Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting It Together - The School Supplies

Many homeschoolers are spending some time (or a lot of time) this summer getting their school room/supplies set in order for the new academic year. Expecting a new baby right at the beginning of the school year, with the added bonus of schooling for three and pre-K for two has meant that this subject is of particular interest to me.
In previous years, we have homeschooled in our dining room, with most of the kids doing their seat work at the dining table and the reading work in the living room. We kept their school books on a couple of IKEA Billy Bookcases tucked into the corners of the dining room.
Earlier this summer, however, I decided to try out moving our school room out of the dining room and into the guest room/study. Formerly the master bedroom, it's one of the biggest rooms in the house, with plenty of lighting and it's own bathroom. It also has some bookshelves, a pull out couch and our family computer. Now that I've moved the school stuff down there, this is what it's looking like:

(Apologies for the blurry photos - Abi had a go at being photographer with my camera phone!)
On the back of the bathroom door hangs a shoe caddy that I've filled with all the little bits and pieces that formerly cluttered up some valuable bookshelf space. Flashcards, coloring pencils, scissors, tape, etc - everything can be clearly seen and easily returned to its place, with the added benefit of being able to put non-toddler items up and out of reach, while still being available to the children who actually need them.
Next to that door is one of the Billy bookcases I moved downstairs. It contains all of the kids' books for next year, plus what we are currently doing for summer school. In previous years, we've organized the shelves by student: all Abi's stuff on one shelf, all Anna's on another, etc. This year, since the girls are sharing a number of items, I've decided to organize by subject, so history is on the bottom shelf, math on another, etc. I'm not sure how well this will work - the kids tend to look for reasons to fight, and getting in each other's way to get their school books is a prime bicker opportunity - but I've noticed when they keep their books in their desks, things get damaged, either by sheer messiness or a certain little destruct-o child. Papers also tended to get lost or damaged when I made boxes for each of them - I thought, one year, that if all their stuff were in their own box, they could pull out their box and get to work. Eh, not so much. Evidently, it was just too much effort to take that pesky lid off the box to put their stuff away...
Our family has been very blessed to live in a house that is quite a bit bigger than we need, and I realize that many families do not have the luxury of a separate school room. Back in the day, when this room had other purposes, we were doing our work in the dining room. Sometimes the investment of a small bookshelf is needed, complete with nice-looking baskets so that the school-look doesn't overwhelm the dining decor. Maybe keeping each kid's supplies in their own under bed box is required if there's no room in the dining/kitchen area, especially if the box is secured against toddler hands. The important thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be perfect, as long as it works for "right now". Sometimes we might need to try a thing for a few weeks and then make some needed changes, and that's okay. It doesn't need to be first time perfect, and it doesn't need to look like everyone else's system - it needs to work for you and your family.
Since I'm still in the process with this one, I'd love to hear some other ideas that have worked for other homeschool families - what do you do with all those books and papers and supplies??


Zoanna said...

It looks like a workable system from here. We tried moving our hs hub to the next level (literally, the basement) back in the day, but no one liked living underground, esp me. Too far from the kitchen and natural light. You have the luxury of windows in the basement so that's good. As for corraling the books and supplies, it was a perennial problem, not because the system didn't work, but because PEOPLE didn't like to put back things when they were done. Ahem. The best way we corraled things was to use stiff black plastic magazine holders. Each child had 2-3 holders (labeled, facing out) so they could pull out one book or the whole thing if they wanted to cart it to another room (in the older years when they knew the routine and could self-pace reasonably well). As for supplies, tightly woven baskets of uniform size and color suited my style. Kept it from looking overly schoolish (sometimes) and somewhat thoughtful. I am not into the "make do with whatever leftover tub is available" because the sloppy look of makeshift drove me bonkers. I found that making the system holders (bookshelves, baskets, bins) as attractive as possible helped my sanity. It was, after all, where I spent seemingly ALL my time!

Briana Almengor said...

throw them away. ha!

I was greatly served by this post b/c I never feel like I've got a "system" down that works for my family. I feel a bit scatter-brained quite a bit, but I think it may have more to do w/ my expectations than the reality of our situation. I think there's still a perfectionist lurking in these bones of mine. :)

Nevertheless, I ditched our desks that we had down in our basement which sat in the little space I referred to as our "school room" complete w/ black board, white board and of course, the 5X5 IKEA bookshelves that it seems is a requirement to be a homeschooling momma. ha. :)

But, I found that we'd start the school year down in the basement but by the beginning of December, we'd migrate up to our main level and then remain there the rest of the school year. I think we're big on natural light here at the Almengor's, and our basement just didn't supply enough during the winter months. Something about that and the blue carpet we still have down there I just found repelling.

SO, now that I'm going to be teaching 2 levels at the same time, things could get a bit tricky, but I think we'll remain in a more relaxed setting by doing our work up on the main level. The problems with that which need a solution are: 1. I get distracted w/ my "other" life as a wife, cg leader's wife, daughter, friend, cook, maid, etc. and find it difficult to resist the urge to take care of responsibilities that go along w/ those titles. That then leads to a 2nd problem ..

2.When I'm distracted, my kids are distracted and things just spiral down from there.

3. Where to keep all the books/papers? I'm not one to want my main level to look like a homeschooling family's home...I'm not ashamed of being a homeschooling family; I just don't want my main level to look like that...just a personal preference is all.

I may impliment your strategy of giving each child his/her own box, but given how much our family dynamics seem so simliar, my children will likely find it such a chore to keep it all tidy. We'll see.

As you can see, it's a work in progress! :)