Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Geography 2006

This entry was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

Geography is one of our least formalized studies. We read books about the countries we visit in history. We also study geography in science. This year, in our most formalized study, we read Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne and plotted the course of their travels on a map. However, we frequently don't have a subject named geography on our plans. I really like plotting the course of characters on a map and reading a bit about each of the locations, but unless I find another great living geography book, we will go back to studying geography within history and science. No matter how we study geography, these are a few of the resources we use a lot:
  • World of Where is a wonderful computer map study aid, which lets you test by countries, states, provinces, or cities. View Political borders or physical world. You have the solar system, too! It even has a spoken mode for those youngest learners. All this and the price is right at only $11.95!!
  • Borderline is a fun card game that helps make connections between states in the USA or countries in Africa, Europe or the World. You don't have to know geography to play but you will definitely learn some.
  • National Geographic Magazine with all the wonderful images, maps, and thoughtful articles is still a bargain monthly geography curriculum, especially when used with the web site to find articles relating to your area of study or to locate or see a map. There are also great resources at the Xpeditions site
  • A wall map is essential and luckily we subscribe to National Geographic and get one each year.
  • Uncle Josh's Outline Maps CD-ROM is a great resource with 125 printable maps in pdf format. I like these because you get both historical maps and more recent images.
  • NEA State by State Booklist provides a listing of books that will help you read across America. I know this is no help for Canadians and Europeans.
I know I've probably forgotten something. Does anyone else have favorite resources?

Monday, May 8, 2006

Taming the Paper Animal

Construction paper in at least two sizes, plain white printer paper, notebook paper, handwriting paper, graph paper in a few sizes, worksheets, narrations, art projects, math work, flash cards for math, sight words, and Latin, art cards, and more have found a way into our house and have taken up residence. I am amazed at the quantity of paper we produce, use and store in our homeschooling journey.

The first year we homeschooled, I didn't do a great job keeping up with all the paper produced. In fact, I don't have a good record of what my son accomplished, when he did it or how he did it. In Mississippi being unorganized is no big deal. In fact there are no recordkeeping requirements. Even so, I do worry that I will need records or want records, so have found a way (even though I am organizationally challenged) to tame the paper animal. This is what has worked for my family.
  • Plastic Ticklers divided into 12 sections (one for each month) have been a wonderful addition to our home school. Spend extra to get the plastic because the reinforced paper ones don't hold up for the full year. I get a different color for each child and have been consistent with the color from year to year. This makes filing automatic even the first day of the new school year. Since I only have monthly labels, even if I only get around to filing once a month I am still organized, but I find that I file daily or at least weekly because it is painless. I know this system is not up to the standards of many, but this is a real life plan. As an added bonus, since there is no interior organization any works or art, stories, papers from museums, scout stuff and other non-official school items can be stored without messing up "the plan." All of the work is stored by month and is there if needed or wanted.
  • Book Rings - the bigger the better - add control to all flash cards. Since I was planning to re-use most of our resources, I wanted to have all the cards. Flash cards seem to hit the floor and disappear. I solved this problem by hole punching the cards and placing each set of cards on a separate book ring and then hanging them on a hook where they are easy to use and store. We use this for math facts cards, sight word cards, Latin roots, Child -sized Masterpiece cards, and sentence combining cards and I have not had to duplicate work or re-purchase because of lost cards.
  • In/Out Boxes Stacked under the counter have controlled, not alleviated, our paper clutter. I use these to separate the different types of paper. The stack takes only 12" of under counter space. The children and I can find which paper we want without pulling 500 sheets. As an added benefit you can see when you are running low before you need a specific paper and don't have it.
  • Beside the stack of In/Out Boxes I have a few pieces of 11 x 17 cardboard standing to keep our out-sized paper and portfolios fresh.
We have a few things that don't fit the plan, yet they have a plan of their own. We have done the Meet the Masters Art Program for a few years and these masterpieces are stored in the portfolio made in the first lesson. These are stored next to our In/Out Boxes. Our Nature Journals are treated like books and are stored on the bookshelf.

Planning can create a pile of paper too! I have notebooks in which I write lists and ideas and just write, but as far as official planning I have a secret paperless weapon, HS Planner. This planner lets you be as meticulous as you need to be. You can even give grades and make report cards. I don't use those items, but I do use most everything else. There is a place to keep up with everything you do and you can even create your own forms. I have been using this program for a few years and it is intuitive, works on both Mac and Windows, and is written by and for homeschoolers. The best thing is that it keeps the records for all years, not just the one you are using. Click a child's record and then move from K - 12 easily. I love this in the books read section. I can look back and see what my son read and enjoyed in first grade and make sure my daughter has a chance to read the book. You don't lose anything, which is great if you have multiple children.

As I write this I am laughing at the thought that I, of all people, am sharing my organization methods. I am not a domestic goddess, nor do I pretend to be. I am sharing this from a disorganized place. I have tried many notebook methods and other wonderful sounding ways of managing homeschool record keeping and planning. These failed for me, because they entailed too many sections in too many notebooks without needed flexibility, and I found that after a month the structure was barely hanging on and that there were so many items that really didn't have a place so they were tossed or got put in the wrong place. In the face of failure I tossed all of these schemes and simplified. I have been using the color coded ticklers, In/Out Boxes, HS Planner, and book rings for 3 years and feel success!