this method for her Autistic son, to help him reach a higher level of achievement (after being told by teachers and “experts” that he’d never learn certain things).  You can read her story and find out more information on her book here. I haven’t read it yet, but I fully intend to once we get moved and settled in.

I decided, on a weeknight, that I was going to do workboxes the very next day.

Here’s what we do, as of our life right now, less than 2 months before we move (I am certain our system will be tweaked and expanded once we’re in our new space).

The workbox system is essentially this:

Every single lesson gets it’s own “box”.  The boxes are numbered, the student works through the boxes in numerical order. Some boxes are independent work, some are “work with Mommy.”

Here’s my set-up so far. I scrounged together enough for El and Mary to each have 8 boxes, plus an “All Done” box for each.

Elliot's Workboxes

Elliot’s Workboxes

The All-Done box was an afterthought. Wow, I am so glad that I threw that in! They LOVE it! The enjoy putting everything in it when they complete a box! And you know what? I find it helpful too! At the end of the day, I can just take the bin to my desk, take out the work they completed and look it over if I need to (I usually know how they did because they still require a lot of help from me), and put the supplies away.

Mary's All Done Box

Mary’s All Done Box

What goes into the workboxes?


Here’s an example of what Elliot will find in his boxes:

1) Read Mommy a Story (he’s currently reading the “Very First Reading” series from Usborne (a set I LOVE LOVE LVOE). 2) Handwriting (ABC practice pages) 3) MCP Math pages (our supplement to the Saxon Math curriculum)  4) Listen to a story (they get to go to the playroom, sit in the big rocker, and listen to a story on CD). 5) Learning Palette, 2 puzzles. 6) MCP Phonics pages (our phonics curriculum) 7) Ee sensory page (we’re working on different letters each week, a couple days on a letter. Today they’ll use bingo dotters to make Ees). 8) Do a couple pages in the ISpy Sticker book.

Mary will find:

1) Listen to a story! 2) Learning Palette (Matching identical alphabet letters) 3) Magnet Letters on dry erase board (she’ll choose letters and then write them) 4) Mazes (from a preschool workbook, just more practice holding a pencil) 5) Writing in her Dry-Erase book (from Lakeshore) 6) Preschool Pages With MOMMY! (from another workbook, today we’ll be talking about less/more, same/different. 7) Ee Sensory Page 8) I Spy Sticker book.

The Verdict: So far, I LOVE THEM. Why?

1) We’re getting more work done in less time.

2) Less whining. No more Are we done? When are we finished? What is next?  They KNOW what to expect, and how much they have to do.

3) They’re working on their own more.

4) They’re developing pride in their work.

5) They’re *excited* (yeah, I know we’re in a bit of a honeymoon phase with the system, but they’re back to asking if we “get” to do school today).

6) It’s actually LESS work for me.  Yes, it takes time to load the workboxes each night. BUT…it’s getting EASIER to do. Last night I prepped today’s lessons in 30 minutes- that’s 30 MINUTES total, everything planned for both kids. I know when to STOP. 8 workboxes, that’s it for now! 🙂

7) I have a HUGE collection of activities I’ve accumulated over the years. I am actually starting to USE them now! Reading Rods, Magnet Letters, Snowflake Matching, file folder games, printable packs, Learning Palette, VersaTiles… name it, I might actually have it.  I’m pulling things out I haven’t used since I found them at goodwill, bought them at Lakeshore, or printed them off thinking I’d use them (but never did).

So that’s it. That’s how we workbox.  🙂