This week is third instalment in my month of homeschooling posts… and my goodness, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed writing about homeschooling. So far I have written about: Se7en Lessons I Learnt About Homeschooling, and Se7en Things Homeschool Moms Can Just Let Go Of. This week I am writing about something that can literally steal the joy from my school day and everybody knows that if the teacher is not having fun, then nobody is having fun.
There comes a time in your homeschool journey, that you actually stop panicking and realising that you are in it for the long haul (like there was ever any doubt we would be in it for the long haul), and that if you are not enjoying it… then it is time to find out why and fix it. Well it turns out that the biggest roadblock to my school day being a good one is clutter and chaos. I simply get edgy. Just stuff everywhere and things jammed on shelves, till they spill off shelves, just about destroys my sense of calm.
We are all busy moms, I can’t spend my weekends tidying up from a week of school, or our summer holidays having a massive re-sort every year. I need our school to just keep on rolling, day in and day out, year in and year out. I need everything to have a place, and everything to be in its place… I don’t want to have to spend hours (actually any time), on preparations… especially if the preparations are actually tidying up or looking for resources. When I sit down for school with my kids I would like to have the pile of books I am reading handy, I want to be able to say… run and fetch this and that… and as soon as we are done… return it to its rightful home.
Homeschoolers, by definition are hoarders… particularly if you have a bunch of kids following along one after the other, after the other. Bookshelves are not so much for storing books as for practising your Tetris skills, as you try and squeeze thousands of books into a space designed for hundreds of books. I cannot begin to mention piles of paper, potential craft project materials… and countless things that might one day spark an interest for your kids. School days can quickly become overwhelming, not by the work so much as by the amount of shuffling of stuff out of the way so that you can actually get on with your day.
I have somewhat streamlined our school… down, down, down and down… to the bare minimum and to things that we truly are using and no more. Enough is enough, so to speak. Much as would love to Marie Kondo our entire house and toss everything that doesn’t spark joy to the far corners of the world… I can’t actually achieve this. But I can inhale a lot of her method into our home and keep our school resources to a minimum… that way we quickly cull what no longer seems relevant.
Organising Your Homeschool:
- If you haven’t used it yet, then you are probably never ever going to use it:
- Store Like Things Together:
- Stop the Paperwork:
- To Keep or Not to Keep, That is the Question:
- Stop Buying School Stuff, Just Stop:
- Keep Like Things Together:
- What Do Your Kids Actually Do:
I have said this before and I will say it again: Just get rid of it. I know somethings cost big bucks and then they just can’t be loved. Consider them part of the profit/loss model… mistakes were made. Let it be a financial cost only, rather than a financial and emotional cost. Trust me… those flash cards that you have never ever opened up, that are just looking at you and making you feel guilty, that “fantastic educational game” that is still in the original packaging ten years later… your youngest child won’t want to play it anymore than your oldest child did. Send those unused items on their merry way on to a happier home. The felt story board that you spent hours creating… and have never ever used: Gift it on. The joy was in the making… now move it along.
All our school books are in one spot and mostly in reading order. If you are looking for the next book to read on your reading list, you walk to the shelf, look for the book you read last, slide the book you just finished back onto the shelf and then grab the next one. That’s it. Books sorted… yes they get in a muddle over time and yes about once every six months I put everything back where it belongs… that works for us, particularly while I have kids in six grades, all reading books on their own level.
Each of my school going kids have a crate for their current school readers and their journals… that’s it. Best thing we ever did in our homeschool was to not replace the ink in our printer… I do not have time to be looking for beautiful printables to print off the internet, my children do not want to fill them in, and I especially don’t want to be buying glue sticks so that they can stick the sheets into their notebooks. If it is worth remembering they will, if it is worth writing down then they pop it into their school journals.
A big question from year to year is what do you actually need to keep, what do you need to save for a while, and what can you toss all together… When I began homeschooling I saved everything. The first time I realised what we actually needed to keep was when my first student needed a high school transcript. It turns out that what colleges want to see is very specific. They don’t want to see any workbooks or worksheets ever (what a big surprise), they want a list of books they have read… and not a list of book reviews, they want to see what courses your children have done and their year end results for each subject, they don’t care if your kids filled in copious notebooks, or they made one page of notes for the entire year. I do keep our family school journals as a keepsake… it is fun to look back and see the funny stories they wrote when they were little, what books we read together and the pages they created from outings we have been on. But there is no reason ever to keep pages and pages of math practice to prove that they can do arithmetic.
At the stage, when I finally realised that I would never need to demonstrate my kids learning with the workbooks that they filled in, I threw out every workbook that had been filled in and vowed that I would never waste money on workbooks again. What was I thinking letting my kids fill in workbooks… remember I would need to buy each workbook eight times…insanity!!! That being said: we do use about three workbooks per child. For example, Singapore math and we have the full collection of workbooks, but I don’t buy workbooks… they write their answers in a notebook and we move on. The other workbook we use is Wordly Wise, they write their answers in a journal… and yes I do have some very reluctant writers… but somehow we get through it.
When everything is in one spot we can clearly see when we are running out of a particular resource or when we have too many of one and another. Stationary belongs in one place, all the pencil crayons and markers etc… I can clearly see that our school is in desperate need of some new pencil crayons and markers. Markers will be a treat sometime, but we use pencil crayons every single day… that’s urgent. Craft materials are stored together in another spot. I used to keep all the science kits together… but now I keep electronics in one place and magnets in another, and so on. My kids love science experiments, we don’t do them all the time… I still work on science weeks, when we catch up on experiments… but we are not close to outgrowing science weeks yet… so science will be kept in the science spot for a while yet.
Our games are in one spot, and at one stage I thought we should move our games along… so I did an experiment and made a list of the games we used over a period of a month. Turns out my kids are gamers and the board and card games stay for now. All of them. But puzzles, not so much – I know I have visions of us sitting around on wintry evenings listening to audio books while we work on a puzzle together. As this winter draws to a close, and every other winter before that… and we have yet to crack open a puzzle… it is time to say farewell to puzzles. We are just not puzzle people. Just like that an entire shelf of space opened up.
The thing is, our school materials are used a lot… some of them more intermittently than others. The less materials we have the easier it is to cope with them… so continuously asking if things are still working for us and passing things on as we wind along our on our homeschool journey is definitely the way to go. And for all that, there are times when in the midst of the chaos I literally have to just sit down in it, embrace the pile of books we are reading right then, and just forget about the chaos. It is only a season and I would rather be reading and spending time with my kids than tidying up.