My plans for the 2010-2011 school year have been under way for quite some time. I began thinking about it in November of 2009, when I learned that I was expecting my fifth child this summer. (Read: any time now!) Why would I begin thinking about it so early, you ask? I mean, we weren’t even half way through our 2009-2010 school year back in November! I suppose the answer is really quite simple: I was stressed in ’09 with only two school age children and two preschoolers. I could not imagine life with three school age children, one preschooler, and a newborn! I knew I would nurse this new baby, and nursing ties a mommy down for hours each day for the first month or two. How would I educate a sixth grader, third grader, and a kindergartener using the traditional curriculum I’d always used?  
I didn’t know. I began to think about it and pray about it, but mostly, I just fretted about it. (Yes, I know. Shame on me. Oh well, I have to be real.) In the past, my husband had helped me out with the kids when he could, but, as I explain here, my leaning upon him for aid had wreaked havoc with his schedule. I vowed to fix the problem, and was doing well with it with four children. I knew I had to do it with five as well. This meant I had to have a better plan. 
First, I realized that I had to have a curriculum that was less dependent on me. I loved the materials we were using, but I could no longer keep up with them. Because I had to spoon feed our old material to my children, it took hours of my time – planning, teaching, grading, reviewing, drilling, assisting them with extra projects – and all of this while being interrupted by two little ones! By supper time, I was ready to pour six bowls of cereal and crawl off to bed. Forget the laundry, baths, and housework!! 
Secondly, I realized that I needed to train my children to function more independently with chores as well. I caught myself constantly reminding them to do menial tasks such as brush their teeth and feed the dog. I knew I would have no time for this while nursing a newborn. I also needed them to take on more responsibility. I needed them to load the dishwasher, sweep the floors, and even fold laundry without my nagging them to do so. 
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I realized that I needed to relax. We, unlike most families, live in our home all the time. We homeschool. We make messes, but only because we are learning, so in that case, messes are a good thing. I need to look the other way sometimes and remind myself that it will all get cleaned up and put away later, so take a deep breath and smile. 🙂
My prayers regarding both the chore problem and the curriculum question were answered! The Lord led us to choose the A.C.E. curriculum for this coming school year. It is a program that the student can use with little assistance from the parent. It has some flaws, but then, so did the materials we used before! No system is perfect, but my husband and I have no doubts that this is the material we should use for our sixth and third graders this year. Upon further discussion, my husband and I decided to use the Abeka materials to teach our Kindergartener. One reason for this  is that I have already invested in the visual aids that will be needed. Another reason is that I’ve already successfully taught two children to read using these materials, so if it’s not broken, why fix it? The A.C.E. kindergarten program is a good one, I’m sure, but I’m unfamiliar with it and it would a costly investment. I feel more than comfortable with this decision since learning a new phonics teaching method while caring for a newborn would just be more stress for me! I’m looking forward to using the Abeka materials with her. I’m hoping we’ll only need to spend about an hour working each day. She will probably do a five day week, rather than a four day week like the older children.
After much reading and prayer regarding the chore issue, the Lord led me to a wonderful program that has worked really well for us. We implemented it this summer so that the kids would be ready when the new one arrived. “Relief” is the best word I can think of to describe what this system has been to me! The kids – even my youngest ones – are doing jobs to help me and I need not remind them constantly. I have done some tweaking as we have used it, but I’ve been pleased to find a system that worked but was flexible at the same time!
One way I’m trying to relax is by using a four day week for school rather than five. We will still get five days’ worth of school work in, so I’m not cutting corners. The fifth day will be our “clean house day/family day/ library day”. This totally goes against my OCD personality-grain, but I’m making myself do it. I believe this bonus day will be needful for my sanity, especially during the fall months. This is also another way I’m trying to depend less upon my husband for help. In the past, I often leaned upon him because I set goals for myself that were out of  reach. I’ve decided to be realistic about how much I (one person) can do. 
One goal that I’ve had for these summer months was to organize our materials for the next school year so that after the baby was born, we would only need to pull everything out and start! There are literally thousands of ways to organize your materials, regardless of which materials you use. Most of your organization depends on your home: where you homeschool, how many closets or drawers you have, etc. Here are some photos of how I’m doing it:
I have a binder for the Pace score keys (left). The Pace score key binder has divider tabs for each subject. I also have a binder for the test keys (right), which are also divided with tabs by subject. I will be the only one to use the test keys, but my oldest (6th grade) will be grading her Paces herself, so she will need to have easy access to the Pace score keys. The green binders are for the kids to keep their Paces in. I purchased these from A.C.E. I also have a pouch in their binders for their pencils and pens, as well as loose leaf paper and their goal charts.

Extra Paces are stacked by subject in our school room closet. Here, you see I have all the third grade Paces in one stack and the sixth grade in the other stack.

In this file cabinet, I have folders for each subject and each grade. Each folder holds three Paces. The next three Paces the kids need for each subject will be filed here for easy access. As they begin a new Pace, I will pull the next one for that grade and subject and file it here, so that there are always about three in each folder. Behind the folders are the extra score keys that will be needed as the year progresses.
I also have another file drawer to store the permanent records for each child, as well as the flash cards and games that I will use to teach kindergarten.

Lastly, I had to include the above photo. It is my favorite school-related purchase to date! It looks like a plain ol’ chalkboard, but it isn’t. It is also magnetic!  This means that the flash cards I will be using to teach my five year old can be held in place using a small magnet! In fact, a magnet is what is holding on the “3” card in the photo! In the past, I had to use sticky-tack, which constantly got lost or dried out. Also, chalk is easier to deal with than dry erase markers if you have little kiddos around. For example, dry erase marker is hard to get off the walls and carpet – and yes, I speak from experience! Also, losing chalk isn’t as costly as losing a marker! Hooray for chalkboards – I mean, magnetic chalkboards!

What are your plans for the upcoming school year? I’d love to read about them, so comment and share, or give me the link to your blog!

Happy homeschooling!

3 thoughts on “Our 2010-2011 Home School Year

  1. Kristy... says:

    Oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE your magnetic chalkboard.
    I just told my husband that I need a wipe board or a chalk board.
    I am gearing up for my 2010-2011 year.
    I was not as strict as I was last year with all my “issues”
    and this year, I have my basement finished and a “school room” set up *Ill be posting pics when its 100% done*
    I am using Rod and Staff and I have to say that I LOVE this curriculum.
    I do NOT have to spoon feed my kids.
    Anna works independantly and I will be able to work more with my 1st grader and also, with my preschooler whom I will be “tot” schooling to keep him busy.
    We got all of our supplies at walmart the other day and I am SOOOOOOO excited to start tho, I am waiting till August, we will get our summer in 😛


  2. DixieWags says:

    We are waiting for the homeschool fair Aug 26th to get our Paces. We usually start school the Tuesday after Labor Day. Since we have been using A.C.E. for the last few years I've pretty much got my system set up. I do need to go through and get out what score keys the kids will need this year. My house is very small and I don't have a lot of room for hardly anything. I have a bookshelf in my room and each grade has it's own shelf. I store the kids unused Pace's there. I stack Math and English together, Science and Social Studies together, and Word building by itself. I only pull one Pace at a time, and leave the test (of the Pace they are working on) on the top of the stack. When they complete a Pace I score it, record the grade and it goes in a stack on the bottom shelf. As for score keys, I have them in hanging file folders in milk crates, by subject and grade. They only get 1 score key at a time, but it has 3 Pace score keys in it. For me, this is very organized, seeing, I am not normally an organized person. I think I am more ready and looking forward to this school year more than I ever have before. :o)


  3. Mother says:

    I'm sure that all your planning and organizing prior to having the baby will pay big dividends. Looks impressive!


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