Category Archives: recycle

Home schooling 101, Stuff In Our School Cabinet

our generally organized school closet
We’ve opted to keep our home schooling supplies in a relatively small space, so as not to turn our home into a school house alone. Early on, my husband expressed his concerns that our house should be a comfortable place to live and entertain and not just a warehouse for kids’ toys and books. I tend to agree with him. Additionally, as the primary teacher in the house, I like the feeling of “being done” (with at least one job) for the day which means all textbooks, cubicles, pencils and school boxes get put away (out of sight).

However, being that space is limited and our students range from kindergarten to seniors, I’ve had to come up with simple and creative ways to recycle, reuse and store materials that will be needed by younger siblings.
Budget is also a factor when it comes to operating our home school, so I try to avoid buying more than we need and I want to make more expensive supplies last as long as possible.
Here are a few tricks and tips I’ve discovered or come up with along the way:
1. Plastic bags. I love plastic bags and it is a rarity that we don’t put them to multiple tasks before finally relinquishing any to the trash bin. The gallon sized kind that zip closed are a must-have item (the ones labeled for freezer use are the most sturdy). I use them to store softcover textbooks because the bag protects them when they are being pushed in and pulled out from the bookshelf.
My fifth grader isn’t the most gentle when it comes to putting her math book away and the book she is currently using has already served her four older siblings so it may not last beyond her. To increase the odds of its survival through the year, I am having her return the book to its plastic bag before plopping it back into her school box for the night. This way the pages won’t get roughed up when she stuffs her pencil box, etc. on top of it. 
Plastic bags are great for preschool activity holders. I had my preschooler’s box filled with several bags. One contained a pair of scissors and a stack of card stock sheets to cut (I had drawn lines with thick black marker on the card stock which he was supposed to cut along).
***a little note of warning, don’t allow toddlers or infants to have access to plastic bags and make sure preschoolers don’t have bags in their school boxeswhich are big enough to fit over their heads.
2. Plastic page protectors.These are fabulous for protecting notes, sample copies, and chore lists. My daughter, who just started studying algebra, has been diligently taking notes on the formulas she’ll need to memorize. I had her slip the notes into a page protector sheet so they will last her throughout the course. My third grader is keeping the sample guide for cursive letters in his.

Going back to my preschoolers, I housed matching shapes and matching letters (upper and lower case) games in plastic page protectors.
Last year I was introduced to a wonderful new grammar program which seemed to be the answer I’d been looking for to improve my children’s understanding of grammar concepts. After hearing the creators describe their methodology, I was sold on their product, then I saw the price tag. Wanting to use the program with multiple students, I had to figure out how to make the worksheets work for us without violating the copyrights. As it turns out, I was able to slip a plastic sheet over the individual page and have my child write directly on it with a dry erase marker. I then corrected the work and we used a piece of felt to wipe the page clean for the next child to use.
Similarly, we use these pages to hold chore lists because chores can be checked off with dry erase markers and then the sheet can be wiped clean with felt or a napkin at the end of the day.
3. Plastic linen bags. After purchasing a couple of single curtain panels, I wondered how I could recycle the sturdy, plastic, zippered bags they came in. They became pencil bags, of course. Better than boxes, they are light weight and can easily be squished into tight spaces.
4. Plastic tubs. I don’t know what we did before these came along, but big, medium or small plastic tubs hold it all. We each have our own school tub (plastic containers designated for our school stuff). Additionally, I use smaller ones to organize the various supplies in the school closet (the thinking is that my tidy children will actually put items into the neatly marked containers each and every time- I can dream can’t I?). Generally, I label the boxes by subject, so the math box contains rulers, addition flash cards, compasses, cardboard clocks. etc.

5. Plain file folders. I always keep a box of these in our supply cabinet. Whenever we are planning a trip or preparing for a sacrament I use one of these to keep all the necessary paperwork, directions, notes together in one place.
Instead of purchasing pricier tab divider sheets for separating subjects in binders, I cut a folder in half and use a hole puncher to create two less expensive divider pages. 

A few months ago, I made a learning tool out of wood and nails for my son and I cut file folders into strips for the changeable parts to be matched. You can read more about that project HERE.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why I like home schooling so much, it provides me the opportunity to be creative (whether out of want or necessity). And along the way, my children are learning how to be good stewards of the resources God has given us.

Home Schooling 101: Hands-On Learning Tools Made from Recycled Stuff

home made educational tools for learning multiplicationWhile I suppose all young learners appreciate some creative, hands-on tools to liven up their task, little boys seem most interested in movable instruments. I can’t lay claim to conjuring these ideas from scratch, but I thought I’d share some things that are working in my home school.

Old computer or DVD discs and their cases make handy reading or math wheels. I simply flipped the discs to their blank sides, drew lines to divide them into quarters and filled each quarter with consonants or numbers. When you snap the disc back into its case (so that it is on the left-side), the child can easily spin the wheel to 
home school DYI math wheel for learning times tableschange the beginning sound or number to be multiplied.
I cut index cards to fit the opposite side of the case (where the album cover would normally be). On these I wrote the simple word endings (at, it, et, ot, in, on, op, ack, ick, etc.) and the second factor. For the multiplication tables, I wrote the whole family of products and taped this to the index card so that it can be folded back (to hide the answers).
how to teach kids times tables
For reading, I simply let my 5 year old sound out all of the words without bothering to correct real from false words. As for the occasional, SH + IT, I just ignore it since my son has no idea this is a “bad” word.

easy inexpensive ways to teach phonics to young childrenphonics toy made from recycled materials
The matching nail board is a work in progress. It consists of a piece of wood (an old shelf board), nails, string and card stock. The idea is to match the two sides or to work back and forth. So far I created the Ten Commandments so my 2nd grader can practice the proper order. He also has to memorize The Act of Contrition so I created a back and forth pattern to help him practice. My daughter hates Latin, but she’s about to start a class in it, so I’ll make vocabulary match-ups for her. There are lots of possibilities for this one from language practice to matching number names and their digits.

making a match up board to teach kids

With years in as a home schooler, I’ve learned not to get too crazy buying every new gadget or book on the market. Limited space and budget helps me rein in my “I’ve gotta try that” temptations. These ideas were made completely out of recycled materials I already had around the house and they were easy to construct. They’ve gotten my boys interested in some self-directed learning masquerading as tactile fun.