Keeping Things Organized

I love an organized work space! I do, really. But it can be very hard for me to keep our school items organized when we have a limited number of bookshelves, bins and solid surfaces. Over the years, I’ve developed a system that works pretty well for us when I stick to it.

In The Beginning

When I was only teaching one child and he’d just started school, organization was pretty simple: one file box, one student desk with backpack, part of one shelf on my bookshelf. By the time our second child started school, I’d built up quite a collection of school books and papers. The one file box for our oldest still had some storage room in it and I bought another, thinking it would surely continue to work as a viable storage system. Not only did my file box system fail to meet our organization needs, our bookshelf wasn’t adequate either. This was a big problem since I needed to keep track of all the kids’ work.

Books, Papers and Filing All That Stuff

While my husband was still serving in the military, I bought two medium-sized bookshelves to supplement what was already available in military housing. That took care of the book storage problem for a while. But I still needed another box-filing system for the paperwork. I started using plastic bins. I’m still using those plastic bins but I learned that smaller is better. While being able to store two years worth of paperwork in one place was simple, it made it difficult to move around and difficult to find specific things. Also, clear boxes were something I opted for right away so I could see at a glance what was inside.

More Paperwork?

When the kids were working in a workbook, it was very easy to store the books where I could easily find them. Now they work in notebooks and on loose sheets of paper or printouts. I had to figure out a way to keep those organized. I opted for 3-prong folders. I started using this method before the stores started offering plastic options. I switched to the plastic ones as soon as possible.  Each year, I purchase one folder per quarter, per child. (I used to use a 6 week system but switched to quarters when we started schooling year-round.) That meant I had to purchase 18 of the folders. In order to keep track of which folder belonged to whom, I had the kids choose a color for the year, then purchased folders in those colors. The first year I did this, our son was green, our oldest daughter was pink, and our youngest was orange.

Here’s How It Works Now

The kids still choose their color for the year. I label each folder with the name, school year, grade level and the period. After that, I put them on the bookshelf and pull the folders for the current quarter to keep on my desk. As they finish a test or a worksheet, I punch holes in them after grading them and add them to the folder.

Worksheets That Help

Here’s a new twist I added in this year. In those same 3-prong folders, I use a grade-keeper sheet and a reading log, both created by Tina Robertson. Tina blogs at www.tinasdynamichomeschoolplus.com. She’s had a ton of trouble with people taking her worksheets and selling them as their own so her freebies are password protected. Subscribing is free and easy, though. It’s definitely worth your time! I use many of her free items in addition to the grade-keeper and reading log sheets, including her free unit study planner, her attendance chart, her school lesson planner, and some of her lap books. She has a few items that are available to purchase. I can’t purchase any of them at this time but if that option becomes available in the future, I will definitely do so. I’ve never been disappointed with Tina’s blog or her helpful worksheets.

All the Frills

  • phone and tablet calendar apps – I use the alarms to remind me when something important is coming up.
  • a lovely weekly planner – Here’s one very similar to what I’m using now. I love these because they are colorful and encouraging. I’m sure I’m not alone in needing encouragement by the time February comes around!  The one I’m using now is last year’s model but it’s another thing I really like about these calendars. Mine covers the months from August of 2015 – December of 2016.
  • Wall calendar – If you can do both the weekly planner and a wall calendar, I’d recommend adding something similar to a Mom’s Plan-It Calendar. There’s plenty of room for a medium-sized family to keep track of what each of the members are doing on any given day. I used this type of calendar for about 3 years. I had to drop back to using a plain calendar for a year or two, then moved to the weekly planner for it’s portability.

I love color and helpful quotes. I love a clean workspace. When those things come together in my classroom, it’s a win-win situation. Do you have any organization tips you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments!

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The girls chose navy blue and purple as their colors this year. Atop them is the calendar I’m currently using. ~ Photo by Melody Kittles

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