Thursday, July 17, 2008

Organizing for Schooling

Some of my friends have been in a getting-rid-of-more-is-better mind set lately. Me, I tend to drift toward the use-what-you have camp. Making due with what you already own saves resources and time.

One important first step to schooling your children is organizing all of the stuff. Toys, books, games, puzzles, endless pencils, erasers and loads of loose lined paper. What do you do with it all?

My younger children especially look forward activity times. It's easy for me to pull out a box. Each child can sit at the table with a box and play with the items in it. When they are done they load it all back in the box, snap on the lid and it's ready to be put back where it belongs.

My older ones know their assignments for school a week ahead of time. They can go to the shelf and find their school books easily. They pull out a pencil from the pencil box and can get to work quickly. When they are finished with their school work they are able to pull out a game with the pieces and play it together.

Does this sound impossible to you? It's not. It just takes some planning and organization. If you spend a few days or even weeks now, this next year's schooling can be much, much easier, possibly even (should I even say it?) a breeze.

The first step is to get all of the toys and activities organized!

No adult, let alone child, wants to face an overflowing toy box with parts and pieces of every game you ever owned in it. It's overwhelming. Decide what you want to keep. Ask yourself what toys your children love, what toys do you love (or hate!). Donate the things you just don't want or need anymore. The rest of it can be put in to containers that you will label. As you see in the picture above, I use clear, plastic containers. For years I used shoe boxes and cardboard boxes. They both work. I've printed off labels from the computer and used clear contact paper to attach them to the boxes. The contact paper comes off easily if you need to rearrange. Simple. You can even add pictures to your labels. Order a Lakeshore catalog, it's free and has beautiful color photos of many items that you many have. One key here - you don't let your children play with all of this stuff alone. It's for school time. These are used one at a time and then put back one at a time. You're there so you know it's all getting put back cleaned up.

Once those toys are more orderly, take a look at the game closet. Need a little clean sweep action there too? For me, games and headaches used to synonymous. Until I found this little system, that is. One day, tootling around Fred Meyer in the automotive department I laid my eyes on the most beautiful answer. I'm pretty sure it was designed to hold nuts and bolts but it spoke to me and that's not what it was saying. All those little drawers would be perfect to hold game pieces. I took it home, dumped out all the games and one by one, using a Sharpie marker, labeled each one of those drawers with the name of each game. In went the multitude of little markers, spinners and dice. I took each game board, labeled it with the name of the game and stood them up long ways in a basket. Ta-da! No more mess.

Now on to all of those school supplies. I've used drawer organizers for some of the small things, like paper clips, sticky notes, erasers, pens, etc. For things that I needed more room for, I bought some containers at Goodwill. You know the little ice containers (not trays) that are in the fridge to catch the ice made by the automatic ice maker? I guess a lot of people get rid of them because I find them all the time. I have one for markers, pencils, tape, staplers, on and on. Again, I just printed off labels using regular printer paper, cut them out and using clear contact paper, stuck them on. Beautiful.

Down to the nitty gritty, the actual school work. I used to try to use a teacher's planning book. That did not work for me. I got a great tip from a long time homeschooling mom. She would type out each weeks work for her children. So Monday through Friday, each subject would be listed with what they were to complete. They could work at their own pace, checking off items as they were completed. At the end of the week mom filed the sheet so she had a record of what they did. No more keeping all of those papers. Yahoo! I just made a form in Word and print it off each week. I hand write the assignments in. They know what is expected.

Each child keeps their school books on the shelf in a magazine organizer. I've also labeled each one with their name. A friend of mine uses old laundry detergent boxes that she covers with patterned contact paper. She cuts the box with an exacto knife so that the front and top are open. She says that are sturdy and last for years. Each child has a specific place to put their books and papers and can find them again easily when needed.

Ah, don't you feel better already? Having systems in place for save so much time and energy. Consider putting forth a little effort now and you will be so glad you did!

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