Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Off the Ceiling and on to Schooling

We have some higly distractible monkeys in our zoo.
There, I said it.

 Since we homeschool, and there is the reasonable expectation that we are going to accomplish something with our days, we need to work with this dynamic. This can cause us some direct challenges to our individual days and to getting the lessons learned that we want to learn.
We had many discussions (*arguments) over whether work was done. It was hard to keep track of what we actually *had* done. They had the ability to pull the wool over my eyes on occasion.

Since I know that kids work better when they know what is coming, and most kids work best when there is a fore-see-able routine, I decided to work with this. We have set up some visual aids that help both parent and child(ren) see exactly what has been accomplished, and by extension, what is left. I by no means call this a schedule per se, but it has the ability to work that way if a person wanted it to, with the flexibility to change easily for days that include doctor's appointments, playdates, filed trips, illness etc.

We start with a laminated piece of paper that looks like a calendar. Monday through friday reflects our school day, but since this calendar has so many uses, it is also a good idea to include Sunday and Saturday, if you want to use it for schedules in general.  But I'll talk more about that later.

Adhesive backed velcro is attached down each of the days. Apply it top to bottom under the day of the week title. (I bought the velcro at Dollarama. )

Next we have the aids.

Now, for the purposes I have around here, I have both readers, and pre-readers. So, I use subject cards that have have picture cues.  (If you need a place to put these together go to  and use their visuals engine- you will need to register first, but it is free to use)  It is equally easy to do this without the pictures, with an excel spreadsheet, or by hand. (You might find you have a kid that doesn't need the pictures, you're dealing with older kids, or your kids is just 'too cool' for the animations ;)

These are also laminated. (Mostly for durability and longevity.) Attached to the back is velcro. This allows me to fasten the cards to the calendar.

Once I had the materials ready I decided to put together what I expected the calendar to look like when it was done. This is an example of what the calendar looked like last year and gave us something to shoot for. It was not the 'be all and end all' of what we had to accomplish in a day.

You will see that I put the every day subjects at the top and intermixed the alternating ones at the bottom; Only for ease of use did I do this. It's easy to see at a glance whether the everyday subjects got done if you can look straight across and see them all there. If there is a gap, I was missing a subject on a certain day :)
I have children grades Sk, Grade 3 and Grade 5. So the course load reflects the older two children.
With a younger child, you wouldn't be tracking as much. I will have one for each child shortly.

You could choose to put subjects on, or this can serve another purpose entirely.

 If the child is transitioning from Public school, and used to a specific schedule, and needs to "see" their breaks coming, you can place break, lunch, playtime, recess cards etc. This can also beautifully serve to bridge the gap between the time that the child is fully scheduled and expects a rigid schedule and a time that a person chooses to introduce more flexibility in scheduling. (Hence the velcro. It moves.)

This not only works for homeschool.
If the child has trouble with changes in schedule in general, allowing the child to see the day or week set out for them in advance really can help  if you have a child prone to have melt downs over transitions.

You could do this for morning, afternoon and evening routines, chores, practically anything, let your imagination run wild.

Now, to the issue of storage. I know what you're thinking. That is a LOT of little pieces to chase.

I know..... I had to figure out what to do with them too, so I will share what has worked for me.
I knew I needed something with a lot of little compartments or divisions. It was suggested to me that a recipe card holder with divisons would work. So I went on a hunt to Dollarama to see if I could find anything that suited. I Couldn't find a recipe card holder, but I was actually happier with what I found.

These nifty little plastic drawers have enough room in them to store several cards, so I broke my subjects down into two types per drawer (for my sanity) and then put them in. I used labels to tell me what was in each drawer (also for my sanity). It works great and it was very user friendly for the kids as well.

The calendars can be placed really where ever you are going to see them. I have some attached to my fridge (with adhesive backed magnet- this can be purchased at Dollarama or Michael's) Others  I attached via staples and push pins to a cork board. (Purchased on Kijiji)

Initially, when I had only one schedule , I was able to attach velcro strips to the poster board paper on the cork board and store them on the cork board; so this is something to consider if you have one child or want to track them all together.

I know not everyone is going to need this solution, but I could have saved a few more brain cells if someone had given me these ideas, so I`m passing them on in the hopes that I will save someone else at least a little of their sanity.