Monday, August 12, 2013

New School Room Reveal & First Days - A New Year of Growth & Change!

Let me preface this by saying - you DO NOT need a classroom to homeschool.  

We have done homeschooling in a room with shared purpose (study), at the kitchen table, in a hotel room, and at a relative's house in cramped quarters.  We were able to homeschool just fine in all of those settings.  

But this year - we were blessed to move into a house where we had a room we could use just for homeschool purposes.  And I was determined to really turn it into a fun place to school and learn!  :)

(If you missed my previous post when I was in the middle of working on the room - you can see some of what it looked like before here.)

Would you like a tour?  I hope so!  

So without further ado, I give you our new homeschool room!

One side of the room contains our morning meeting board and reading center.

Here is the area where the kids work (when they are not camped out on the large pillows we sometimes pull into the room to use when sitting on the floor).  Learning doesn't always have to happen at a table or a desk, you know!   ;)

Here is another side of the room where my desk is and where the kids sometimes come when we work one-on-one.

Here is a wall with an inset that we filled with IKEA cabinets (birthday present for me at my request).  That little side space contains hooks on the side of the cabinets where I hang calendar borders and such out of sight but still handy when needed.

This is a view inside the top cabinets which contain older curriculum, books by season, school items I don't use as much, and craft type stuff.

Here is a close up view of the craft items I was describing.  I made the labels (and others you will see below) and added them to my Back-to-Homeschool activity/school items packet.
Here is another IKEA find where I keep extra school supplies we might need during the year.
I like to plan in advance and it helps me to have things set up where I can drop papers and items we will need on certain days in a specified area as I work on lesson plans.  Then the night before, I just reach in and place the items in the workboxes for the next day and don't have to mess with trying to find everything.  

I have drawers for each day of the week AND a drawer for "Next Week" in case I am really ambitious and already planning for the following week.  ;)

If you open the larger cabinets below, you will find that each side contains a set of workboxes.  One side for Miss A and one side for Mr. J.  (The middle large cabinet contains some teaching items and center stuff).

The cabinet in the picture above is Miss A's.  She has nine workboxes and then space next to each set of three for a fun activity or snack or something else which she can complete at the end of each three workboxes (so after she finishes boxes 1-3, she can have her snack if it is next to those boxes, etc.).

Each child also has a shelf above the workboxes where he/she keeps books and supplies, etc. not being used right then.

I created Miss A's workbox numbers and titles in lime green and pink (of course) and Mr. J's are lime and blue.  These are also now included in the Back-to-Homeschool packet.  :)

(The material I made the pocket chart out of for the workbox numbers above, is also the inspiration for the colors in our room.)
This is a picture of our reading center.  I made the tree out of cardboard from the IKEA boxes and painted it with Miss A.  The "tree swing" shelf is an IKEA spice rack I painted.

The outside of each child's "locker" as my daughter calls them, contains a painted foam board that we use as a bulletin board for each to display work.

Here is our morning board.  I am loving the handprint alphabet and plan to make one for each letter Mr. J studies this year.  Here is a link to a blog with an adorable handprint alphabet!

Why does the board say "September" when it is really August?  Well, the calendar title for September looked more back-to-schoolish, so I just switched it for the picture.

I found these adorable songs for each month of the year at this blog here.  I pinned up a transparent page protector and plan to trade out songs each month!

Another cute thing I added was that I am letting the kids make their own weather cards to put up for the weather of the day.  :)

Here is Miss A's desk (more IKEA).  The kids each have another small "bulletin" board above their desk and another IKEA painted spice rack underneath (I did not bolt this so it could be moved off the desk or to the side as needed).  The little rack contains a pail for supplies and a binder with morning meeting calendar activities inside which we use during our  morning meeting time.  

Each child also has a bug habitat on his/her desk containing caterpillars (each one has a different type) to go along with our back to school theme "A New Year of Growth and Change" (see more about that below). 

I wasn't sure if having the little guys on the desks would be too distracting but it has worked out amazingly well so far!  :)  AND we have our first chrysalis already!

These are another favorite of mine in our new school room!  I loved the crayon initials I would see popping up on Pinterest so much that I decided to make some for my kids.  

I ALSO added a made up definition of their names (like a dictionary - complete with pronunciation guide) below the initial - a definition I came up with based on their characters, etc.  I LOVE how these turned out!
And last, but not least - my little area of the room.  :)  Pretty simple, really.  

I painted the white board frame to go with the bright color theme in the room, and painted a diaper wipes (?) box to house some electronic stuff that had to stay on the desk, but didn't really fit with our color scheme.  I also slipped some of our school cds and some flash cards in the box (for easy access).

There are still some other things I want to do in the room (so some areas are still a bit blank) but decided not to wait to post pics because who knows when I would post if I waited until I had everything done!

So now that you have seen the room - would you like to see our back to school theme and first days?  Of course you would!  ;)

"Welcome to a New Year of Growth and Change!"
(This was our back to school theme.) 

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" was a perfect companion for the theme, and we started the day with a special breakfast based on that very book.  See the cinnamon rolls with frosting - made to look like the caterpillar?  :)

Next to each child's place setting, I made this little paper where they could record what they ate for breakfast that day.  AND I made little hungry caterpillar masks for them to wear.  :)

It is hard to see - but I poked holes in pieces of the fruit using a straw (can't take credit for that idea - I think that was something I saw on Pinterest long ago), so it would look like a caterpillar had chewed through.

Here are those masks I mentioned above...

After breakfast, the kids went to the new school room and crawled through the hole in the leaf "doorway" to investigate all the fun new changes inside (they had not been allowed in the room the day before, so I could get it set up as a surprise).

They loved the real caterpillars on the desks (inside plastic homes, of course)!  I just couldn't resist the idea once I latched onto the theme - how fun to talk about growing and changing and then see it first hand!  :)

I took this picture so you could see the "WELCOME" part a little better.

Notice the caterpillar munching on the "W".

Here is a picture of my youngest with his back to school sign and caterpillar mask.  I had both kids paint their own signs this year.  

His says "TOT" for Tot School.  It is sideways and out of order, but if you look at it - you should be able to see two T's and an O (and some additional thing he put in there).

Once inside the school room, we found that mischievous Homeschool Elf had already been there and our school supplies were missing!  Lucky for the kids, he left clues behind and a treasure hunt ensued, ending inside a closet where the kids finally found him and the missing supplies.

(I like to wrap some of the supplies up because it is fun for the kids to unwrap something - just adds another layer of excitement to the day).

Here is Homeschool Elf posing next to the first clue he left for the kids earlier in the day.
Here is the book we read on our first day!  It contains a page with a pattern for Homeschool Elf which can be copied onto cardstock (the page has a B/W copy and color copy of him) and used to start one's own Homeschool Elf tradition.  :)

If you'd like to read a bit more about this cute story and see some of the inside illustrations, hop on over to this post.  

Yet another activity from the Back-to-Homeschool packet:  goals for the year.  

I just had to post this - I love that her end of the year goal is to be able to "drive".   I'll just slip that one into the memory box!

We also published our own little newspaper (this and other versions also in the Back-to-Homeschool packet) about our first week of school.  Miss A wrote most of the articles, but I made sure Mr. J could contribute as well by including a "Tot Spot" section where he could draw something.  Can you tell what he drew?  Caterpillars!

BTW - for those interested, you can find the whole pack (LOTS of other activities, supply labels, workbox labels in different colors, etc.) here and on sale for only $2.00 through August!

This is one of those gems for homeschooling and classrooms alike because it contains multi-level pattern block puzzles for back to school items.  AND it even has them in both Spanish and English!

I just love the bright colors!  :)  I put out the easier puzzles for Mr. J and gave Miss A the harder ones (where she had to come up with her own way to fill in the puzzles and record the blocks she used). 

FYI - these can even be made into books by stapling several pages together!  They are just awesome for math boxes, a back to school activity, keeping smaller kids busy while waiting for Mom's attention, or math centers for school!

BTW - if you like pattern blocks - check out her exclusive 4Blocks puzzles (kind of like a pattern blocks relative).

These school supply pattern block designs are available here and on sale for $2.00 right now!

This unit fit right into our theme for the week, and I loved the activities included!  We haven't even had time to finish everything yet - lots of great stuff inside!  :)

This packet is available here.

And yet another fun item!  A FREE math journal based on "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" - sooo cute!  
This one is available here.

And there you have it folks!  Our new school room and some exciting back-to-school moments!  Hope you enjoyed it all and have left with some inspiration of your own for making this new school year a memorable one!  :)


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Saturday, August 10, 2013

"The First Day of Homeschool" - GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to "The First Day of Homeschool" book giveaway! 
If you would like to know a little more about the book, just hop on over to my post about it here!  :)

Woo-hoo!  Now on to the giveaway!  :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"The First Day of Homeschool" - book! :)

I have written a "back-to-school" book!  :)

Well, actually it would be more accurate to say a "back to HOMEschool" book.

Yes, I know there are plenty of popular "back to school" books out there, BUT they deal with a large classroom, getting on the bus, a new teacher who doesn't share your last name, etc.  Great for kids heading into that environment but not so great for homeschool.

For a while, I'd search and search Amazon and libraries for a fun "first day of homeschool" book when that time of year would roll around again.

Now cut to a scene of me with my daughter on our first day, showing her a classroom environment "back to school" book.  Yep, there just wasn't much of a "back to homeschool" book selection out there.

Yikes - it still pains me to this day - sitting there reading to my daughter about the wonderful parts of a first day at school and then closing the book and having to explain how our day was NOT quite like that (still a great day but just not like that).  I know, I know - guilty homeschool mom syndrome - I just  need to let the memory go...

Back to the book - I decided it was time to take action - time to write a book so I could FINALLY have something to read to my kids on their first day of homeschool.  I enlisted my sister-in-law to be the illustrator and she came through with a wonderful mix of cloth and watercolor - even sewing designs into the paper!  Yeah - very cool!  :)

We combined forces and self-published this book (I must say I gained a new respect for editors, publishers, etc. when I had to take on those roles) just in time for our first day of homeschool this year!

It was a pretty neat feeling to read the dedication to my daughter and son - letting them know that I had written it because of them and FOR them.

Then the test.  Would they like it?

YES!  :) 

I am happy to report that the book was a success, AND they enjoyed finding the tiny Homeschool Elf I had hidden in the illustrations as well!  :)

The story begins, "'Twas the night before homeschool" and follows the exciting first day of homeschool for a young child and her family.  They spend time together, complete schoolwork, and even participate in a treasure hunt of sorts for their school supplies when Homeschool Elf hides the items.

By the way - the physical book contains a paper pattern at the end for families to copy and cut out, so they can begin their own Homeschool Elf tradition if they are interested in doing so.  :)

I wanted the book to appeal to children of various ages (something that would please a WHOLE family) because that is often the homeschool set-up!  I included something to capture the attention of young children (hiding Homeschool Elf in the pictures for them to find) AND some questions that would keep the older ones involved as well - sparking some excited responses or discussion.  

In short, I wanted a "hey-let's-ALL-cuddle-together-on-the-couch-and-enjoy-this-book" experience.  I hope my sister-in-law and I have achieved that!  :)

I would love to share this book with other homeschooling families out there but am limited by time and resources (what can I say - I am a homeschooling mom).  So my homeschooling friends - will YOU help me?  It could be as simple as pinning this post, commenting on Facebook, mentioning it to a friend (or many friends), asking for it at your local library, and/or tweeting about it.  Every little bit helps to get the word out there!

If you have a blog and would like to review the book and host a book giveaway - please contact me, and I may send you a couple of copies after I have had a chance to review your blog and decide if it would be a good fit.  Please understand that I may not be able to offer copies to everyone who contacts me (remember the part above about limited time and resources - wink), but know that I really appreciate the interest each of you shows in wanting to share it with others.

The Kindle version is in the works and I hope to have it up very soon!  PLEASE NOTE that even though the Kindle version will have the elf pattern as well, I don't know how it could be copied or if there is a way to print from Kindle.  

I plan to post pictures of the new school room and our FIRST day of homeschool fun around the beginning of next week!  So I hope to "see" you back here then!  :)

Book information:  The book is a thin paperback - 8.5 x 8.5 size

Books may be purchased by clicking the links below or visiting Amazon!  :)