Sunday, August 16, 2009

Homeschooling Organization - for "Home" and the "Schooling"

It is that time of year again~ time for planning, organizing, purging and re-evaluating... others are taking stock in how their home functions, is it chaotic all the time? clutter, stacks of books, mounds of papers ~ it seems overwhelming and endless.

Have you noticed lately everyone is in "planning mode" ? Everyone it seems is busily preparing lessons, looking for programs scurrying to figure out just what might be best to use this year.
Fall cleaning is right around the corner, try working on that while your trying to teach/work, run errands, keep up your households every day functions... it can just get exhausting. There are some helpful things I have learned along my way and I would like to share them with you~
Depending on who you speak to will depend on what level they are at when it comes to homemaking and taking care of the home. All families are different and so you can get a bunch of different perspectives when it comes to taking care of your home.
We have to do what works for us as individuals and as parents. Feelings of guilt and despair might mean that your not happy with how things are going or perhaps need to find a way to make some changes as to how you might be able to care and keep your home.
Here are some things I do to help myself in the area of homemaking and home organizing~
Organizing Information:
* My daily home journal has saved me so many times I can hardly believe it. This is a five subject binder I started about two years ago. I date the page in the right hand corner and any phone calls that come in, phone calls I make, people who stop by or things I do or am waiting for responses for I add to this page. I write down the peoples names, phone numbers etc.. so I can refer back to this whenever I need to. (this is handy for everything from homeschooling to daily family events.. it eleviates the "where did I put his number" or "what was the coaches name and address again" etc...
On the inside of the top cover I add all our necessary information as I call it:
medical/dental insurance information: group numbers, phone number, policy information.
doctors/dentist numbers along with fax numbers or emails
birthdays I need to remember
Anything I need for quick reference.
* I keep a place on the side of my refrigerator called "Family Center", (when the boys were much younger I labled this, now that they are older they "know" what/where it is so I have long since removed this). This is where we keep our calendar, important phone numbers of friends and family, emergency numbers and also information we use often. ( library hours, club numbers and hours, notes to others) I also will print off a comic or a homeschooling quote or something fun for the boys also. I tend to clip articles that they might find interesting too, for instance just this morning there was an article about a man who was coming to NH to "pan" for gold. You can just imagine the interest in that article !
* Baskets for each child. My boys when they were much younger had asthma along with other health concerns and I needed a place to store their medications in a safe convenient spot. I found out laundry room shelf right above our washer and dryer served as a perfect place. I went and purchased baskets with a handle in the middle, (similiar those used for storing cleaning products) labeled each basket with the child's name and I have everything I needed for them when it came to their medicines I even would store their refill prescriptions in this basket etc..
*House cleaning:
Storage for cleaning products: I also use this kind of a basket for our cleaners. I add to this basket everything I will need even paper towels and laytex gloves. The handle is handy so I can pick it up and go and clean from room to room. I have one cleaning basket for our upstairs and one of our downstairs which makes things much easier also.
I have tried several different things to help me keep things clean and tidy in my home. For us and for the ages my children are at I have found doing certain things on certain days works better and allows me to spend time doing other things I would rather do than house cleaning.
On certain days I will clean the bathrooms and assign chores like vacuuming and trashes etc.. to my boys.
Fridays is usually the day I end up dusting the whole house, giving the whole house a good vacuum, cleaning/sweeping our farmers porch, stripping beds and tidying up my studio.
Daily chores I will do is either before or right after dinner I will do a "sweep" through the house going through each room and picking things up or having the boys help me as I go.. often times not much needs to be done, but this just helps again keeping things tidy and making sure everything is in it's place for the next day.
I like baskets for keeping things like newspapers and magazines, in our den and living - we also put childrens books for learning like DK encyclopedias, science resource books, childrens almanacs on our coffee table in our den. The boys will often pick these books up and begin reading so this is really great to have available to them whenever they feel like picking up a book.
*Daily Chores or daily/routine errands: I tried chore charts and they just didnt work. With all good intentions they were supposed to but I think the boys would get overwhelmed at looking to see all that they had to do whether it be for the day or the week.
I decided I too, needed a place to set up a structure of how our chores looked for the week and even for me, to decide when/how I was going to do certain routine tasks that needed to be done.
I purchased a calendar wipe board. On it I add everyones chores not just the boys but mine.
On each day each child will have couple things they are responsible for, for me I add my groccery shopping day, my errands day, or wash days ( I dont do wash every day... that would make me crazy- my oldest son has his wash day set for every week) and I choose to do wash 3x per week which works very well). etc.. it works VERY well and we can all refer back to it.. - it seems to give the idea that we are more of a "team player" than just a list of to do's. :)
* This is also posted on our Family Center also.
Meal Planning/Grocceries:
I found that I was spending a whole bunch of time writing up my groccery list and many of the items I have to purchase every week. I also started using a few cookbooks to help me in my planning so I decided the best thing for me was to design a groccery list that adapted to my needs and to how I cook. I print out this excel spreadsheet every week and go through on Wednesdays and circle the items I want, only after, I have on the bottom written out our weekly menu of meals. You can find this list here.
I have actually found with a "kind of schedule" you can really get alot accomplished and juggle quite a few things at one time.
Other hints I have found help and I am sure you may have used or heard of are:

* USE your caller ID don't answer calls when your in the middle of something you dislike doing or when teaching. Too many distractions really can hinder what your trying to accomplish.
*IF you decide to take a call OR need to return calls and know it is just friendly chatter to a relative or friend, make use of the headphone pieces you can plug into your cordless phone, this helps free your hands up for folding clothes, or dusting and your able to get a few things done at the same time.
* Don't over book yourself for the week. Be sure when making plans to keep in mind your family rhythm and your daily routines so they don't effect your day and make things too topsy turvey if you can help it. (example if you have swim classes until Noon, making plans an hour later might be stretching things a bit for YOU and your children).
* Allow for some down time. Give yourself and your children "down time", where they can play quietly for a few hours, - yes a few hours, in their room - schedules and plans are nice but they can create children/families to become too dependent on always having to do something. Creating a balance between their academics, chores, and play can make for a much happier and well adjusted child.

I have actually been evaluating some of my own plans and ideas for this year. The Summer Subject Series seemed to help me get my thoughts in one place and now I am more able to prepare things that will work for my boys and their programs.
After outlining our programs for this year I decided I needed to find a way to take more advantage of all the great resources I have found over time for the boys. I use my bookmarks and have found Stumble Upon and Xerpi to be quite efficient and helpful. I still however, need more because where I am using much more of a kind of literature based learning, I needed somehow to design and write out thoughts ideas for projects, websites and resources I have found on particular subjects. I came up with a Subject Study Plan.
For weekly, monthly and yearly planning:
This year I am using a Teacher Planner. I am dividing up our year into two semesters. September to January is Semester One. February to June will be Semester Two. My reason for doing this is because the first semester I am planning on covering a certain amount of material ( World History) and then Semester Two I will be covering other material (American History).
I thought this would help me break things down just a bit further and as I look at things I can see this will help a bit more in planning for outings and field trips etc..
I am also going to be using something I started with over the summer. A student journal, I had read about this idea in one of Valerie Bendt Unit Studies books and found it works great and works just like my Home Journal I use for our household. You can see a sample of what I am talking about here.
I also use a Weekly Assignment Sheet/Log you can find here. That you can read and get ideas from. This I started using when we first started homeschooling and even though the subjects or programs change the sheet never does. It works so very well for us, I see no reason to change things~
Storing Notebooking Pages:
We use ALOT more notebooking in our homeschooling and since I now have taken to creating my own pages I needed some way to store these in a reasonable way. I need to be able to get to these quickly or have the boys get to them quickly and tried several different things but what I found to work best is to print out about 12-20 pages at a time. Put the pages into a paper protector and store them with subject dividers in a binder. As we need them we pull out our notebooking binder and pull how ever many pages we need and it keeps them nice, safe and tidy.
Here is some of my pages I have created so far and will be adding more as I move along~

Books shelves and "keeping our books: I really like books and my boys are starting to get to be the same way. We are building our home library very quickly with discount book stores, garage sales, book thrift stores, sites like Alibris, Book Closeout, Amazon and others.

Now the hard part is how to create some sort of order to all these books on our shelves. Here is what I decided works best for us.

I found an online book catalogue called Library Thing. I tag my books according to how I plan to use them and the easiest way for me to remember them. This is a great online tool for creating a catalog of your books at home.

For our shelves I separate out the shelves by subject. Math and Math Readers/Literature. History - separated by historical topic this includes biographies, fictional novels, and non fiction and literature for that one particular topic. Science- again my topic and I (like with history) include the biographies, fiction and non fiction all together so I am not to forget about a book I may have picked up along the way that pertains to that topic.

I do separate fiction ( organized by author ) and non-fiction books (organized by author) on one shelf and classical literature on the other. This is just my personal preference so I can pick and find things more quickly.

In order to quickly see the topics I have on the shelf I use cardstock dividers and label the topics so it is very easy and very tidy. I have found this to save me a TON of time when looking for resources.

Keeping Library Books sorted can be tricky also. We have about three library cards from three separate libraries I use. So I needed to find a way to keep track of all of these books and due dates.

I use a libray basket (more than one basket if I have ALOT) for the books and use color coded post it notes for the library books~ for one library I will use yellow and another pink etc.. I will write the due date on the post it note so I can see at a glance when thing are coming due.

Speaking of library books- I have learned to take advantage of our online catalog. I look up books I have recommended to me by my programs I am working on and can click on those books and make a list and send it directly to our library and all I have to do is go and pick them up. Saves time and aggravation. ~

Keeping Track of Lapbook resources and materials:

This is another area I tried several thinks like bins, shelves and such and nothing seemed to work as well as what I am using now.

I use a rolling cart for all my lapbooking packets, materials and resources. My folders, papers, cardstock, glue sticks, scissors, brads, paper clips, stapler, tapes, contact paper -everything I need for lapbooking is on that cart. It works great.

For papers we have cut out for a lapbook or mini-office I use ziplock bags to keep things organzied this helps save on space and clutter also and we rarely look items this way too.


I hope these tips are as helpful to some of you, as I have found them to be, along my way and I will probably keep finding new things and new ways of doing something as I move along as well, sharing and finding new ways to help our children and ourselves is always appreciated in Our Home.

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