Because being organized allows me more freedom to teach my children in greater depth, I have found it necessary in our home school to make organizing our materials top priority. Having five students certainly creates numerous opportunities to succeed or fail in my attempts to file and find our various school papers, books, and supplies. I do not need to spend precious time looking for the glue or the instruction sheets to an educational game we wish to play. Organization takes a fair amount of time to accomplish but a short amount of time to maintain.
At the beginning of each school year, I help my children prepare their binders. They use two-inch binders to compile each of their subjects – mathematics, language, handwriting, creative writing, spelling, science, history, Bible, and Spanish. After the dividers are put into the binders, we see that a good quantity of lined paper is inserted between each divider. My children have vinyl pencil cases that are three-hole-punched to put in the front of their binders. The pencil cases eliminate the confusion of finding pencils, pens, rulers, and erasers each day during school time. I allow my children to personalize their binders with self-stick letters from the office supply store. They enjoy putting their names and grade levels on the front covers, along with the brightly colored stickers they earn for their good grades and good attitudes during school.
After we finish readying the binders, we turn our attention to organizing their bookshelves. I use a three-tiered shoe rack that I have placed on a shelf in an old entertainment unit in our study. I have a spot labeled with each child’s name in which he stores his binders (when not in use) as well as his various textbooks or workbooks. The children rarely have to be reminded to put their books away since it is so easy to do.
Now that the students are organized, the teacher must fall into line! I prepare my own bookshelves by placing each of my teaching texts on a shelf according to grade level. I find it much easier to have the materials divided this way so I can easily locate the answer keys and curriculum when grading or lesson planning.
In addition to our individual bookshelves, I also have several school library bookcases. These are organized by subject or category. Our reference bookcase has math, science, and Bible resources on the top shelf. The second one houses our state reference books and our Childcraft encyclopedias. The third shelf houses a set of animal life reference books, and the fourth contains our adult encyclopedias. I also have two more bookcases that are stocked with my various thrift-store and library-sale finds. I have labeled the shelves fiction and non-fiction so we can locate things fairly easily. Should we add many more books to our collection, I will organize them more accurately.
Once I have the binders, teacher manuals, and bookcases completed, I turn my attention to organizing our art supplies. I purchased an organizing system called Drawers For All to control our scissors, glue, paints, etc. There are many different types of these drawers – from single drawers to drawers with eight sections. I use a three-sectioned drawer for various types of paper – lined paper in one, construction paper in another, and plain, white paper in the third. I use the four-drawer unit to give each child a “schoolbox” of his own. The children like to put their treasures in their “special drawers,” as they call them. I keep my drawer organizers in a tall stack in my laundry room – thus keeping potential coloring and painting disasters to an area that is easy to clean.
Educational toys such as puzzles, games, and felt board pieces are kept in the entertainment unit in our study. Things that the younger children use are on the lower level of the unit, and older children’s items are on the upper level. This system works well for us and makes it much easier for all of the children to clean what they have used.
Implementing organization need not be costly. If your budget is tight, begin looking around your home for items not in use that can be pressed into service to organize your home school materials. I have trimmed empty laundry detergent boxes for magazine organizers. I have covered cookie tins to use in corralling the magnetic alphabet pieces we have collected. A three-tiered shoe rack can be used to divide an existing shelf into more usable sections. In my previous home, I turned a coat closet into a school closet. Be creative and inventive with your space and resources – you may just surprise yourself!
Take time to list the problems you are having with the storage of your materials. Make notations as to what items or areas you can use to solve the problem. Determine to work the plan and reorganize your school things. Organize one area at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Realize that you may have to spend some time adjusting what you have done until it “fits” your needs.
You will know that your organization goals have been reached when you no longer lose valuable school time looking for misplaced items. You will feel refreshed and rejuvenated as a teacher – what better gift could you give to yourself and your students?!