Five Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool During a School Break

Whether you school year round and take sporadic breaks or break for the traditional summer, a school break is a good time to regroup and get organized for the coming school season. When you take time during the break to make sure you are organized and ready, you can begin your next session of homeschooling with a strong start. Here are five of the things I like to do to get organized during our homeschool breaks.

Five Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool During a School Break

Five Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool During a School Break

 

Plan the next quarter.

I plan by quarters. When we take a break, I sit down and look at plans for the next quarter. If we are breaking in the middle of the quarter, and I know we have another break before the end, I may begin planning and leave some for the next break. If you use a different schedule instead of quarterly planning, use your break times to look ahead at whatever your next session is.

Check off what curriculum you’ll be using. Are there changes to make? Do you need to add any new courses? Decide on extracurricular activities. Are you keeping the current activities the kids are doing? Do you need to drop any activities because you’re too busy? Are you adding any activities for the new season? Write out lesson plans. Whether you use an online program or a printed lesson planning guide, write out plans for the next season. (I write less detailed, overview plans now; and then I write specific plans weekly or biweekly.)

Clean out the books.

In my house- and in many other homeschool homes- space is at a premium. I have nine book shelves, but it seems I’m always running out of room for more books. During our breaks, I like to clean out homeschool curricula and other books I’m not using. Although I have a hard time giving them away, I do pass some on to other homeschoolers and sell some to make a little cash to purchase the next season’s books.

Clean out kids’ materials.

We use a bookshelf with a shelf for each child to organize books that are currently being used. Kids also store school materials they use frequently at their desk or table where they work. During our break times I have them clean out this material.

We put materials to keep in binders. Because we do lots of notebooking types of activities, these binders have been kept throughout the school year. But sometimes pages are left out or neglected. So we catch up with putting them in the proper places. We also throw away trash. Somehow trash just seems to collect in all spaces where we work.  Any books that aren’t currently being used, we sort and store in the appropriate places.

Pull books and materials we need for the coming season of school.

We use a literature based curriculum. That means that, instead of textbooks, we often need a variety of fiction and nonfiction books as we go along. During our break times, I make sure that we have the books we are going to need. I can pull them from our shelves or place them on hold at the library or purchase them if I need to. I keep a large plastic box in our school room filled with the books we are currently using.

Tweak the schedule.

Whether you are a detailed schedule person or a flexible schedule person, it helps to have some sort of schedule or routine to your day. I like to be flexible with our schedule, and it often changes throughout the months and years as our activities change and the kids get older and school requirements change. Taking time during the break to evaluate and tweak our schedule means we’ll start out the next session with routines that will work to keep us focused and on track but won’t frustrate us because they’re impossible to keep.

 

I know that the word “organization” makes some people cringe. But if you can take some time to do a little organizing with each school break, it’s a manageable task that will pay off when you’re starting your next school session.

Do you have any tips for organizing your school year during a break?


Leah (7 Posts)

Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. Her days are filled with being a mom, homemaker, and teacher. In her (very rare) free time, she enjoys blogging, reading, and reviewing books and curricula. These days she’s learning the joys of being a mom of teens. You can read about her family and homeschooling life at As We Walk Along the Road.


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DIY Totally Safe Art Supplies for Toddlers (and their older siblings)

Guest Post by Lisa of School at Home Mom.

As a mom of an active 21-month old, I am always looking for new ways to excite his curiosity and sustain his focus. Early childhood learning is so much about hands-on experiences and exploration, and art activities are a perfect way to delight a child’s senses.

Up until about last week, though, my little artist was still putting everything into his mouth – or coating his hands with everything and then putting them into his mouth!

So, I decided to hold off on splurging on art supplies and make my own food-based materials. This way, he could explore freely, and I wouldn’t have to constantly be on “DON’T EAT THAT!” patrol.

Most of our DIY supplies use only a handful of ingredients that can be stored at room temperature in a kitchen. Just about everything we use is something we’d want to keep around for baking or cooking anyway, and can be found in every grocery store. What could be easier?

DIY Totally safe art supplies for toddlers: homemade play dough and finger paints

Benefits of DIY (besides saving money!)

My son loves to make his own art supplies. He runs to the cabinet where we keep our projects stocked and opens it up, declaring, “Paint! Paint!” and eagerly gets his smock on so that he can help me mix the ingredients.

Some of the skills we can work on while creating and using the art supplies:

  • Cause and effect
  • Colors and color mixing
  • Opposites (wet/dry, big/little, open/shut, soft/hard, slow/fast, etc.)
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand & finger strength

If you have more than one child, these DIY projects are perfect! The older children can help to prepare the supplies in a more scientific way, observing how changing the quantities or process changes the outcome. The playdoh project uses more precise quantities, and would be perfect for an older child learning about customary units of measurement and fractions.

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

DIY finger paint

Ingredients:

  • Small amount of water
  • Baby cereal
  • Kool Aid or food coloring

Procedure: Mix the dry baby cereal with water to desired consistency, then mix in the coloring.

 

My son's masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

My son’s masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

Fun with painting!

Fun with painting!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

My son was never a fan of baby cereal, so we ended up with a whole open container of it that we didn’t want to throw away but couldn’t donate. Using it up as thickener for finger paint was the perfect solution!

Note: we do not drink Kool Aid, but we do keep packets stocked for use in projects. I order them in bulk on Amazon so that we can get a variety of colors, and they’re widely available in grocery stores too.

Kool-Aid (or anything else with food coloring) will stain hands and whatever else it gets on, so an old shirt or smock would be great. My son gave himself a red belly button from one of his early painting sessions before we invested in a smock! Personally, I don’t mind – I abide by the saying “If he got dirty, he had fun today!”

For kids who don't like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

For kids who don’t like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn't have to worry about contaminating the brush!

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn’t have to worry about contaminating the brush!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn't resist touching it!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn’t resist touching it!

My son actually hates the feel of finger paint, or anything else that is the least bit goopy or sticky. After he made it clear that he was not going to be touching the paint directly, I taped a sheet of plastic cling over the goop. Then he loved it! Later, I gave him a basting brush, and he got into moving the thick finger paint around with that.

Once he got the hang of the brush, I decided to move on to regular paint. My 2 ingredient recipe for that is next!

DIY paint

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Kool Aid packet

That’s it! Mix & enjoy.

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The finished product!

The finished product!

After my son had an epic painting session involving like 8 packets of Kool-Aid, we ran out! So we substituted regular food coloring instead. He loved watching the drops of coloring diffuse out into the water. It turned into a bit of a science experiment!

Other paint making ideas:

  • Using water mixed with spices and flavorings
  • Using water with food coloring & salt, for a glittery effect

Another variation: sprinkle the Kool Aid on the paper first and then paint with water – your child will be able to see the powder mixing in a bit at a time. My toddler was mesmerized!

If you homeschool multiple kids: Your older children will enjoy writing secret messages in white crayon and then painting over it to reveal the hidden words! Or, how about a secret “math code” using number sentences or patterns?

Speaking of practicing math and reading, I’m a big fan of using manipulatives and hands on materials to make abstract concepts more concrete. This next project will provide a sensory experience for little ones, while your older child can use it to make numbers and letters, or even cut it up to model fractions!

DIY Playdoh

There are plenty of recipes for playdoh, but many of them use salt – which doesn’t work for my son’s eczema-prone skin. Here’s one that was gentler for him, and still used food-grade ingredients.

Because this recipe uses heat, you won’t want to prepare this one with your toddler’s help. Once it cools, you can enlist your child’s participation for mixing in colors.

Bonus: This recipe is gluten free, if that’s a concern for you.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Food coloring of your choice (if desired)

Mix the ingredients and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly and watch for when it begins to thicken. When it thickens enough, take it off, allow it to cool, and then mix in the colors.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh - big victory!

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh – big victory!

The texture of this playdoh is soft and a bit sticky at first (if it’s too sticky, add more cornstarch). We were able to keep it in the fridge for several weeks. We allowed it to warm up a bit before playing with it.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Lisa of schoolathomemom.comLisa has been a special education teacher for 15 years and is looking forward to wrapping up her final months of her teaching contract so that she can homeschool her young son. She is also eager to help other homeschool families who can benefit from her years of experience working with children with many different learning styles, strengths, and needs. If you are new to homeschooling, her 100 Day Countdown begins on April 21, 2015! In addition to her years in the classroom, she has also traveled to 6 continents and participated in endangered sea turtle conservation projects and archaeological digs. Lisa currently works for the Museum of Natural History developing curriculum and teaching enrichment courses and camp sessions to children ages 5-10. You can learn more at her website, http://www.schoolathomemom.com.

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