Tuesday, June 13, 2017

8 Steps for a GREAT Sonlight Box Day!

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Box Day is nearly upon us, and I thought I'd share some tips on how we make things run smoothly.  (I'm not gonna lie.  I need SOMETHING to do other than obsessively refresh my tracking information!)

Not sure what Box Day is?  It's the day when your Sonlight boxes come, packed with all of the books and goodies you'll be using for your next homeschool year.  While it's kind of a Sonlight term, these tips will help no matter what curriculum you are using.  Around here, Box Day is really the day or even two days after the boxes come.   It's hard not to tear into those boxes as soon as they arrive, but it's really worth waiting a day or two in order to do things right.  I actually waited a week and a half to open them once because we had house guests when our books came!

1. Have a plan to keep your kiddos occupied.  Mine would love nothing more than to dive in and scamper off with their new books.  I love their enthusiasm, but I have a super-strict Do Not Touch policy until the books are all sorted and labeled.  Box Day is a great day for a Redbox and some pizza.

2. Consider enlisting a friend or a teenager to help.  One of my very best friends enjoys organizing and labeling and poring over books as much as I do.  She comes for box day each year - our kids have fun playing together and so do we.

3.  Have a plan for dinner.  Get something in the crockpot or plan to go out.

4. Have your supplies ready - a label maker with an extra roll of label tape, some fresh Sharpies, some paper-clip tabs, and a roll of Scotch tape.  Oh, and plenty of iced coffee.

5. Open your boxes until you find your packing list.  One of you pulls books out while the other marks them off.  I keep a catalog or a printed list of books for each grade level package handy, and have sheets of paper with the names of those packages on the table.  Each book gets marked off the packing list and placed on the appropriate spot on the table.

6. LABEL YOUR BOOKS!  This is the biggest tip I've got.  It helps soooo much!  We use the Sonlight labels that come with the books and put them on the spines.  I use my label maker to make labels that say H (history), RA (Read Aloud), R (Reader), S (Science), B (Bible) etc.  Those labels are printed long enough to go across the spine right above the Sonlight label.  (The catalog will be your best friend to help you figure out which category a book goes in.)  Once the labels are in place, a strip or two of Scotch tape on top of the labels will prevent wear/tear/peeling through the year.   This is something I've done for years - we've always used literature-rich curriculum and I quickly learned to use distinct colors of washi tape to label spines according to time period.

Having your labels in place like this makes it super easy to find a mis-shelved book.  Ours end up on bookshelves all over the house (despite having "homes' in our schoolroom") but the labels make the spines really stand out.  The subject labels make it easy to organize books by core and by subject in the schoolroom shelves which in turn makes it easy to find the next book you need.

I also use Sharpie markers to put student names on workbooks and other consumables.

Here are some of our labeled books:



7. Tackle the teacher's guides and student guides.  We use a year round schedule broken into 6 terms (read how and why here), so we divide our Sonlight instructional materials into 6 notebooks each.  The Sonlight binders are HUGE and there's no way I'd want to be schlepping those on and off a bookshelf each day.  Our smaller binders are easy to manage and it gives a great sense of accomplishment to see how quickly we are reaching the end of each one!  We use 1 inch binders that I bought in bulk from Sam's Club.  I let each child choose scrapbook paper to slip into the covers and spines of their 6 binders the first year that we did this, and the binders are still looking fantastic!  The spines are labeled with the Core and term going down the spine for easy identification.  (I know Sonlight doesn't use the term "Core" anymore, but I will always think of their packages as cores!)  For high schoolers, I suggest adding "teacher" or "student" unless you've chosen your own pretty scrapbook paper for your binders to identify them.

Once the binders are labeled, start filling them.  Any important information introductory information goes right in the front of the first term binder followed by the 1 tab, week 1 material, 2 tab, week 2 material, and so on.  I also add a planning sheet to the front of each week - more about that in another post.  Pro tip - don't open the shrink wrap on those instructor's guides unless you can fill the binders without interruption.  Trust me.  All it takes is a five minute distraction and a child who has stayed out from under foot all day WILL run by the table and WILL bump into that massive stack of paper and WILL knock it on the floor.  I'm speaking from bitter experience here.

I use paper clip tabs to mark the starting pages of things like science or reading notes within each week or binder.  I only do this for the first term binder and then we move the tabs to the next binder as we progress through the year.

Here's a photo of one student's Student Guides, tabs, and labeled binders along with my favorite label maker and some paper clip tabs:


8. Shelve the books and smile.  You are well on your way to being totally prepared for an awesome school year!

Bonus tip - I am not one of those moms who makes the Sonlight castles on Box Day.  It's honestly too overwhelming to me to add one more thing.  I collapse the boxes and put them in the basement to be pulled out on a rainy day when I need something fun.  I also send a bunch of them home with my friend for her kiddos to enjoy.  I do, however, pile all of those long bunches of packing paper into the corner of another room - the little guys love to burrow through it pretending to be hamsters or chipmunks.  This keeps them happy for hours!

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