I am a great organizer. At least, I am in my head. My tornado-esque house and school zones would definitely lead you to believe otherwise!
I wanted to share 10 ideas that I have found really helped me when I’m on my game and things are running smoothly and easily around our place.
1. Backpacks/Bags. Some women collect shoes. Others collect purses. I collect backpacks. I have several and they each have their uses. One of the big tricks I’ve learned from trying to balance out all the extra stuff plus 5 kids is that assigning bags for each activity / event is a lifesaver.
- Every week, we head to a homeschool gym class and swimming lessons. For this, each kid had their own pack filled with their indoor gym shoes, a water bottle, and their bathing suit and towel. When we get home, we wash their suits and stick everything back in their bags for the next week. A small step, but it saves me the agony of tracking things down last minute. Their shoes stay in there always.
- The kids each have a labelled bag filled with their stuff for kids’ clubs once a week. It has their Bible and sheet work, their t-shirt for the program and anything else they need to tote around every week. By keeping everything in a bag on a hook just to grab on the way out – it saves me oodles of time and stress. And they know exactly where to pick them up and find their bags.
- I have one backpack with all our “outdoor” stuff. Bus passes, library cards, first aid kit, a Ziploc with a game of UNO, and sunscreen are all set all the time. I usually pre-pack a bunch of juice boxes and some simple snacks and then it’s just set to grab on the way out when we are going somewhere.
2. Kid Of The Day. I implemented this program a while back when my boys started arguing about who got to play first on the computer and it got out of hand. Now I use a day of the week plan – Kid 1 is first on Sundays and Thursdays, Kid 2 is first on Mondays and Fridays, Kid 3 is first on Tuesdays and Saturdays. This plan has seriously saved us much fighting and keeps things predictable. Plus, we’ve recently expanded it to add in that if they are kid of the day, they have to shower on that day and also help me with the dishes. This is going to take a little while to get running smoothly.
3. Room of the Day/Chore Chart. I am a horrible housekeeper. Best intentions never work. In order to successfully keep my house clean, I find the only solution is a housekeeping schedule. I like to assign myself a room a day and keep it that plan, because then I actually finish stuff. I’m a big fan of the housekeeping program on Just Mommies – and when I remember to use it and keep at it, my house looks terrific, I feel productive and my husband is happy. It’s a life-saver, and my life always feels calmer doing this.
Here’s a little run down:
- Monday – bedrooms
- Tuesday – bathrooms
- Wednesday- living room
- Thursday – kitchen
- Friday – office
- Saturday – front hall
- Sunday – basement
For the kids, I’ve created a chore chart system that works amazing (when they do them). I created a chore card for each room of my house and broke down what steps I expected done in order to consider that room complete. For example, a bedroom could be:
1. Pick everything up off the floor and put it where it belongs
2. Take sheets off the bed and put them in the laundry pile
3. Put new sheets on the bed
4. Dust the furniture
5. Vacuum the floor
When they’ve completed everything, they bring the card back to the board and flip it upside down. Every Monday morning the cards are shifted to the next person so they have new chores for the week. Simple. Defined. Helpful.
4. Lesson Plans. When I write down exactly what we are going to do in a day, we are 1000000 times more likely to accomplish it. I use daily lesson checklists for each kid to know exactly what is expected out of them for that day. They just do the lesson they are supposed to and mark it done. When they were younger, we used a set of picture cards instead of checklists. They just flipped over the image of whatever subject we did as we finished it. Same concept. Easy. Visual. SO helpful.
5. Label Things. Things feel SO much more organized when I have labels on them. (Why IS that?!) You don’t need to use a fancy label maker if you don’t have one (or your kid has pulled out all the labels……). Paper and/or tape works terrific too. On our school shelves, I’ve designated a shelf per kid, with labelled bins for their books and pencil boxes. Knowing where things go makes it more likely that they will go back in that spot again when done. I’ve labelled all the containers of art supplies and games, there are labels on the shelves that I store all the extra curriculum books, and even labels on the zippered DVD holding binders! It MAKES me feel like I’ve designated with intention spaces for things and that really helps.
6. Meal Planning. This is a weakness for me. I’m almost reknowned for the 5 o’clock stare in the fridge and pray plan. But I’ve been working on making my life much more organized by having a plan at least for the week, if not the month. The weeks in the past that I’ve used a meal plan, my life has been much calmer, my bank account much happier, and my family better fed. Knowing that I need to slap something the slow cooker at 9 am or get together at 4:30 so it’s ready to eat at 5:30 has made a HUGE difference in our days. If you can even make a meal plan for a week, try it out. It means you can spend more time with your family instead of more time in the kitchen. Plus, the kids can be involved because you don’t have to plan at 5 pm – you are cooking!
7. Use Bookmarks. There are thousands of amazing websites out there related to homeschooling that are so helpful and inspirational. I swear I have pages and pages of bookmarked sites. I recommend organizing your computer bookmarks into folders – by subject or topic. Then, when you need to remember where you put them, it’s easy to find. You can also use a visual bookmark site like pinterest for quick reference if you like to. It’s just a great way to find what you want without having to research them again.
8. Schedule “school” time. Maybe not for everyone, but at our place, we have a rule in place that the kids can’t turn on the computer for free time until after lunch, IF they’ve done their school work and chores for the day (unless they have school ON the computer.) They can choose when to work on their work, but it has to be done first. That means that we usually do our school plans in the morning. The faster it gets done, the more free time we have. The kids know that this is a routine and it makes accomplishing our daily plans much for likely.
9. Sort extra materials by subject/level. I have SO many extra workbooks/sheets/resources that we don’t necessarily use daily or even right now because they are the wrong grade or level for what we are working on. I have taken them all and sorted them by subject – putting them onto a set of labelled shelves. Time consuming? Yes, but it will make life much easier when we need them again! Plus, it means I’m able to take inventory of what we have, watch for extra things we could use and need, and, if there are duplicates – can sell or donate them!
10. Do an annual purge and clean. Every year, I take all the work we’ve done, find a box or binder to put it in, label, and put in storage for future reference. I go through the paperwork and keep the things that show important learning skills, or projects we’ve done, worksheets for language, etc. Sometimes I keep a math book. Sometimes I keep other things as well. The rest – lots of loose papers and miscellany just goes right into the
recycling bin. We don’t need to keep it, so out it goes. This year end clean up is also a good time to get rid of the things we don’t use or want. If there’s a program that didn’t work or didn’t fit our style, this is when we should consider putting it up for sale or donate it to someone who needs it. By doing this, the homeschool “stuff” doesn’t take over your life.
When I discovered that I wasn’t the only person in my homeschooling community to feel overwhelmed by all the STUFF they have, I put together a 20(ish) day, step-by-step challenge. It’s now available as an ebook that you can use to get your stuff stored, purged, and organized.
Hopefully some of these tips help your homeschool be organized and your life feeling more at peace!