Sunday, February 7, 2010

Home Learning Organization, Part II

I have to admit that I still feel a little silly about these organization posts. However, since I started I guess I should finish. In the last post I showed you the folder we use to store our papers from day to day. Today I'll show you the other notebooks I use with the kids. In a beautiful, perfect world, every Friday the boys get out their large three ring binder and organize their work by subject and in chronological order. Since our house doesn't exist in that beautiful, perfect world but in some much less perfect place, we get to this about every two or three weeks. It sure goes faster if they do it every week so we'll keep aiming for this. I find that having this kind of a binder really helps when we are making their portfolios at the end of the year. We know just where everything is and it is easy to pick out the work we want. I have a terrible memory so organization is my friend.The other notebooks are for specific subjects. We are using the Institute for Excellence in Writing this year and the Student Writing Intensive includes a notebook. Since we borrowed the program from a friend, I made up our own notebooks so it would be easier to follow along with the DVD's. We store all our writing in this notebook and don't transfer it into the larger binder.
I also made the boys a science notebook. This is just a small folder with pockets and three tabs for papers. To be honest, this actually helps me more than them. I loosely use the science recommendations in The Well Trained Mind. So this year we are covering earth science and astronomy using How the Earth Works and How the Universe Works. TWTM recommends reading a topic, doing an experiment, answering questions using the scientific method, illustrating the topic and writing a one page report each week. To be honest, the experiments in How the Earth Works are often either too simple or require too many materials. We were reading, drawing and writing and science was becoming a real chore for the boys. So I decided to change things up to make science more fun and exciting. I took the geology unit, decided what topics we would study, ordered some supplies and created a notebook for the experiments we would be completing. My lesson plans are in my black notebook and the pages they need each day are in order in their little notebooks. (Below is a picture of step one of our limestone caves experiment). This week is the end of our study of geology and we will be moving on to Weather. So, I need to sit down and write up some lesson plans. We will make a cover sheet for our Geology study and move all those papers into the big binder at the end of this week. So our science binder will be refreshed with sheets pertaining to the study of weather.

If I have to pick the thing that helps me stay organized and on task, I'd have to say my weekend and long term planning. The notebooks help keep the paper under control but really it is taking the time to make a plan that helps the most. This year we are doing several lessons that are about 6 weeks each. In science I planned for a block of geology, weather and astronomy and in social studies we are working our way through the southern hemisphere continents. For each of these units, when I took the time to plan out the whole thing (always having room for modifications) the unit went much smoother and we cov
ered more material than when I planned day to day. Even when we modified school to be with Mike's Dad in his last days, this planning paid off. The boys didn't do quite as much geology as we had originally planned, but we still got a whole lot accomplished. I don't think that would have happened if I hadn't planned ahead. As you can see by my plan in the above picture, it isn't complicated! Really it's just deciding what topics to cover, where we can find the information and what experiments to accomplish. I then created pages for the boys that complemented the day's study. So some of their pages included answering questions according to the scientific method, filling in a table, illustrating and labeling, etc. Keep it simple but organized is my mantra.

Wow! What a long post. I apologize to those three readers out there. I don't know if that was at all helpful to anyone or not. My system may seem a bit anal to some but it works for us. And now, on this snowy Sunday morning (the boys served at Mass last night), I'm off to plan our weather unit!

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