Organization 101

Kayla Morgan, FUSE Coordinator


When I was asked to write a blog post on organization, I giggled. Me? Organized? Yet as crazy as life on the hamster wheel can seem, the reality is that I am a very organized person. Without organization being present in my life, that hamster wheel would turn into the exercise ball, rolling down a set of stairs, with a loose lid… and no one wants a hamster loose in their house!

So where to begin? There is no perfect recipe for living an organized life. We all have our own routines, and things that we have found to work for our families. Some prefer mapped out methods, whereas others are more about day-to-day survival. One thing we all more than likely have in common is the desire to come out of each day with our head above water and the majority of our checklist complete.

Let’s Go Home

Who doesn’t love being in the comfort of a freshly cleaned house where everything is in its place? We begin and end our days at home; therefore, it makes sense that starting our journey to organization begins there.

De-cluttering is a must. Although I am not a follower of The KonMari Method, I do love the idea of asking yourself, “Does it spark joy?”. Periodically cleaning out different areas of your home, while asking yourself this question along the way, can really help begin the process. Before you can truly organize your belongings you need to know what you have. The ability to locate everything at home, even if that means inside of stacked and labeled Tupperware boxes, will eliminate stress and frustration in those moments when you just need things to come together easily.

Once you have cleaned out, have a yard sale with a goal in mind to get something that your family is really wanting or needing. If you are not up for the “fun” of having a sale, head to the donation spot of your choice. The weight of all of your “non-joy bringing junk” will instantly be lifted off of your shoulders!

It’s easy for organization to fly out the window in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Here are some of my personal tips for everyday organization at home.

  • Eliminate “drop-zones” by creating a family command center. Give each family member an assigned area to place their belongings as soon as they arrive home each day. This is also a great place for chore charts or a family to-do list.
  • Keep a family calendar visible so that everyone can stay up to speed on what is coming up.
  • Map out the week each Sunday so that you have time to seek out help or rearrange plans if necessary.
  • Plan out your meals for the week, but be realistic. Everybody needs a pick-up dinner or fend for yourself night at least once a week.
  • Keep a running grocery list. Quick stops at the store add up fast, and take up time that most of us don’t have to spare.
  • Keep extras on hand. Buy quickly consumed school supplies when it goes on clearance, and keep it for replenishing as the year goes by. I also keep essentials like paper towels, toilet paper, detergent, extra toothbrushes, hairspray, eyeliner, and obviously… coffee… in stock.
  • Have a designated homework area that is free from distraction.
  • School stacks are perfect for students. I tell my students to pick a

    spot near a plug, where they can stack their school items before bed, plugging their technology in right on top. This makes mornings much easier.

  • Pack lunches and lay out clothes the night before. If you are like me, you’re spinning out of the driveway on two wheels each morning to make it to where you’re going on time.
  • Establish morning and evening routines. Realistically, we all function better when we know what to expect. Set your family up for success by putting these plans in place and sticking to them.
  • Straighten up before bed each night. Something is to be said about waking up to a neat house. Although it may be hard to muster up that five extra minutes of energy once everyone is in bed, you’ll be glad you did it the next morning.
  • It never fails that our brains catch their second wind once our heads hit the pillow. To avoid the anxiety of forgetting something the next day, try sending yourself emails, setting reminders in your phone, keeping a list in your notes app, or simply keeping a notepad by your bed.

    In the Midst of the Grind

    Outside of home, in the middle of your daily grind, what are things that you can do to try and stay on top of it all? This is a question with unlimited answers. It’s really all about trying different things and picking what works best for you. Realistically, what works in one phase of life, may not in the

next. What works for one family, may miserably fail for another. It’s okay to mix it up and to do it your way. Here are a few ideas you can try.

  • good old-fashioned daily to-do lists
  • use post-it notes to leave reminders where they can’t be missed
  • prioritize tasks and have a daily/weekly routine to meet goals
  • use a paper planner or a planner app
  • set reminders for important deadlines or appointments
  • use Google Docs (good for running grocery/to-do lists)
  • use family organization apps that can be shared on devices
  • follow organization blogs for new and fresh ideas
  • Pinterest boards for storing ideas/planning events
  • keep a neat and organized work space
  • keep a trash can/bag in your car and necessities in your console

    I hope that through reading this post you have gained at least one idea you feel could help you in your quest for organization. I’ll leave you with words from the insightful Benjamin Franklin, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

    Now, I’ve got to go get my life together!

What to Know as Your Child Leaves Kindergarten

By: Frances Traughber, Kindergarten Teacher


Children grow and change so much during their kindergarten year.  They have made new friends, worked with a partner, solved group problems, and shed a few tears (and probably some teeth too!).  They have learned many new words to expand their vocabularies.  They can add and subtract, count by ones, tens, and fives all the way to 100!  They’ve learned more than could possibly be listed here.  
What can you do to help your child retain all this knowledge and stay ready for first grade?  Here are a few suggestions for ways to keep your child’s mind engaged without playing school.
  • Send your child to a camp this summer.  We are offering many fun and educational camps that will provide your child with enriching activities plus social time with other children. 
  • Communicate with your child.  Language development has taken off this year and you can continue this growth by having conversations with your child.  When cooking dinner, working in the yard, or taking a day trip explain to your child what you are doing and why. 
  • Continue reading aloud.  Even though your child is beginning to read themselves, they still need to hear a fluent reader.  If they want to read, share by reading alternate pages or let them say the words they know.
  • Talk about whether the story is real, fiction, or fantasy.  Discuss characters and the sequence of events in the story.  Talk about ways the story could have ended differently.
  • Allow your child to be in the kitchen with you.  Measuring, stirring, watching how a mixture changes as things are added. Count the chocolate chips, marshmallows, etc.  being added to the mix. Cooking is fun, educational opportunity for your child. 
  • Educational apps and videos make learning fun.  Homer Reading App, Moose App, Draw and Tell, and Kids Academy are just a few.  We love Jack Hartmann videos for review.
These are just a few ways to enjoy the time you have with your child and retain and build on what they have learned in kindergarten. 

Going Back to School

By: Amy Burchett, Admissions Director & Christie Burger, Admissions


Whether you are new to your child’s school community or have been there for years, is it time for you to consider walking the halls again alongside your child? Research shows that increased parent participation at a child’s school directly effects student performance and emotional well – being.  So, grab your backpack and your sack lunch and let’s explore the importance of becoming, or continuing to be, an active member in your child’s school community.

Getting involved within your child’s school community can be much easier than you think.  From filling-in your name on a classroom sign-up sheet, to holding an office in your schools parent association, every effort makes a difference.  Here are a few ideas about how you can get involved:

1. Attend a home or away sporting event.

2. Visit your child for lunch or even volunteer to be a lunchroom monitor.

3. Become a member of your school’s parent association.

4. Offer your expertise for school events and fundraisers.

5. Become a club or team sponsor.

6. Volunteer to be a guest speaker or reader in a classroom.

Over time, you will begin to see and feel the benefit of going back to school. Chances are, your child will too. Not only will you have the opportunity to build new relationships with other parents and school staff, you will be showing your child the importance of school, community, and service. On average, students will spend 1,000 hours in school each year. How can you make just one of those hours better?

Fine Arts-Why they are important

By: Debbie Hollis, Fine Arts Chair


The study of the Arts as part of a well rounded education dates back to ancient Greece. Theatre, music, visual arts and dance were seen as important aspects of Greek society and still today we recognize the importance of these disciplines.  Children receive tremendous benefits from participating in art, theatre and music in school.  There is documented proof that academic scores are higher among students who study the arts. There is also a connection between studying the arts and improved social and emotional development.  We find even more evidence of how important integrating Fine Arts classes into the school day is to creating well rounded, well prepared learners and leaders.  

Why are  the Fine Arts are so important?

  1. All areas of Fine Arts develop problem-solving skills.
  2. Visual art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making, and inventiveness.
  3. Students who have early music training, will develop areas of the brain which help with language and reasoning.
  4. Visual arts teach learners about color, layout, perspective and balance; all skills that are necessary in presentations of academic work and beyond.
  5. Integrating the arts with other disciplines reaches students who might not otherwise be engaged in class.  
  6. Fine Arts experiences boost critical thinking skills. 
  7. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math or science fair, or win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.  
  8. Students who memorize music/lyrics/scripts have a better ability to memorize material for other subject areas.

So as you can see, it is important to have a well rounded Fine Arts program as part of your child’s education. Arts education helps students see what they look at, hear what they listen to and feel what they touch.  It allows students to develop their own creativity, it shapes abilities and character and helps students develop poise and confidence.  Engaging in the arts allows students to stretch their minds beyond the boundaries of printed text and when teachers foster their creativity, it gives students a zest for imagining and learning that will last a lifetime.  

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

By: Cindy Williams, Third Grade Teacher, Reading Specialist


We all remember some of our very first picture books that were read to us at an early age. One of my favorite books from my childhood is, Are You My Mother? By P. D. Eastman. Following the little bird on the journey to find his mother was captivating and the line drawings depicting the story demanded my attention.

Do we abandon the joy of reading picture books too early in our children’s lives? Could they help our children develop a love for reading?  Are picture books a beneficial tool for students in the middle and upper school grades to promote a deeper understanding of complex ideas?

There is research that suggests we are pushing some of our elementary students into chapter books before they are ready. Picture books have language that is often more sophisticated than some of the first chapter books that children read. Children can enhance their vocabulary, imagery,  and  increase their comprehension of the text by reading illustrated books. Those who read illustrated stories may be more motivated to develop stronger reading skills faster than when a child is only reading chapter books. Picture books are more interesting and exciting to children. The pictures add a better understanding of the action and a better sense of the plot. Even before children begin to read, the picture books allow them to decode the meaning of words as they listen to the story. Picture books appeal to children’s curiosity and sense of wonder, motivating them to read independently.

When students are encouraged to read text-only stories or chapter books prematurely, we may be limiting their joy of reading and slowing their growth as independent readers.

A ”text only” story cannot use the rich vocabulary choices that illustrated stories use due to the fact that some students are still developing their basic vocabulary.

Many middle, upper school, and even college instructors have recognized the importance of using picture books in their lessons. Reading a picture book does more than any other literary format for connecting people with one another.  If you have a difficult idea to express, a picture book is the perfect place to start. The Butterfly, by Patricia Polacco demonstrates the hardships endured during Word War II and Goin’Someplace Special, by Patricia C. McKissack gives a glimpse of bigotry in the 1950’s. Both are difficult topics to discuss, but are easily approached through these picture books.

The Caldecott Medal, awarded each year for outstanding children’s book illustrations, “defines the picture book audience as birth to age 14” (Fingerson & Killeen 32). Many topics tackled by picture book authors are more appropriate for middle school students and are created with the adolescent reader in mind. Their topics are sophisticated, inviting in-depth discussion. Issues that are important and very real to young adolescents—homelessness, crime, environmental problems (Beane 1993)—are easily explored through picture books. The mature content of these books, written specifically for middle school readers, lends itself to opportunities for thoughtful analysis and critical thinking.

It seems that  picture books are worth a thousand words and offer a positive reading experience for everyone.

Homework–Do we need it?

By: Patrick Miller, Intermediate Math Teacher


Why is Homework Important? What does my child gain from doing work outside the classroom?  These are questions parents often ask when it comes to assignments outside the classroom. Homework should be positive in the eyes of the children.  It should be short and to the point. The goal is to practice on the concept that was just taught in class and to be a review of previous concepts.  Also, if a student feels confident about the homework assignment, it will translate in the test scores on the particular concept.  If a student struggles on the concept, it gives the student a wonderful opportunity to reach out and ask for help.  Homework teaches children major life skills they will need for the rest of their life.  Three major life skills are time management, problem solving, and self-discipline.

 

The time management piece is one of the most difficult for children.  If a student learns about time management and how to prioritize all of their tasks, deadlines will be met on time.  Learning to complete assignments on time and prioritizing assignments based on length of assignment and due date will help them in the future. Time management has a real-world connection, such as, paying bills as an adult.

 

The problem-solving piece is a wonderful way for students to overcome challenges at an early age. Having students think through a problem to reach a solution is valuable and beneficial in the childhood development. Every challenge is not going to be a one-step process.  Challenges in life often require multi-step problem solving.  Also, another valuable life lesson in problem solving is every challenge is not going to be solved the same way.  For example, 2 x 1 = 2 and 4 x ½ = 2.  One person might have said that the correct way to solve the problem was 2 x1 while another person may have said 4 x ½.  If students get the correct answer and justify how they arrived at their answer that is most important.  If there was a minor mistake, a student can learn from their mistake if work is shown.

 

The self-discipline is another challenge that students face each day.  Do I want to go to the movie with my friends or stay at home and finish my homework?  We all know what is probably the most fun choice.  However, if we teach self-discipline at an early age it makes all the outside distractions easier to work though.  This will be very beneficial for students later on in high school and college.   Also, this self-discipline will equip everyone to being a life long learner.

 

Homework isn’t something teachers take lightly.  The goal isn’t to punish the students or to give busy work. Homework serves a purpose in your child’s education and one that will help them throughout their life.

Inquiry Based Learning

By: Carol King, FUSE Instructor


As the world that our children are growing up in is changing, the way they view and learn about it needs to change as well. Schools are tasked with continually adapting to best meet the needs of students. There are several modern ways to approach teaching and learning that help children become 21st century learners who collaborateand problem-solve, are digitally literate, and can think critically. One effective method used in many classrooms today is called Inquiry Based Learning.

What Is Inquiry Based Learning?

Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) is a way for students to learn through exploration and investigation. Students are presented with a question or problem,then are allowed the time and freedom to discuss with their peers, research information, and engage in hands-on activities. Students are required to base their discoveries on evidence and often delve into data to support their investigations. Communication of their findings is also an important part of the process. Whether by writing or presentation, students share what they’ve learned with their peers.

What Does It Look Like In The Classroom?

There are many ways to use IBL across all subject areas. In a science classroom, this might come in the form of creating a water filter out of recyclable materials or determining a correlation between genetics and certain diseases. Social Studies students may determine alternate ways that the American Revolution could have been handled or plan and design a functioning community. In reading class, students could explore characters in a novel, participate in in-depth character study discussion groups, determine how a character’s decision in a novel could have changed the outcome,  and then justify a character’s choices. These are just a few of the many applications of IBL in the classroom. By allowing students to investigate and collaborate, what they learn has depth and meaning.

The Benefits

There are several benefits to teaching students through inquiry based learning methods. Students are at the center of this process, therefore are often more engaged due to feeling ownership of their learning. This investigative approach challenges students’ thinking and places a priority on evidence, logic, and imagination. By sharing their outcome, students practice communicating using appropriate vocabulary and learning to justify their conclusions.

Why Is It Important?

Inquiry Based Learning is an engaging approach that keeps students excited and accountable for their academic experiences. This teaching style forces them to be creative thinkers and explorers who can support and justify their findings. It provides opportunities for students to gain 21st century skills and thought processes needed to be valuable members of our community and future workforce, as well as lifelong learners.

 

For more information about the Clarksville Academy FUSE program visit: https://clarksvilleacademy.com/academics/lower-school/fuse/

Shaping the Next Generation

By Joanne Askew, Lower School Science

What best describes the future member of the workforce? A person who is a problem-solver, a person experienced in persistent critical thinking.  The future needs members of society who can apply their education in real-life situations, who works well with others.  Someone who can communicate their ideas, knows how to explore others’ ideas, and collaborate to include both.  A person who innovatively,  and creatively, applies education in the real world.  

How best do we shape that person?  By providing an arena where subject-area knowledge can be transformed in a real setting.  Project-based learning and Challenge Based Learning formats have proven to do just that. One major study (Conley, 2005) provides us with a consistent perception that simple academic knowledge in core content areas is not enough.  The study  finds that people entering the workforce, along with employers, desire a more holistic approach to implementing the educational experience.  People are desperately seeking to be, and to employ, a person who is experienced in application of acquired knowledge. 

By by providing young people the format to explore ideas that revolve around real world issues, we expand their circle of knowledge. To expose them to situations, during their academic career, we provide them with a setting that enhances their use of the skills listed above.  Real world scenarios that enable them to work with community leaders and business people, explore options not in a text book, apply communication skills, work collaboratively on ideas, manage time, and all the while make a difference, are what prepare them for college, careers, and life.  

Being presented with a challenge, or developing one, enables young people to go through the steps in critical thinking: identify a problem, investigate information,  explore points of view, evaluate and if needed restructure, and apply/implement solutions. While implementing the steps, they are also experiencing self-expression. When possible, reporting data collected also provides them with the opportunity to communicate both findings and results to an audience. 

Aren’t we all interested in surrounding ourselves with young people, team members, and coworkers who have experienced these situations?  Communities, in fact the world, need leaders who work together to inspire, create, and cause change.  

References: Conley, D. T. (2005) College knowledge: What it really takes for students to succeed and what we an do to get them ready.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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