Let’s Get Organized! Cleaning and Managing Your Homeschool Space
January 10, 2018
Hey Mama,
Getting into the swing of things again can be a bit difficult. We’ve enjoyed the break—needed it! But now it’s time to get back to work. For some of us, that means "cracking the whip" on reorganizing our homeschool space. For others, we're struggling just juggling the day-to-day stuff. And don’t get me started on house cleaning! But, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all the “to dos” of the new year, take heart. We’ve all been there, done that. Don’t believe me? Read what these experienced Mamas have to say in  The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine :                        

And remember, Mama. . . 

For those who keep trying and trying, striving to please, and turning to the Lord, lifting up your eyes and hands to say, “Lord, I keep working hard. I continue to try. I desire to do all things according to Your will and desire. I am not sure what to do . . . but all I know is that I continue to try, to work hard, to try some more,” here is your answer:

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NASB)

So there it is. Sure, continue to work hard. Do all things unto Him. Try and strive to His glory. Ultimately, you have an Audience of One. But in this world, we will have troubles. Don’t get hung up in the STRIVE and letdown. You know who you are. And His hand is on your head today.

Lisa Marie Fletcher
Organization is definitely not my forte. With a house full of kids, cats, and stuff, I find it incredibly challenging to keep on top of things. But, over the years, there have been a few tips that I've learned that make my life so much easier. 

1. Give people space.

If everyone in my family has their own designated space for things—like a box or shelf for their school stuff, a cubby for their coats, a bin for their special toys, etc.—they tend to keep things in said space instead of all over. When it's clearly laid out where things go, people take ownership of their space and follow the plan better. 

2. Be prepared.

If you have activities outside the house, pack a bag for each activity and leave it packed. For example, I have one tote bag that is filled with “stuff” for my 2 year old when we go out to church groups. She needs something to keep her happy and busy during that time so we have a designated bag for that activity. It's got snacks, colouring books and crayons, toys that I rotate, a diaper and wipes, and a cup of water. It's always by the door ready to grab. When we used to do gym and swim, each child had a backpack that carried their pass, their shoes, and their swim gear. As soon as we got home, we would wash their swim stuff and put it right back into their bags for the next class. This kind of approach saved me so much stress of frantically searching around for things at the last minute. 

3. Find systems. 

Knowing that I am not strong in keeping things organized, creating little habits that make even a slight change can be a huge help. For example, laundry—I am horrible with laundry! I always forget it in the baskets forever and ever. But one trick that I've discovered helps me be successful with laundry is to make sure that I intentionally fold it as I'm pulling it out of the dryer and putting it into the basket. It's washed, it's dried, and it’s folded. At least then when it's sitting in the basket for the next 2 weeks it won't be getting all crinkled.

One important last tip: You will see all these “solutions” and ideas, and Pinterest worthy suggestions on how to make your house / life / family more organized, but the truth of it is that that idea might not work for you. Don't get so caught up in trying to be like someone else that you miss out on finding the best solution for you. 

Lisa Marie Fletcher is a homeschooling mom of 5 whose mission is to connect homeschoolers across Canada with each other and with resources to help them on their journey with her site The Canadian Homeschooler . She also hosts the Canadian Online Homeschool Conference .
In theaters on January 11, Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception explores UFO sightings in every country, things seen on radar, Roswell, alien abductions, government cover-ups, and even a “new” religion. Narrated by John Schneider, this film powerfully affirms Christianity and the Bible. The truth will surprise you!
Tickets at:  AlienIntrusion.com  
Tracy Klicka
Home School Foundation,   www.homeschoolfoundation.org

Organizing Kids’ Creative Learning Spaces in Your Homeschool
If you research organizing your homeschool space, you will find dozens of great articles and posts aimed at helping you organize. Instead, what I’d like to share are tips on how to create meaningful learning environments for children of all ages. One of the very best benefits of homeschooling is providing your kids opportunities (and the space) to creatively learn. Of course, if you live in a tiny house, you will have more limitations than the average homeschool family, but you, too, can do this!

Start by thinking about what your children enjoy doing in their “spare” time, then plan for ways to support their interests. In our homeschool, I felt creative learning time was just as important as formal academics. So, after seeing that my five year old son Jesse loves building with Legos (we’re talking hours of focused play!), I purchased and labeled bins to store his massive, yard-sale-acquired collection. I kept these and a small table with chairs in our schoolroom, so that in the afternoons, after he completed his bookwork, he could spend time busily building without fear of a younger sibling destroying his creation. 

Even if you don’t have a lot of space, a table with chairs and a shelf for storing bins can be used for several kids’ creative activities. Some of the bins we had included the following:

  • Colorful blocks, Lincoln Logs, and magnetic tiles
  • Puzzles (both two and 3-dimensional objects)
  • Word problem, logic, and thinking skills activities and books
  • Journals, colorful pens, stickers, etc. for story writers
  • Small maps, graph paper, and markers for map creation
  • Items to classify and sort for toddlers (buttons, shells, beads, rocks and crystals, currency from other countries, etc.). These can all be housed in small containers in one larger bin labeled “Sorting Objects.”
  • Play-Doh, Silly Putty (or homemade versions of these), clay, and other free-form building materials.
  • Art supplies (sketch and watercolor paper, small canvases, paints, pencils, drawing books, good photo references for artwork)
  • Magnets, a bug box, an electronics kit, a human anatomy building kit and other scientific kits.
  • Educational games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Balderdash, Carcassone, Scrabble, Risk, Blokus, Guesstures, Rummikub, Stratego, Boggle, Bananagrams, Clue, Dread Pirate, Scattergories, Set, Quelf, Battleship, Dutch Blitz, etc. (There are also plenty of educational apps for your tablet and PC, but board games and card games teach skills not available on a two-dimensional tablet; plus they help balance screen time, and are fun to play together.)

Because we didn’t have cable TV when our kids were growing up and didn’t watch TV shows, my kids were incredibly creative in their playtime together. Having five daughters who loved to create imaginative scenarios and retell stories through drama meant we also had several bins of dress-up clothing, accessories, and props. This provided hours of artistic story creation, learning new skills, and cooperative play.

To make this kind of fun, learning environment for your children, however, you need to consider potential detracting factors:

  • Clutter or mess—If your homeschool space is in really bad shape, work on one small area at a time; eliminate what you don’t need, focus on categorizing/clustering what materials remain, and make the space clean!
  • Lack of organization—When you’re not organized, the tools of play become part of the problem and add to your stress. This is why I love shelving and labeled bins; my kids were responsible for putting away what they took out or they lost the privilege to use them.
  • Not taking responsibility for or mutually respecting each other’s creative work—There is nothing more frustrating to a child than to spend time making something he/she can be truly proud of and then having a careless toddler or mean-spirited sibling destroy it. Talk about the issues you have to deal with then! Some proactive steps can help. Talk to your kids about stewardship and respect for personal property-- (when my kids were in the middle of building something, it became their property, so to speak, for a period of time)-- and enact consequences/lose privileges when they violate this.

More tips for homeschool organization:

  1. The Organized Homeschooler, by Vicki Caruana, 2001.
  2. Free Homeschool Deal’s The Massive List of Homeschool Room Organization Hacks
  3. And if you’re into Pinterest, check these pages out: 20+ Homeschool Organization Ideas & Hacks, Awesome Homeschool Organization Ideas, Homeschooling without a Schoolroom

Providing creative learning opportunities and the space to engage in them will not only add meaningful education and fun to your homeschool, they will be some of the things your kids most remember and thank you for!

Tracy Klicka , the widow of former HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka, is a homeschooling mom of seven, now adult children. As a seasoned homeschooler and gifted writer and speaker for over 20 years, Tracy has addressed thousands of parents at homeschooling conventions and women’s events, has contributed to  Christianity Today , regularly writes for national homeschool publications, and has contributed to her late husband’s books on homeschooling. She currently serves as Director of Development for the  Home School Foundation , the charitable arm of HSLDA, which helps families homeschooling through hard times. She also blogs at www.TracyKlicka.com  and for HSLDA’s  Everyday Homeschooling   blog column.

She can be reached at   tracy@homeschoolfoundation.org .
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Beth Mora

Why Don’t My Fantastic Organization Ideas Work?
“10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 . . . HAPPY NEW YEAR!” we shout. And immediately, our thoughts often drift to the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve-s of last year, and we vow to embark on something new and fresh that will improve upon last year’s results. If you are the organizing type, you giggle and smile as you open the first page of your planner, breathing in deeply the scent of the fresh ink and crisp pages. If you’re not the organizing type, you might feel an obligation to at least consider new ideas since every social media platform is bombarding you to take a look at how you are going to do life differently. But ladies, whatever side of the organizing spectrum you are on, let’s be honest, the stats are not in our favor!

Eighty-two percent of our New Year’s organizational resolutions don’t make it to Groundhog Day. So why do organization ideas fall flat? And what can we do to better our chances of making them stick throughout the year? The first reason they fall flat is we don’t consider the purpose of organization.

The main reason to organize is to increase productivity. Example: If I can’t find my pencil, I lose time and energy, and that time and energy could have been more wisely spent on a math assignment. (Yes, been there and done that!) Conversely, disorganization is about losing time and energy. No one can deny that time and energy are precious commodities. As homeschool moms, we need to consider how both have an impact on our choice of organizational methods.

We, humans, will usually take the path of least resistance in most areas in our lives because we instinctively choose to conserve time and energy. My husband is a professional landscape designer. Years ago, a school had hired his service to put in a large lawn with a walkway. The superintendent wanted a curvy path and had dreams of the students meandering to class across the green. My husband wisely showed him that paths in lawns are only used if it’s the shortest distance from point A to point B. In fact, he suggested to the superintendent to allow him to put in the lawn, let the students create the path by simply walking across the green and wearing out the turf. The superintendent agreed. After about a month, a well-worn path was created by the herd of students. My husband then was able to design a beautiful walkway the students used. We can apply this example to our home organization routines. 

Case in point: Before you ask your family to adopt your new organization idea, ask yourself, “Have I been considerate of the time and energy it requires? Does it increase overall productivity?” 

Let’s go back to the missing pencil. You are considering a new way to organize frequently used homeschool supplies. Here’s what you need to consider:

When will the pencil be used? (Example: math or writing)
Where does your child sit when the pencil is used? (Example: He loves doing math by the living room window. Access to the pencil needs to be close to that spot.)
What are the problems encountered with using a pencil? (Example: Pencil point breaks)
How will the child fix the broken point? (You need a pencil sharpener and a place to dispose of the shavings quickly next to where he works.)
How will I instill the habit of being pencil-ready in my child? (Example: Check supplies the first five minutes of school time. Remember, it will take thirty days of your time and energy to establish the habit.)
How will I evaluate if my organizational method increases productivity? (Example: Don’t settle for an organizational idea until you have reached the shortest amount of time and energy expended.)

You, beautiful homeschool mom, are in a unique position to order your home and demonstrate to your children the God-honoring stewardship of time and energy. It’s a skill that will serve your children well and bring more productivity to your homeschool day.

Organizationally Yours,

You can find  Beth Mora  jogging while  singing off-key  near her home in Washington. She is the creator and teacher-on-camera for  Here to Help Learning ’s h omeschool writing program for grades 1-6. She is a welcomed  speaker  at homeschool conferences and women’s events. She loves blogging at  Home to Home and   Peak Performance , HTHL’s blogs for moms and homeschool businesses. Every week, she serves up  HTHL's  Writing Tip of the Week   for those who are serious about teaching their kiddos how to write. Everything she does, whether laughable or heart gripping, is done to honor One, without apology. God’s grace is the salve that has healed her own life, and God’s grace is what she offers liberally to others.
Hi! My name is Katie, and we are the Babbey family! We live in Southwestern Ontario, near a very small village called Tupperville. The Lord has blessed us with four children ranging in age from our eldest daughter who is thirteen to our youngest daughter who is nine months old. In the middle are two wonderful boys ages ten and seven. We are in our ninth year of homeschooling.

Let me begin by sharing with you that we never originally intended to homeschool. It never even crossed my mind. Whenever I would hear the word “homeschool” I would picture that shy, geeky boy I attended public school with. Why did I do that? Why did I make a judgement like this? It’s because I truly didn’t understand what it meant to homeschool.
Sherri Seligson

Modeling God’s Order in Our Homeschool
What is it about a new year that gets us interested in organizing things? For me, I finally figured out that it has to do with my continual frustration of being overwhelmed with too much to do/not enough time, too much stuff/not enough space, and too much pressure/not enough peace. A new year feels kind of like a reset button. It makes me want to clean out things and reorganize. It makes me rethink what I am doing and how I am doing it.

Let me start by saying that organizing is not about having a perfectly ordered house that is immaculate. Rather, it is a way to effectively function. We organize so that our work is more efficient. Why do you keep all your socks in one place in your room? So whenever you need socks, you know exactly where to look (unless the dryer ate them).

A bigger reason to organize is that our God is a God of order, and He has given us instruction in His Word to live life better.
1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” The same way that God instituted and modeled rest for us, He created order for us. Just look at how our world works, and you will see that God is an orderly God!

So without further ado, I will give you some helpful hints that worked for me over the years. But here’s one caveat . . . if these ideas don’t work for you, DO NOT do them! They are NOT meant to create even more pressure. In fact, sometimes it is OK to have a little mess. After all, messes mean things are being used and loved. Additionally, we each have different personalities, different families, and different households (so what might work for one person may not work for another).

  • Have a designated place for your materials, such as a planner, teacher guides, and more. I like inexpensive magazine file holders to keep floppy answer keys and other items in one spot on a shelf.

  • Each of my kids has one shelf in a stackable letter tray for papers they finish or things that need grading. When I have time, I know exactly where to find them. Once they are graded, I place them in that child’s three-ring binder under the respective subject tab. This creates an instant self-organizing portfolio at the end of the year.

  • Make a weekly schedule that lists regular activities, sports practices, music lessons, and more. This may change from week to week, but if you have a plan to work FROM, you are better aware of what’s going on each day (and so are your children).

  • Find a place for your books. A bin or a bookshelf with a shelf for each child works well. As my children got older, they kept all their materials in a space in their room. We had one place for all the office/school supplies, and at the end of each day I had the children make sure they returned everything they used. If you use containers, get clear ones or make sure they are labelled so there’s no mistake about where things go.

Again, let this be an opportunity to brainstorm about what might work for you. Use what you have and be happy. Don’t feel the pressure to do everything at once either. If you feel overwhelmed in an area, ask the Lord for guidance and pray for peace.

Organizing your home and homeschool shouldn’t be difficult, and it can be a way to make you better enjoy your days and move on to more important things instead of spending hours searching for a pair of scissors.

Be flexible. Be prayerful. And be joyful!


Sherri Seligson is a 21-year veteran homeschool mom and marine biologist. She has authored Apologia’s  Exploring Creation with Marine Biology Interning for High School Credit , instructional DVDs for  Exploring Creation with Biology Chemistry The Human Body , and  Marine Biology and many publications. An international conference speaker, Sherri encourages moms and teaches families the value of studying God’s creation. You can find her blogging at sherriseligson.com .

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Do you want to get organized but feel you lack creativity? Is it a scramble to locate schoolbooks and pencils each morning? Do you feel like you’re falling short of some mysterious goal that everyone else seems to reach? 

We have two courses for you to check out on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. Help Me Get Organized is a collection of five eBooks that share countless organizational ideas, encouragement, and motivation. Everyday Organization shares 116 practical tips you can put into practice starting today. 

If you haven’t yet joined SchoolhouseTeachers.com , come give us a try. We have resources for parents as well as courses for students. You can try the entire site for 30 days for $5 or join during our New Year’s special and save big! If you or someone you know would be interested in teaching or writing for us, let us know. You can email me at bhudson@TheOldSchoolhouse.com . We look forward to serving you and your family! 

in the latest issue of
The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Contest Corner  
For the month of January

Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you have children who crave worksheets, other times you have a child who just wants to read a book. If you have the latter, like me, you will find that All Through the Ages - History Through Literature Guide is the perfect way to make history learning fun!

My family loves history, the adventure packed, what is around the next corner type of history. Not the boring, dry, textbook history. We love to live in the moment of the history we are learning about. The only way to do that is to ditch the textbook and find the living history books that make the history come to life for us.

Now, we could do this by looking up books at the library. I could proofread them, see if they fit our standards, age groups and time periods. But this takes time, time that I don’t have when I have four kids at home who want to learn -- and for whom I want to keep that desire for learning burning, no matter what.

Christine Miller from Nothing New Press has taken all the dirty work out of finding books for me with this guide. Now I am able to look up the time period, narrow down the age group, and find the books my family will love to learn from when it comes to their history lessons! (. . .)

One book in particular gives me names of books to read, or have my children read, from creation and the antediluvian world all the way up through the modern era. Not only that, but we also get geographical history of the top countries in the world. There are even small sections of books that cover the History of Science and Mathematics, History of the Visual Arts and Music, and Great Books of Western Civilization and the Christian Tradition.

Most of the books listed in this book can be found in your local library or within the common homeschool catalogs. There are codes listed after every book that tell the source where that book came from. Having this information will help you find the book if you can’t find it at your local library. 

I fell in love with this book so much that this is my go-to book. I could not make our history lessons fun and engaging without it! 

YOU can WIN this amazing resource for your homeschool! 

TO ENTER : Click on over to our entry page and follow the instructions! Contest ends at midnight, the last day of the month.
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