Monday, March 1, 2010

Home School Enrichment Intro.

I'm so excited to be writing a regular column for Home School Enrichment (it's an old-fashioned, print, hold-in-your-hands magazine)! My first article, entitled "An Introduction to Homeschool Organization," debuts "The Organized Homeschool" column in the March/April issue. Check out Home School Enrichment for many other encouraging and helpful articles! Here's my column:

Welcome to The Organized Homeschool Mom’s corner! I am delighted to be sharing with you what comes naturally to me: homeschool organization. Does it take you half an hour to find the grammar book each morning? Do the kids take five minutes to find and sharpen a pencil? Do you find three copies of the same book lying around because you had no idea you already owned it? (Yes, I know someone to whom that has actually happened!) One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (NKJV). I believe this especially applies to homeschooling.

My plan is to share a specific organization snippet in each column that you can use right away. Let’s start with a basic homeschool organization plan. A builder wouldn’t dream of starting work on a house without knowing what type of house he was building, what size the house was supposed to be, and what kind of materials he would need. He finds all of this information on a blueprint. Neither should you try to organize your homeschool without having an idea of what and how you’re organizing.

Let’s think about a blueprint in terms of soil for a moment in this modern-day parable. Behold, a mother went out to teach her children. As she taught, some lessons fell by the wayside; and the dirty socks and lost library books came and devoured them. Some fell on messy desks, where they did not have much space, and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of thought. But when the days were long, they were forgotten, and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among unorganized papers, and the papers sprang up and choked them. But others fell on sharpened pencils and yielded a three-point paragraph, some a ten-point paragraph, some six, some four. She who has ears to hear, let her hear! (A very liberal retelling of Matthew 13:3–9.) What kind of soil do you want for your homeschool? That will determine the type of blueprint that you generate.

Just as a builder would not begin building a house without a blueprint, neither would he begin building it without the proper tools. Let’s take a look at the most necessary tools for homeschooling. I am not going to address curricula here, but you may add it to my list if you wish. Remember, not all of these supplies have to be bought brand new at a fancy office supply store. You’ll find that you already have many of these items in your house, or that you have the materials to make your own tools. Be creative and get your children involved in the process.

1. Bookshelves. First of all, sort your books into general categories. (You’ll probably end up with stacks of books all over the floor; that’s okay as long as it’s temporary.) Then, label each shelf with a category title. Eventually, you can sort each shelf and/or category alphabetically by title or author, by book size, or in series order.

2. Binders. Binders should be a single subject each. Four types of binders are absolutely essential. Kids each need a fun-type binder for everyday use; make one tab divider for each subject. You need a mom binder, also known as an administrative binder. In it, include all necessary state paperwork; use a separate tab for each child for test results, immunization records, attendance records, and official communication from the state. Include anything else you need at your fingertips (behind appropriately labeled tabs, of course). Additionally, you need an extra resources binder, divided by subject area for articles, workshop notes, maps, coloring pages, craft projects, and other resources. If you have a lot of supplementary materials, you may need more than one binder, or you may wish to use a filing drawer system instead. The last type of essential binders is portfolio binders for each child for each year. Every few weeks, clean out desk binders and file a small sampling into the portfolio.

3. 3-Hole Punch. Not every piece of paper comes ready to file.

4. Baskets and/or shoeboxes (cardboard or Rubbermaid type). You’ll need one each for different types of craft supplies, math maniptulatives, extra pens and pencils, markers, scissors, larger items, and anything else that will fit into a basket or box.

5. Various small containers. Store all of your extra paper clips, tacks, small manipulatives, erasers, staples, etc. neatly in one central location. Include pencil cups for each child, plus one for you.

6. Letter stacking trays. Have one for each type of paper, and one for each child and yourself (to be used for an in bin for work to be graded or filed).

7. Calendars. Have a master family calendar and small, portable calendars for yourself and for the children. Teach them how to plan.

8. Lesson planners. These are not meant to be restrictive, but are to provide a blueprint for school days. Realize that you have the freedom to change your plans if necessary.

9. Timers. Teach your children to manage their time wisely.

10. Keep it organized! If you get it out, put it away right away and train you children to do the same thing.

Now that we’ve established a blueprint and gathered our tools, let’s start building an organized homeschool.

P.S. - If you're thinking that this list looked familiar, you're right :-).