Sunday, April 01, 2012

Toys for Home School Moms...(did I say toys? I meant tools!)

I have always been an office / art / school supply junkie. When I was a kid I hoarded amazing pens and pencils. I began doing calligraphy and keeping a journal at the age of 11. I was always in search of the perfect fountain pen, automatic pencil, or notebook. When I was older and trying to make my calligraphy into art pieces, art supply stores nearly bankrupted me. When I was a teacher, I was just..well...happy. Pens, books, copiers, folders, and all that stuff is just fine with me. Don't get me wrong--I actually do really enjoy the act of teaching as well. I get a huge rush out of being in front of a classroom and having students have "light bulb" moments but this post is about the toys tools of the trade.

When I began homeschooling, the office / art / school supply obsession became a lifestyle. I have, for the past six years, been on a constant quest to find better and better ways of keeping us organized, on track, and efficient. The first home school toy tool that I bought and loved used (and still do) for all kinds of projects was my laminator. It is wonderful how clear and bright and indestructible things can become when they are slipped between two pieces of plastic and heated up.

My husband's vote for the coolest school supply item is the (can't find one when you need one) highlighter. As he says, "It's not just a pen--It's a mark you can see through!" True. What would we do without highlighters? Molly likes them for more than just identifying the sound that she's learning...but then, she is her Daddy's girl.
Another essential home school friend tool is the humble three-hole punch. One must have one to remain sane. There is no way I would go about lining up and punching by hand all the holes I need to punch on any given day. It is definitely a friend to me...But his reign in my house may be threatened, because a new toy tool has made its way into my home. This would be the amazing, never to be matched comb binder. I have become Kinko's incarnate. (Remember the scene in Wayne's World when Wayne looks at the Fender Stratocaster and says, "It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine"? This is how I feel right now.) See, while I love the humble hole-punch tool, I do not love the even more humble three-ring binder. They take up far too much space, they do not hold pages securely, cats love to lie on them when they are open and rip out the pages, thereby requiring the pesky hole-reinforcer. Kids also love to escape from the table as soon as they have finished their worksheets and leave the loose pages everywhere for me to sort and file in the three-ring binders. They are necessary, I suppose, but I do not love them.

The comb-binder, by contrast, can host such a variety of options for notebooks, filing, and making reports that I can come up with any number of assignments for my kids in seconds, just so that I get to use this fancy gizmo. It looks like this:

(I do not think it rates as "humble")

And makes notebooks look like this:
Look how tidy and peaceful it looks lying beside my coffee cup. 

The one disadvantage to this is that it cannot easily be used as a binder in which you can continually insert and remove things, but if one wishes to make up packets of worksheets and assignment pages, or a grouping of maps, or a workbook that lies flat when it is being used, then this gizmo is for you. (I considered the Circa system by Levenger to circumvent this problem, but could not justify the price.) For other things, the pesky 3-ring binder can continue to be used, but when a quarter's worth of work is completed (say, for writing), it can be quickly bound and saved for posterity. One can take a collection of the students' best work for the year and bind together as a portfolio for the year, then toss the rest! It will serve me well for the summertime clutter-bust, when I clean out all the notebooks and files and save only what is worthwhile.

I have examined other TOG users' blogs to see how planning goes for them. Many of them do in fact make the notebooks up ahead of time, placing all of the necessary worksheets, maps and assignments into one bound workbook per quarter, and in spite of all my joking here, this is my motivation for borrowing my friends' comb binder (and consequently purchasing my own). I decided to start this final unit of Year 3 to see if it is a method that will work well for us in the future as we continue with TOG. I needed a more effective way to keep all of their weekly work in one place, as well as a way to see it all together at one time. I love having a way to quickly look back and review all that has been covered in a unit. If it works well, I will plan out the next two to four units this summer and get them ready for next school year. (Ah...planning...one of my other favorite pastimes, but that is a post for another day.)

1 comment:

  1. I love this post and can really identify with you. We find lots of uses for the laminator and the comb binder is actually next on my wishlist!

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