When I first decided to home-school, retired school teachers I know graciously wanted to gift me the entirety of their saved classroom supplies, which they had each saved for just such an occasion. At first, I was excited at the thought of all those books, wall maps, ABC charts and games, but then the clutter of unused and over-saved items took over and I got overwhelmed. Questions swirled in my mind: ‘What might I need in the future? What do I need this year? What could I pass on to another home schooler?’ Home-school clutter can cause you to waste a lot of time searching for things you may or may not own, and cause you to spend more money buying things you already have! Here are some ways I found help tame the different kinds of home-school clutter and paper monsters and find some peace and organization in my home while saving money, too.
How to decide what to keep
Because it’s hard to know what kind of path your home-schooling journey will take, start with the big picture question: Who are you as a family? All kids are different, all home-schooling parents are different, and you may find yourself switching up curriculum every year, so don’t keep every textbook, workbook, old Highlights magazine, and storybook that comes your way.
Do your kids like puzzles and/or games? If so, keep a few, but not all. Rotate out those that aren’t your kids’ favorites when new ones come in that your kids like. Are you the kind of family who treasures math manipulatives, tangrams, and card games, or are they unused and spread all over the house? If unused, pass them along to another home-schooling family.
You can educate without stuff taking up space
Some families don’t have the space to keep every wonderful resource they receive and so they need to give away some materials. It was hard for me to turn away classic picture books, fiction easy readers, and other great books I knew my older kids would love. Then I got comfortable with my local library and realized I didn’t need to hoard all of those books when there was a place that was already doing it for me!
Don’t hesitate when passing along home-schooling items. After all, you have M&Ms, Cheerios, beans and beads instead of fancy and costly math manipulatives (saves loads of space and money); cooking and Legos to teach fractions; and YouTube for free, entertaining, and educational documentaries that help with every subject (check out Crash Course for all ages!). You also have Khan Academy (it’s free and covers every subject you can think of and more); ABCMouse, abcmouse.com (get a free teacher account); and you have paid programs if your kid learns better on a computer rather than using a workbook.
Whenever you receive donated home-school materials from others, tackle these items immediately. Figure out what you might use and get rid of the rest (recycle, donate to a library or to a local home school co-op, pass on to a friend, sell). Then about a week later, go through the items again to see if you’ve even thought about or touched anything from the ‘keep’ stack. If you haven’t, get rid of even more.
Special things showcasing your child’s talents
Nostalgia. I get it. I’m a sentimental big baby when it comes to my children, too. But you will drive yourself nuts if you try to save every piece of schoolwork, artwork, etc., your kids have done. I want to keep everything my kids have ever created over the years, but I know that I never look at it again once it’s stored away, and my kids definitely won’t want to take it with them when they leave home either. For now, I keep select pieces in the basement in a box (one per kid) and go through it regularly. Basic coloring pictures end up getting recycled a lot through the years, but original drawings and early handwriting attempts will be kept for more years! You can also take pictures of special art, recycle the art, then print the pictures and put them in a special artwork photo album.
I also used to save every workbook my kids finished because it was proof they had learned that subject that year, and it was also hard evidence of my rockin’ teaching skills! When these workbooks started taking over the house, I decided to tear out a couple of pages that showed handwriting or a story told and made sure the pages had a date and kid’s name on it and put then put them in the basement ‘keep’ box. It saved a ton of space.
I promise you, the less clutter you have and the easier you can find things, the more peace you’ll have in your life! Less stuff to think about, move around, consider, stress out about using or not using is a great thing!
Kerrie home-schools five kids ranging from ages 9 to 17 and finally has the home-school clutter monster tamed after 12 years! Find her at thekerrieshow.com.
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