On a typical homeschool morning it was a major accomplishment to have all the kids up, dressed, fed, and chores done. Then we need to start school, which often went something like this. Math first, except child # 2 can’t find his book and child #4 broke his pencil. After 10 minutes of searching everyone has a book and working writing instrument. 5 minutes later child #1 needs colored pencils, which we can’t find. Child #3 thinks they are in his room and runs off. And so the morning progresses with stops, starts, hunts, and frustration.
Often being a Mom of 4 boys felt like wrangling monkeys in a home filled with black holes.
In order to save my sanity, I hit upon a method that eliminated a few of those black holes. So often the best solutions are the simplest, that is definitely true of this tip.
At the beginning of one school year I got each of the boys a box with a lid large enough to hold all of their school books and supplies. It worked so well I did it every year until they were in High School. (In high school, they were responsible for their own supplies.)
The system was super simple, and only effective if the rules are followed without exception. When the school day started each boy pulled out their own box and everything they needed was right there. At the end of school everything was returned to each box, the lid popped on, and there was no opening it back up until the next school day.
This solved the obvious issue of having to hunt for books, pencils and other miscellaneous items, which was a huge help in keeping frustration to a minimum, but the school box solved a few other things I hadn’t foreseen.
With everything all in one place, I found the boys could get started on their work with very little direction from me. They could do handwriting pages or start their math while I finished up breakfast dishes or feeding a baby. I always tried to have some school work they did on their own, and some they did with me. This taught them early to start to take responsibility for their education.
What I put in a box:
- Writing tools: pens, pencils, erasers, markers, crayons, and colored pencils.
- Variety of paper including lined, unlined, and graph paper. (We like graph paper for doing math problems, all the columns are much easier to line up.)
- School books that they could work out of on their own: math workbooks, handwriting books, and readers. I had a shelf where I kept the books we did all together.
- Art supplies: water colors, stickers, scissors, tape.
- Younger children: play dough, math manipulatives, phonics flash cards.
- Older students: protractor, compass, dictionary, thesaurus, atlas.
The boxes made it easy for the kids to do their chores in the morning or a quick clean up in the afternoons, they knew just where to store everything and the system was so simple they didn’t have to think about it. The key to success with active boys. So, I decided to branch out into other cluttered areas of ‘lost’ things.
Other boxes to consider
- Sports box, I kept ours on the washing machine. In that box went all things sports related: cleats, gloves, shin guards, balls. Whoever had the chore of cleaning out the car would haul any left over equipment to the sports box, allowing us to grab and run, as we left for practices.
- Piano box, which lived by the piano. All of the boys took music lessons and all of their books were together by the piano. I tried putting them in their school boxes, but this was simpler, and we could just grab the piano box on the way out the door to lessons.
- Library box. Next to our front door was the box that held all of our library books. We made a weekly trip to the library and the boys were pretty good about keeping those books in this box when they weren’t reading. We occasionally lost one in a bedroom, but for the most part, the library box worked.
- Writing box. The school boxes were only used during school, that was the rule. But I had another box they could access whenever the wanted that had all sorts of fun writing supplies. Besides colored pens and pencils, there was stationary, stamps and stickers.
- Craft box. Again, I didn’t want the kids pulling their scissors from their school box if they decided to construct something in the afternoon, so there was a craft box that was always available. I tried to put interesting things in it like string, egg cartons, fabric, and chalk.
I’m sure you can think of more, but you get the idea. Most of my ideas came from what things ended up in the car at the end of the day. With all the activities we had to empty the car every morning or we would have been buried under all the ‘stuff’ we hauled around.
So how do you organize your homeschool supplies?