Thursday, August 6, 2015

Inside Our Form II Binder

I shared our Form I binder a couple weeks ago; today I'm going to share the Form II binder that I'm using for my Year 4 students this year.  (You can read more about our Year 4 plans here.)

As I mentioned, this binder is just a more robust version of the Form I binder they have used since first grade.  It's a place to store their current work as well as reference aids, ongoing projects, assignment instructions, and more.

Here's a little tour... (And I apologize in advance for the quality of these photos--it was super cloudy today, but I really wanted to get this post up, so this was the best I could do!)

Their weekly schedule sheet.  We actually started this last year, so it's not specific to Form II, but each year it gets a bit more detailed as they take on more of their work on their own.  (For example, my Year 1 student doesn't have her own checklist at all since we do everything together.)  This page charts their daily work, weekly assignments, naptime block schedule, and chores.  They keep it in the front pocket since they refer to it so often.  I'll go into more detail about what's on this little sheet when I write about this year's schedule.

Copywork.  My Year 4 students have now moved on to just cursive copywork this year.  I print all of our pages using Startwrite.  They have two kinds of copywork sheets: our dictation selection for the week, which I have them use for copywork first, and some miscellaneous sheets for them to use on the days following.  This term I am pulling our dictation from Bambi, which we are reading on a schedule (two chapters per week).  For their other copywork, I choose prayers and poetry.  They work on cursive for ten minutes three days a week.  On the fourth day, they spend that ten minutes working in their Prose and Poetry Copybook (more on that in a minute).

Dictation and grammar assignments.  We are sitting down for ten minutes daily to do dictation or grammar together.  Most of the time, it's a bit of both, since we're currently using our dictation selections to discuss grammatical topics (right now we're simply identifying subjects, verbs, and objects, since that's what we're doing in Latin too).  I've been printing out dictation pages with a space for copywork at the top and then two printed copies of the selection below that.  One they use for studying from, so they can mark it up as they choose.  The second we use for identifying parts of speech and whatever else comes up during our grammar chats.

Written Italian work.  Once a week they have a written Italian assignment that they are responsible for doing independently, and I pop it into their binder so they know where to find it.  Sometimes it is a poem to translate, sometimes it's a little writing assignment, sometimes it's a worksheet.

A cursive alphabet sheet.  This gets quite a bit of use during my oldest daughter's free time, much of which she spends writing little stories. :)

Maps for mapwork, map drills, and reference.  We have quite a bit of mapwork going on in this house!  They have the same binder maps that my Form I student does.  They also have blank maps for charting places mentioned from our readings, including a map of the Thirteen Colonies, a map of Europe, and a larger map of the United States.  These are kept casually and I encourage them to make entries as they come up in their reading.

They also have the maps they are using for our ongoing map drills.  Right now, Vincent is finishing up Europe and Gianna is working on Asia.  They color and write in a few countries every couple weeks and move on once they know them to include more.

And then they have some maps that they're keeping a bit more formally.  They started this watercolor map of California for our state history/geography reading this term, and I think that's going to be a lot of fun.  (I was inspired by Heather's lovely example.)  They began with a grid and transferred the image, then went over it in marker, and this week they're adding the watercolor.  They'll be adding more paint details as well as labeling the places we encounter while reading The Cruise of the Arctic Star and The First Californian this year.  They're doing the same thing but with colored pencils for the Mississippi River and Holling's Minn.

Binder timeline and century chart.  I opted to wait for my kids to start a Book of Centuries for a few reasons.  My kids are on the young side of the age range for such a Keeping task, so I don't have a real need to start quite yet.  I also thought a century chart would be more valuable this year, when we're focused almost exclusively on the 18th century.  And the history rotation starts over in Year 6, which I think might be a convenient time to begin the practice.  So this year, we're continuing their Form I binder timeline but adding in a simple century chart. (Laurie Bestvater's The Living Page talks about these, and Jeanne has a nice description too.)  I'll share when it's all filled in later in the year!

Memory work.  Each child has in her binder a copy of the selections we're working on: a hymn, a folk song, a poem, a passage from Shakespeare, and a passage from the Bible.  Once they learn the selections, I remove all but their poems, which they illustrate and then give to me to add to our family poetry folder.

Drawing drill sheets.  They alternate map drill with drawing drill, using the same sheets from Donna Young's site that we have used the last few years.  (No, we have not exhausted them all yet--there are so many posted!)  << Note: Donna Young's site is now subscription-only, and I do not subscribe, so we will eventually drop these from our schedule.

Math drill sheets.  I usually print sheets from for whatever mathematical topic I think they could use review in.  Last week it was long division, this week, multiplying decimals.  I love that these are simple, customizable, and free.  They work on these for five minutes a day.

Geometry.  For the next couple years, we'll be working through RightStart Level G, which is a hands-on, drawing-based geometry program.  I have them do one lesson together per week.  The worksheets for the term are here in their binders, and each week they just grab the next one.

Grammar worksheets.  I do have grammar worksheets for the weeks that we are super busy and they need to do grammar on their own instead of with me  I printed some simple identification sheets from KISS grammar, recommended by Ambleside Online, and I keep them here so I can assign as necessary.

Paper for written narrations.  Right now they're assigned one per week.  I collect them when they're finished.

Drawing assignments.  The kids have a weekly art lesson, and they keep their past and current work in the back of their binders in page protectors for now.  Eventually, I suppose I'll need to get them a portfolio of some sort!  (And Gianna's eye was completed with the help of her teacher. ;))

Reading log.  This is something Gianna requested, so I printed some blank pages for her to record her free reading.  She wants to keep notes of the books she has read like Mommy does. ;)

Miscellaneous.  Sometimes they choose little projects on their own based on school assignments, which they keep in their binders too.  For example, they wanted to make a listening map for Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 5" after I showed them one a couple weeks ago.

They don't keep everything in their binders--they also have a few notebooks for particular topics:

Foreign language notebook.  We have been doing Italian (fairly casually) for the past few years and this year we added our second foreign language: Latin!  We also have beefed up our Italian with a bit of written work.  So they're using a spiral notebook to keep their foreign language work in order.  They split the notebook into two sections, one for Italian and one for Latin.

Math notebook.  I prefer to have them do their math in a spiral notebook simply as a way to keep the loose papers at bay.  It gets tossed when finished.

Prose and Poetry copybook.  They started this last year as a precursor to a commonplace book, simply a notebook in which to transcribe selections of their choosing from their school readings.  They work on this in lieu of cursive once a week.  It is a treat to see the passages they pick--it is like a peek into their brains and souls.

Music copybook.  I got this idea from Laurie Bestvater's The Living Page, where she mentions the music notebooks that Miss Mason's students used to keep.  They would copy in favorite bits studied during music lessons and composer study.  I told my kids they could do the same with songs they were learning to play or the themes of compositions we are studying.  But this will be totally optional.  (I picked these up very inexpensively at Rainbow Resource.)

Nature journal.  I know I've shown their nature journals many times--they're here on the shelf alongside the binders and notebooks too.

(And that big black binder alongside houses our family Keeping: our Book of Firsts, our Life Lists, and the illustrated poems.  The little white book amid the nature journals is my kindergartener's.)

That may seem like a lot, but it's really not!  Compared to most learning methods, a Charlotte Mason education produces very little paper clutter, which I'm grateful for.  This is our way of keeping what little we do have fairly organized and contained--and giving my kids the responsibility for taking care of their assignments.

Next time, I'll be talking about our weekly schedule sheet!


  1. I have been waiting for this post! Your hard work is so encouraging to me! It really helps me to see how other people are setting up their students' years.

    1. Thanks, Jessie! I hope it helps! I love seeing how other people set things up too--it always gets me thinking and planning how to make it work better in our home. :)

  2. Can I please have a bit of your organizational skills!? Although I would just rebel against it. Ha! I'm more of an inbetweener. Some organization keeps me sane, too much and I feel stifled and rebel against my own organizational plans.

    My Y2 daughter keeps a binder with much of the same stuff you have in your Form 1 binder. It fits her personality. Plus she's a paper maker and it's organize it and contain it or become over run by it. She also enjoys looking back over it all.

    My Y4 prefers separate notebooks for things. So he has a Written Narration Composition Book, a Science Journal, a Nature Journal, a Math Notebook (which is graph paper), and a Dictation/Copywork Composition Book. Anything loose (and I try to have very little of this for him) goes on a clipboard and gets changed out weekly. (math drills, cursive, map drills, check list). He rarely makes "loose paper creations."

    It is always so interesting to see how each family organizes AO. I love that there is so much freedom in how to do it. My biggest goal organizational wise is to get the kids organized enough that it helps them to be independent, and also gives them areas to express their ideas in a way that fits each of their different personalities.

    Thank you for sharing, Celeste. I enjoy seeing how someone a couple of levels more organized than me does things. Gives me plenty to think on if we do have a bump I need to iron out. I always look at your organization posts and think, "how lovely, I bet their days just flow so peacefully from one thing to the next."

    You know, cause I'm sure no one in your house colors on themselves with markers when you're doing math with another child. Or turns on the hose and sprays it through the screen when you're trying to hear a narration. Or thinks it's funny to make the same silly noise over and over and over again till you have to stop what you should be doing and speak with that child so that you do not give in to the urge to duct tape their mouth. ;) Nope. I look at these posts of yours and see serenity and peace. Ahh.

    1. Oh no, I would know nothing about any of that crazy kid shenanigans stuff. Nothing at all. Hehe. Does the binder really make it look like our days flow peacefully? I was thinking it made it look like our house is a crazy mess of paperwork and I am trying to tame the beast! In reality, it's somewhere in between, I think. :) The loose paper creations are definitely in full force here, hence the binders. They actually also each have a folder for non-school projects, like drawings they're in the middle of, letters they are writing...years ago, I used to have that live in the binders too, but I quickly learned my lesson when they couldn't find their timelines amidst drawings of fancy ladies, sketches of battle formations, paper "laptops," half-written stories, and everything else they stuff in there.

      Brace yourself because I haven't even fit halfway on the organization posts--I'm writing my weekly checklist post right now and it's getting extremely unwieldy! LOL I may have to split it into a few posts to avoid scaring people off. :)

    2. What is it with "paper laptops"?!?! :)

      I can barely get my Y1 organized...I also imagine loads of serenity at your house, Celeste. Also, I think it may take us until high school for me to get my homeschool as productive and intelligent as yours. But since your 9yo's are more intelligent and well-read than a great deal of college freshmen (ahem...and myself), I've decided I'm okay with that. Just don't ever abandon me...I don't think I'd know what to do without your example of awesomeness.

    3. Thank you for your friendship and for your sweet comments, Sarah. <3 I have no intention of abandoning you--and you'd better not leave me without your example of selfless giving, creativity, and kindness! And yes, awesomeness too. ;)

  3. Thank you! So much good food for thought as I get down to nitty gritty planning this week. We've mostly used separate notebooks for things up until now because I have a love/hate relationship with binders, but now that my oldest is doing more written work I feel like we are shuffling a lot - assignment sheets in one folder, math drills in another, copywork/dictation in another, etc. So we'll see. :)

    1. I go back and forth on the same thing, Jen. I definitely think binders are suited to certain tasks and not to others, which is why we have ended up with a combination of both. For example, if my kids had to keep their math work in their binder, it would cause more trouble than it's worth. It's easier for them to grab their math book and notebook and not be flipping and opening and closing and all that. But the other types of work they use it for--the kind that are ongoing, or the kind that involves pages that would otherwise be loose and floating around the house--lend themselves to having it in one place. I also like to be able to say "binder work!" and the kids have it all there and ready to go: everything they need for copywork, math drill, mapwork, drawing drill, all in one place. I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with for this year!

    2. That's where I'm torn. I like that your kids know what is part of binder work. We've used composition books for copy work for several years and I like them but it's harder to have a guide ready ahead of time. I like the save ability though. But then there is a math notebook, science, copywork, Latin, and nature notebook to save every year or so (we've used them over several years but they do like a fresh notebook!)

      I too imagine calm peaceful flowing days at your house.... An organized bliss of pleasantness. :)

    3. "organized bliss of pleasantness" << Oooo, I like that! I have a feeling that may not be attainable until I have no children in the house, though! LOL

  4. YAY!
    Thanks so much for sharing, Celeste! I too have been looking forward to this post :-) Love the all inclusive ideas as well. I bet it helps to keep things organized. What size binders are you using for this? I especially like the idea of keeping the weekly schedule in this binder as well as the dictation being used in copywork and grammar. Do you think when the time comes, you will weave in the BOC aspect into this binder for the particular time period they are working on and then transfer it to their own BOC? Great ideas!

    1. We are using one-inch binders (and my Y1 student has a half-inch binder). Are you asking whether we will eventually keep our BoC in this binder too? I plan to have the BoC in a separate, nicely-bound book when we get around to that, so their binder will change accordingly at that point. :)

  5. Would you be able to post a link to the drawing drill sheets on Donna Young's site? I have just begun to explore her site and there is a lot of content there. I am afraid it will be a while before I come across those as I haven't found them yet.

    1. Sure, here they are:

      And she also has some fun shading drills too:

    2. Thank you very much!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! As I fully implement a CM education this year (part AO...part not) I have gone back and forth on just "how" to organize stuff for my 2 older kids. The copy work sheets. Where can one find those?

    1. Hi Tami! I printed out the copywork sheets using Startwrite:

  7. Wow Celeste...your post is very inspirational. I will have two Form II students this year and I'm in the process of putting binders together. Your post is extremely helpful!


  8. HI Celeste. Did you pay for the drawing exercises at Donna young and the Copywork pages at Startwrite. I am sure they both used to be free, but now both sites require a subscription.

    1. Hi Melanie,

      I did not pay for the drawing exercises at the Donna Young site nor would I--you could easily make your own. Someone mentioned shortly after I posted this that she had added a subscription fee to her site...I think they switched to subscription last year, and (thankfully) I printed them all out before that. I have tried to find a similar alternative to link to but haven't found one yet--in the meantime, you're right, I should remove the link to avoid confusion!

      As for Startwrite, yes, I did purchase that program. It comes on a CD. I use it for all of our copywork pages for kindergarten through 4th grade, so it's definitely worth the price for us. I love that I can use it for both cursive and print, whatever font I choose, lined or unlined, etc. And I can use it for as many children as I have! So that one I actually would recommend if you think you would use it in the same way.

      Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Celeste,

    This is a very helpful post as we start to organize our binders, thank you for sharing! Do you keep all the binder work inside the binder as the year progresses, or do you clear them out regularly? If so, what kind of storing method do you use?

    1. We clean out daily/weekly assignments at our weekly meeting time, when I check their work and go over any issues. I keep that in a large folder that I then cull and file at the end of each term. Ongoing projects (like timeline, maps, etc) stay in their binders all year, obviously. Hope that helps, Silvia! :)

  10. I am very inspired by reading about the history notebooks etc.. I wanted to start one with my daughter when she started year 5. We are already in year 5 and I hope it isn't to late. We are in Term 1.
    What size paper are you using for the Century chart you are using and what do you mean by a 2 page spread? Also what kind of notebook are you using for your History Notebook? Only curious because I wanted to know how you keep the century chart and maps etc. in it..

    I need to figure out what works for my family. I have 7 kiddos and 1 due in Jan. My oldest is 13 1/2 doing year 5 ( we started later in our homeschool journey. She completed year 4 but I wasn't good at adding maps etc.. I have a 12 year old who is going to start Y3 (probably a shorter version so he can go to 4). I have and 8 1/2 & 9 1/2 year old in Y1, and a almost 7 year old who will start Y1 in Jan. then I have a 5 1/2 year old (who has just decided to learn his letters), and a 2 year old. We have had lots of life events in the last 2 to 3 years that has really affected our journey. I want to do more of the maps etc.. the composer etc..
    I have been working on our Morning Basket planning so we can start it..

    I love the Binder work by the way.. I think I will do that..will make it easier than using folders etc.. I do use the spirals for their daily schedules.

    So sorry for going on and on.. I just want to make some changes and I feel overwhelmed. I am excited about the binder time line as well :)

    I also am curious on Shakespeare.. My older 2 should be ready for the Real deal, but my youngers are not. not sure how to break this up. as we have been using the Lamb's book all together. I do love the character chart you showed.. I never thought to not narrate etc.. I like the end of the story pick a scene and draw etc.. what do you have your older ones do for this?

    1. Hi Daphne! I'll try to hit your questions one by one...

      My kids drew and cut their own century charts out of large paper. There are free ones to download and print that fit on a regular 8.5 x 11 paper, but I really prefer 1-inch boxes for each year. So our century charts end up being 10 x 10. They fold in half and will be attached onto one of the pages in our history notebook when completed.

      For our history and science notebooks, we are using these blank staple-bound books:

      By two page spread, I mean that their maps stetch over two facing pages. So they have traced half the US onto the left side of the page and half on the facing right page, so the map is twice the size of a regular 8.5 x 11 page. Does that make sense? That gives them more room on the map for labeling/drawing/etc.

      For Shakespeare: I don't think you need to break them up for Shakespeare. What we have done is do one play per term, all together. The first two weeks we read the play in Lambs', all together, with a character chart and narrations as we go. The olders then listen with me to the Arkangel audio version of the original play for the next 5-6 weeks, roughly an act per week. The littles can listen in if they want but they don't have to. So we're all studying the same play but everyone is doing it at his or her own level.

      Let me know if that answers your questions! :)

    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my questions and to answer them. I really appreciate it.

      I would love to see inside a History Notebook as I am a visual person lol. I know that my daughter (13 1/2) would love to do this.

      I am having a hard time with maps :( but I think where we are at we can use the premade ones.

      On the binder time line did I understand correctly that you folded in threes and drew lines and copied it on card stock front and back.

      do you have any wisdom on keeping up with the books that my kids are reading? I have a year 5 and one starting y3 and I am doing y1 with my youngest.

      Thank you for sharing about the Arkangel audio version :) I thought that we HAD to read it! lol.. I found that I can get them from audiable and I have a membership YAY!


    3. I am also realizing that I am not a schedule by date person... I have been trying to schedule by weeks based on the calendar and it never works :(. Trying to figure out how to schedule breaks in though hmmm

    4. I will share some pictures from their history notebooks in a future post.

      Premade maps are just fine! Please don't take what we're doing as a mandate. My oldest two really enjoy drawing, so it made sense for us. I do think there is the side benefits of ownership over the maps and close observation while copying them. That said, mapping with premade maps is a very rich educational experience also and a great way to get started!

      Yes, for the timeline, I just measured to divide the paper in threes, drew lines with a marker, then copied on cardstock front and back.

      I have a weekly pre-reading session during which I read the chapters my kids have scheduled for the week and take notes. I would encourage you to do that with whatever readings you aren't going to be reading aloud to them. (So, for example, I don't pre-read by Y2 and Y1's readings because we do all of those together. I just skim before diving in.) BUT since you're starting newly on multiple years all at once, pre-reading everything really might not be feasible this year! Maybe pick a few books from each year to do that with and just stick to those? And remember -- any pre-reading you do now for your Y5 student you won't have to redo in a couple years when your second is in you'll eventually catch up with yourself and only be pre-reading for your oldest. :)

      Hope that helps!

  11. Hi Celeste,
    I noticed your Form II kids do 3 days of copy work and an additional day of Poetry & Prose. I also noticed they do three days of dictation. Can you explain how dictation differs from copy work if they have the model for both exercises? For some reason I thought dictation was more of a blind endeavor. Also, is your expectation that they will complete an entire page of the selected copy work and dictation passage per day, or do they work on a single page over the course of three days? If for copy work, your expectation is a page/day, is the copy work different each day? I hope my questions make sense. As always, thank you! Blessings this Triduum!

    1. Hi Rachel! Yes, dictation is blind. At this point, I was giving them a passage at the beginning of the week to use for copywork for three days. Each day, I would also sit down with them for a bit and we would study the dictation passage and use it for grammar discussion. At the end of the week, I would dictate and they would write. I hope that's clearer!

      I have actually changed how I do dictation now. About a year after I wrote this post, I decided to separate copywork, grammar, and dictation for my kids. It just made more sense to keep them as discrete subjects. So my kids still do copywork 4x a week, but now it's all in their Prose and Poetry books. They copy selections of their own choosing. For grammar, we moved to Winston Grammar, twice a week for about 10 minutes. We do dictation twice a week as well, and it takes about 20 minutes: we listen to the Iliad for a while, following along in our books, then we stop and I choose a passage from what we just listened to for them to study, then they close the books and I dictate right then. It has helped keep it fresher and I like it a lot better this way! But really either way is fine. :)

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