Sunday, August 2, 2015

Our 2015-2016 PreK Curriculum

I am so beyond excited to have Evan join us more formally this year for homeschool! He loves to learn and I know he is going to be thrilled to finally have his own worksheets and activities to complete right along side his big sister! Evan is 4.5 years old and I really struggled with the decision to homeschool vs sending him to attend public school VPK. Half-day VPK is free in my county, but Evan's special needs definitely pose a challenge and would not allow him to attend a regular classroom. Ultimately, we have opted to work diligently with private therapy services and homeschool this year. If at any time I feel Evan isn't progressing, we can always reevaluate and try to get into an ESE PreK for the remainder of the year or just start in Kindergarten. But I am confident Evan will thrive working one-on-one at home, in his own environment, with minimal distractions and the ability to learn however he wants to!

Many of you have seen me prepping Evan's curriculum via Instagram this summer and have asked about our curriculum choice for PreK. I searched all over the internet, read reviews, viewed hundres of pins on Pinterest and finally settled on Confessions of a Homeschooler's Letter of the Week curriculum. Letter of the Week is a 26 week homeschool PreK 3 curriculum. Each week is themed and focuses on a letter of the alphabet. It includes so many options for games, worksheets, skill development, counting, etc. Evan already knows all of his letters, numbers to 20, colors and shapes, but he is really struggling with fine motor skills and some other skills that LOTW includes in the weekly lessons. I decided it was more important for Evan to really build up these skills he is behind on and master them rather than move on to a more advanced PreK curriculum option. Plus I don't want to overwhelm Evan during his first year of formal homeschool! Or overwhelm myself for my first year with two students! ;)

After I purchased LOTW, I was opening all of the files and had a little bit of buyer's remorse. Seriously, there are over 1500 printables included with this curriculum! What was I thinking?! I started sorting through the lessons and decided there was only one way we could successfully complete this curriculum - I needed to prep the entire year before we started.  I am a procrastinator. I have proven to myself over and over that if I need to do a lot of prep work before a lesson, I will put it off and put it off and then it just won't get done. So I really had no choice but to print out every page, for every lesson, for every week and then cut/laminate/hole punch/staple/sort/organize everything. I finished prepping everything about a week ago and I can't believe I finished. My hands were blistered from cutting out hundreds of little shapes, the dining room table was a disaster zone, my printer tried to die multiple times. It was a challenge, to say the least, but now I am so happy that I literally do not have to prep a single thing for the rest of the year for Evan.. And that feels amazing. It took me around 6 weeks of working a few hours each week to finish prepping and I highly recommend you do the same if you plan to use this curriculum with your Preschooler or even if you're using one of the many free options with a lot of prep work. This method will definitely save your sanity for the year and trust me, you'll need all the sanity you can get.

If I haven't scared you away yet, I would love to share with you my method for prepping a year's worth of lessons! Before I started printing individual pages, I printed out the weekly lesson plan pages and highlighted assignments I wanted to work on each week with Evan. I generally picked between 4-5 assignments per day. Next, I opened each week's file and printed the selected assignment pages. It took me a few evenings over the course of a couple of weeks to print out all of the pages I needed. I also printed the Daily PreK journal pages. Next, I organized my binders in groups of 5 letters and separated each letter with tabs. I cut out and laminated any pieces I wanted to be sturdier, like the lacing cards, and then stored all of the cut outs in labeled plastic bags. I hole punched all of the worksheets and put the labeled bags in a page protector sleeve to keep everything for each letter together. I repeated this process for each letter. There are still several things I opted not to print/use this year because again, I do not want to overwhelm myself or Evan! We can always add these things later in the year if we want to.

Each day of the week is in a page protector. Evan will complete these with a dry erase marker so we can just keep reusing them!
This is the weekly lesson plan page. I highlighted all of the assignments Evan will be completing.  
All of the worksheets for each letter are hole punched and stored behind their subject divider.
Here are all of the cut outs for the letter "A" week. Everything is labeled and sorted into plastic bags and then kept in a page protector behind the rest of the week's worksheets.
I purchased LOTW for $15 and spent about an additional $200 in supplies (paper, printer ink, notebooks, dividers, page protectors, laminator sheets, books, manipulatives, etc). It definitely wasn't the cheapest option but I'm sure the cost would be less shocking if you spread out the printing and prep throughout the year.

Here are most of the manipulatives we need for the year. (Not pictured are large plastic tweezers, play doh, crayons, pencils, etc)
These are some of the books LOTW recommends.
Evan officially starts PreK tomorrow and I can't wait to see how much he learns this year! If you want to see a more in-depth review of LOTW, click here. I am also happy to answer any questions you may have!

Our Homeschool Room.. Or something like that

I'm pretty sure every homeschool mom daydreams of their perfect school room. Mine would be huge- with wood floors, light teal walls, an on-suite bathroom, a reading corner complete with a super cute Pinterest worthy teepee, a community desk that seats 4, and curriculum storage that would put Ikea systems to shame. You know, sort of like Confession of a Homeschooler's amazing classroom. Except a little more awesome. :)

While I would absolutely love to have even a dedicated classroom, that is just not in the cards right now for us. We moved from our small cozy home to our current, much larger home about a year ago and while we do have space to have a dedicated classroom, I just have a hard time giving up the "traditional" rooms- like the dining room and guest bedroom. I know, that sounds SO dumb, but I just love simple, clean d├ęcor at home and would rather find an alternate solution. Last year, we kept the school books in the living room and Elli worked at our dining room table, at the kitchen bar, and at the computer desk. Yeah- it was kind of chaotic. My darling husband and I spent a few hours this past week literally moving the bookshelves into all the rooms and rearranging furniture to find a permanent homeschool space for the coming year. We ended up settling on taking over the breakfast nook and I am really pleased with the way it looks! We rarely use that space and I don't know why we didn't come up with this solution earlier! Yes, it is small, but I'm very optimistic it will suit our needs perfectly this year!

And now I present to you, the Magnifico Academy classroom:

(Our classroom!)

(Main white board and calendar bulletin board with empty wall space to feature projects and topics we will learn about this year.)

(Work table and storage)

(We only keep current year's curriculum and supplies readily available. Everything else is stored in the garage. The less clutter, the better! This bookshelf holds craft supplies, painting supplies, and Elli's curriculum)

(Arts & Crafts - all out of reach of our little one!)

(This cube organizer houses most of Evan's supplies and curriculum. Everything is stored in bins because if he sees it, he takes it out.. )

(Extra supplies for the year)

(Calendar and Evan's "Beginning of the Day" activities)

(Elli's Curriculum)
That is it! This is our cozy new spot and I am so excited to kick off our 2015-2016 school year on Monday!

One thing I have learned over the past 4 years of homeschooling is where you teach your children absolutely doesn't matter. You could have the "dream" homeschool room and still have an unproductive year of school! All that matters is that you are dedicated to teaching your babies and the rest will fall into place.