I realize this is a bit of a bold move, writing about organizational tools this early in the school year. And I fully realize that somewhere around November or February or March or a week from now, I’ll rue the day that I thought I had it together enough to write a post about organization. In fact, my mom is probably chuckling that I even have the gall to aspire to such genius, because, let’s face it, Organization has never been my middle name. Moody and slightly unbalanced, check. Melodramatic and opinionated, double check. Weather-worn and sporadic (although I prefer the terms “spontaneous” and “carefree,”) definitely. Organization? Nope. Hard pass.
Even so, there are a few things that are really working well for me this year. And there are a few things I am doing that make me really REALLY miss a dear friend that passed away last year because I used to tease her so very much about her love for things being just so. She was an elementary education major that I lived with in college, and I teased her mercilessly about her binders and her laminator and lesson planning and how she was always tired by 9:30 at night and wanted quiet. If she were here today, there would be no end to my humble pie servings.
Here are the things that are working for me:
As I was sitting down one night a month ago, I actually said these words out loud to Michael. “I just don’t know if I’m using my laminator to its full potential.” And then I clapped my hands over my mouth and began to question my existence. Who have I become? Am I even the Heather that I once was, or have my footloose and fancy-free days passed me by entirely? I got over my early-mid-life crisis swiftly and promptly laminated everything I could lay hold of.
Heaven help. This is where this post will get REALLY and desperately nerdy. But some people like that? There are entire blogs dedicated to this kind of thing, apparently. (Crossing fingers and praying that this doesn’t become a recurring theme on this blog, because it will lead to yet another identity crisis.)
I have basically three kinds of binders.
Kids’ Paperwork Portfolio Binders
The first is easy and saves me mental anguish. Each child has their own “portfolio” binder. This is where all paper, drawings, map tracings, etc. goes. Since school has been going for three weeks for the younger kids, this is an organizational system that is well underway. Anything current for the week, I will hang up on the wall for one week only. At the end of the week, I’ll take everything down and put in binders. (And I might sneakily cull some of the extra work out of binders that just get full. My kids love to draw, and I can’t keep everything.)
Morning Time Binder
The second binder type is my morning time binder. Morning time is around one hour, beginning at eight every morning, where the kids all sit at the table with tea in fancy teacups with a treat of some sort. In morning time, we sing hymns, read poetry, and we do any school that all of the kids can learn together. It’s basically my insurance policy for the things that would fall through the cracks if I didn’t set aside intentional time. This is not my idea, because I’m not a genius. A lot of my inspiration for morning time came from Cindy Rollins’ book Mere Motherhood, although I have taken inspiration from Brandy Vencel from Afterthoughts blog as well.
Oh, hey! There’s my binder in action. Next to my coffee, which is equally, if not more, important. The kids’ tea and treats must have already been consumed at this point. I tend to worry about elbows flailing and smashing cups on our ceramic floor, so I clean tea supplies up quickly. Because things do happen. Trust me.
I used to do morning “circle time” and a separate afternoon tea time, but this year it worked best to combine them, and the kids are all gung-ho about having treats and tea RIGHT after breakfast! (And no more bickering about who sits in exactly the center of our carpet during circle time! Bonus!)
This is what we cover in one week.
In my morning time binder, I have the things I want to accomplish in a week, the poems and Bible verses that the kids are memorizing, lyrics to folk songs and hymns we’re using, a checklist of which scripture passages we’re reading, and information about the composers and artists we are studying over the course of the year. Everything in one place. The kids think I actually remember everything they’re learning, and it makes Mommy look like she’s got it together.
Each week, I make little sticky notes for the five school days, so I know exactly what I have to gather for books in the mornings.
Yearly Syllabus Binder. Or the quite literal Mother Load.
Lastly, is my yearly syllabus planner. This was my magnum opus this summer. I made entire syllabi for the two grade-school boys so that I could get an overarching picture of what we are covering and what we are failing to cover. In this binder, I’ve got checkmark boxes for the entire year’s worth of material.
I also have what I want to cover on a “typical” day of the week. This is where I’m keeping my pre-reading notes with very generalized thesis statements from each chapter so that I can remember what Million is reading.
Every evening, I write down the following day’s plans in a notebook for the boys. Doing so in the evenings gives me a chance to reflect on if I’m planning too much for them, if we’re getting everything done, or if they need more scheduled in. This notebook idea and scheduling in the evenings is courtesy of Sarah Mackenzie. I believe it might be in her Teaching from Rest book, or it would be from her blog Amongst Lovely Things.
The boys then get to choose in which order they accomplish their schoolwork during the day, and they make checkmarks as they do their work. At the end of the day, they sign that they’ve finished everything and write any notes about things during the day. This could be a fun fact they learned or a note if they had questions about something that may have been challenging. (Although for Million, it often ends up being little love notes to me. And I don’t mind one bit!) Here you can see Creedence’s notebook next to him. It looks like he chose copywork to work on at this particular point, while Million chose to draw a map of the world.
Those are my current organizational practices. I don’t claim to have it all together. Not even close. But I’m finding that as more and more children enter “school age,” some of the principles and practices that you organized folks have been shouting to me about for YEARS are indeed worth their weight in gold.
What’s one thing that you do to keep your home, work life, or children organized?
Some tools we use and love: (affiliate links)