You know that homeschool one mom – the one who is always calm, whose kids are always clean and polite? The mom who somehow manages to arrive everywhere early, impeccably dressed, with makeup, hair, and snacks?
There seems to be one in every co-op. A mom who makes it all look effortless and easy. Her home always seems to be ready for company, her lesson plans always look pristine, and there are never dried french fries or piles of cracker crumbs in her car.
She’s the standard we often hold ourselves to…yet rarely achieve. Not because we’re lacking in any way, but because, well, that’s just not us.
We’re the more relaxed moms, the leggings moms, the moms with more receipts in our purses than lesson plans in our notebooks. We’re not always fashionable, our meals aren’t always made from scratch, and we’re definitely not always organized. Raise your hand if you’re an unorganized homeschool mom!
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Unorganized Homeschool Mom No More!
While we can scour Pinterest for chore plans and weekly teatime activities, actual organization remains a beast that is difficult to conquer. Converting our lives from disarray to arranged and labeled requires a personality shift, a change in thinking, a complete overhaul in how we do things. Not only is that hard, it’s unrealistic.
Fortunately, though, there are ways for an unorganized homeschool mom to become more organized, without needing to change who they are at their core. Rather than trying to be someone else, try these tips that use your personality to your benefit. They will help you to embrace who you are and work with what’s easiest for you. It is perfectly possible to incorporate organization into your homeschool, no matter how disorganized you’ve become!
1. Stop Using Complicated Planners
There is an enormous planner fanbase. Droves of fans who can name manufacturers and styles the way some people name the Beatles. They’re the ones with washi tape in their pocket, sticky tabs on auto ship, and a masterful color-coding system.
Some of them even have multiple planners – one for appointments, one for meal planning, and one for homeschool plans. There are families with entire command centers – whiteboards on the wall, alphabetized notebooks with each kid’s info, notes about upcoming events, practices, recitals, carpools, bills, and the dog’s heartworm medication schedule.
If this sounds overwhelming to you, don’t worry. That style of organization is not for you.
If you’re not naturally an organized person, adding more types of organization is not going to work out too well. Struggling to keep things in order is not solved by adding more things to keep in order, so don’t try to suddenly adopt a complicated organizational system. Keep it simple. Sometimes embarrassingly so.
A single planner to keep all dates in. Appointments aren’t any harder to remember because they’re written in the same box as your aunt’s birthday, so don’t overcomplicate things by adding in different colors and categories.
I had a friend in college one semester who struggled greatly with organization and planning. She was taking a full course load and couldn’t risk getting overwhelmed or behind, so she organized her due dates and exams in a way that made the most sense to her – large poster boards on the wall.
Each poster board was a month, each one with a crude calendar drawn on it, and every assignment, exam, quiz, holiday, and presentation was written on a Post-It note. Everything was visible at once, the giant boards couldn’t be lost in the bottom of a bag, and shifting due dates could be easily moved. It was incredibly simple, not very pretty, but it worked wonders for her!
That’s the trick! Find the easiest possible method for yourself and make no apologies for what works.
2. Don’t Stick to a Schedule
I realize how counter-intuitive this sounds. There is an enormous amount of information to be found with regards to homeschool scheduling. Professionals exist whose sole business model is based upon teaching other families how to effectively schedule their homeschool days. Schedules keep lessons on track, days in order, and everything running smoothly… right? Actually, not for everyone.
People who struggle with staying organized are actually quite often intimidated by schedules. For them, schedules aren’t a relief, they’re restrictive. Disorganized people are the flexible people, the easily distracted people, the people who need wiggle room for adaptation.
Having a timeline of the day’s subjects can loom over these people, and suddenly what was supposed to be a block of math from 10am – 11am becomes a race against time to finish a lesson. There is no punishment for getting off schedule, but the unorganized homeschool mom still feels the pressure. She feels as though she’s failing at something or has to answer to someone else if the schedule isn’t exact or the day’s objectives weren’t met by a specific time.
Instead, try one (or a combination) of these simple homeschooling schedules.
First, consider a simple, adjustable version of a block schedule. Make a list of every subject you’re working on, decide how many times a week you’d like to work on it, and then only do those subjects on certain days. Complete them any time of day, in no particular order, just as long as those subjects are covered. Take as long as you need or move on if you’re ready. Work in a nap, an extra snack, a walk through the local woods, or whatever you want. As long as you finish what you need to, there is truly no absolute need for a detailed schedule of the day, or even the school year.
If weekends with another parent home make it easier to homeschool, schedule for that. If your child needs to graduate at 15 or 20, truly, there’s no real reason why they can’t, as long as all of the subject requirements are met. Forget the “need” for following a schedule and let your personality embrace the flexibility that only homeschooling offers.
If the block idea doesn’t float your fancy, consider creating a simple daily routine that gives you a flow to your day without demanding any particular times or specific lessons. (This is the plan that works best for Cindy.) Have a general plan for your day that mostly goes in the same order every day. There are no time constraints, but instead smooth transitions from one thing to the next.
A daily chore time can even be included in the ebb and flow of the school day, too. That makes it easy for everyone to know what’s next. If you need to take an hour for one thing, but only 15 minutes for the next, it doesn’t matter because you’ll simply know what’s next and can move right into it.
Looping is another easy option for organizing an unorganized homeschool mom. It may be the easiest of all the methods. Quite simply, you place all of your homeschool curriculum on a shelf or in a bin or basket and grab the next thing in line when it’s time to start school. You move through as many things as you can for the day, placing them at the back of the line as lessons are completed. Depending on how many things are “in line”, you will likely work through everything at least every couple of days.
Some parents will choose to place must-do work (like math and language arts, for instance) in a separate place. Daily, they work on all of the must-dos and then loop through the other subjects that are less necessary to teach daily.
3. Don’t Keep a Clean Classroom
In fact, you might not want to keep a classroom at all. An unorganized homeschool mom, when given a large space, can struggle to keep it clean, organized, and sometimes presentable. Their very personalities make the ownership of a bookshelf more difficult for them than others. An entire room is almost a box with walls to an unorganized person, somewhere full of space to toss things, a room full of items to keep track of, books to keep in order, and supplies to separate. There’s simply no need for this.
Instead of trying to hard to meet the idealized vision of homeschooling in your minds, embrace who you are and make school work for you. Keep simple multi-purpose storage items such as a bookshelf, sets of drawers, and totes, in one location.
Do crayons really need to be separated from colored pencils? No! Will your child still learn if a drawer is full of scissors, glue, a pencil sharpener, and pipe cleaners? Yes! Spending time focused on keeping up an organizational system that is uncomfortable and foreign doesn’t really offer much benefit to the unorganized homeschool mom.
Keep books on shelves by subject and/or by student. Or, keep them in grade-specific totes or drawers based on their topic. They don’t have to be shelved back alphabetically, they don’t need the spines all facing one way (although, admittedly, this is helpful), they just need to be in one central location.
Again, I realize how this could sound like giving up, laziness, or making a problem worse, but when a disorganized adult is allowed to find or create a system that works with them, not against who they are, everything is so much more peaceful.
Books aren’t strewn about the house and glitter isn’t on every surface. I’m not advocating for a complete free for all when it comes to supplies and where they go. I’m simply telling you that you have permission to keep your things in a manner that allows you to keep track without having to keep up, makes certain that your supplies are contained without being constricting.
There’s No Shame in Being an Unorganized Homeschool Mom
You’ll notice that the major theme in all of these tips is to embrace the wildness of your own disorganized personality. Rather than viewing it as a shameful trait or a failure of some kind, accept that you can function and thrive without the need for stifling, demanding, uncomfortable methods of organization.
Give yourself permission to let some things go and ask yourself why it’s so important that your books all line up alphabetically or history begins by 2pm sharp. Nothing is lost by following these tips and adapting them to your lifestyle and needs, and there is no ideal to measure yourself against. There is only acceptance of who you are, adapting your days to fit your personality, and doing things your own way.
So go buy a tote to toss everything in, find a simple calendar to keep track of the big stuff, and get started with school whenever it feels like it’s time to get started. Take a breath, toss the clock, and enjoy your homeschool journey.
Written by guest author and veteran homeschooler, Jen Vail.
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