As you work to create a home atmosphere that is conducive to learning, creativity, and well-being, consider inviting your child to join in the effort of maintaining order. You’ll have to intentionally teach and encourage your child in this endeavor, but it will be worth the effort!
Think about it this way: organization is a life skill that promises immediate and future benefits to your child.
This topic is near-and-dear to my heart because I’m the mother of six vibrant, artsy, book-stacking, paper-loving, LEGO-building children. The only way our home can remain sane—let alone occasionally spacious, inspiring, and hospitable—is if my children consistently help me to bring things back into order. Here are eight practices that work for us as I train my children to keep an organized homeschool.
1. Invite Your Child Into the Planning Stage
As in most things, children are more likely to get excited about organization if they have contributed to the plan. Discuss the ways in which you would like to stay organized at home and brainstorm solutions together. Take your child’s suggestions to heart and do your best to implement some aspect of his or her ideas.
Some good questions are,
- “How can we successfully keep this space organized?”
- “What boxes, baskets, or bins would help us to put things away?”
- “How often should we put things where they belong?”
- “Do you think we will stick with this plan?”
A couple of weeks later, ask your child how things are going and how you may modify the plan to make things more efficient, effective, or enjoyable.
Consider adding a soft start to your academic year to walk through your homeschool plan. This will set you up for a strong start when you hit the books.
2. Create a System That is Easy to Sustain
Make sure your child is able to do what you expect. Keep things simple and manageable. When you notice that your child isn’t succeeding at the task, consider modifying it.
For example, I’ve been reconsidering my expectation that picture books be placed spine-side-out on the bookshelf. My younger children struggle to return a book to a crowded bookshelf. They’re simply not strong enough to push the other books aside and slide the book into its place.
That’s why I’m considering using the ruler trick that the preschool students use at our local library. Each student receives a ruler searching the shelves for the perfect book. When she finds the book she wants, she sticks the ruler in the space where the book was. Then, when she is finished reading the book, she can easily find the space where it belongs and use her ruler to pry an opening for re-shelving the book.
Or I may just switch from bookshelves to using book bins, outward facing display shelves, or baskets that are easier for younger children to use.
3. Create a Time and Place for Each Subject and Its Supplies
You’ve heard the expression, “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” right? It certainly is true of an organized homeschool!
After you determine where you will be learning each subject (i.e. on the couch, at the table, etc.), figure out how you will store the books and supplies that you will need in that space.
You may need to clear a bookshelf or cabinet, add a basket or a bin, or set aside a magazine holder. You and your child will be much more inclined to return the books and supplies to the storage space if it’s close and simple.
4. Include Organization in Your Schedule and Checklists
If you want your child to put his books away after each subject, include a check box for that action in his assignment book. For example, when I copy assignments from my Instructor’s Guide onto my son’s weekly assignment list, I write:
My kids are much more inclined to put things away if they can check a box for that step rather than remembering “Do pages 15 – 16” also means “Put your math book away.”
Similarly, if you and your child would rather put all books and supplies away at the end of the school day, reserve fifteen minutes and count it as part of your work.
Remember that organization is an important life skill, and putting forth the extra effort to include this in your child’s daily tasks will enable him or her to thrive in every area of study.
5. Teach Your Expectations
Don’t assume that your child understands what you mean when you say, “Put your math book away.” Train your child to succeed in every expectation that you have. Think of yourself as a mentor who is training a student. (Because you are!)
- First, demonstrate the behavior you want your child to learn. Do the work as your child watches.
- Then help your child to do it.
- After that, watch as your child does the work without your help. Offer plenty of positive feedback and encouragement.
- Finally, trust your child to do the work on his own.
Be sure to continue offering lots of positive feedback, realizing that you may have to repeat the mentoring steps occasionally.
6. Label Things Clearly
Adding labels to books, shelves, and storage areas is a one-time investment that pays off as you and your child know exactly what is stored in each bin, basket, cabinet, or shelf.
A label serves as accountability. For example, if I am putting the glue away after a round of hands-on crafting, I’m much more likely to return it to the right drawer if it’s labeled glue. Without that label, this distracted mama is inclined to shove it in any old drawer, which means that I’ll have no idea where to find it later. That label helps to keep us all on track. (It’s the simple things that can make a big difference!)
7. Keep a Pleasant Attitude
Your child will be more inclined to stay organized if you keep a pleasant attitude. Ask God for the grace not to stress about it or lose your temper. Talk with your child about the benefits of organization:
- Being organized saves time and energy.
- Being tidy creates a peaceful home.
- Keeping things in their right places allows you to focus on the work at hand.
Be sure to celebrate your child’s good moves and to appreciate the little efforts you both make toward keeping an orderly homeschool.
8. Lead by Example
As you consistently maintain order in your homeschool, your child will learn from your example. Keep up the good work, bringing things back into order when they inevitably spiral out of control. Even if your child seems like he couldn’t care less or even if she creates chaos instead of order, you may be surprised by the fruit of your labor years down the road.
I was the kid with the messy room—the one who disliked chores—but my mother’s orderliness impacted me over the years. As a teen, I began to care more about our home and my personal belongings. As an adult, I maintain a home that is typically peaceful and orderly.
They say “More is caught than taught,” and I believe this applies to the way a parent builds and maintains a home. So lead by example and look forward to those small, hopeful signs of organization along the way.
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