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You don't need a lot have a lot of space or spend a large sum of money to get your homeschool up and running and to keep it organized. In this post, I wanted to briefly explain how I easily organize our school, and show you that it doesn't have to be stressful or complicated, but just fun!
I'm hoping that this is the first in a short series of posts about homeschooling and our curriculum. Each time I write, I'd love to share with you the books, videos, online resources, games and activities that have worked the best to make each of our subjects fun and engaging. I absolutely adore curriculum and the hunt to find materials that bring learning to life! I spend many an evening scouring online reviews, homeschool groups, homeschool blogs and listening to homeschool related podcasts for their top picks in educational materials for all of our different types of learners.
Oh! And by the way, you don't have to be a homeschooling family to learn a few good nuggets of info from this series. Any parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or person with children in their lives, will find many an interesting enrichment book or quality, educational gift here.
First things, first. I was what they call an "unexpected homeschooler." That means that I didn't expect to be a homeschooling parent. I am also a "suddenly unexpected homeschooler" because I was surprisingly and suddenly thrown into the homeschooling world during the second week of school in September of this year. The only reason that I bring all of this up, is to show you that anybody can pull together and organize their learning environment and all of the necessary accouterments with minimal notice. It's doable and doesn't have to be stressful.
Also, our home is not a big one. We don't have one of those nice, extra "homeschool" rooms or a finished basement or a dining room table to take over. What we do have though, is a solid, sturdy, wooden table with a bench in our kitchen, and that has become a perfect place to learn! You can make do with any amount of space, truly. Sometimes we sit and do school work on our couch in the little family room. I've had a similar Wooden Lapdesk to this one for years. (Mine has a bean bag pillow on the bottom.) When we learn on the couch, Noah uses the lap desk to do his work on. It's nice.
Oh, and did I mention that I store everything in the tiniest closet you could think of? But guess what? It works really well and didn't take much to get organized!
I consider us "Eclectic Homeschoolers," that is, I don't follow one exclusive boxed curriculum or homeschooling style. I pull from several curricula, both in books, online programs and through hands-on learning that best suit Noah's needs and learning style. As they say: "Eclectic homeschoolers pull a little from here, a little from there." If you want to hear more about Eclectic Homeschooling, I really like THIS article. What this means is that we have many different types of educational materials to organize and store. Don't worry though, it's still easy and you can find so many homeschooling resources for FREE! Look at these wonderful Pinterest boards for hundreds of free resources. So, Noah and I have reference books and classic novels and textbooks and workbooks and worksheets and educational card games and board games and manipulative's and hands-on experiment kits and puzzles and pens and paper and bookmark after bookmark of online learning sites and programs all to organize! (Not to mention about ten online and local homeschool groups that are always hosting activities and a big handful of homeschool podcasts that I follow and lots of blogs that I read. I will leave all of this digital homeschool organizing for another post though.)
So, beyond a table to work on, here are my top two general organizing tools......
1.) A good lesson planner. I just love my spiral-bound Lesson Planner . I purchased it on Amazon for just $8.99. They have so many different planners to chose from, it's unbelievable! The reason I went with this one is because in addition to the standard student roster, schedule section, seating chart, year-at-a-glance etc...etc...that most planners contain, this also has a weekly schedule spread across two pages with very generous space to write. It's my life-saver! Each weekend I sit down and plan or revise our week to come. There are eight columns for up to eight subjects, a large space for notes and an inspiration quote. There's so much space in fact, that in my planner, I record both our lesson plan for each subject each day, and I also then write notes on what we accomplished and what we still need to work on in each subject as the day progresses. My lesson planner has been one of my best and most used purchases.
2.) A supply caddy. Has anyone seen my post from 2013 where I made this supply caddy for just $3 !? Yep, all you need is something like this shower type caddy. They often go on sale in the fall after kids go off to college. They come in handy with communal bathrooms in the dorms I hear. At any rate, I filled mine with a couple of ball jars that I had to house pencils and pens and paper clips. There's space for stick-it notes which I use as school day bookmarks and to make reminders for my lesson plans. I also have scissors, tape, glue, a calculator and protractor and some stickers. Noah's favorite thing is the small collection of "fidgets" that I placed in his caddy. You'd be surprised how much more some children can concentrate when they have something to fidget with and keep their hands busy.
Now I'd like to show you how I organize and store our materials. Remember that little closet that I told you about? Well, here it is. This is the closet in our teeny, tiny front room. It has a bar for hanging coats on and one shelf at the top. I took a day to declutter this space, recycling old, shopping and gift bags that I've never re-used and rolls of wrapping paper with two inches left on the. There was a lot of purging and packing and reshuffling. Not only was it worth it, but it felt great! Jon and I investigated building more wooden shelves in this closet. Then we looked into an adjustable shelf system. I just didn't feel great drilling into the walls for all of this. After that I researched metal storage racks, drawer units on wheels and rolling book carts. Most were too wide or not tall enough or very expensive. I almost settled on a wire, modular drawer unit from Ikea. It was stackable as high as you wanted.
Instead though, while walking through Target and stumbling upon their storage sale, we ended up coming home with two sets of very similar to these, ClearView 3 Storage Drawer Organizers by Sterilite. I don't see our exact version on Target.com, but they might have them in-store still. The drawers work perfectly, although I think I may need a little more storage space soon already! I can simply add more drawers as we go. Each drawer is a separate subject, and soon I'll label them like THIS ! Pretty cute! You can even purchase and download her labels.
Beyond that, I have extra books, mostly reference and puzzle books and some novels and enrichment materials lined up on either side of the drawers. While the drawers have enough space to store some of our educational games, I can always use the top shelf of the closet (not seen here) to hold those boxed items. I took our BEAUTIFUL Janod Magnetic United States Map and hung it over a few hangers, hanging from the closet bar. Something about the rainbow-ness of this puzzle. It almost looks like a water color, but it's a bit more vibrant. It makes me happy every time I see it. :)
For Christmas, Jon and I received some money from my parents as a gift. We decided to spend some of it on a new printer. We've had our old dinosaur of printer for about ten years. It was huge so we could only store it in the basement and it wasn't compatible with my computer. This CANON MG7520 Wireless Color Cloud Printer was a HUGE DEAL, and it's STILL ON SALE! $65 for a quality, general purpose ink-jet printer, copier and scanner in one. I know it's not super fancy, but it has done a great job printing off all of the workbooks and worksheets that we've been using. The wireless feature is really nice too. I can be in our kitchen teaching, realize that Noah needs more practice in a certain topic that day or that I need to find a specialized worksheet, and all I need to do is find one and send it to our printer in the front room! It's been great.
Finally, as dorky as this may sound, I have been swooning over my new Smead Cascading Wall Organizer, gifted to me by my Mom. There are six different folders, each with its own color and subject label. This is where I often store our worksheets for the week to come. It started as a way to foster a bit of independence and accountability in Noah. I asked him to be responsible for checking his folders for work each day. My only complaint is as you can see, the little sticky labels don't stick so well. That's easy to fix with some tape or glue or other standard labels. This has been a great help to my organizing.
(Here's my little closet again just because I LOVE MY CLOSET!)
Ok, and that's enough about organizing today! I'll leave you with one, small craft. After New Years we quickly put away our holiday decorations. I didn't want to get behind on clean-up this year. Over the holiday break, I took advantage of some of the time off to get a head start on my front window decorations for January. The lack of snow really had me crossing my fingers and hoping that we'd soon get some, which we did! I decided on a cute snowman and mittens theme and got to work. Here's how it turned out.
I hope it brings a little smile to people who pass by. Not long after, as I've mentioned, we got the snow! With each new inch, I shovel more onto Noah's snow mountain. He's happy and so am I. :)
Until next time, have fun organizing!!!