10 Affordable Products That Transformed My Homeschool Day
February 2, 2018
I’m no expert when it comes to this homeschooling thing. But, in my fourth year, I finally feel like I have a handle on what works for our family. At least during these elementary years! When we move into the RV in a few months, storage space will be very limited. So this year, I wanted to implement a system into our homeschool that would be functional where we are now and could transition easily to a small space. We have been at it for a few months, and I believe I have accomplished that goal. Woo-hoo!
This week kicked off the second half of our homeschool year. Because of the events that took place last October, we are a little bit behind schedule. There were times I thought we’d never get back on track, but we are now pretty close to catching up with where we should be. In honor of beginning a new semester and the progress we have made, I want to share with you an overview of our current homeschool routine. How our family does school if you will. To go along with that, I want to highlight the products that enable our school day to run smoothly and to help us stay organized and productive. I will include pictures and descriptions below, along with links to easily purchase those items if you so desire.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. Purchasing through these links WILL NOT cost you any extra money, but it will help me keep this blog up and running. Thanks!
HOW I PLAN
At some point in the future, I would love to post a more detailed description of my planning techniques along with templates of my planning forms. For now, I will just stick to the basics.
Before each new semester begins, I gather and/or purchase curriculum and create a loose schedule for each subject. The schedule is based on the number of pages in a student workbook and the number of days per week each subject will be covered. I then copy, print or tear out workbook pages and organize them by week. It is a lot of work all at once, but I prefer having two extensive prep sessions each school year as opposed to planning and preparing assignments on a weekly or even monthly basis. When I did it like that, I had a hard time staying on top of the prep work. Now, I only have minimal tasks at the start of each week, and it is much more manageable.
Some of you may be wondering why I take the extra time to tear apart workbooks. It does require a little more effort on my part, but it greatly reduces the amount of space required to store all of their daily assignments. As I consider what my space limitations will be in the RV, I think it is time well spent. You might also be wondering why I only prep one semester at a time. Mostly, I find that breaking it up into two smaller chunks helps me maintain my sanity. Also, I like being able to make changes to the schedule or to curriculum halfway through the year. This past semester, we fell behind by several weeks because of that longer-than-anticipated trip to China. If I had planned out and organized our whole year, I would have had a much harder time making the needed adjustments. And I would have wasted a lot of time re-organizing the materials.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
To some, my method may sound tedious and restrictive, but I think it works well. To me, it is the perfect balance of organized and flexible. And in order to thrive, I need both. I also need tools that help my conceptual techniques be practical and functional for my real children. Over the last few years, I have integrated some simple and affordable products into our daily routine. Obviously, we use other supplies like pencils and notebooks and such, but the following tools really help our day to run more efficiently:
- File Tote or File Basket
- Hanging Files
- Clipboard with Storage
- Polymer Folders
- 5-pocket Hanging File Organizer
- Rolling 4-Tiered Cart
- Bookmark Timer
- Magnetic Dry Erase Board
+ BONUS: HP Instant Ink service
On the Sunday before each new school week starts, I go to my file box (1) that is filled with hanging files (2), one for each week of the school year. In each file are the papers that I printed or removed from workbooks during my initial planning session. I reference the general schedule I created to fill out a weekly assignment page that I have customized for each child. On that checklist, I write in and highlight the assignments for each day of the week. For the sake of organization and consistency, each kid’s paper is marked with a different color of highlighter (3). The assignment checklist is then attached to the outside of a storage clipboard (4) that is the same color as the highlighter.
Based on that assignment checklist, I distribute the worksheets from that week’s file into colorful folders (5) labeled for each day of the school week. Each child has five folders for the week that are placed in a 5-pocket organizer (6) hung on the wall using Command hooks. (the Monday folders in the first slot, the Tuesday folders in the second slot, etc.)
Each school day after breakfast, the kids each grab their folder for that day along with their clipboard and find a place to begin their independent work. Sometime during the morning or early afternoon, we have “group time” together. This time includes a history, science and/or Bible lesson and sometimes involves significant event studies or other group projects. Each of my children has a subject or two each day that we do one-on-one. Depending on the grade level, this may include reading, grammar, spelling or another subject. They also have other non-written assignments that they complete on their own, such as typing and reading.
As they complete the independent and group work highlighted on the checklist, they mark it off and place any worksheets inside the storage compartment of the clipboard. In between school times, the clipboards are stored in a rolling cart (7) with other materials like math manipulatives, books, and writing utensils.
At the end of the week, I open the clipboards and remove the completed assignments. I (usually) check them over the weekend and go over any corrections the following Monday. The finished assignments and checklist go back in the hanging file folder for the corresponding week. The checklist – labeled with the child’s name, the school year, and the specific week number – serves as a record of completed assignments.
OTHER PRODUCTS THAT MAKE MY LIFE EASIER
There are a few other items that get daily use at our house. They don’t really fall into the planning or organizing side of our homeschool, but they make my life easier so I wanted to include them.
My older two kids are required to read independently for 15 minutes each day. Before we got the bookmark timers (8), they were constantly stealing my phone to set a timer or asking me to set timers for them. Now, they can keep track of that on their own while at the same time, marking their place in the book.
The spelling curriculum we use requires a magnetic whiteboard (9), and I have been very happy with the one we have. It is big enough for all of the letter tiles and other magnets but is still compact enough to lay on the dining table during spelling time. This will also be necessary on the road because we will not have the wall space to accommodate a larger whiteboard on the wall.
One item that I have used much more than I expected for homeschooling is my trusty thermal laminator (10). I actually bought it for crafting for general organizing, but I love it for school! I am able to laminate printed worksheets so they can be used many times over. It works well for handwriting practice, math facts, sight word games, you name it! I have also used it for different projects and for saving special assignments.
Ok, one more thing. While it isn’t exactly a product, it is a tool that I use on a regular basis. I love my HP Instant Ink service that I described more in this post here as one of my favorite things of 2017. It saves me time. It saves me money. Two things I feel like I never have enough of! It also allows me to utilize resources like Pinterest and Tpt (Teachers Pay Teachers) without feeling like I am wasting precious ink. Before I started using this service, I treated printer ink like gold. Well, because frankly, it cost about as much. Now, I freely print anything and everything I need for homeschooling and for regular life!
WHY I LOVE MY SYSTEM
If you can’t tell, I am super excited about these products and about the system I have put in place. The kids have adapted really well as it has evolved into its current state! I have seen a marked improvement in the time it takes them to complete their checklists and in their attitudes about school in general. I think it helps them to know what is expected of them each day. It definitely helps the mornings to flow better and to feel less hectic. I like that it promotes personal responsibility and teaches them to be self-starters. It works great with our current schedule, and I’m hopeful it will be easily adapted to our new traveling lifestyle!
I hope this look at our homeschool routine and the tools that make it work has been helpful for you! Let me know in the comments what products or tools your homeschool can’t survive without!