Monday, July 29, 2013

Organizing - ahead of schedule!

Not that I expect anyone to remember my posts from years past, but if you have a photographic memory you might recall that I usually spend two solid weeks in August organizing the upcoming homeschool year and redoing the "school" room (I put quotes around that because it's really an all-purpose kids' room - for example, today my 9- and 10-year-old daughters held a make-up studio in there).  Every year I am determined to deal with the school room immediately after we finish for the year, and every year I shut the door and stay out until August.  Until yesterday!  I managed to get into the room a few days early. 

It's not complete, but I made a HUGE dent.  I went through countless papers and cut the fat on curricula.  Last year I did a major purge and got rid of years worth of stuff - things given to me, things purchased but never used or outgrown or whatever-the-case-may-be.  This year's purge was less dramatic, consisting mostly of recycle art raw materials that I have been holding onto for ages.  Shoe boxes, empty toilet paper rolls, bottle caps, empty containers, etc., etc., etc.  I decided to keep only a few things and get rid of recycle the rest.  I also did a MUCH better job this year of creating portfolios for school work as we went along and tossing the rest.  Best thing ever - I used artist sketchbooks as portfolios.  Love it!  Even so, there were still piles of papers to go through and (mostly) toss. 

I also hit the worst offender in the room - my desk.  Or should we call it a pile station?  Piles of everything known to man were on that desk.  Books, trash, art, messages, jewelry, markers, old photos - including one of my best friend from her 21st birthday - which was only a few years ago, but still. =)  And I moved all unsorted books out of the room and into the hallway.  A year (or was it two?) ago, I redid all of our books.  All subjects have a dedicated spot, and novels are organized by author's last name.  At least in theory.  It's been about 50% successful: the successful aspect is that I can locate books much faster.  The unsuccessful aspect is that my oldest daughter and I are the only ones that actually puts books back.  That means that 3/5 of the people using books just put them on my desk.... So this year I moved all the subject matter books to a new location, got rid of two small bookcases, and put two armchairs in their place.  I'm also instigating a new rule that if you don't put your book away there will be a very serious consequence.  =)  Well, there actually probably won't be much of a consequence other than me asking the offender to put the book away in the proper place.  Hopefully I'll remember to keep up with the nagging.

I'm probably about 75% done in the room! I'll have to post pictures when we're finished.  I'd like to add window treatments and new slipcovers for the chairs, but that may have to wait...

But the best news - I'm ahead of schedule!  Hurray me! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Time4Writing

My daughter successfully completed her course at Time4Writing - Elementary Paragraphs.  She absolutely LOVED this course.  She looked forward to the individual feedback provided by the instructor, and she has told me that when she write other things she often thinks about what she has learned in the class.  The online course is easy to use and straightforward.  There are instructional videos, writing activities, and quizzes.  The class progresses over eight weeks from the understanding how a paragraph begins (topic sentence) through writing an entire narrative paragraph.  While the assignments are not overly difficult, my daughter was encouraged to think critically about creating topic sentences, which types of details to include, etc. 
Time4Writing is not only for homeschoolers, but I do believe that for those children looking for a "school" experience, it provides the outside feedback and interaction.  My daughter looked forwarding to receiving grades (something we don't really do at home) and enjoyed reading the comments the teacher wrote.  She worked hard to improve when she made mistakes - something that doesn't always happen as readily when it is Mom providing that feedback!  It is not an inexpensive class, but the staff and teacher are very communicative and want your child to have a positive experience providing help when needed, responding to questions, etc.  It is not a the same as buying software - you really do get a personal aspect with the course.  That being said, one thing which I think would have improved the experience is the inclusion of a "conference" area for students so that they could interact with each other.  For example, each week the teacher could pose a question and each student could answer, commenting on the other responses as well.  
Overall, I recommend Time4Writing to anyone looking to improve writing skills and provide an interactive experience with outside feedback for their children. Please feel free to comment or email me with specific questions!