Friday, 6 September 2013

Organising your Home schooling {Blog Hop Week}

Can we hear an "awwwwwwwwwwww"?

It's the last day of our blog hop! I truly hope and pray that these posts will have been a blessing and encouragement to many ladies, and perhaps help them along the road to being more organised in at least some parts of their lives.

Now, I know that this may not seem to be relevant to those who do NOT home educate their children, but you may well discover that some of the practical ideas of how to organise in THIS area, may carry over to others.

The topic of organising home schooling could cover quite a few different areas - simply because it is such a varied topic, with so many elements involved.  There are supplies, books, papers, curricula, stationary, schedules, shelves.  LOTS of things that COULD be organised.

Maybe you are an educator who is so laid back that you think that being organised is not important.  Hats off to you, but I have found that I can NOT home educate my children, WITHOUT being organised.  Some people can manage without a curriculum, for example, but I just would be lost without any!

There are a few areas, regarding home schooling, that I find helpful to be organised about.

I am not someone who can manage without a curriculum.  I need all the help I can get, in structuring my children's schooling.  Having a curriculum does that for me. We switched curriculum almost 4 years ago, which I blogged about here. When choosing what is right for your family, I think there are several influencing factors, to help you organise your thoughts.

1. What is your family structure?
If you have only one or two children, your needs will be quite different.  If you have lots of children, like me, you may want to look at something that helps you include your children together, to make things easier for you as the teacher. Perhaps you have special needs children you have to consider, and you will need add in particular elements to accommodate that.

2.  How are you, as the parent, at planning and organising?
If you are not very confident at planning things out for yourself, it's better to go for something that is very parent-guided, and makes life easier for you.  Perhaps you even need a workbook type curriculum, which has everything planned out to the nth degree, and which requires very little input from yourself. These types of curcciula are also good if you are on the go a lot, or are just starting out, and are not very confident about the how's and wherefores of home-ed. You have to be happy, as the teacher, with whatever you choose, ad be comfortable knowing you can facilitate your children's learning to their best potential, without feeling stressed out or out of your depth.

3.  What styles of learning suit your children?
Some children are fine with workbooks, which are more "fill in the answer" types.  Some need more art and craft stimulation. Some love having their nose in a good literature or reference book.  Some like lapbooking, or notebooking. They all have ways which they naturally learn better.  I would suggest taking the time to observe how best your children learn, then trying to incorporate that into your curriculum choices.  That, by the way, is why i love Tapestry of Grace.  It covers pretty much all learning styles, and you can adapt it to suit each child in your family, whilst all covering the same content! Win-win

It's not very detailed, but those would be my main pointers for how to initial choose your curriculum, and organise that initial aspect of what you are DOING!

Planning/scheduling your days
This is an area that I have some amount of structure in, but it could be improved.

We have a schedule that we follow every day, which allows me to fit in my 1-1 time with any subjects that require it.  We always have maths, grammar, spelling and writing int he mornings. The older children do it in whatever order they like, but I do spelling and grammar with them.  Before break, I do 1-1 with younger children, and the older ones get on with any independent work.  after break, I do writing with Daniel, then, Beth and Josh, then spelling likewise. Thankfully, with Josh being a boy, and Beth being a younger, but, erm, enthusiastic girl, they work together on things.

Afternoons we work together on our other subjects, with the children working at their appropriate level on things.  At the moment, science, music and art we do all together. We also, in  the afternoons, do most of our Tapestry of Grace work.  That is done at the child's level, and can be very different for each child. It includes map/geography work, literature assignments, writing assignments, arts and enrichment, or lapbooking. I often read aloud to them, too, and we spend time discussing what we have been reading. It's a very inters ting time, and we learn a lot, chatting together like that!

Something else that's involved in this area, is deciding what OUTSIDE activities you commit to. Some manage to be out a lot, and still get book work done.  We just find that if we go out a lot, we can't get it all done.  We have our co-op once a month, and the odd trip out, but otherwise we do a 4-day week, and stay at home. We don't have any clubs, sports etc.  To some, they are important, and need to be scheduled in, but it's not something we consider vital.

What I plan to incorporate, when we begin our new year of Tapestry of Grace (we work January-January on that), is to allow the oldest one or two to be more involved with planning out their own week, and scheduling their days.  I think it will be good to give them a level of accountability and learn time management skills a bit better.

I also want to start using planning grids, so that the children can see better what they need to accomplish in a week.  It will also help me to think ahead a bit better, and not be so with making sure I have all the bits and pieces we need throughout the week.

There are multitudes of free, printable planning grids available.  I have looked and looked, but I think i have concluded that I need to make my own, to suit our own schooling subjects and needs.

Organising supplies

My main tip for this, before diving into explaining how I do things, is to make sure you have a home for everything.  If everything has a place that it belongs, then you, and your children, will know where everything needs to be put BACK!  It's a key to keeping tidy! Our last house was a struggle, because we had a lack of space, but now it's a lot easier to keep tidy.

The bane of my life, in the tidiness department, is PAPERS.  Loose papers.  Where to put them.  How to file them. How to stop them migrating around the house. How to stop them multiplying, because they do, don't they?  They breed, like rabbits. So, my plan for THAT, is to use ring binders better this next year.  Having a binder for each child, with any loose papers being filed under a separate tab, per subject.  I think, with so many children, it's one of the only ways to keep on top of it all.  Plus, training the children to file their OWN papers, and NOT leave them lying around.

Then, there's books.  I LOVE my books.  I LOVE getting new books.  I LOVE them looking tidy.

(Sadly, that part doesn't always happen.)

Now, my messy house has prevented pictures in some of my posts this week, but because I organised my shelves earlier in the summer, and only a few boxes needed to be moved to photograph the shelves, I HAVE PICTURES!!!

Having now looked at them, I bemoan, once again, my camera.  But, they will give you an idea of what I do.

This is a general piccie of my bookshelves. This one is organised the best, and I am really pleased with my re-organisation that I did. Let me break it down for you.

The shelf here is all my phonics related books. These are what I will use with my newest pupil, Abi (eek, can my FIFTH child be starting school next week????), and Susie and Daniel are still using some of the readers on the left. It's a combination of Jolly Phonics and the Oxford Reading Tree set, about Biff, Chip and Kipper.  I can't wait to start using these again.  

These shelves show SOME of Tapestry of Grace books. You can't see very clearly, but I recently colour dotted them, with the correct colour for each year - red, gold, green and blue. I plan to cellotape over the top of the dots, as they look like they want to come off. I have them put them into alphabetical order for each year, so they are easy to find and put back.  Now to train the children to do so - huge lesson in alphabetical order coming up.... The top shelf has the bigger books, the one underneath has smaller ones. There are other shelves with TOG books, both to the right and to the left. And, there will be more!  OOOOH, so exciting! 

The bottom shelves, on all 3 bookcases, have bigger, reference books. Things likes atlases, history books and things like that. 

Right, this is my shelf to keep manipulatives for early years and phonics.  Lacing cards, puzzles, matching activities. I just thought they needed to be all together, instead of all around the house. There are a lot of fun things on that shelf.  Well, I think so, anyway!

On the top 2 shelves here, I have literacy manipulatives, of various types.  This includes the things we need for our spelling curriculum, and for phonics. 

The shelf underneath has the things we use from day to day - maths books, grammar books, etc.  

This is a close-up of the files, which are arranged by subject.  I bought these cardboard files from Ikea, but they are really not strong enough for ones being used all the time.  Tip - but sturdy magazine files if you will be pulling them in and out every day!

This shows what is on TOP of the shelves. Don't be afraid to use the tops!! These are all things that I either use infrequently, or I don't want the children to touch - paper trimmer, comb binder, and the like. (bag of percussion = noisy, unless supervised = top of shelves.....)

This, my bloggy friends, is what the rest of my school room looks like just now.  


And we start back school next week?..... *whistles*

The other thing that I want to show you, I can't take a picture of just now.  It's in front of the wall map, in the picture above.  It's blue.  It's hiding behind a stack of empty storage boxes.

I use this to put all the books we need for the week, for Tapestry of Grace. It means the children always know where to find them, and where to put them back. Then, at the end of the week, I can file them back on the shelves, with the other TOG books. It's made it a lot easier to keep tidy, and for the children to find what they need.  Not that they ALWAYS go back where they belong, I hasten to add...

All my stationary, of the paper type, is in cupboards, or in my old favourite - Really Useful Boxes.  

Another one which I can't quite decide how to keep organised, is my pencils and pens.  I have a tried various types of pencil cases for each child, as well as various types of general storage - boxes, pots and random containers. I had wanted to make a carousel, of sorts, that would hold pens, pencils, erasers, etc.  But, I feel it may take up more room than is necessary.  I am also pretty sure I don't want pens kept at child level. I have learnt that lesson.  

So, any great tips on how you keep these, would be MASSIVELY appreciated. 

I want to finish (because, I could go on forever.....) on the note of my favourite gadget for helping organise papers and school work.

We all have a "pet" gadget, right?  Well, every normal home school Mum has, anyway... 

Mine is my comb binder!!

I LOVE my comb binder.

If you, like me, like curriculum that you can purchase in digital format, and then you need to print yourself, then you NEED one of these.  Ok, maybe not NEED, but your life will be tidier, more organised, and much happier if you have one. 

My writing curriculum, Writeshop,  is one which I print off each lesson - 10 for each year, usually at least 3 on the go at once. Having the comb binder makes them look neat and professional.    If you look back at my picture above, with the white magazine files, then you will see my Writeshop lessons bound in a red comb. I use it for grammar books, and also any printable worksheets for any child, which will require several sheets being printed at once, and then can be kept in booklet form.  

I will also be using it when I print off Heidi's Firmly Planted books.  *smiles*

I also love my laminator, but I will not begin to wax lyrical about that! 

SO, come on, last day, SHARE with us all!!! What are your favourite Pins on Pinterest, for orgnasiign school.  Your favourite planning grids or printables? Have you got hints and tips on what helped you get your school supplies organised?  Please either link up blog posts, or share in the comments section below.






  1. Caroline, thank you so much for all your work planning and running the blog hop.

    I'm glad to note that I'm not the only one with loads of books. That bookcase that you use for your Tapestry of Grace books seems an excellent idea. We use a basket for our current books but it soon overflows.

  2. Thanks for putting together this organization series. It's been fun reading how you and others get things organized around the house. We also use the Ikea magazine files...and the ones the kids access multiple times a day definitely fall apart after a while. I've been able to give them a bit more longevity by reinforcing the bottom and front with clear packing tape. At least they're inexpensive to replace.

  3. It's so nice to see how can easily for you to organize all of that reading books. If you don't mind can you make a blog for Homeschooling Facts I will appreciate it so much. Good blog of yours!