Monday, August 18, 2014

New School Room Tour.

It's back to school time and it seems like everywhere in the homeschool blogosphere, people are giving tours of their learning spaces.  I love being able to take a peek into other families' homeschool rooms and get new ideas for my own spaces.  I have always had a dedicated school room and I have never regretted the decision and here are my reasons why.

1.    It keeps me organized.  Having a school room, or even a corner in your house dedicated to schooling, helps wrangle all the books and supplies that homeschoolers are infamous for having.  It helps keeps things organized and neat.  I love that my kids always know exactly where to go to get their school supplies and their books.

2.    It helps kids focus.  I know this may not be true for all kids, but after researching and reading endless articles and studies on education, kids who have a dedicated space for studying are able to better focus.  It's like it puts them in the zone.  Children (and adults!) are creatures of habit, and we tend to make associations.  The kitchen is for eating, sitting on the couch makes me sleepy, etc.  There is nothing that focuses my kids' attention to school like sitting in their desks.  Do you have to have a desk?  No.  But make sure that you start making those associations early in your homeschool year.  Whether it's the kitchen table or a desk.  Once kids sit down, they should know that it's time to work!

3.    It helps create good habits.  Keeping their work area clean, putting their books and supplies away, timeliness, and independence are all great habits for kids to have.  We end our school day by cleaning and making sure everything is back in it's place.  Since everything has a place, it's easier for them to be independent in cleaning up.  A plus to ending our day with cleaning is that they are able to come down the next morning and get right to work.  No time is wasted looking for books or pencils.

4.    It gives kids ownership.  My kids love having their own desk and their own space and because it's their own, they work hard at keeping it neat.  Of course, they have their own space in their bedrooms and other parts of the house; but this is their work.  Just like their daddy goes to work every day, they get to go to "work" too.  We love this mentality and we believe it's giving them a positive attitude towards hard work.

Of course, every family is different and every homeschool family has to figure out what will work best for themselves.  We are very blessed that we can dedicate so much space to our schooling without it spilling over into our non-schooling life.

The Tour!

Before I begin the school area tour, I will add by explaining that this area of our house is the "guest quarters."  It is like it's own house with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a full size kitchen, a den, a recreation room, a laundry room, a media room, a porch, and even it's own garage and driveway.  It is a part of our house that might be considered a basement, but it really isn't because it only has a small area that is under the ground.  Before we even decided to move our schooling here, this area of the house was rarely used....rarely.  Like we never really came down here.  And we rarely had guests, so it was always unused.  Now it has become the perfect place for our studies and gets used every single day.

So let the tour begin!

This part of our homeschool is for the younger kids in the family.  Here, I do kindergarten with my 5 year old, preschool with my 3 year old, and my 7 year old has his own desk by the window.  I keep their current artwork hanging on a small clothesline and they love seeing their work go up.  Manipulatives, preschool activities, busy bags, games, and some supplies all go in the shelves above the table.

On this little table, I also keep my teacher manuals for MFW Kindergarten and First Grade, along with other workbooks that are used daily.  I bought a mud pan from Lowes and keep workbooks there for easy viewing.  The tabletop pocket chart holds our sight words (I put the flashcards away in a small Ikea box at the end of the day or they will be destroyed by my 3 year old).

In this room we also have a futon (which will be replaced by a comfier couch soon!) that sits next to the window where we can birdwatch, as the bird feeders are right by the window.  The hanging magazine rack holds our field guides and sketch books along with some artist pencils.  I also keep our current read alouds here since this is where we gather for afternoon stories.

It was very tempting to decorate the walls with charts and posters, but I've done that in the past and have found that is has NO EFFECT on the kids' learning and actually serves as a distraction.  I wanted to keep it as classy as I could and opted for some natural prints above the wall that reflect my love of nature.    

We get a great variety of birds that come to our feeders and I love that I can sit there and sketch or journal along with the kids.  They also enjoy just looking out the window.

Looking from the desk towards the rest of the room, you see my map area.  My kids love looking at maps, although in this picture they are more interested in video games.  Lots of our studies take us to this area.  

The large map on the wall is dry-erasable.  So when we're using the map, I can mark it with a dry erase marker.  The other maps are of the ancient world and were laminated so that I could also use a marker on them.  The inflatable globes hanging from the ceiling have been rigged so that I can easily take them down.  We also have a globe that we use, but my son had it in his room at the time of pictures!

I love the Ikea Trofast system!  I keep educational board games, puzzles, and some art supplies in these bins.  I also have portable maps that the kids can take to their desks.

Yup, our school has it's own kitchen.  We really don't use it except for snack time and this fridge is usually stocked with party food (I entertain a lot!).  Having the kitchen is also super handy for science and art.  I have 2 tables here that we are constantly using when we work in groups.  Our most recent group activity has been geography with the three older kids.  We make salt dough maps, paint them, label them, and show them off in pizza boxes!  

I keep a small table with kid chairs for my 3 year old to use.  Since she is pretty messy, it's nice to have her do her activities on tile floor that's easy to clean up.  On the round table you can see that use a dish rack to hold coloring and activity books.  The utensil caddy holds her crayons.  It's an awesome Pinterest hack!  I also cook a lot with my 7, 5, and 3 year olds...mostly things like applesauce, pies, snacks, and other things related to what they are learning.  All that takes place in this kitchen...all because of the tile floors (our kitchen has hardwood floors which are harder to clean up!).

Some day I will find the perfect thing to hang up on this big empty wall! 
Ready to continue the tour?  

Let's walk through the door next to the globes....

This is Part 2 of the School Room Tour!  This is where the older kids do their school work.  Because they require more focus and quiet for their work, I decided to separate them.  I can just close the door between them and the little kids at any moment.

I decided to keep the center of the room clear of any desks and lined the desks along the walls.  Each child has their own desk that holds their books.  After we moved the school room down, I lost my big, awesome wall of dry erase boards.  I had to find a solution, since we are constantly using our dry erase boards, I had to find a solution.  I had no free walls because one wall has desks, another has bookcases, and then there's the windows.  So I came up with the idea of using garage hooks to hold up the board.  It covers the little door that leads to the HVAC system, which we can still access by removing the board.

These are my awesome, built-in bookcases that I had put it.  I love the amount of space it gives me to put books!

The nice thing is all the storage space I have.  Above the fireplace, we have more shelves where I keep art supplies, board games, and science supplies.  Next to the fireplace is our "media" center with a little boom box.  I have all our CD's on that shelf.

I totally ran out of wall space for my desk, so I moved into our rec room, which is still nice and independent while not being totally detached from everything.  Our rec room actually has another refrigerator (it's right next to my cart, but you can't see it), and it holds a laundry room behind some double doors (also not pictured).

Our rec room holds our exercise equipment and some fun stuff (like the basketball game).  I can also open the shades and keep an eye on the kids while they play outside on the swing set or run around.  Since we use Charlotte Mason approach, I like taking breaks between lessons.  This means that the kids get a 10-15 minute every 45 minutes or so.  Sometimes they kick the punching bag, run outside, or play basketball.  I like that keeping them active actually helps them focus when they need to.  

Finally, I am including a picture of our office.  This is actually my husband's office that he rarely uses.  It's nice and separate from the schooling area, but still just down the hall.  I use the closet (not pictured) to store even more school supplies.  We keep our desktop here and the kids use this room when they have a test or need a really quiet space to complete their work.  Otherwise, we are on our laptops on our desks.

That concludes the end of my School Room Tour.  Hope you get some good ideas for your own learning space!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Don't you wish that you could instantly clone yourself as needed?  It's amazing how versatile homeschooling moms (and dads!) are.  We teach, we clean, we cook, we chauffeur, we shop, we run after toddlers, we nurse babies, we run errands...and many times, we do this all in one day!!  It's exhausting!  I just want to have a week where I don't have to go anywhere.  Where all I have to do is get our lessons done, cook some dinner, and call it a day.  Impossible, I know.

But as I write this, I have to acknowledge how blessed I am to be able to do all these things.  Yes, I am tired.  But at the same time...I'm fulfilled!  It's only with God's grace that I am able to wake up every day and take on whatever the day may bring.  And it's because of His grace that I am living a fulfilling and wonderful life.

So if you are tired, if your burden is heavy, if you just want to run away for a day to get away from it all...look to the cross.  He will give you the strength you need.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Searching for a planner.

So here is another post all about my endless search for a good planner.  Ideally, I would love to have a template where I just enter assignments for each subject with little boxes to check them off when they are done.  Something that I can print out and make into a little assignment book for the kids so that they know exactly what they should be doing.  But I also want to be able to archive these assignments in case I ever use them again in the future for other kids.

Does this exist?  Unfortunately, I haven't found anything like this for someone on a Mac.  I have been using Scholaric since it first came out and I really like it.  It's the most user friendly, online planner I have tried...and I think I've tried them all!!  I have done Homeschool Tracker Online, Homeschool Planet, Mardel's Simple Plan Online, the Homeschool Helper App, and Olly.

Yes.  I am that obsessive.

The problem with Scholaric, my favorite of all these, is that I can't save my plans to be reused for a future time.  Being able to archive lesson plans would be awesome!  Having the ability to download for future use would be so handy.  Not only that, but I would love to have it be mine...once you stop paying the yearly fee for these online providers, you lose all your stuff!

So I'm looking back to what I've done in the past and trying to come up with the ever elusive, homeschool planner.  Let me know if you have had any luck with this.  With five kids doing school work, I know I can't fit them all into one paper planner and I'm totally OK with that.

I'll have to keep everyone updated on what I finally decide to do with this.  In the mean time, we are still plugging away without a planner.  We can't cancel school for that!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Why is it so hard for me to just sit down and do some blogging?  I think I'm trying to make things too complicated and awesome.  So I'm going to just sit down every day and write something...anything.  We'll see how long it lasts!

Today I've had a busy day so far and none of it has included actually homeschooling the kids!  A doctor appointment, some clothes shopping, and then lunch with my 10 year old took up all my morning.  It's always nice to be able to spend some one on one time with the kids.  I don't know if I do it often enough, but I think I do!

Currently, I've been pondering all things having to do with planning.  Lesson planning, scheduling the day, planning activities, etc.  I never really have a free day to just sit down and do nothing but plan.  If we aren't doing school, we have activities to go to.  If we don't have activities, then we need to tackle cleaning and laundry.  If cleaning and laundry are done (yeah, right!), then there is grocery shopping!  It a never ending cycle!!

Of course, one can always suggest that I spend some time doing my planning in the evening.  But let me break it down for you.  Hubby gets home at 6:30pm.  The house is empty and I'm off with the kids until 7:30pm when we get home from Tae Kwon Do.  So hubby hangs with the kids for a bit before the littles are headed for bed.  That leaves me with the baby and while the big kids tackle the kitchen.  Baby has been really bad about sleeping (I know it's my fault!), so he's not officially in dream land until 8:30pm.

Big kids then really want to hang out with their dad until they have to go to bed at 9pm.  So 9pm rolls around and that's when I can really get down and dirty with any planning, scheduling, etc.  Do you think I want to do that at 9pm? Not really.  By then I am exhausted and just want a brain chill.  Not only that, but I really like hanging out with the hubs, too!!  So there goes my entire week.

How about the weekend?  Well, I do have laundry to do.  And because the kids insist on being fed and hubby insists that we hang out as a family, I'm thrown back into the same type of cycle I encounter during the week.

I'm exhausted just writing this.  But I don't want a pity party.  I love my life!  God has blessed me so abundantly that I have nothing but praises to sing about my life!!  It's just that being a mom can be hard...and it's OK to say it sometimes.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

St. Valentine's Day Celebration

This year we were able to, once again, celebrate Valentine's Day with our awesome Catholic homeschool co-op!  Although our celebration was delayed by one week due to a snow storm, we still got to exchange valentines and have fun.

Usually, we tend to take Valentine's Day as a feast day at our co-op.  This year, however, I decided to host it at my home so that we could dedicate a co-op feast day for another saint.  I planned some art activities for the kids.  They were separated by ages/grades and sent to different stations around the house.  This was followed by a valentine exchange and then snacks.  

We are so overly blessed by our Catholic co-op!  The families are each amazing and we have all become great friends.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Back to Nature.

So for the last couple of years, we have been doing school and I have left our nature studies and walks behind.  I thought that including these nature studies was a great thing to do when the kids were little, and as they got older it was a definite time waster.  What I didn't realize was that by getting rid of our nature time for the older kids, I was getting rid of nature time for my younger kids, too.  They were missing out on all the kinds of fun we used to have.

This got me feeling guilty, of course.  So I started reading my homeschool books again for the 100th time.  I needed inspiration!  Little by little I started to realize how much I missed our weekly walks.  I missed our bird studies.  I missed our gardens.  I missed our nature journals.  The list when on and on.  Then I ran across a quiz I took years ago when I was just starting my homeschool journey.  It was in my copy of Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.  It was in that book that I saw all my scribbles and notes from so long ago.  I also realized why I had done all those nature was because I had scored so high in not only classical studies, but also Charlotte Mason.  It was because of that quiz, that our early years in homeschool were so memorable, relaxed, and fun.  Had I changed that much since I first started?

This got me curious and I decided to retake the quiz.  My score was practically the same!  So then I came across this quiz, Which Homeschooling Approach is Right For You?, and I scored with Charlotte Mason again! I think you know where I'm going with this!  So I am definitely fulfilling my teaching style of classical education, but I have been ignoring my love for nature.  What does that mean now that we are mid-year?  Well, I guess we have a lot of rethinking to do for the new year!  But I also immediately started doing weekly nature walks again, brought back our practice of having a nature table, and busted out the nature journals!  We are all so much happier now.  My older kids are so glad that we are doing this again.  "Why did we ever stop, Mom?"

I guess my point here is that it's never too late to go back to doing the things you love and instilling those things on your children.  Homeschooling is truly a journey and sometimes we take wrong turns (or detours).  Luckily, we can make our own path.  

I totally encourage every homeschooler to keep evaluating and assessing their methods.  If they aren't working or are making everyone miserable, then it's OK to change.

With the snow we got this week, we decided to take our nature walk in our own backyard woods.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Welcome Back.

It's been a while since I've given in to my blogging.  A combination of busy schedules, new baby, more school, and less time have all contributed to my absence.  But I'm starting to think I really miss writing and sharing our journey, so I'm going to jump right in again.

The last six months has been almost a blur.  We were blessed with the birth of Matthew and we officially have five kids homeschooling (pre-k through 6th)!  It's been a little bit of an adjustment, but it hasn't shaken us up too much.  It seems that I'm pretty accustomed to having a baby and we've all learned to take each day as it comes.  I can't say this year hasn't been stressful, because it totally has.  It's just been stressful for different reasons...mostly all due to homeschooling.  But what a joy and blessing it has been to be able to educate our kids!

I'm really excited about sharing some of the things we are doing!  Our successes and our failures; my concerns and joys.  I keep reading blogs about how to function with a large family and think to myself...."wait a minute.  I have a large family and I'm totally functioning!"  There is so much I've learned and I'm wanting to share it all with you!!

So here I go again.  Welcome back to my blog!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Oh Baby!!

Yes.  Another addition to our "little" family.  Welcome Matthew Alexander!!  We are so blessed to have this little guy join our family!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Decorate Your Books! Oh Yeah...I'm Still Alive!!

I know I've been a slacker...not posting and ignoring all things "blog."  I don't know if it's having 4 kids to homeschool, a toddler and a 3 year old running amuck, or just adding all 6 kids into everything I do!  We are still alive and well, traveling along this homeschool journey.  

In the mean time, I thought I would start posting little projects and accomplishments.  Anthony, in his 7 year old glory, has started a spelling notebook this year and was not too thrilled with having the typical composition book to jot all his words in.  Being the wanna-be crafter...I took out my pile of fancy papers and had him choose something he liked to decorate the not so nice notebook.  Some glue, scissors, letter stickers, and laminating sheets later....voila!  A new spelling notebook!  He is actually looking forward to writing in it now and it's easy to spot among his other things.

Hope your homeschool journey is still going!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Little Saint Patrick Coloring Page.

I spent the weekend mostly sick in bed, reading and doodling to pass the time. I had a stack of picture books that I read to the kids too. I came across our copy of St. Patrick's Day by Gail Gibbons and thought her illustrations of the saint were lovely. I do love and own so many of her books!

So I got my pencil out and made a free-hand copy of St. Patrick from her book. I changed some of the details to make him look more "Catholic" (as in I added crosses to his vestment). The kids love how it came out and I was surprised that it came out so cute as well!

So if you want to print out a copy for yourself or your kids to color, here is the link!

St. Patrick Coloring Page

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I know...I'm late! But here is a link to last year's post with some nice Lent activities and a printout!

I hope you enjoy and are off to having a wonderful Lenten season.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011: A Quick Review Through Pictures!

2011 was another great year. There was a new family member born, baptisms, parties and just many memorable time spent with family and friends. To catch everyone up on the happenings of 2011, here are some of the highlights. Enjoy!!

Our year always starts with a celebration. If you are thinking, "'s New Years!" You are wrong! Our year starts with the celebration of the birth of Isabella!! She turned 7 years old just as we started 2011. Wow...time sure flies!

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue. Sugar is Sweet and So Are You! St. Valentine's Day in 2011 meant making lots of cards to give to friends! My sweet bunch of kids and I got a rare photo together, since I'm usually the one holding the camera!

March brought more moments, like losing another tooth for Isabella and having fun with our science experiments. Homeschooling remains the main component of our day.

With a house full of kids, it seems like it always someone's birthday! Marco turned 9 years old and made a huge leap in maturity. He continues to surprise us with wonderful accomplishments and we feel so blessed to have him!

Easter in 2011 was also an awesome day! Mass, Easter baskets, flying kits, cascarones and a fun day full of celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. It was such a memorable day!

May turned out to be an extra special month in 2011. It began with Isabella's First Communion, which happened to fall on Divine Mercy Sunday and was also the day that Pope John Paul II was beatified!! It was absolutely awesome!

You can't end the school year without a field day. 2011's field day was full of fun! From donut eating to relay races and even 1st place! The entire Catholic homeschool community came together to give our kids a fun and memorable event!

The highlight of May was, of course, the birth of Evangeline Elizabeth! She was by far the biggest baby I've had, weighing just over 9 pounds! Of course, all the children were elated when she was born and it was nice to finally give Isabella a little sister. We were so blessed to have our family grow by one...a little piece of heaven right in our home!

The year continued and led into summer. With piano recitals, vacations with old friends, Marco's first tae kwon do belt graduation and just playing in the rain.

Hosting Vacation Bible School in my home was also a great memory from 2011. My kids had a blast with all their friends and learned some valuable lessons along the way! My family visiting, playing with Legos and just being silly were also fun events of the summer. It's almost impossible to document all the awesome moments we had.

The end of summer held some nice moments. Evangeline was baptized and welcomed into the Catholic Church!

And you can't end summer without a trip to a baseball game! All this just in time for our first day of school where we continued the annual traditions of marching through the house and opening schultutes!!

Back to school always means it's back to co-op too! And we started the year on a great foot! The kids continue to love going to their weekly classes and seeing their friends.

More birthday, friends visiting, family and even a new dog! There were field trips, fall weather, pumpkin carving, Saint Day celebrations and Halloween. Art classes at home, end of year programs, traveling and more. So many moments to many memories made!

Hope everyone's year was as great as mine was. There were bumps along the way, but nothing that we didn't get through. Praying for another wonderful year!

*And if you notice my pictures got a little sparse and mixed up towards the end...yeah. Too many pictures to go through and not enough time in my day!