Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The "Wonder Why" Board

About four or five years ago, I read a wonderful book called The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule. I absolutely adored everything about this book, and flipped through it quite often through the years. It's chock full of reflections, ideas and activities for each season of the year.

One of the ideas in this book was to create a "Wonder Why" board... a place to post all those questions kids pose throughout the day, that we don't always know the answer to immediately. By putting those questions up on the board, you don't forget about them before they get answered properly, as often happens when kids are asking questions while you're trying to get dinner on the table or pay bills. It's a nice message to send to kids, that their questions are important even if you can't help them answer a question right now. After the a question gets posted, someone else in the family can answer it if they know the answer already... otherwise, you can look up the answer together when you have a moment.
Our original "Wonder Why" Board
 circa 2011

We created one of these boards about four years ago, when the youngest kid was about 6. We had it hanging up in our homeschool area of our kitchen, where everyone in the family could see it. We all posted questions and answered them for each other, and it was great fun. We kept it going for a couple of years, but then slowly the kids lost interest and then we renovated our kitchen and Wonder Why Board was no more.

A question from our new Wonder Why Board
But then... the other day, out of the blue, my youngest (the biggest question-asker in the family) suddenly remembered The Wonder Why board, and asked if we could bring it back. Since I get absolutely giddy when my kids show curiosity and initiative, I immediately dropped what I was doing to dig out the old magnet board and some index cards. We hung the board up in the playroom, with a basket of index cards and pens next to it, and it's been in good use this week. I hadn't realized just how much I'd missed the Wonder Why board! I'm very happy to have it back in our home.

The Wonder Why Board is back! 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Not-Back-to-School, 2015!

A week and a half ago we started our 2015-2016 homeschool year! It's all been a bit of a blur, and we're still figuring out our groove, but so far, so good!

The table, all set for our Not-Back-to-School Breakfast
We started our year as we always do, with a special "Not-Back-to-School" Breakfast. I really enjoy this ritual. I make something a special for breakfast (this year was waffles with apple compote!) and I give each child a small gift. As homeschoolers, we are technically always learning, but after a summer of looser schedules and fewer activities, it's nice to have a an official "start date" to get us back into a more structured frame of mind. Now that the kids are mostly teens, there is far more structure to our school year than when they were little, but that's OK, and to be expected.

We do a lot more in the way of outside classes and activities than we they were littler, and as such there is a lot less "home" in our homeschooling. This is where things get tricky for me, as I am the keeper of the schedule, and the person in charge of making sure everyone gets where they need to go when they need to get there. To make this easier on myself, I have FINALLY embraced the technology of using the calendar on my phone. Yes, I know. It took me long enough. I STILL use my big wall calendar, but the phone calendar has definitely been so helpful in managing everything. I love the alerts! (Yes, I know... most of you have been doing this for years... I'm a bit slow on tech!) Because we've had sort of a rolling start to our activities, it's given me a chance to slowly acclimate to our new routines, which has been nice. Some classes and such started the first week of September, some the second week, and now a few more things are starting up this week. It's been nice to kind of ease our way into the busy-ness of the year. By the first week of October, we'll be in full swing. I hope I'm able to keep up!

I've been working on lots of ways to try to keep things running smoothly and peacefully this schoolyear... meal planning and prep stuff, organizational things, etc.  I'm hoping to share some of those things here, in the next week or so... so come back soon! ;)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Reorganizing the Homeschool Area

The last couple of weeks there have been lots of school-year preparations going on! I've been making plans, ordering supplies and books, figuring out schedules and getting our homeschool cabinet all cleaned up and reorganized for a new year of learning.

With another homeschooler on board this year, we're doing a lot of shifting things around. To organize the cabinet and make everything we need to have in there fit, we needed to pretty much do a complete revamp. I pulled everything out of the cabinet, eliminated things we no longer needed, then put back all the things we still need, along with our new supplies for this year. It feels good to have a fresh, clean start!

Here's what our homeschool cabinet looks like this year:

Our Homeschool Cabinet, in the corner of our kitchen.
The cabinets themselves are from Ikea's "Billy" bookcase collection.
To the left of this is our Command Center Wall, which is
also a pretty important part of our homeschool area.  

The top two shelves in the far left cabinet are for my "teaching"
supplies... books, my binder, paper clips, tacks, stickers, sharpies,
highlighter, etc. And a little crocheted rag doll my darling daughter
 made for me, which I love. The next shelf has pens, pencils, rulers,
protractors, erasers and a pencil sharpener. The closed storage beneath
holds science stuff: books, microscope, various lab stuff. 

The next section... we have a 3D cricket puzzle, a box of math
manipulatives and a bunch of assorted math books tucked into
magazine files. Below the math stuff, we have our Nature Shelf.

A closer look at our nature shelf, still filled with Summer Treasures... black-eyed
susans and mint from the garden, a chunk of wasp nest, a cool stick, a hawk feather,
some beach rocks and some sea shells from our visits to the beach. Soon we'll be
replacing the summer stuff with things we find out and about on our fall adventures.

The cabinet beneath the Nature Shelf contains the kids'
laptop and computer accessories, and space for each child's
individual books, notebooks and daily work. The two younger
boys have their daily work in tote bags... the two older kids
mostly do outside classes, so they just have their stuff on the shelf,
and take whatever they need with them for their classes. 

The tower in the corner has assorted reference books, and
some boxes containing word games and maps. In the jars, we
have some writing prompts, in case anyone needs inspiration.

In the next cabinet, we have back-up supplies (extra paper, notebooks, pens, etc)
 in the boxes on the top shelf, and other small supplies in the baskets below.
Under that we have a map and a globe, and assorted paper. 

I'm planning to put cute little tags on the baskets to label them, but at the
moment they are labeled with post-its stuck to the back of the shelf. My youngest
says he actually likes them labeled this way, so maybe it will stay like this.
In the closed storage below, we have Noodle's extensive collection of car magazines
(which aren't really school-related, but it's the only place in the
house where I can keep them tidied up, out of sight!)

So that's it! Our homeschool corner for the 2015-2016 school year! Our official "first day of (not)school" is this coming Wednesday! We're looking forward to another year of living and learning together, and sharing many grand adventures. 

PS... If you're interested in seeing previous posts about our homeschool area, you can find them below:

2013 homeschool area post
2014 homeschool area post