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Category: Organization

We will be switching to Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B this week and in planning the lessons, I started organizing our math manipulatives. Then I went on to clean and organize the whole Learning Loft. This includes our Math Manipulative Closet which I don’t think I ever mentioned it before. I’ve gotten a few emails asking where I store/organize everything, so hopefully this will help others who are looking for ideas.

The narrow closet is just off our loft area. It works perfectly to hide all our manipulatives. Since I’ve entertained using quite a handful of math programs, I ended up with lots of math manipulatives, starting with our MUS blocks. I admit that I’m a helpless addict to this kind of stuff. In this closet, I try to keep the supplies Satori might want to take out to play with on her own on the lower shelves that she can reach. She just loves playing with her math manipulatives.

The lowest shelf holds our MUS blocks, ManipuLite Pattern Blocks and Color Cubes, Geometric foam solids, Math Links, Linking Cubes, 1″ wooden blocks, Cuisenaire Rods, Math dice games, Place Value Kit, 1″ plastic square tiles and a few other various counting items like shiny rocks and beads. (To see any photo larger, just click on it.)

Next shelf holds more manipulatives and some logic games. We’ve got Tangoes Tanagrams, Large Rubber Vehicle Counters, smaller Kid and Wild Animal counters, transparent disc counters, plastic coins, tanagram shapes, blue and multicolor centimeter cubes, Unifix cubes and disc counters. We’ve got a few logic games up here, but we keep some in our game closet downstairs. Here you’ll find Mighty Mind, Logic Links, Block Buddies, Rory’s Story Cubes, Hundred Mat, and magnetic fractions. You can see I went wild with the labeler!

On the floor rest our math balances and scales, time clock and long pointy thingies like yard sticks, big thermometer, and a pointer.

Top shelf holds science and social studies stuff: Microscope and slides, Animal flashcards, timelines, Magnet kit, Little Passports suitcase… The shelf below it holds workbooks we’ll be using very soon. I’m entertaining moving ALL our math and logic games and storing them on the second shelf, but I’m not sure there would be enough room.

Things we use on a daily basis are taken out of the closet and stored on the bottom shelf of a small bookcase we have in the middle of our Learning Loft. The red tote holds our math manipulatives and math cards so we can easily take it all out while we do math. The abacuses we use all the time are also within convenient reach. I’ve decided to store our Singapore math books down here too as they are shorter than our normal binders and workbooks that we store elsewhere. We put a children’s dictionary here too, Satori uses it often. A new manipulative we’ll be using soon are the Unifix and linking cubes.

In an effort to make it easier to keep track of Satori’s penpals that she’s been writing to everyday lately, I’ve been trying to think of a very easy system for both Satori and I to manage it all. For awhile now, I’ve been on the lookout for an accordian file folder to carry all of Satori’s penpal letters she receives. The past weekend, I was in luck! I found this at Target! It’s attractive enough and has a magnetic clasp to store everything neatly when not in use.

It’s the perfect size for Satori’s currently active 10 penpals! I think there are 13 pockets total.

There’s a few extra folders that we’re using to store writing paper, envelopes and stamps.

Each penpal has their own folder in which we’ll store their letters. Even better, today I whipped up these sheets of Avery label stickers, and each sticker has the address of the penpal and Satori’s return address. Avery’s website also allows you to choose a fun image, so we chose birds, books, bees, snowman, etc… to dress up the outgoing envelope a bit.

After Satori writes her letter, she can grab one of these stickers to stick on the envelope! I even included stamps in there. Before she seals the envelope, she has to give to Mommy to check over before we send it out. I’ll make sure it has enough postage and is appropriate and it it will go to the post office! (Addresses grayed out below for privacy.)

And this might scare people off how overly organized I am about this, but I even included sheets for every penpal so we can track incoming/outgoing letters and notes. We have a few penpals with the same name, and more than a couple going to the same state, so all this is going to make it much easier on us!

Satori was absolutely ecstatic and she tested it out by writing to her long-time penpal who lives in California. She thanked me over and over! The effort to get this all ready for her was worth it.

While I don’t consider myself the most organized in real life, I tremendously enjoy planning everything for homeschooling. I normally use Homeschool SkedTrack and plan out four months at a time. But currently there’s a lot of buzz on the homeschooling boards about crate/file folder planning out to the week for an entire school year! So one file would have all the ripped out worksheets/textbook pages/etc for ALL subjects for an entire week! I could never do that, what if I slacked off in a subject a few days? Think of all the work that would need to be done to re-organize the folders. Not for me, I’m enjoy flexibility too much.

So I’m keeping all the plans online, where things can slide to the next week easily if needed. (I’m sure that’s one of the advantages of having a whole year planned out, you wouldn’t want to let things “slide”.) But I do like having some things planned out, so I’ve decided to plan out subjects for our 2010/2011 school year, until the end of May 2011. But I won’t be having weekly file folders. I’m doing it by subject only.

Here’s my RightStart Math binder. No, I didn’t rip out all the pages of the teacher’s manual. What I did was go over EVERY lesson for the entire RightStart B program, and made sure I did printout any sheets and worksheets we might need.

In the front pocket I’m keeping our laminated Whole-Parts diagram, that we use quite often. The rest is whole punched and stick in the binder in order.

Some sheets I placed in page protectors, like Practice sheets that we’ll reuse, or other things that shouldn’t be hole-punched.

I also made sure I included in a special bag, all the little things we might need for a particular lesson. Tanagram shapes? I made them out of foam paper, they’re pretty cool! Clock flashcards for a certain lesson? All set. All those little paper parts and such for all lessons for RightStart B.

And here’s our little tote that carries our most common RightStart manipulatives. There’s no room for our abacus, but we keep it right by the tote.

Now, RightStart planning is done for the year! Some subjects are truly simple and just open-and-go, so I input all our lessons into Homeschool Skedtrack. I’m working on science now. I’m listing read-aloud books for our entire RSO Life year. Printing out stuff from the Evan-Moor Giant Science book. Etc….

At least I enjoy this kind of thing, but I’m very exhausted today. The plus side, is all this extra work beforehand will help our year progress smoothly. I hate when we have a holdup in a subject just because I didn’t print/cut something out that we need for a lesson. Anyway, I’m very excited about all the work I’ve done and ready to have another great year!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

The following photos are taken for the Heart of the Matter Not Back to School Hop – it is School Room Week. This week we are to share where we do our homeschooling.

I’m going to go over the new stuff first. Satori loves to write so much that we actually made a Writing Center in our Great room just last week so she has easy access to writing materials. We’ve moved all her writing and handwriting lessons down here. We’ll have plenty of paper, blank books, note-cards, and pens/pencils for her to write with here. I’ll probably add a children’s dictionary and writing prompts/activities later this year. She’s only 5, but she’s got a great interest in writing, she’s writing a book as I took this picture, and her latest one “I love my muther” is the yellow one propped up on the right. (To view photos in original, large size, click on it.)

Close to the writing area is Satori’s new Art corner, also a highly creative space for her to have fun. We just made this a week ago, and we’re loving it! I really wanted easy access to all her colored pencils, watercolor pencils, markers, pastels and paper so she can create whenever inspiration hits. The views and fresh air are rejuvenating. Under the desk I’ve stored all our art and drawing books and curriculum. For family art activities, we have a big table that we pull out so we all can join in on the fun.

Around the corner is our Nature Nook. We have all our bird identification guides and binoculars in one place, right next to the window to our deck, where we hang all our bird feeders. We get Steller Jay’s, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Mountain Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds, Dark-eyed Juncos, and more here. We’re reading the Burgess Bird Book and all of our resources are here. In the orange basket are other nature identification books, journals and more.

We mostly do our schoolwork in our Learning Loft. Both Satori and Mom have their homeschool computers here. Even though we have desks and tables, we still love to sprawl out on the carpet. The white table with the red chair is a dry erase table with a paper roll/cutter built in, it comes in quite handy. I will be moving the bookshelf to the Reading Room to make some room for a larger dry erase board. I also am trying to get the Trofast shelving, you may notice I already have the Trofast bins stacked and ready. We don’t use the workbox system, but might like to try something like it this year, and the new shelf/bin unit would be perfect.

View from the other side. You can see Mom’s desk. In this desk are most of my teacher homeschool resources books. Current curriculum are stored in the two Desk Apprentices on the main table.

Closeup of the shelf.

Read-alouds are to be done in our Reading Room.

Crafts and messy stuff we do down in our basement Kraft Kitchen. In this room we’re able to store all of our craft supplies in drawers and cabinets, which is good, otherwise our cats would have a field day with feathers and yarn!

I just got some stuff from Ikea that we’ll be using to replace our art display line hangar, as well as some things to store art supplies at-hand so they’re more easy access. These aren’t up yet.

Lastly, here’s the room where I work on the Satori Smiles blog and ship out books I sold. I used to be in this office all the time back when I had a career, now I am in here as little as possible. Not shown, but in this room are all my photography and programming books. I’ll be selling many of these in the months to come to make room for more books.

For more photos of our homeschool rooms, head to our Homeschool Room page.

We are already loving this new space, filled with light! Even at night, we have enough light to work by. Satori is loving drawing pictures and writing at her new desk. More on this next week, when I flesh it all out more!

Writing center – I want to have writing utensils, paper, journals, bare books, writing prompts and more handy for Satori whenever she’s inspired.

Just wanting to throw down my latest thoughts…


We started “first grade” this summer to ease  ourselves in a bit more into being a bit more rigorous. We still just do 1-1.5 hours a day at this point. This fall I’d love to increase our workload to 2-3 hours a day, but that is including some creative stuff like art and music. I’ve got our curriculum all finalized and almost finished working out our Fall 2010 daily lesson plans. I’ve been following this 50+ page thread on WTM forums on how to organize using files/crates, and gotten some good ideas from it. I don’t think I’m going to go that far, but it has given me some ideas and inspiration. I may get some use out of the Workbox system and Loop, although again, I probably won’t follow the method 100%. I think I’ve gotten ideas from all the major planning/organization methods that are making their rounds this time of year.

I’ve divided our subjects into three groups. Core, Support, and Enrichment. (I just came up with those names  out of the top of my head just now, hehe.)

Core is most important and first on our priority list. Right now they are only Reading and Math (although that may change). This fall, we’ll have finished our formal phonics reading program, but we’ll continue to practice reading and gain fluency. We’ll keep working on our ETC workbooks for as long as they work for us. For Math, our main math program is RightStart, and we’ll do 20 minutes 4 times a week. Because Satori now doesn’t like to finish the RS worksheets, we might try a bit of Math Mammoth worksheets everyone has been raving about.  I’d love to incorporate MEP too a few days. This supplemental math will take 10 minutes a day, 4 days a week. Total for our Core is one hour a day. We’ll be tackling these first and then take a short break. We’ll be doing these Core lessons everyday, in some way or another.

Support subjects are those lessons that support our core. Some of these might make it into our Core down the road, but right now I’m not too worried about them. These subjects may be ones that Satori excels at and I’d actually like to slow down to give priority to our core. Or they are ones that I don’t think are crucial at this time, but they are definitely important and nice to work on, so I give them secondary priority. Our second hour will be filled with Support subjects. These are Handwriting (we’re starting cursive), Spelling, Grammar, and Writing. Due to Satori really enjoying creative writing, some of this might seem to go at an accelerated pace for a first grader. Handwriting and Spelling will be our usual curriculum – Handwriting Without Tears and All-About-Spelling. Grammar and Writing we are trying out some new stuff, while still keeping First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease. These two programs seem too easy for Satori, but I like the memorization, narration, and copywork that these programs promote. We will be adding Growing With Grammar Grade 1 and Write Source Grade 1. Support lessons will be done 2-3 times a week.

Enrichment subjects are subjects like history, science, vocabulary, art, music, logic, geography, etc… Not totally necessary, but so much fun! I plan to really ramp up our Art now, and we are thinking of starting Notebooking for subjects like history, science, and nature study. I’ve made some changes to what we’ve done in the past so we shouldn’t get so far behind in history and science. Enrichment subjects will be tackled 1-2 times a week.

By thinking of our subjects in this way, we’ll get our priorities in order and make sure we get the most important things done for sure and done first.

When I get some time, I will flesh out our First Grade curriculum Fall semester, as I do every semester and talk about our choices in a little more detail.


I’m adding a bit of creative inspiration to our great room, I’ve got some great ideas for an art table, writing table and birding watch to place in our main room, while still hopefully retaining a room that we can still hang out in and not be overwhelmed by messy homeschool stuff. We’ll see.

Here’s a photo of David putting together our new art table:

Satori loves to write and draw on our kitchen table. It’s expensive and I’d rather not have her on there, so I am putting up a little table in the kitchen for her to write and draw. Just yesterday I took advantage of Michael’s 40% off sale and got Derwent watercolor pencils, Kohl-i-noor woodless colored pencils, 50 Cray-pas Junior Pastels, 50 Crayola markers and some $1 Target containers to store them in. Messy stuff like actual watercolors and paints will stay downstairs in the craft room. I just thought it would be more inspiring to have windows and be near people when she wants to write and draw.

I don’t have an updated photo of all this.

When we get back from our trip, I’ll be on the lookout for building an accessible arts/drawing center and/or writing center. So far, Satori is using this little table all the time already! I think it’s a good idea. So right now I’m open to any ideas. I want everything easy to reach and tempting to use… I know there’s a word for this style, just haven’t looked into it much yet.