Monday, May 28, 2012

Large Family Tip--The Family Closet

The title says it's for large families, but really, if you have a kid(s) who can't seem to keep their dresser drawers tidy or a house that isn't conducive to gathering laundry, a family closet might be right for you.

I learned of the family closet shortly before Birdie was born because I was flipping out about having 4 small children to care for and was looking for ways to make daily living more efficient. The family closet is one of the things we have incorporated into our lives since Birdie came around, and it has worked out very nicely and cut down on my laundry duties as well as made it easier for my big kids to keep their clothing tidy and accessible. One of the benefits of the family closet is that everything is hanging, so you have less folding to do. Another is that everyone keeps their clothing in one place (and ideally in or near the laundry area) so that when you put your clothing away or gather dirty clothing, you only have to visit one location. I would have ours in the laundry room if I could, but our laundry room is ridiculously small. Maybe some day we'll remodel and make it bigger! Another benefit for larger families is that it eliminate the need for dressers in the bedroom. This is great for room sharing or tight spaces. It also frees up bedroom closet space for other storage items. And one of the benefits I have seen in our own lives is that it avoids the messy dresser drawers my kids tend to have.

Step one was to limit the amount of clothing my kids had out. My kids have grandparents on both sides that spoil, spoil, spoil them! So they have way too many clothes. I got some boxes, just basic moving boxes, but you could use something fancy if you like, and I labeled them by gender and by size. I wish I had a picture, but they are stored in Birdie's closet and she is sleeping right now! I limited them to about 5 to 10 shirts and shorts/pants and one jacket. I limited socks, undies and pajamas too. One way to get good use out of all the clothes they have is to rotate them monthly or as the seasons change. Here in Oklahoma, the weather changes from day to day, so I do have to make sure to keep at least a few of each season out just in case. I don't really limit the baby clothing because babies don't get into their clothing needlessly the way my big kids do, and because babies go through alot more outfits per day.

Step two was to gather my materials--a good sized closet (but you can use your mud room, laundry area or any other place that a shelf can be installed), a shelf--I purchased Closet Maid shelves at Target for around $12 dollars each, and hangers--both pants and shirt hangers. The only other thing you need is bins and laundry baskets. I wanted fancy cute bins, but I also wanted to keep the project cheap, so I used plastic bins that had previously been used for our Workbox System. You need a bin for each child's socks and a bin for each child's undies. And you need a laundry basket for each child, or if you have many children, pair them by age groups or genders, or however you like. This is just how I do it. I also have a shelf and dresser in the closet, but only because I had no where else to store it, so in it went. I chose a few pairs of jammies and each child has a jammie drawer. It's messy. But I can handle one messy jammie drawer per child. You could hang jammies too, but I didn't think it necessary since jammies don't really wrinkle in a messy drawer the way day clothing does. And since I didn't have enough pants hangers, the shelves have the baby's pants and a couple of the big kid's pants/shorts. If I had more hangers, I wouldn't use that shelf at all!

I've included some pics so you can get an idea of what it is like. Maybe the family closet is something that will work for your family!
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Last review for a while

For the past two years I've been on The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, which consists of a group of homeschooling parents who receive products and write reviews about them. I've received hundreds of products, some of which I liked, some I loved, some were so-so, and some I really didn't care for. And through it all, I've shared my thoughts with you! I hope I've helped some of my readers learn about new products that they may like for their homeschools. Since I started on the Crew, my family life has gotten busier and busier. My oldest was diagnosed with Autism. My middle child developed severe reflux, which caused frequent nighttime vomiting. We moved across the country and then purchased our first home. We became foster parents and are now in the process of adopting our drug-exposed foster daughter. And then we had our Little Birdie, who scared us to death with her ALTE (life threatening event) and who is now on an apnea monitor. And through all of this, I reviewed products. TOS may have been the one thing in my life that didn't change over the last two years.
Now though, it's about to. I present to you today, my very last review for the Crew ( least for this year). For my last review, we were sent a DVD and accompanying PDF file of lesson plans by a company called Dive Into Your Imagination. Our DVD is called What Makes a Fish, A Fish? and is presented in a documentary style, geared toward children in PreK or K, but certainly entertaining and educational for those students who are older. Set to playful music, information about what makes a fish a fish is presented to the viewer in simple, consise sentences and with pictures of real ocean fish to accompany the information. After the main portion of the video, children can continue watching to learn more about scuba diving and what it entails. The DVD itself is only about 30 minutes long, long enough to have a bit of worthwhile content, but not too long to lose the attention of a small child.
Anne Crawley, the founder of Dive Into Your Imagination never saw the ocean until she was in college. Growing up near the Pacific as I did, this is fairly unimaginable to me! But Anne began to have this passion to help children enjoy and discover the wonder of the ocean, and that's how the company began. Through her DVDs and corresponding lesson plans, Anne attempts to interest children in the ocean and its' creatures.

The DVD alone is educational, fun, and well made. I (and my kiddos) especially enjoyed the narrator's simple explanations and the video footage of unique fish and their habitats and survival skills. See some sample chapters here. Little Bean, my oldest, LOVES fish, so he was really into this product. What makes these DVDs stand out though is the instructor guides. that come along with them. Our guide is nearly 300 pages and includes what basically amounts to a unit study on fish which is integrated with the content of the DVD. The lesson plans are laid out in a step by step manner, and untilize different educational tools (graphic organizers, anticipatory sets) that remind me very much of my time in college studying education. Lessons cover a wide variety of subject areas, including Language Arts, Science, Geography, Math and Character Education. There is a lesson corresponding to each chapter on the DVD. The lessons are not some after thought, thrown together to make the product more educational; rather, it really shows how much time and effort was put into making these lessons educational, interactive and engaging for the students. From what I can gather from the website, the instructor guides are purchased separately from the DVD. Each DVD costs $19.95, and the print version of the instructor guide is $299. There is free shipping through out June using the following link:

Would I recomend this product? Sure I would! Is it essential to your core homeschooling curriculum? No, probably not. But if you like unit studies, and want something super organized and easy to implement that incorporates technology and includes a variety of content areas, and you want to learn about fish, then this product may be what you are looking for!

What Makes a Fish, A Fish? isn't the only DVD this company sells either. Crew members had the chance to review several other titles as well, including Who Lives in the Sea? and Dive Into Diversity. Click here to read what other reviewers thought. Visit the company website to learn more about these products.

I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review, and all opinions are mine alone.

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