We have managed to land right in between two schools of thought when it comes to homeschool – structured and relaxed. In an effort to maintain a fun and creative atmosphere (but still introduce concepts like calendar/weather/etc) I created binders for the kiddos we like to call “Today Books”.
There are tons of variations of these books available online – many sites offer free downloads (some of our pages are from http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com, some are from http://www.homeschoolcreations.com) and others just demonstrate ways to do this. We pieced our today books together from a few sources and invented other pages on our own.
I should also say that we do NOT do them daily – twice or thrice a week is sufficient (and keeps it fresh and interesting). We also change the order and content of the book daily – sometimes adding in word searches, number mazes, spelling puzzles, creative drawing pages, math games, etc, just to keep the kids guessing what’s going to be on the next page.
The only rule is that they have to stop when they get to the stop sign page so they don’t ruin the surprises I have hidden at the back of the binder!
Here’s a look at what was inside our today books on December 19th, as an example. These pages are the “bare bones” of the books, and are included most every time we do these.
They each designed their own cover a few months ago and seem content to keep the same artwork. It makes it easy when I ask them to grab the books and get started on their own (or when they get impatient while I’m finishing up dishes!)
We keep our Today Book supplies in a tote (our “Egypt Bag”) so it’s easy to cart them around if we feel like taking them with us on a hike or to the backyard. The supplies are: A foam clock, A calendar for me to model, A supply case with nice sharp crayons and colored pencils reserved for today books only, and a package of dry erase markers for the laminated pages.
The first page (above) is usually the “Today I Am…” page and it’s just to get them going. We drew a blank head and shoulders and laminated it so they can draw whatever they’d like. Sometimes they draw professions, sometimes they draw emotions, sometimes it’s a color that captures their emotion. Often, Daniel is a ninja. Or an alien.
The next page on this particular day was their weekly memory verse. I create silly little songs to go along with each verse we learn (amazing how music helps us commit things to memory) and the kids just sing it to me once (or with me) and they get a sticker to decorate their page. We usually swap out verses weekly, and once they have learned it, I take art pieces from the today book page to add to our collective verse book.
This page is a “thank you” page where we draw/write something we’re thankful to God for. The verse at the bottom is their first memory verse of the year (“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever!” Psalm 136:1) and they either come up with their thank you topic on their own or I narrow it down for them (“Today, let’s thank God for someone in our family who lives in another state…”) In the photo above, Violet is thanking God for her really big hair. Pretty sure she was rockin’ free hair the week before.
Both kids have a calendar page for the current month (even though Violet mostly just plays around on this page still). We write the current date, fill in the previous ones and cross them off, talk about holidays/special dates that month and fill in the stars below for each day that passes.
When it comes to time and weather, the kids have different pages for their levels. For Violet, I help her draw hands on the clock and the mercury level on the thermometer once Daniel reports it to us. She likes to color clothes on the little dude, and while it’s supposed to relate to the weather, it usually doesn’t.
Daniel has a separate page for time (that I forgot to photograph!) with a place to draw hands on an analog clock, write in the digits of a digital clock and answer a few questions (what time was it an hour ago?, etc).
His weather page is separate, and he loves running outside to check the thermometer. When it comes to drawing weather-appropriate clothing, he usually draws what a spy or a ninja would need to wear in the current temperature. Above, as you can see, the spy needed bunny slippers, ski poles and a whole slew of gadgets. Naturally.
Daniel has an extra page where he practices spelling/writing the day of the week, along with a few other calendar items. It’s not his favorite page, so I’ll leave it out at least half the time.
They each have a “letter of the week” coloring page where they can pretty much just do whatever they’d like. They usually pick one of the 4-5 drawings to color each time we do today books. As you can see above, Violet is mastering the technique of drawing rainbows with ALL the crayons at once. She’s actually getting pretty good.
Violet has an additional page that I managed to not photograph (which is a bummer – it is really cute!) with a colorful alphabet. It’s laminated, and we typically play a quick round of “Mommy, try to trick me!” where I call out letters and she finds them. We usually sing through them a time or two as well.
They each have a USA laminated map where we either identify a few states (or as many as they can) or just draw fun stuff across the country and off the coastlines.
When they get to their stop signs, they aren’t allowed to go further. 1) I often hide sheets for the next few rounds here so I don’t lose them. 2) Being told you cannot go past this page just builds excitement. I swear, you would think I was stashing candy back there for as much as they WANT to see what’s behind it.
The last thing we do for the day is change the date on this little guy. The kids take turns, and it takes approximately five seconds, but it’s a fun little tradition we have developed.
And there you have our Today Books! I managed to forget to photograph a few pages (sorry… I must have been teaching someone something…) but you get the general idea. They have worked well for us so far and the kids have retained interest and excitement over the past few months of doing them!