homeschool, organizing, reinventing

Staying Organized on the Go: Out Basket

Not long ago, I came across an ingenious solution to forgetting stuff that had to go out the door with us: the out basket. Our main entrance is in the kitchen, and I had already hung a row of hooks for our keys behind the door (I think I’m the only one who actually uses it, though). People were always forgetting the library books that needed to be returned or letters that needed to be mailed. Solution: a discreet basket that sits on the kitchen counter right beside the door. In it, I place items that need to go out the door.

For my next trick, I need to train everyone in the house (including myself) to check that basket every time we walk out the door.

homeschool, organization, organizing

Staying Organized on the Go: Library Books

I have yet to meet a homeschooler who didn’t love the library. And I have yet to meet a homeschooler who hasn’t contributed enough fine money to have a new wing named after her. It’s even happened to us on more than one occasion. So, what’s the solution to this conundrum?
At first, I’m inclined to shrug my shoulders. After all, once my (then) 15-year-old daughter had to pay off her own $40+ fine over time; a few months later, I found another stack of overdue library books in her possession. Notice I even said that she had to pay the fine out of her own money; the Bank of Mom does not cover library fines, no ma’am. One would think that losing an entire month’s worth of babysitting money would be an effective lesson.
Anyway, not having the answer to teenage thought processes, I’ll move onto a few more practical solutions to the library-book dilemma. Some libraries have started printing out a grocery-like receipt for library books. Instead of sticking used gum in it at the bottom of your purse, put it on the fridge next to the family calendar. Then, go the next step and make a notation on the calendar date that the books are due.
Writing the due date on the calendar can happen even if you don’t have a receipt for the books. If you have more than one or two books, you can make your own list. If the kids are old enough, they can help by making their own lists for the books that they checked out, or the books that are specifically for their use. Again, post this list in a visible spot.
Another idea that I employed while my children were younger is to have a central spot for all library books: a basket, a box, a milk crate, or a separate shelf on the bookshelves. Library books had to live in the designated spot unless they were actually being read. Of course, I had to remind my kids many, many times before they caught onto the idea of returning their library books to the right spot when they were finished with them for the day.
When we grew out of the central-location-for-all-library-books idea, we moved onto each girl keeping all of her library books in her own library bag in her room. They each have several bags from summer reading programs, and I figured we may as well get good use out of them. That idea still works pretty well . . . except when it doesn’t (exhibit A from a few paragraphs ago).
Another option is using an online program to track your library books. Some libraries actually have their own computerized system that will email a reminder when your books are due. For the rest of us, a quick Google search netted me a bunch of returns when I typed in “online library books due.” I’m sure similar searches would produce more results for software or online programs to help you keep track of your library books and their due dates.
Of course, a program is only as good as its follow through. The same goes for the other ideas I’ve mentioned for keeping track of library books and due dates: they’re no good if you don’t physically return the books to the library when they are due (or renew them online).

Q4U: How do you keep your library books organized?

homeschool, organizing

Staying Organized on the Go: Car Schooling

Let’s be real. Not too many of us actually do 100 percent of our schooling at home. Even when our family had one car, which my husband drove to work every day, the girls and I rarely spent every day of every week inside of our house. It helped that we lived in walking distance of the park, our church, and a number of other places in town.
            Aside from co-ops, many of us find ourselves dragging younger kids to the older kids’ sports or drama practices. Or, we may find ourselves frequenting doctors’ offices. So, how can we maintain even a semblance of order to our schooling schedules in these circumstances?
            One answer may be to organize the materials we need for schooling on the go. Decide what is absolutely essential and only pack those items. The last thing we need is to be carting around stuff that we won’t actually use. We can utilize the same general principles as we would for co-ops by having a separate bag or container ready to whisk into the car at a moment’s notice. One important addition, though, is a pencil case. It should be stocked with pencils, pens, erasers, a pencil sharpener (or extra lead for mechanical pencils), and whatever else is regularly needed for each child to do his schoolwork. If possible, each child should have his own small pencil case for his things, even if all of the stuff is in one central bag. In addition, be sure to stock extra filler paper, crayons, a coloring book (for the younger set), a fun reading book, and a puzzle book in the bag.
The car-school bag should be used only for taking schoolwork on the go. Leave as many basic supplies in it as possible, so no one is running around looking for a pencil when you’re already ten minutes late for the doctor’s appointment. Before it’s time to walk out the door, have each child collect a reasonable amount of school work to put in the bag(s).
To ward off the claims of not knowing what they’re supposed to do, either make sure they pack their own planners, or make sure that you throw your family homeschool planner in the bag. While I love online planners, they’re not very practical for on-the-go use, unless you have an iPad with 3G access. I suggest printing out the schedule for a week at a time, that way it’s ready to grab on the go.
Q4U: For real, how much time do you spend in the car during school?

homeschool, organizing, planning

Staying Organized on the Go: Co-ops

            Homeschool co-ops can be a wonderful enhancement to our home studies. But it always seems to be a hassle to remember all of the books and materials we need each week/day, not to mention the times when we’ve had to turn the car around because little Susie left her essay in the printer tray at home.
            One solution is to have a designated co-op bag or container. Place everything that you need for co-op each week in that bag and only in that bag. Make sure that everything that gets taken out during the week to be worked on is returned promptly to the bag or container. If you’ve made yourself a note to add something to the bag or container for the following week, put it in there as soon as you get home—before you have a chance to forget.
            Another solution is to make sure each kid has all of his co-op belongings together the night before. Perhaps each of them needs his own backpack or book bag, and as he works on things throughout the week, he puts them right back in said bag as soon as he is finished. As soon as papers get printed, they’re retrieved and placed in the appropriate folder, ready to go out the door.
            Yes, just like all of the other solutions mentioned in this book, this one will also take some training and some reminders. It would be wonderful if children remembered such things after the first introduction, but then again, you probably wouldn’t be reading this book if they did!

Come see me over at Heart of the Matter Online today! I’m speaking at their fall conference at 3 p.m. (EST), and you can still get tickets!