Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A New School Year, Part 1 - Organization

We've been enjoying a break from school over the past several weeks.  It's been fun to have a relaxed schedule, more time for outings and errands, and freedom to pursue activities and projects that we don't always have time for.  But now we're ready to start up with school again.

Too much free time makes a lot of mess and chaos in our home and in our kids' behavior and attitudes.  It seems better to me to end our break before we have a nuclear meltdown caused by boredom and too much time on our hands.  Plus, I don't want to completely lose the momentum that took us all of last school year to build.

To commemorate the beginning of a new school year for our family, I'll be posting a "Back To School Mini Series" here at Family Abounds.  Included in this series will be posts on:
     Part 1: Organization
     Part 2: Schedules
     Part 3: Pre-First Day of School Activities

Most of the ideas you will find in these posts are not original.  If I know of the original source I will let you know what it was.  If there is no citation it means that I can't remember where the idea came from and probably if you did a Google search you'd find twenty more blog posts implementing the same idea.  The point here is not to be original but to share what I'm finding works for our family.

So, without further ado let's jump into today's topic: Organization.

It's difficult to determine the best way to organize homeschool materials.  I'm learning why book shelves are such a big deal to homeschool moms as we have already filled our second floor-to-ceiling shelf this year.  And the materials keep coming!

So, here is how we're organizing the materials that we will be using this school year.  Longer term storage for non-consumables that will be used for younger kids is a beast all of its own and I haven't even come close to figuring out the best way to tackle it.  However, short term organization is both simple and necessary for success.

For me something is organized if it is:
     -Easy to put away
     -Easy to find
     -Easily accessible for everyone who needs it
     -Not a cluttered mess (although we have plenty of cluttered messes around our house)

To start off, we have our school shelf.  All textbooks, encyclopedias, and flashcards that we need are organized by subject into magazine files (purchased for cheap from Ikea).  I am able to quickly grab the file I need for each subject and put it back on the shelf when I'm done without much fuss.  The kids can see where things go if ever they need to put the books away.  And the files make the shelf look nice and neat.

Next we have our weekly assignments.  I saw this idea here and here and immediately began working on implementing it for the school year.  The kids' assignments are created for the entire school year.  I can access them easily to distribute or to make changes.  We have two plastic file boxes that we bought at Sam's Club.  They live under our computer desk where little hands are less likely to find and "sort" through them.

Inside the weekly files there is a manila folder labeled and color-coded for each of the three older kids.  The individual folders contain an assignment sheet for the week - assignments are made by day and subject - and also packets of stapled workbook pages that contain work they are expected to do independently.

The kids access their weekly assignments from their assignment folders.  We store these on our work table in a metal file organizer that I ordered on Amazon.  Joshua and Hannah also have a pencil box with the pencils, crayons, markers, and math counters that they need to do their assignments.

At the beginning of the school day, the kids grab their assignment folder and open it up to find packets with color-coded days of assignments.  We used this system for the last few months of Kindergarten/Preschool and it worked very well to keep everyone on track.  They know to look for the day's assignments, do those pages, and then return the packet to the pocket folder before moving on to the next subject.

I have individual sessions with the kids to go through math lessons, spelling, etc.  And I also check their individual work and we make corrections together as necessary.  I'll talk a little more about that in the next post about scheduling.

In the very front of the assignment folder is a school schedule for each individual child.  This helps them know what order to do their work so that it gets done efficiently.  Again, I'll talk about this in the next post.

Our last order of organizational business is to have a place for completed assignments.  Record keeping is definitely a big topic for most homeschoolers and I haven't really figured out the best way to go about it.  I have, however, been putting the kids' best work, spelling tests, and graded math assignments into a three-ring binder.  This will be our fourth year using binders and it is proving to be an efficient system.

This year we have dividers in Joshua and Hannah's binders so that it's easy to access past assignments and assessments.  Here's what I'm planning to keep this year:
     -Math assessments and reviews
     -Weekly spelling tests
     -Weekly handwriting (in the form of a Bible verse they copy at the end of the week)
     -History maps, coloring pages, and other projects
     -Science coloring pages and other projects
     -Grammar and Writing copywork and narration exercises
     -Any special drawings, cards, or projects the kids make through the year 

So, there you have it!  How the Chew Crew is attempting to keep things organized this school year.  :)

I'm learning that as organization is more and more crucial to our every day existence and success, flexibility is also equally important.  This means I may have to change how we're doing things if they're not really working out.  It may also mean that I have to let the system go day to day in order for the kids to be learning and participating in putting things away.  And it may mean that the school books look a bit like our laundry piles for a while because more important needs arise.

No matter what kind of flexibility I must exercise, having things off to an organized start is helping us to be ready for our second year of homeschooling.

So, what organizational tips and systems work for your family?

This post is linked up at Mom Tested Homeschool Blog Hop.  Hop on over to find more great ideas and input on starting the school year.


  1. Very Nice :)
    I really like the color coding.
    I set up our yearly assignments in a 3 ring binder, with divider tabs for the 36 weeks of our school year. Since most of our schooling is not workbooks or worksheets, this works really well for us.
    I taking note of your file boxes - I've been contemplating how to keep track of our many loose-leaf/printable type resources. Thank you for some inspiration!

    1. The files work really well. When I have extra materials for the week I place them in a teacher folder - things like National Geographics for science, instructions or patterns for special projects, or even a note with a list of library books to check out. I find them easy to move things around as well. There are so many ways to organize, and finding a system that works is definitely a process!

  2. Thanks for linking up with the blog hop! You have put some lovely things into place, that look great! I love the assignment folders - now to try and find the equivalent in the UK, which is not always possible.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I've enjoyed your posts on organization this week! Truth be told, I'll probably try to find a different folder for the kids next year. The plastic binding keeps coming out on these ones. I do like having several pockets in one folder, though.