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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Art of Organization… or How Clutter Almost Ruined My Homeschool!

Welcome to week 4 of the Virtual Curriculum Fair!  Today we are talking about:

Seeking Beauty: the Arts and Everything that Brings Beauty to Our World---includes any of the arts, handicrafts, but really ANYTHING at all that adds beauty to your homeschool.

How Clutter Almost RUINED My Homeschool @Homeschooling Hearts & MindsMy co-host this week is Lisa @ Golden Grasses and we have 13 other homeschool bloggers joining us.  If you’d like to join the conversation, use the linky at the bottom of this post to link up your own posts pertaining to Seeking Beauty in your homeschool.

When I invented week 4 of the VCF as a way for families to talk about the beautiful things, whether that be the fine arts, religious studies, or really whatever brings beauty and joy into their homeschools, I made it open-ended and flexible for a reason.

Real life doesn’t fit in a box. 

Right now, what is bringing beauty, joy, and PEACE into my homeschool is the lack of clutter.

It is freeing my mind and spirit of a lot of unnecessary conflict.

At the beginning of this school year, we set up a “school room” for the first time in our home.

I had resisted that for a long time because I didn’t want to recreate school at home. 

But school was exploding all over my house.  And while learning everywhere is a good thing, having to clear books and art projects off the counter every time I wanted to prepare a meal was a drag.   Tripping over projects and books was not pleasant, either.

So we set up a school-room-slash-library-slash-office.  And for a while this was a good thing.  It gave the kids a place to put their school work when they were done with it so that I didn’t have to deal with it every. minute. of. every. day.  There was peace.

The walls were lined with 6-foot high book shelves with most of our educational resources.  Desktop computer. We have all our school supplies.  Maps.  It was a good thing.

Until the school room became a pit.

It became a dumping ground for every new school book, every considered curriculum, every catalog, every book I might assign to my high schooler.  At some point.  In the next few years.

It was a mess.  Fortunately, this is an old house and that particular room has pocket doors, so I could shut the doors and not look at it when we weren’t doing school.

But it was getting so I was avoiding doing school in there.  And it was hard to do school elsewhere because all our stuff was in there.

It wasn’t just the mess.

My mind was plagued with unrest.  I kept second-guessing my plans and what we were doing each day.

I would look around and see all these wonderful things we could be doing, but weren’t (at least not at this moment).

I had Chronic Grass is Always Greener Syndrome.

What I was actually doing seemed so…well, SMALL.

There’s a reality that I think every homeschooler has to eventually accept:  We can’t do ALL the good things.

There isn’t enough time.  If we did try to do them all, we probably wouldn’t do any of them really well and we’d spend a lot of energy hopping and skipping from one thing to another.

If we’re really honest with ourselves, we can realistically only do a small fraction of the good stuff---and each year we can only do a small fraction of that fraction.

For every educational path I choose for my kids, there are thousands I’m saying “NO” to.

And that path is made up of a myriad of individual possibilities that I have fit together for a cohesive whole.

For every math book I choose to use with a particular child, there are dozens others that I am saying “NO” to.

For every language arts program I choose, there are dozens more that I am saying “NO” to.

For every library book I choose as a part of our history studies, there are dozens more that I am saying “NO” to.

Now, it is true that many of these resources I would not choose anyway for a number of reasons:

  • Don’t fit my philosophy of education
  • Anti-Catholic
  • Too expensive
  • Would drive my child right up a wall
  • Would drive me right up a wall…

You get the idea.  I can narrow down the choices some, but typically for any given year (with 4 very different kids to educate) there is still lots to choose from…and many of those choices are already gracing my homeschool bookshelves. 

That’s the beauty (and curse) of a robust homeschool market and a homeschool mom who is been a reviewer for a number of years. 

Trying new stuff is fun and exciting…but always trying new things can ruin your focus.

I would look around my school room.  Every day.  And see all the great (wonderful!) things I wasn’t doing with my kids right this minute.

And it wrecked my focus.

So we reinvented our school room. 

We moved those high shelves into our upstairs hallway.  We put low, inexpensive bookcases into the school room---this is important because part of the reason I didn’t do this sooner was the expense of buying sturdy, wooden bookcases.

New home for books we are not currently using

We moved out ALL the books we aren’t using this school year upstairs or onto some other bookshelves we have in a downstairs hallway.  My husband helped me cart and sort of these books---he said, “Wow, you have a lot of cool stuff!”

And this is key---I have a bad memory.  I forget stuff.  I forget things that aren’t in front of me.  Making lists is not good enough.  I need to see it. 

My mind likes to work on possibilities for next year or the year after that.  And I do want the option of pulling something I have if we are doing a unit study and the topic comes up.

So packing up my books into boxes was a no go.  Period. 

So this was my solution:  having the books available if needed, but not in my face all the time.

School room picture 1

Even the encyclopedia and other reference books are upstairs.  The kids can go up there to look something up or I can browse those shelves if I’m looking for something in particular.

schoolroom picture 2

All our math manipulatives are now easy to reach. 

Art supplies are there for the taking.

schoolroom picture 3

That table is huge when opened fully and it used to be at its full-size so we could accommodate the world and US maps I had on it because I didn’t have ANY wall space due to the high shelves.  There was a clear vinyl table cloth over them to keep them in place and clean.

The trouble was, the kids would have all their school stuff on top of the table, so we would have to move stuff. every. time. we wanted to look at the maps.

And the clear vinyl would wrinkle and get in the way.

Now the maps are on the wall where every can refer to them.  There’s a whiteboard between them.

Love Command picture hangers by 3M---they are perfect for plaster walls, y’all (tape will not stick to my walls), and perfect for hanging lightweight things like maps and whiteboards.

What you don’t see:  my high schooler’s desk at the lower left corner of that first picture and a desk with our desktop computer in the lower right corner.  There’s also a highboy in there that needs to be cleaned out (ahem), but it has paper, more art supplies, and computer/printer supplies.

Because the bookcases are lightweight, this forced me to NOT overload them. 

I’m a gal who thinks that if a few books is great, a few hundred is even better.  I had to whittle down to what I really needed to have at the ready, but I didn’t have to actually give up anything---if I didn’t want to, I am going to be giving away some books to those who need them.

We do plan to add some pictures and artwork to the wall, and some nicer window coverings.

Our “new” school room is new and untested.  But, I already feel great about it.  My 11-year-old daughter was seen jumping up and down in it this morning, because…happy!

What is making you happy in your homeschool?

Now, take a few minutes to visit my friends as they Seek Beauty in home education:

The Shadow of Divine Perfection by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Relaxed Homeschooling: Fine Arts in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Fine Arts {Art Appreciation, Art, Composer Study Hymn Study} for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Adding Sparkle to Home Education by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

And All the Extras by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Teaching Art Using the Bible by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Art In Every Subject by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Letting Art Just Happen in Homeschool by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Missing Art? by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Do YOU Have Time for Extracurriculars? by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays

Fine Arts in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

The Science of Beauty for a Delight-Directed Daughter by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Seeking Beauty: How we Tackle the Arts in our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Learning To Appreciate Beauty With Fine Arts Resources@ As We Walk Along the Road by Leah@ As We Walk Along the Road

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