homeschool, organization, organizing, planning

Color Coding for Control

Color coding is an easy way to organize lots of different kinds of things. You don’t have to remember where it is, whose it is, or how to return it once you’re done. Kids’ possessions, calendars, books, holiday decorations, and homeschool materials can all benefit from using color coding for controlling them.
Anyone with more than one child knows how hard it can be sometimes to keep the stuff separate. This is especially true if you have more than one child of the same gender. Rather than just make sure all the kids have a different color sippy cup, washcloth, doll blanket, or monster truck, I suggest assigning a specific color to each child. That system is much easier than remembering that little Susie has a pink blankie, a red toothbrush, and a green sippy cup while little Molly has the opposite.
When my first child was born, I was thrilled to be able to dress her in frilly pink dresses, sew hew pink doll blankets, paint her room pink, and eventually buy her a pink, big-girl comforter for her big-girl bed. When daughter number two came along, I decided that all of her things could be purple, my favorite color and still very girly. As much as possible, I bought accessories and toys in pink and purple. No fighting over identical bath towels, sippy cups, or blankies. As they got old enough for school, I bought a pink binder and a purple binder, a pink pencil case and a purple pencil case. This system was also a no-brainer for me when I found a pink ruler under the couch or a purple notebook on the kitchen table. For those of you with more than two children, no worries, you have a rainbow full of colors from which to choose for your color-coding scheme. If your kids are old enough to have a favorite color, by all means use it.
Since the kids were already color coded, I went ahead and assigned a color to my husband and to myself for our family fridge calendar. That way I save space by not having to write everyone’s name on every event. I can also see at a glance who has an outside activity on any given day.
After we get our kids all color coded, we’ll be ready to start color coding other things around our houses. Many people choose to color code their books so that it’s easier to find what they’re looking for and to return books where they belong. You can purchase small, colored circle stickers and put them on the spine of each book. Make up a color scheme and post it on the side of the bookshelves or somewhere accessible and visible. For instance, you may choose to make all history and historical fiction books green, all science-related books blue, all language arts books red, and so on. The actual colors aren’t as important as choosing a color scheme, sticking with it, and making sure everyone else knows what it is.  If you’ve got enough books in one particular subject to fill an entire shelf, you could also add a same-color dot to the edge of that shelf. As an aside, our bookshelves are ordered by subject, and the shelves are labeled, but the actual books are not.
Since this is the holiday season, let’s talk about color coding our holiday decorations—or at least the containers in which we keep them. Since we can’t all afford to buy a whole new collection of different colored, matching Rubbermaid containers, here are a few other ideas. Use masking tape to label the boxes with a large spot of color on them. Choose easy-to-remember colors such as orange for fall, brown for Thanksgiving, red and/or green for Christmas, blue for winter, yellow for spring, and pink for summer. Of course, if you are in the market for new storage containers, the few days immediately following a holiday are the best times to score them cheap. That’s when I was able to purchase my red Christmas containers.
Since this column is supposed to be strictly about homeschooling, let’s talk about how color-coding can help to control our homeschool stuff. Assign each subject a color, say green for history, blue for science, red for language arts, purple for Bible, orange for fine arts, and yellow for electives. Or feel free to add more colors so that each elective and/or fine arts category has its own color. Then use folders, binders, dividers, notebooks, etc. in that color for that subject. You can use the color dot book labeling system I mentioned above as part of this system as well. When you’re trying to collect all of the stuff you need for, say, science, just look for all of the blue notebooks, folders, dot-labeled books, etc. If you store your materials in or near the kitchen to transport them to the table for school, you can color code each container and/or shelf as well.
The color-coding system is something that even toddlers can participate in since it does not involve reading. All they have to do is to match the colors. Of course, it may get a little dicey if you use both chartreuse and lime green, or if one of your family members is color blind, but for the most part, color coding is an inexpensive, easy method of controlling some of our stuff.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2011 issue of Home School Enrichment, in my “The Organized Homeschool” column.

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