Last week I gave a brief presentation to a group of friends who are homeschooling moms. In case you missed it, or are interested in that topic, here’s an overview of what I told them. (In case you are a visual learner, like me, here is my Handout)
I took three principles from my favorite organizing book, (The House That Cleans Itself, by Mindy Starns Clark) and applied them to organizing the homeschool cosmos. If you think about it, there’s a *lot* to organize when you homeschool. You’re basically running a school, so it’s all the complexities involved in that, minus payroll for the teachers.
My organizing principles were:
– Be a Detective
– Change the House to fit the behavior
– Set up stations
In preparing, I thought about what areas do we need to organize when we decide to homeschool, and picked 4 that stood out to me.
and my homeschool areas were:
– Time (year, daily/weekly schedule)
In case you haven’t read THTCI, I’ll flesh out those organizing principles just a bit. (And go get a copy of that book when you’re done here, it has some amazing ideas and is available super cheap on Amazon!)
– Be a detective: You are making observations about you house in order to come up with solutions for common problems. For example, she suggests taking a photo of every area and every mess that is a problem, and writing down a quick, knee-jerk reaction to *why* the mess is happening.
“Messy dining room table” = “We do school work there, and it doesn’t get cleaned up at the end of the day”.
– Change the House: Clark’s biggest contribution to the organizing world is this marvelously simple idea. Changing your behavior is hard, so try first to change the setup of your home or your system to fit your first instinct behavior.Example: Kids throw their backpacks on the floor when they get home from school, instead of hanging them in the closet. After applying the Detective principle, and deciding a reason or two why this might be happening, (closet is too far away from the door? Or too full of other stuff?) she suggests searching for a solution that will make it super easy to do the clean thing, such as having a large chest or basket right by the door for backpacks to go in.
Changing the house won’t always be an option, but if you look to it as the first option, it will go a long way towards making your organizing changes easier to implement.
– Stations. A Station is a collection of items that you use for a particular task, grouped together. Hopefully near where you will use them. I have a “Mail Station” that collects incoming mail, has all the supplies needed for outgoing bills or mail, and a recycle and trash bin, all together.
For homeschooling, this might look like keeping a supply of pens and pencils, sharpener, and other school supplies handy in the area where you are going to do school.
Now, let’s apply!
– Plan a time to plan.
Yes, that may sound strange and overkill to some, but set aside an afternoon or a weekend or whatever works for you to plan out your school year. Invite a friend to join you and keep you on task! Keep in mind your local requirements for number of school days and make sure you are meeting that.
The Parent Teacher store has these great teacher planning workbooks, or you can make your own plan on the computer.
– Be a Detective about your yearly schedule.
Make a school schedule that fits your family. Do you need Fridays off to do music lessons and errands ? Make it work. Are you going on a month-long vacation sometime during the typical school year? Plan around it, either as a break or incorporating school into the trip. Apply “Change the House” to your schedule to make it fit your life.
While I can’t offer any advice on specific curriculum, I can say, whatever you choose, make sure it fits your children. Be a Detective, Look at their learning style and your teaching style, and choose a method that fits.
This is probably where organizing principles will apply the most. School comes with a LOT of materials, and it can be a challenge to keep track of them.
Be a Detective, and Change the House – where do you plan to do most of your school work? What will work well for your kids, and your house? Some people are blessed to have room for a dedicated school room in their home, and some have to share space with other activities. Sometimes you might be doing school work on the go, if you have a lot of trips or errands planned. This is where Stations come in handy.
Stations – Set up collections of items you will need to complete school work, close to where you will be doing it. If your dining room table is your school area, find a separate but close by shelf or containers to store all the materials.
Detective – As you go through the year, keep an eye out for changes you might need to make if things aren’t going well. Are you using the dining room table, but it’s always still covered in school things at dinner time? Maybe a 10-minute tidying session during the afternoon would help.
Involve your kids in deciding where things should go. This will give them some ownership of your setup, and will help them want to keep it looking nice. They may have some ideas that will surprise you
As much as is appropriate, store things in a place that is accessible to your children. It will save you time if they can find and reach their materials independently.
Stations – have a station for school records. this could be a binder, (have a hole-punch right there too) computer files, (make sure they are backed up) or a file cabinet.
Another great application of stations I heard from an experienced homeschool mom was a “reward box”, filled with small treats for a child who did well on a test.
Remember to be flexible, and give yourself grace in the process. You don’t have to get it right the first time, and you can always try something different to see if it works better.
I purposefully kept this overview general, so you can try your hand at applying some organizing principles to your homeschool setup. I’d love to hear how it goes.