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Category: Organization

In attempts to prepare for the upcoming school year in which we start in earnest September 6th, I wanted to creative a more engaging atmosphere in our Learning Loft. Yesterday while shopping at our brand new local IKEA, I scored this “as-is” Trofast frame! Nothing was wrong with it except no packaging and it was all assembled.

If you’re curious about what’s sitting on top, head to my Vocabulary Power Flip books post to learn more.

We cleared out a spot for it in the loft and today I set about making labels for the subjects.

We haven’t gotten into the Workbox system, but I did have this sheet made by Heather, a fellow homeschooler/scrapbooker/workboxer, so I thought it would add to the motivation to get our subjects completed each day. (This was over two years ago and she most likely isn’t offering to do this for just $10 anymore, I see she just had a baby.) I framed her chart and laminated the numbers so they’d last longer. Currently they’re attached by magnets, although she originally used velcro on them.

Underneath the Workbox chart is a clipboard with timer attached that shows our actual schedule. I print this out everyday from Homeschool Skedtrack, the free online scheduling program we use.

I figured we’d put it on all our subject bins each morning and then add them back to the chart as we get done with each subject. Hopefully by the end of each day we’ll have a full chart. 🙂 It’s been awhile since I read my Sue Patrick Workbox System guide, but I don’t think they specifically label the bins. We’ll modify the system to work for us though.

There are a few subjects we do in our Reading Room library, so I have three subject bins in the library closet – Story of the World, Writing with Ease, and MCT Grammar Island. These are stored in the tall, white IKEA frame that has ten slides to insert bins/shelves.

This past week I’ve been obsessed with books and what better project to do next than to start cataloging our book collection! I’ve been playing around with four book catalog software systems and hopefully next month emerge with our favorite. Our new barcode scanner (just $30) arrived today to make cataloging a cinch.

Satori and I made a video to show how easy it can be to catalog your very own book collection. In this video we are using Collectorz. One of these days we will learn how to make our videos more professional and smoother. 🙂

Up until this month, Satori hasn’t been big on reading. She’s quite bright, but did not teach herself to read at an early age. When we did start using a reading program, she just followed along but did not race ahead in our reading lessons. To my dismay, she has not taken much initiative in reading on her own. I was the complete opposite as a child. Sometimes I worried she’d never take up reading for pleasure. I reminded myself she was only six.

I’ve never strongly encouraged her to read the typical early readers, but as I want to be a great father and learn about parenting from sites like mamonlineshop.com I knew I have to be patient with her. She’s read only a few books over 50 pages on her own this spring. One of them was a picture book on Anne of Green Gables, which I’d say was about 3rd grade level. Other larger chapter books she would start but not finish.

Well earlier this month she started reading. She’s finally interested! She’s been reading books like The Trumpet of the Swan, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and Anne of Green Gables Classic Starts books (more on those later). She’s perusing magazines like Ask and Click. And she’s not dropping them after reading just a few chapters. She reads during the day, before bed, the entire time we’re in the car (long time as we live far away from the city), in the grocery cart at the store… She still writes stories a lot, but now at least she’s reading stories as well.

We’ve dedicated an empty bedroom for a library in our house, but the past year we haven’t read in it much. Satori had no interest, and we do our read-alouds at night in the bedroom. The poor room has been neglected, and even worse, when we’ve finished a workbook or program, we just toss it in the room on the floor. Mounds of paper sat on the chairs and tables.

Well this week I decided to start using it again and it got cleaned and updated! I no longer have my wide-angle camera lens, so room pictures aren’t as fun/easy to take anymore, but here’s some updated photos.

The biggest change I made was adding our laminated timelines. We’ve got four Classical Education timelines on the far wall. Running along the entire twelve-foot length of the wall is our Charlie’s Playhouse Prehistory timeline. The Charlie’s Playhouse timeline is too high to touch and read easily, but we also have their Floor Mat timeline, which is the exact same thing, but bigger. The white shelf holds all our Dover coloring books, Poetry books, small history/science/math series books such as Read-and-Find-Out, If You Lived…, You Wouldn’t Want To…, as well as some chapter books.

On the left of this wall we have our magnetic paint space, but above it has a U.S. Presidents and an Ancient Civilization timeline. The closet that runs the whole length of the wall holds lots of homeschooling programs, games, manipulatives, and books.

This wall has Ancient Art history and Western Art History from 1400. The far shelf holds most of our history and science books.

I also moved our whiteboard/drawing table in here in case Satori wants to draw, doodle, or write if I’m reading aloud. She still loves her squishy beanbag!

Geography wasn’t forgotten, we’ve still got our World and US Maps in bright color in here, as well as a talking educational globe.

We’ve been using this room everyday this week, even while I was in the process of cleaning it. I want to incorporate a Read-Aloud time plus Silent Sustained Reading time, for at least a full hour of reading during the day. Our current read-aloud is The Secret Garden. We’ve also started up our Writing With Ease lessons again, the part where I read the story and she answers the questions in full sentences. We do this in the reading room now. It’s gotten her interested to read The Trumpet of the Swan.

Even Daddy joins in on the fun, as he reads his PMI book (Project Management Institute Exam). He’s taking his big test tomorrow, I wish him luck!

Someone asked whether you can flip the books back and have it still lie flat. Here’s what they say on their website:

GBC ProClick® spines allow pages to lie flat with 360° rotation and let you easily add and remove sheets.

Image from GBC ProClick website

Here’s an image of one of our books with the pages flipped back and it is lying flat.

Another view. Since these spines do have a tiny vertical “spine”, there is an small gap but it doesn’t hinder the books ability to lie perfectly flat. I did look around our homeschool for the comb binders and found some on our old MUS books. They have a very thick spine which prevents the books from lying flat. The bigger the book, the thicker the spine, and the less they lie flat. The advantage is that you can put a label on the spine.

After I got done posting about the ProClick yesterday, I thought I should have included some close-ups of the spines themselves. What appealed to me most about the ProClick is that you can easily zip them back open and insert more pages. Hopefully these photos will help you see how the spines open and close.

You can click the rings together with your own hands or use the tool. I find it just as easy to zip them up manually. They do include a zip tool to zip/unzip the spines, which is fun to use.

Another Africa notebook we made yesterday showing both the back and cover…

We made a few more books for Satori today. She requested I make her a writing journal, so I had her pick out a nice cover, and then we were able to make this beautiful book in a few minutes. I turned away for a moment, and then found this nice thank-you note on top of her new journal.

We’re so excited about the possibilities and can hardly get any actual schoolwork done! We plan to make notebooks for her drawing lessons next. We’ll be making tons more journals of course as well, as writing journals are Satori’s absolute favorite things in the world.

I’ve found myself purchasing tons of eBooks and PDFs versions for our curriculum. I print them out and place them in a Staples Better Binder. That habit was getting too expensive, especially at $9 per binder. I also found myself loving spiral bound books, as they lie flat. So I was open to some new ideas…

Yesterday I took the splurge and purchased a ProClick P50 Binding System. I found the best deal at Office Depot, where I got it in-store for just $50. I got some sturdy back covers, glossy front covers, and some combs, and the total came to under $100. You can use your own cardstock for covers though, so the fancy covers aren’t necessary.

Right away I bound my History Odyssey Ancients book that I hadn’t been using as it was just loose papers that I had filed away a year ago. Now, I have a beautiful, glossy history book!

One thing I am losing over putting them in binders is the ability to place a label on the spine. I have colored tape that I rolled around a top coil, so we’ll see how that works in identifying them if they’re all on the shelf.

Here’s a look at how thick it is, with the clear front cover and black, sturdy backing.


A look at the device itself. It looks very simple, and it is – yet it’s very sturdy and weighted, so you stick the papers in, and then run the top thing over the papers to punch the holes. This inexpensive version will punch 6 papers at a time, but I normally like thicker or glossy papers, so I only punch 3-4 pages at a time to make it easier. It’s super easy to run the top over the papers if you give it a manageable job.

I purchased two boxes of spines, for 45-page and 85-page capacity. If you do use covers, that lowers the capacity. There are only three sizes of spines that I’m aware of, and the 110-page capacity spines I could only find in boxes of 100 for $50. I decided to wait on those.

I love these special ProClick spines because you can open them back up, take out, reinsert papers, and then zip them back up! They feel nice and sturdy, and they look great. Books now lie flat.

I asked for some ideas over at the WTM last night… Thanks ladies! I finally found a use for the beautiful scrapbook papers I had been collecting just because they’re so pretty, even though I’m not a scrapbooker! The spines are easily cut. So I made a cute mini-notebook on Africa for Satori to use.

I made this template super quickly last night, but hey she totally loves her new notebook! She even slept with it last night. 🙂 We’ll be putting all 53 African countries in here (more on that later).

Another great idea is to put the spines on top, which makes it easier for a child to write in a workbook.

Since the spines hold up to 85 pages (110 if I purchase the bigger size), not all complete programs will fit. Some people split their programs up into different volumes. Also, an affordable option is to purchase 3:1 spiral coils (Thanks Paula for this idea), which are both more cost effective and hold more paper. The con is that they won’t click back open. This is a good idea for larger teacher’s manuals.

Thank you Grandpa Bauer and Daddy for helping us put up our new whiteboard on the wall! I had been drooling over a large 4×6 magnetic whiteboard for years. David loves them too, as he’s used to them at work. However, they were always $450-500 everywhere I looked, and that is out of our price range. Luckily, someone on the WTM pointed out a great website (US Markerboard) that offered them for almost half off with free shipping ($288.99)! So this month we splurged using our tax refund and it arrived safe and sound!

Here’s how it looks today after doing our language arts lessons. We learned what a Topic is in our new Evan Moor 6-Trait Writing program. We learned what interjections are in First Language Lessons 2. Since the FLL program is mostly oral, I let Satori doodle/play as long as she listens. All the doodles on this board are hers except for the cake on the left. I thought her bird on the tree was done very well.

It takes up almost our whole far wall so we definitely had to do some reorganizing. The far right wall holds a huge Aspen desk with bookshelves that I use as my homeschool desk. There are no other walls, only the wooden railings along the side of the room. So I moved Satori’s desk next to mine, overlooking our great room. One advantage is that the glare from all the windows will no longer go on her computer monitor. I love having her closer to me than on the far side of the room. She is on it at the moment, using Typing Instructor for Kids.

Probably our best idea from the move was to enable our table to be used for actual schoolwork. Before it was pushed up against the railing, and two huge Desk Apprentices were on it, leaving no room for us to work, much less work together. Since we’ve been doing PreK-1 work, we ended up working on the carpet or her small table anyway. But now we’re doing real work, and Satori and I love working together on this table! We kept one Desk Apprentice (revolving black organizer) to hold all our workbooks/binders that we’ll be using on this table. The light has a timer on it so we don’t go over our lessons.

Previously, the only use Satori got out of the table above was to go underneath it during her lessons and pretend she was a mammal in her “burrow”. I’m predicting we’ll get a lot more productivity out of our day if we use it as an actual desk.

I just took this photo. It’s hard to get Satori out of her soft pajamas, so you’ll often see her favorite purple pair on during the day. The only reason we keep the Aspen wood chair with cushion there is because it is Satori’s cat Soma’s favorite napping spot. On the right side of the frame you’ll see my desk. You can see how closely we can work together now.

And here’s my desk! I organized this a few weeks ago.

On my favorite forum people are posting “Before” photos of their messy areas, in the hopes of inspiring themselves to reorganize and clean. I am in the middle of reorganization/cleaning the entire house, so one of the only places that is still messy is our Learning Loft.

I love the learning we do in this area, but it is seems uninspiring and blah to me. I can’t afford to go out and get fancy matching furniture/tables. We have minimal wall space to hang posters and cool stuff. (The far wall will eventually be getting the 4×6 whiteboard and will cover most of that area.) Satori is growing older and while we still love to sprawl out on the floor to do certain subjects like math, I want to prepare an area we both can work together.

Here’s our BEFORE photos.

This is with absolutely no tidying up. I should’ve taken closer, detail pictures of the messes like some people did.

Next week I’ll post the reorganization AFTER photos.