Welcome to week two of The Homeschool Hazard series! Throughout this five part series I’ll share the homeschool hazards I’ve experienced and offer solutions to combat them. My hope is that you can learn from my mistakes and not have to wage a battle yourself. This week’s topic is disorganization.
Homeschooling is a large, multi-facted undertaking and because of such, it is important that we approach this task in an organized manner. If we’re not organized our homeschool can quickly become chaotic and unproductive.
Over the past few years, our family has implemented a few organizational strategies that work. However, in order for them to work well, we must employ them regularly. Here is what works for our family.
Provide each child with a schooling bin. I love, love, LOVE The Desk Apprentice sold at Staples. Sweet Pea, Sugar Plum, and I each have one. The interior is roomy and is perfect for storing textbooks and workbooks. Traditional hanging files also fit comfortably inside. I love The Desk Apprentice’s smaller compartments because they are perfect for holding smaller materials such as pencils, scissors, rulers, and glue sticks. It rotates completely, so we can access its contents easily. If you prefer something less costly or something with fewer bells and whistles, consider using a plastic hanging file box as a schooling bin. A storage bin allows you and your learners to keep materials neatly stored away and easily accessible.
Use child friendly storage: I spent the last weeks of summer rearranging and reorganizing our basement schooling space. Last year I found my one-on-one instruction time was constantly being interrupted because I had to stop in order to retrieve something from a high shelf or dig through a deep bin to recover something for another child. I finally purchased several 3 foot tall rolling bins at Walmart and transferred all materials over to those bins. Now the girlies can get whatever they need (math manipulatives, flash cards, games, etc) without having to interrupt me. They’re also able to put things away without my help.
Use inexpensive storage. Before we began homeschooling, I spent time looking at online photos of homeschool spaces and fell in love with some of the pristine, HGTV styles spaces I saw. I was enamored with Container Store compartments and Ikea shelving but soon discovered we couldn’t afford the storage systems I dreamed about. I was left to find appropriate storage options that didn’t bust our budget. We were able to buy a few new pieces, but Craigslist, The Dollar Store, Good Will, and the local Habitat For Humanity store turned out to be great sources for additional bookcases and shelving. When it comes to storage for smaller items such as counting bears, fraction tiles, markers, and crayons, thinking outside the box can help. Consider using plastic dishpans, used icing containers, or empty butter tubs as storage for smaller items.
Keep things in the same place. It’s easy to find and return materials if everything has a designated space. When the girlies need glue sticks, they know exactly where to look. If Sugar Plum needs to use a dictionary, she knows where to find it. Even when things are put away neatly, if they’re stored in a haphazard fashion, it’s going to take teacher and student too much time to find what is needed. A place for everything and everything in its place is an old, but wise adage. If you heeds its words, keeping up with supplies will be much easier.
Clean up at the end of every day. None of us wants to add another item to the lengthy household cleaning list but I highly recommend making homeschool clean up part of your daily routine. This provides closure to your school day and helps ensure that the next day begins smoothly. It takes great discipline for me to do a daily homeschool cleanup (especially since we always seem to be in the middle of a project or activity), but I never regret doing so. We like coming into a neat clean organized workspace each morning.
Restock school supplies regularly. I take time to assess supply levels at least once a month because we use up things quickly. Don’t wait for things to run out before restocking. You’ll want to have what you need when you need it. Is your crayon stash dwindling? Are you down to your last few composition books? Restock sooner rather than later. A great way to maintain supplies is by taking advantage of back to school and holiday sales and buying those materials in bulk. This may keep you stocked for most of the school year. If you don’t restock regularly, you’ll waste precious time trying to find reasonable substitutes. Then, if a substitute can’t be found, a lesson or activity may have to be postponed or even canceled. Don’t sabotage your progress. Stock up now.
Separate school supplies from play supplies. I like to keep homeschool supplies and play supplies in two different places. The girlies know they should not use school supplies for their personal play. If Sugar Plum wants to create a card for her pen pal’s birthday, she knows she is to use the art supplies in her room and not the crayons, pencils, and markers in our school area. Should Sweet Pea want to use play modeling clay, she reaches for her own and not the modeling clay we use for school projects. This prevents school supplies from running out so quickly and helps keep things neat.
I hope these tips will be helpful in creating a more organized and better functioning homeschool. If you missed last week’s discussion on over scheduling, please look here.
© 2013, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.