Sunday, February 20, 2011

Workbox System in Progress

Tuesday we resume homeschool after having a week off.  Daddy has been home from his truck driving job after being gone 7 weeks.  We decided when he took this job that the kids will homeschool while he is gone, but will have a break when he is home.  This gives us more time to just enjoy being together and having family time.
I ordered a book, "Sue Patrick's Workbox System: User's Guide" by Sue Patrick, a week ago.  Went ahead and ordered a few supplies also from her website.  She sells quite a bit of things that support the workbox system. 
The workbox system put in simplest terms is a way to organize your kids' school work and other tasks.  You have 12 workboxes (bins, shoe boxes, or other container) set up on shelves.  Some use the stacked drawer storage units for this.  In each workbox a single activity or lesson assignment is placed.  The child starts with the first workbox and completes the activity before going on to the next one.  This gives the child a sense of the activity having a definite beginning and end.  Sue Patrick started doing this for her own autistic son whom she was homeschooling.
For younger children or those with special needs, you can number the workboxes and have a set of "tokens" that are numbered also.  When the child completes workbox number 1, they place the token numbered 1 on a tally sheet.  This gives a visual of the work done.  It is similar to when you have a chores list and mark them off as you complete them.
Abigail loves using this system.  She actually gets upset if I have her do her homeschool assignments without them being organized in the workboxes.  She loves being able to open each box to find the activity inside.  For her it is exciting.  She enjoys keeping track of her progress with the tokens.  At the day, she gets a sticker to place on an incentive chart.  When that chart is full, I take her out on a special outing.  For her, this usually means going out for an ice cream.
Micah is being prepared for the workbox system.  His activities include skill building toys or other activities that cannot fit in the workboxes.  I will be taking pictures of each activity, then laminate each picture.  The pictures will be placed in his workboxes.  Any activity that fits in his workbox will have the activity's materials all ready for him in that workbox.  When the workbox is completed, it's number token will go on his tally chart.
I recently saw a YouTube video about shoebox activities that you can buy premade.  Each has all the materials needed, which are stored in that shoebox.  As I watched the video, I got many ideas of types of activities to do with Micah skill building.  Now, I just have to get a few made up.  Starting with about 6 activities will give Micah enough to give him a total of 12 workbox activities when added to the skill building toys that I already bought for him. 
Not all of the workboxes are academics.  Some are crafts or Phys Ed in nature.  Abigail is going to be starting to work on the Keepers in the Home program soon.  We plan to incorporate some of that into the workboxes.  The last workbox of the day is a favorite snack or activity that is like a reward for having completed all the tasks of the day.
I am so excited about using the workboxes.  They help me stay organized and it is teaching Abigail (and later on Micah) to be more independent.  Abigail is in control of her day.  She decides through her actions how much of the day is taken up by homeschooling. If she gets busy and stays on task, she is done by lunch time.  If she wool gathers too much, then she is doing homeschool til dinner time.  I love anything that helps my kids learn to develop self discipline and independence.  It is an important trait that will serve them well throughout their life. 
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Plans for the Homestead in 2011

I know that this will be a bit of a change to some who have been following my blog, but it is a needed one. I listen to the news on the radio and read it online. I am concerned about the changes taking place in our nation. The economic issues that we are all facing are daunting to think about. Lately, there has been much talk about the fact that prices on nearly all goods will be rising. Food costs, clothing, fuel, heating and other utilities will all be affected. If you are unprepared this rise in costs will really hurt. Knowing that these increases are coming, we are going to be making changes in our own home to make these times less stressful.

I have been using a laundromat over the winter to do laundry. I am not able to hand wash laundry for 6 people and still have the ability to take care of other tasks. I would have to do laundry daily just to keep up! Joe and I decided that we will be investing in a gas dryer set up to run on propane. An investment, but one that will save much in the long run. I could still wash Abbie, Micah's and my laundry by hand until we get a gas powered wringer washer. It will be used mostly in winter or on rainy days. Otherwise, I will still be using the clothesline.

I have been talking about getting solar power for our home. Well, I am going to set up a small system to "test out" before the house is ready. I found that solar panels are a lot less pricey if you get them from a farm supply. Properly hooked up to a marine or agricultural battery (they have longer life) I will be able to use it for the netbook and my cell phone. It is mainly for the purpose of seeing how to get it set up and how much will be needed. Eventually, we will have enough to power a few lights, a stereo, maybe a portable DVD player, and small appliances like a slow cooker. Not a huge amount of energy usage, but enough that I need to calculate how many panels and batteries we will need.

I am planting a large garden again this year. This time around, I am getting it set up with plenty of the weed barrier plastic so that I won't have to deal with weeds so much after a rainy season. If necessary, I will buy straw to place on top of the plastic to keep the plants from getting too hot. For this reason, I am buying seed as soon as I am able so I can start the seeds early. Our last frost happens in late April, so I generally start planting in early May.

In my garden plans, I am cutting back on the number of seed varieties. I am going instead on the idea of planting larger amounts of the basics that we use the most. I am going to have raised beds for salad greens and items like baby bok choy that I can later turn into cold frames next fall. I am focusing on 2 areas. I am planning to plant in the garden a larger amount of the foods that I typically can up for the pantry. This will stock me well for the rest of the year until the next garden season if all goes well. The second area of focus is the lettuce and other vegetables best eaten fresh. These will mostly end up planted in raised beds to allow me to cover to protect in the autumn. I saw online an idea that I remember from when I was a kid. Planting lettuce or other salad type vegetables in a row. When frost danger is approaching, you can make a dome from fencing to use as a form to place clear or white plastic tarp over. This acts as a mini cold frame that allows you to grow salad greens longer in the season.

In the home we are building, there will be a 10'x10' pantry next to the kitchen. I will have lots of room to add shelving both along the walls and free standing shelving in the center of the room. We are considering getting a propane freezer later on. The pantry, once fully stocked will allow us plenty of stores for winter and into the next gardening season. My goal is to have the pantry similar to what a typical Depression-era rural family would have. They grew nearly everything they ate. When gardening and putting by, they would store enough not only for winter but enough to last until canning season the following year. Often, we had 2 years' worth of canning in our pantry when I was growing up. We ate from one year's canning while in the middle of canning the current year's harvest. If a particular crop did better than usual, we may end up with enough to last 2-3 years.

This is a small part of what we have in the plans for this year. Here is a brief list of some of our homestead goals. We will do what we can this year, but most will be over the next 5 years.

* Build a new outhouse & an outdoor shower house (ok, this is a priority)

* Fence a large yard for the kids to play in.

* Build a chicken coop with a fenced yard for them on days when we won't be home in time to shut them in at night.

* Build a turkey pen (we will raise a few pullets to butcher in autumn)

* Secure the old sheep pen to make into a pig pen (this is not definite yet)

* Build permanent set of raised bed garden boxes near the new home

There is much to be done. As things progress, we will be tweaking and adjusting the plans. I would love to have a cow for milk, but that is not certain. I would be milking her by hand and I don't know if my hands could handle that. Any calves that she had would either provide meat or be sold. As the milk cow got older, we could keep her female offspring to raise as a new milk cow. The big issue is only the task of milking by hand twice a day.

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