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Back to School Prep--- The Portable Classroom

alec vanderboom

I'm pregnant with a baby number six--YEAH!  The only downside is that the first trimester fatigue has hit and I'm expecting some horrible "all day" morning sickness to find me soon. For the past two pregnancies, I've skipped teaching school for the first trimester. (A totally smart strategy if you find yourself in a similar situation.) This year, however, I've got one independent reader and one kid who is really close to making a big leap in his reading skills. I hate to lose this momentum, so I'm trying to set up homeschooling this year so that there is some independent movement forward while Mom is exhausted on the living room couch for a few months.

I invented "The Portable Classroom." I took a $3.50 RE Storage Cube from Target as the base. I assigned each kid a different color: blue, red, purple, and green. Then I got the school supplies to match each color. For example, Hannah has a blue notebook, blue pencil case, blue scissors, and blue ruler. Theoretically, I should be able to tell which kid left out their scissors after class.

The real purpose of the classroom in a box system is that every kid has their workbooks, their library books, and their art supplies inside an individual box. They can check these boxes out from Mom in the morning. They can get their assignments from me and then work on them anywhere in the house. They can also work on the floor of my bedroom if they need to ask me detailed questions.

After they are done, they bring me their box and show off their work. In our house the rule is that no one gets to go on the computer to play Minecraft or Roblox before they finish their homework. Now the added rule is going to be they have to gather up all their stuff, turn in their box, and be ready for the next day.

I'm usually the "anti-workbook" girl, but I went ahead and bought thick workbooks for the kids in 1st Grade and 3rd Grade. I figure that no matter how sick I get, making some progress in writing and phonics each day will be good. I don't need brilliance in teaching this Fall, I need help with consistency.

I also invested in buying thick Pre-School workbooks and school supplies for my almost 3 year old. Tess wants to be counted as a "Big Kid". She pesters me all day for "More Homework Mommy." I've never really taught academic preschool before but this kid demands it. I love having a big family because whatever educational theory I have like "Kids don't need preschool" goes totally out the window by kid number four. This year I figure whatever extra prep work I do for the 3 year old is actually saving me time because she'll be happy and busy for most of the day.

I'm hopefully that this extra organization, which feels very foreign to me as an unschooler, just helps give us a little structure during the First Trimester. My goal for this baby is "Stay in a good mental space." I feel like even more important that watching what I eat, is being really careful about cultivating good mental health habits. My tradition is to do nothing in school and then crash around month 3 where I start to feel like "I'm a horrible teacher and I'm ruining my older kids education by adding a new sibling to their life."

Now I'm more realistic. Homeschooling is hard enough. I don't need to make it harder. I'm picking easy workable goals for each kid. For my 5th grader its going to be "reading, writing, and basketball." I feel like having a few manageable goals, and meeting them, is actually better for my self esteem while pregnant than to drift along without any goals or benchmarks.

The nice thing about pregnancy is that it slows me down and forces me to be more conscious of self-nurturing. I hopeful that these changes are subtle enough to have lots of staying power.