There is a period of craziness in my house between summer vacation and the start of the school year when I try to get organized. My school room is in what is supposed to be the formal dining room. Unfortunately, it is right by the front door so anyone who comes to my door knows right away that we homeschool and do lots of creative things. I so long to have a house that looks like the ones in the magazines: clean and beautiful! I asked other homeschooling moms for advice on getting organized. Here are the unofficial top ten organizational tips of Classical Conversations moms:
10. Designate a shelf for each child and at least one for mom. That is where all books and notebooks should be when not in use.
9. Hang shower board on the wall to use as a whiteboard. You can buy shower board at a home improvement store for much less than you can buy a dry-erase board. Write on it with dry-erase markers and clean it with window cleaner. Some Classical Conversations dads finish these whiteboards with decorative woodwork—or even make a shelf above them to keep markers out of the hands of toddlers—but just screwing them into the wall works, too. (Note: some people call it thrifty hardboard wall panel.)
8. Use adhesive cork squares for a bulletin board. Trim it with borders from the school supply store. Then you can contain information, drawings, activity information and chore lists in that spot as the information hub.
7. Keep a basket or bucket on the school table with pencils, pens, and dry-erase markers so the children have everything they need right there.
6. Keep library books in a laundry basket in a designated reading spot so that library books don’t get lost. (Take the laundry basket right into the library with you…everybody there probably knows you homeschool anyway, so don’t worry about how you look.)
5. Use nice-looking bins or baskets to contain clutter: one bin for crayons and scissors, one bin for memory work items like timeline cards and flashcards, and one bin for math manipulatives, dice, cards, and flashcards.
4. Invest in some large, clear, organizing tubs with lids for science project materials and art materials and keep them in a closet or garage. Keep a plastic table cloth in each bin so the kids remember to use it. (You don’t have to wipe paint off every time you use it…just let it dry before putting it away.)
3. Use a large dry-erase calendar. You could make your own out of shower board or find one at a school supply store. Get the children involved in recording their activities on the calendar.
2. Buy a three-ring binder for each child for each subject. Put all copywork and artwork related to that subject into the binder.
1. Make a “To Do” list for each child, laminate it, and let him or her use it as a guide for getting all his or her school work done. Keep it general so the children can use it every day. For example, it might read: (1) Math Lesson, (2) Math Facts Practice, (3) Spelling, (4) Grammar, (5) Writing, (6) Reading, (7) Memory Work, and so on. Each child can check things off with a dry-erase marker as he or she goes.
I spent a week trying to get rid of the clutter in my house. When I came to my bulletin board, though, I couldn’t bear to part with a few things that looked messy but were just too important to put away. One was a large, detailed, colored drawing of the world done by my seven-year old because he wanted to do it…not because I told him to. There is also a large drawing of a ship he did at a GeoArt camp. I also couldn’t part with postcards sent to me by my older son from his backpacking trip, photos of the kids on vacation, and a progress report from a Classical Conversations Challenge tutor. These messy things remind me of how precious my children are and how much homeschooling means to me. I couldn’t cover them up or hide them.
A phrase came to mind as I looked at all these things draped on the bulletin board. In The Message Bible, Psalm 32:7 reads, “God is my island hideaway, keeps danger far from the shore, throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.” I think this clutter is really made up of garlands of hosannas that God has thrown around my neck and around my house. So, instead of getting the house spotless, I redefined things. I have a home “decorated with garlands of hosannas” and it is my heart that has been cleaned up. That is a good way to start the school year: messy house; clean heart. I can live with garlands of hosannas. Will my daughter and I ever learn to see her Type 1 Diabetes and insulin pump as garlands of hosannas? That’s a tough one…we’re working on it.