Thursday, November 8, 2012

How Do I Keep All These Books and Stuff Under Control?

Early in my homeschooling experience I read an article by a lady teaching a number of children in a small home. I began to use many of her ideas and have expanded on some of them. I am sorry I don’t remember her name, or where I read the article.

First of all, I bought each child (even the toddlers) a plastic box from Wal-mart (adding boxes as I add children). I picked the size I felt was the biggest possible while still being easily carried by that child when full of books. Don’t bother with lids. I found they just got in the way because the books always stick up over the top. 

I wrote each child’s name on their box on both ends with a permanent marker. Then I put in each box that child’s texts, workbooks, notebooks and a pencil box with pencils, tape, stapler, whole punch, and colored pencils (pencils don’t break or mark on furniture as easily as some other kinds of art supplies).

On my computer, I typed up a list of subjects for each child with what I want each of them to do each day (i.e. three pages of math, one page in grammar, one lesson six times in art, 20 min. in Latin, etc.) This is taped to the outside of their box for them to refer to everyday during independent time. I use the same list to make sure I don’t leave anything out when we are correcting work together.

My oldest keeps her books in the order she wants to do her subjects. When she is done with a book, she puts it in back and takes the next one out. When she comes to the first book, she knows she is done. 

My second child takes all his books out of the box and stacks them on the table or couch. As he finishes each book, he puts it back into the box. When all the books are in the box, he is done.

I also bought a larger box for me to hold all the answer keys, flash cards, and books I use for all the children at once (i.e. history), and books I don’t want in the children’s boxes, mostly non-consumables used with the smaller children. (I have a list of what I want to do with all the children together as well as the preschoolers individually as well as the lists on the boxes. I am quite forgetful otherwise. Plus, by simply adding check boxs and places to write page numbers, and printing me off a copy everyday, I have permanent records of what we do.)

The original author of the box idea had each child put their box on the floor of their closet at the end of school each day. 

In the condo and motel, I simply stacked them in a corner of the main room (closets weren’t big enough). 

In the trailer, we put them in the trunk of my car. 

Here, I have built a cupboard in the dinning room just the right size to hold all the children’s boxes. Mine goes under the end table in the corner of the living room. Books not currently being used go on shelves in my dinning room (which is decorated in “Early Library.”)

Now you need to get organized. You will soon be swamped with catalogs, school papers, notes to yourself, and so on. You need a way to handle all this. Plus, you will still have your normal household chores to do. Life goes on, school or not.

First the papers. Get yourself a file box. Cardboard ones can be as cheap as three dollars or check behind stores for a cast off the right size. You can go fancier but you don’t have to. If it’s really ugly, cover it with contact paper or let your little ones color it for you. Buy file folders (I know, more money. Believe me it’s worth it.) I prefer the hanging type of folder because they don’t get mooshed in the bottom of the box as easy. Fix a file for every category, such as; legal stuff, Abeka, Bob Jones, etc. You can put them in whatever order works best for you. I prefer alphabetical. It makes it easy for me to remember six months from now where I put that catalogue from Weaver. (Honestly, now I thumb through any catalogs that come in and throw them in the trash imediatly. I do all my ordering online and publishers don't really change what they offer that much from year to year. So a quick "Hmm, Abeka updated 3rd grade history. Well, I don't have anyone in that grade this year, so meh." is all I need.)

Now the house. First…DECLUTTER! 

The more stuff you have the more stuff you have to take care of, if even just mentally. 

Let me ask you, if you took everything out of your house that your family doesn't use at least weekly, how long would it take to clean your house? How much of your time is spent caring for stuff no one actually uses.

I am not saying to get rid of all your decorations, keepsakes, future projects, etc. I am saying evaluate each one, acknowledge the time it takes you to maintain it, and decide if it is really worth it. 


 How to decide what to get rid of? I have discovered that if I take everything out of a cupboard or drawer to a neutral location (my bed, the kitchen table, etc.) and then take back what I WANT TO KEEP, I am more successful. 

If I take out what I want to get rid of I seldom take anything out. 

I kind of imagine I am moving to Alaska and can only take the most important things with me. Everything else goes. 

 Many follow the 20/20 rule: if it costs less than $20 and would take you less than 20 minutes (or a trip to Walmart) to replace, chuck it out.

You can schedule fifteen minutes a day or so to spend just decluttering. Begin at your front door and work your way around the house one piece of furniture, closet, nook and cranny at a time.

Second, get rid of as many time wasters, both yours and your children’s, as you can. 

Number one time waster in America? TV (scratch that! No longer true. Now computers and the internet actually beats out TV!)

I know, “They don’t watch that much. There are a lot of good shows on. What would I do to entertain them without it?” 

Keep a journal of how much everyone watches, any screen time. You will be surprised. I honestly thought my children didn’t watch very much until I sat down and figured it out. 

Now, we still have a TV, but it is in the computer area where it is very uncomfortable to use. And, amazingly, since we moved where we have lousy reception most of the time, even my husband and I have discovered we don’t really like mainstream programming all that much. It is pretty stupid and insulting to the intelligence most of the time. We have much better things to do. Of course, Amazon Prime and Netflex keep getting better, but still...

Other time wasters to consider weeding out or at least severely limiting; video games, telephone visits, computers (I know computer skills are supposed to be essential, but it is too easy to sit down “for a minute” and not get up again for three or four hours (and I wrote that BEFORE Pintrest and Facebook!)

The internet is the first invention in history to rival TV for America’s time. I would not be a bit surprised if in a few years it surpasses TV as America’s number one past time. 

Besides, what are “computer skills?” Today, unless you are a programmer, you only need to know how to read, type, and follow directions to run any of our modern “Window” or “Apple” computers. There are plenty of simple books and tutorial programs that can teach specific programs, such as Word or Power Point, when our children need them. This, coupled with some exploring and a lack of fear, is how I learned to use these programs, in fact. I just go to the toolbars and icons and see what they do. Until my children need it, I am not letting them waste more than an hour a week of their time. This is increasingly difficult, what with math being accessed on their own tablets, and so much more available and reliable internet. But it is still important to keep under control, especially with little guys.)

Look around and see what else your family spends a lot of time on that really doesn’t produce any value. 

Consider extra curricular activities. Most are replicas of the public school format (i.e. remove the child from their God-given family, segregate them by age, and place them under the authority of a total stranger who is probably not a Christian.) I feel it is better for most children to have no outside activities than to be placed in this type of atmosphere. Socialization occurs any time the child is with another human being, not just with peers. Many of these types of activities promote peer dependence and waste a family’s valuable time, often with the results of bad attitudes instead of happy people. 

Besides, if our prairie mom survived with ten little ones and no Little League, so can we.

Have you ever thought about decluttering your diet? Some things we eat take energy and nutrients to digest but provide nothing but empty calories in return. When I feed my children too many of these empty foods, they have more trouble concentrating and either sitting still or staying awake, depending on the child. This makes school more difficult.

White sugar is the most obvious item we want to limit. Sugar is listed on labels as sugar, corn syrup, fructose, maltose, in fact any ingredient that ends with “-tose” is a sugar. Sugar has no nutrients whatsoever. They have all been bleached and filtered out. Many people believe this is why sugar products are addictive. It takes vitamins to digest sugar, but there are no vitamins in it. So your body screams “more vitamins!” but since the highest source of the vitamins needed to digest sugar are located in fruit, we interpret that as a craving for sugar! Talk about a vicious circle. 

Try an experiment: next time you crave sugar, eat an apple or handful of raisins first. See if your craving doesn’t go away. 

Oh, and one of my nutrition books sights several studies that show a stronger correlation between sugar and heart disease than fat and heart disease.

For more nutrition information, see 

Plan your menu:
Breakfast= One protein, one grain, one fruit, (egg, toast, and juice; raisin bran cereal; pancakes, milk, oranges; peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with 100% fruit jelly; be creative.)

Recess snack= One protein (yogurt, cheese stick, piece of roast.)

Lunch= One protein, one or two grains, one veggie, (cold turkey sandwich with carrot chunks; burrito on whole wheat tortillas with beans and raw spinach; whole wheat macaroni and cheese with pickles; celery dipped in peanut butter with popcorn.)

Afternoon snack= Fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, strawberries, peaches, plums, dried fruits.)

Supper= One protein, one grain, one fruit, one veggie (meat, potatoes, peaches, green beans; spaghetti with meat [pasta is a bread and sauce is a fruit], and a green salad; hamburgers with home pattied meat, whole wheat buns, carrot chips, and watermelon for desert.)
            More fruit and veggies is a good thing. Five is the minimum.

Honestly, the best things I have done to increase our veggie intake is;
  • Keep a bowl of cut veggies byt eh main walk way in the house. It is impossible to pass by with out taking some.
  • Serving 3-4 different veggies with each supper. NO ONE east 4 servings of broccoli at a sitting. Nearly everyone will eat 1 serving of carrots, 1 serving of celery, 1 serving of squash, and 1 serving of broccoli at one sitting. More than once I have sat and watched my most veggie averse child pick away at a bowl full of veggies while talking after a meal and never even know he did!
 The "Minimalist" diet simply sates "Eat lots of veggies." Truth be told, do that and you will be fine.

So, you’ve decluttered your house, time and diet. Now what? Remember that bag your child is carrying out of your house in your fantasy? What was in the pocket called life skills? 

What good would it do your child to become a rocket scientist if he starves to death because he never learned to cook? Or dies of pneumonia because she had to go naked, (no clean clothes, you see)? 

You need to make a list of household chores you want done daily and weekly. Assign them to yourself and your children according to age level. Even little ones can do a remarkable job helping (My four year old keeps the trash and dirty laundry gathered up, and cleans up the toys off the kitchen floor). 

First, teach them the skills they need to do the job, (and make sure they have the tools necessary), then inform them that you want the job done everyday, at the same time, with a good attitude. 

Good attitudes are things that need practice, so any moaning or groaning will be dealt with by giving more practice, i.e. extra chores. Of course extremely bad attitudes and out right refusal fall under bad character traits (sin) and should be dealt with as such.

I assign chores for long periods of time, such as, “you will now put up the dishes everyday for one year.” This eliminates letting a chore go till next week and someone else’s turn. It also helps prepare for the real world where work is often the same thing day in and day out. 

And it prevents confusion in management (“Now whose turn is it to fold clothes? Oh, well. I guess I will just do it.”) 

Do not feel guilty for requiring your little ones (or big ones) to help (I know this is much easier said then done). This is part of their school. Studies have shown that children who do chores are happier as adults. You are preparing them for a happy adulthood. 

And they are now home 24/7. That’s at least six more hours a day to make messes. You are not a slave. You are not being fair to your children if you teach them that the mom should do all the work. They will have unreasonable expectations of life when they are grown if you don’t.

O.K., now you have taken care of the legal stuff, bought a curriculum (or explored your library), decluttered (house, diet, and time), and assigned chores. 

Next, make a rough daily schedule for every member of the family (see the When Do I Do Everything? Section.) 

Put the most important activities first (chores, breakfast, getting dressed, Bible study, etc.) Make chores and housework a priority. 

You will have to fine tune this list as you go along, but generally, the later in the day something is scheduled the less likely it is to get done. 

Sometimes you need to deviate from the “most important first” rule. For example, I consider language arts more important than math. However, my daughter is more likely to get all her work done if she does math first. So we plan it that way. Time and practice will tell what will work best in your family. 

It is ok to try new things. You can always go back.

Remember, you will make mistakes. You will have bad days, just as with any job. But you will have good ones too. 

There is nothing like hearing your five year old read a book to his younger sibling for the first time and knowing YOU taught him to do that! 

The Bible says “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

Just remember that it takes awhile to reap a crop after you sow it. You do not go pick ears of corn the day after you plant the seeds. You have to wait awhile. 

You may not think you are seeing any reward for your work; but it will come. It may be a ways down the road, but it will come.

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