Organizing and Planning Your School: Your Special “OPS” Mission
Cheryl Allin, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine
ugust is here, and it’s time to gear up for a new school year. Once again you begin to explore new ideas to organize and plan so that this year will be even more efficiently run than last year. What worked well? What can I do differently? With the kids a year older, and perhaps a new one on board, adjustments need to be made. Or perhaps this is your first year. Whatever your situation, we have a mission for you!
Your mission: a three-phase plan to get you and your family off to a great start.
It will take some time to organize your space, but spending a little time now will save you a ton of time later.
· Home and school planner
· Three empty bins or laundry baskets labeled: keep, donate, and sell
· Trash can
· Different-sized totes, boxes, bins, or baskets, some with lids
· One pencil box per child and one for you
· Masking tape and a permanent marker for labeling bins
· Paper and pen to inventory supplies
· Blank, colored circle stickers (yard sale stickers)
· Cleaning supplies—rags or paper towels and soap or furniture polish
· File cabinet
· Recycling bin
· Wrapping paper, brown paper sack, or newspaper comics
· 1”x 3” x 4’ piece of wood
· Wood clothespins
· Wood stain
Organize important information: Place all important information like Web passwords, budget records, and car maintenance schedules in a home management folder or planner. Organize your address book by updating addresses and phone numbers and add this information to your planner. Immediately open all mail when you receive it and throw junk mail in the trash, file important paperwork, and place current items (bills, coupons, letters) in a manila folder labeled “pending.” Check this folder daily. 1
Computers: Start by organizing your computer favorites and files. Dedicate folders to homeschooling and the subfolders to subjects in both your bookmarked Internet sites and all computer documents. By doing this you can easily access a Web site or file that you need.
For E-Book (and other large file) storage, you may want to use a USB flash drive. An excerpt from the E-Homeschooling: Embracing the E-Book Revolution (a free TOS E-Book) explains:
“Once the (computer) subdirectory gets too full, I remove it to a plug-in flash drive . . . devoted to homeschooling resources, and only plug the flash drive into my computer when I need an E-Book, want to peruse my E-Books, or add E-Books. It's a really quick process since the flash drive acts as a mapped drive. I keep a directory printout of all of my E-Books for easy reference (and because I like paper directories).”
File cabinets: This is a great organization tool to systemize all important papers both school- and home-related. Contemplate what your needs are to determine the cabinet size. There are many types of cabinets from an inexpensive, portable plastic one to the large, traditional, office file cabinet. Purchase manila folders and hanging file folders and label each by topic. If you already own a cabinet, start at the top drawer and go through each folder, throwing out, recycling, or shredding unwanted papers.
Make your own manila folder by folding large pieces of construction paper in half. If you do use manila folders, write on the tab using a pencil instead of pen (that way you can erase and reuse the folders when you are done with them) and set them in a 14” x 12” cardboard box. Cover the box with wrapping paper, brown paper sack (the children can decorate), or comics from the newspaper for a fun decorative touch. 2
Teacher’s materials: Place all teachers’ guides, planners, and workbooks in a school bag, crate, small box, or a spot in your teacher workspace. Make a pencil box of your own and fill with pens, pencils, hole punch, scissors, and other daily-needed items.
Instead of buying pencil boxes, wash and reuse plastic containers like sour cream, butter, whipped cream, or baby wipes containers. Each can be labeled and decorated with a permanent marker. 3
Bookshelves: Homeschoolers usually have more than one bookshelf, even with the E-Book craze! It’s time to organize them.
Empty each bookshelf by sorting items into the correct bins, and clean the shelves. If you need to keep an item but will not use it until next year, put it in an empty tote with a lid. Label the outside of the tote with the item name and store in your garage, closet, or attic.
Separate magazines by title and place each title in a separate magazine holder and return them to the bookshelf.
Use cereal and pancake mix boxes for magazine holders. First, cut off the top flaps. Next, cut half way down one small side, and place your magazines inside! 4
Group books by genre and use the color dots to catalogue the books. For example, blue stickers for non-fiction, red for fiction, and green for reference books. Also, label curriculum items the same way, red for math, green for spelling, and write the grade level on the sticker. Replace them on the shelf spine-out by color, grouping as needed. Take this time to make note of what you have and what you will need to purchase for the new school year.
Drawers, cubbies, and desks in the school area: This can be an overwhelming task, so empty one drawer at a time, placing items in the appropriate bin or trash. Wipe the drawers clean. Check that all pens, markers, and art supplies are usable, and throw out what isn’t working. (This is a great job for the kids!) Find a special place or consider buying plastic drawer organizers for supplies, and label each drawer with scissors, pencils, lined paper, white paper, crayons, markers, construction paper, glue, stickers, paints, and brushes. As you work, write a list of school supplies you need for the school year. Situate children’s curricula and pencil box, globes, microscopes, computers, and charts close by their work station.
Watch the sale ads for back-to-school specials, and stock up. Instead of using a plastic drawer organizer, use plastic gallon-sized zip bags and place in a sturdy, decorated cardboard box. 5
Last year’s school work: File the papers and projects you need for your records in the file cabinet or tote. Throw away or recycle the rest.
If you find yourself wanting to save everything, consider taking a digital picture of the item and download it on your computer in a file labeled (Child’s name) schoolwork. Dispose of the item. 6
Make an area for each child’s supplies: a bookshelf, a drawer, or a book bag. Include a pencil box with 3 sharpened pencils (who likes to hear the electric pencil sharpener when instructing!), eraser, calculator, markers and colored pencils, and crayons. Any workbooks, textbooks, and manipulatives they use daily will go in this area. Organize by color coding. Each child gets one color for all their folders and notebooks.
Group manipulatives in see-through containers, such as clear plastic bags or plastic sandwich meat containers, so children can easily identify the contents. 7
If you don’t school in just one area during the day, you might also consider mobile storage carts for moving your school supplies to other areas of the house. In the E-Book Dreams and Designs, you will find details on how to do this:
“Narrow computer desks with an upright CD storage area, built in shelves, and a roll-out keyboard space . . . are ideal to convert to rolling storage carts because of their narrow style; they can roll through halls and doorways more easily . . . “
What to do with all the paperwork: At the end of every school day, take any papers and projects and either file them in the child’s portfolio, display them on the wall (see next note on how to display work), take a digital picture, and throw it away or recycle.
Display your child’s work: Make an inexpensive display wall for art projects and special papers out of a piece of 1” x 3” x 4’ wood board with clothespins glued every foot. Your children can color the clothespins with their assigned color and use them to hang their work. Stain the wood and secure on an empty wall with screws and wall anchors. Remember to rotate out work as the year progresses, filing what you need to keep and throwing away or recycling the rest.
You can also hang a clothesline across the wall and hang items on it with the clothespins.8
Schedule a time in the next week to donate all items and a time to sell the others at a book sale or on eBay. Follow through!
Clean up every day. At the end of the school day, set a timer on ten minutes and involve the whole family in a quick pick-up of the school area. File papers and put items in their assigned spots. Be consistent, and you will be amazed at how organized you stay.
Time is something we can never get back, so planning ahead for a smooth school year is top priority.
Create or reevaluate your homeschool vision statement. This is a statement that you create as a family and is the foundation of your homeschool. It includes the purpose, mission, and goals of your school.
Research that the laws have not changed in your state: Check the HSLDA website for any changes, as well as the number of days your school must be in session.
Homeschool planner: Everything will be much easier to plan if you have all of your important papers, both home and school, in one folder or planner. When you need to reference something, you will have it all together. See a sample of one here.
Develop a yearly plan: Jot down your thoughts on these questions:
· What do you want to accomplish this year?
· When do you want time off for birthdays, holidays, and vacations?
· When and where will you have field trips?
· What is the start and end date of the school year?
· What subjects do you want to teach this year?
You can get a rough idea of your school year by placing this information into monthly calendars from your planner. For example, if you want to do a unit study on Thanksgiving in November and take some time off in May, write each in the appropriate month. Next, consider your curriculum. If your math curriculum has 36 chapters and you are schooling twelve months, you should average three chapters a month, so write what chapters you should be working on during that month. Scheduling this way will give you a rough estimate of where you should be if you get off schedule due to unavoidable circumstances.
Complete one or two chores a day for the next few days, and you will see how easy it is to organize and plan for the next school year!
1 Save time making charts and forms by purchasing The Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse®. This planner has done all the work for you and combines homeschool and homemaking. It boasts four years’ worth of calendar pages, countless informative articles and charts, mouth-watering recipes, and over 150 charts and forms to aid you in planning your school year. Included are worksheets for keeping track of books on hand, teaching supplies, craft projects, field trips, repair projects, budget, and much, much more.
2-8 Ideas found at www.econobusters.com.
Copyright 2008 The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. Reprinted with permission.
The Old Schoolhouse is having an
After Christmas Sale
The Schoolhouse Store is running a new contest . . . 11 winners per day for 6 days starting December 26! Each day, the first 10 customers in the store to purchase $15 or more win a gift package worth $122.38. In addition, the biggest ticket of the day will win the same gift package.
The gift package includes:
· And Then Mama Said . . . It Takes Time to Learn to Read—value = $9.95
· Homeschooling Methods—value = $14.99
· Publisher's choice of a TOS audiobook—value = $17.95
· Daystar Gift Certificate—value = $10.00
· Greenleaf Handwriting by George—value = $10.00
· Sue Gregg Cooking with Children CD—value = $10.00
· 2-year TOS Magazine subscription—value = $39.00
· Sir Kendrick & the Castle of Bel Lione from Perfect Praise Publishing—value = $8.99
· The Mitten book—value = $1.50
Total value = $122.38
Besides the 11 winners per day, the store has over 38 vendors participating in a HUGE sale. Over 200 items will be marked 20%-50% off. Sale ends December 31.
Here's a link for a free E-Book, The New School Year: Planning Your Course and Letting the Lord Determine Your Steps. Many parents are choosing to start homeschooling in the middle of the year, and this would be a great resource to share with them.
The Schoolhouse Planner December 2008 Module
The Schoolhouse Planner
One-year print Canadian subscription.