I wish I could say that I had mastered the clutter, but I haven't. I'm in the clutter filled homeschool trenches alongside you, but I have a plan to reduce the homeschool clutter as the school aged kids in my house increase.
The first thing on my list of cluttery things to eliminate is any project that will soon be thrown away.
What is a Throwaway Project?
A throwaway project is any project that you have no intention of keeping. These include cut and paste worksheets, anything made with Do a Dot Markers, or paper plates, salt dough maps, or most of the cute little things that you found on Pinterest and are loosely related to your history-science-or-literature theme.
Throwaway projects are are done for the process or to achieve vague goals like improving fine motor skills or reinforcing concepts.
Throwaway projects are busywork disguised with construction paper and glitter glue. They entertain your kids and keep them busy, but have little educational value.
Most importantly, throwaway projects increase clutter because as parents, we have to leave them around until the child who created it kind of forgets about it and is also out of the room.
But Don't Fun Projects Make School, Well, Fun?
Of course, it is fun cut, paste, glue, and paint and stuff is leaned along the way...but sometimes it is a bit much to have tambourines, frogs, bats, and fraction pizzas all made out of paper plates scattered around the house and a barely used package of cheap paper plates in the back of your cupboard. Once a project like this is made, its value has already come and gone.
Replace Throwaway Projects with Long-Term, Meaningful Projects
Children need meaningful work, just like we adults need meaningful work. Instead of investing in construction paper, paper plates, glitter glue, and googly eyes, why not invest in a sketch book for each child and a quality set of colored pencils, pastels, and art markers? Or journal with nice paper and pens that just feel good to write with? These books can contain your children's artistic and written responses to what they are learning.
When I switched away from loose worksheets and throwaway projects and focused on helping my kids make quality books, I ended up getting higher quality work from them. Check out this entry in my daughter's science notebook:
I wrote "jellyfish" for her because she was stressed about copying two long words correctly, but she did the rest with her textbook and a nice set of colored pencils, a mechanical pencil, and a crayon. She loves mixing medias. Oh, and did I mention that she's barely six?
When I handed my oldest son a $4 sketchbook and told him, no more typing paper, he began doing drawing that took him multiple days to do. So instead of working quickly on a drawing while he waited for dinner and tossing it, he started making more complex drawings of castles, dragons, and spaceships because he knew that he had multiple days to finish it. My favorite drawing of his are a series of moody dragon scenes inspired bythe illustrations in this book.
With the time that it takes to get out, make, and clean up a cut and paste project, you and your kids can develop lifelong skills. I taught my daughter to sew, even though I didn't really know how with this book. You can read how I did it here. My oldest son works on coding and writes stories in his spare time. I teach all of my kids to cook, drawing inspiration from our history lessons and literature,
I Still Do a Few Throwaway Projects
I have let my kids make maps out of dough...play dough. Then the monsters or pirates destroy the state and we put everything away. My kids make models of architectural masterpieces...out of blocks. We use sticks, rocks, and vines to build castles, fishing poles, and crowns, and then leave them outside until my husband blows out the backyard. Some projects become a part of the landscape, like our resurrection garden. Then we rake them up and toss them in the greens bin.
I do require cut and past projects from my kids, but I limit the size of the completed project to 8-1/2 by 11, and they must lie flat when completed. (History Pockets are great for this type of flat project.) This way, everything goes in a notebook. I wrote a whole post about the project books I use for the Middle Ages, with more details about how I use History Pockets.
Thanks for reading! This is the first in a series of reducing homeschool clutter. Next up, I'll be giving tips on reducing the clutter created by multiple floppy workbooks.
As far as New Year's Resolutions go, I think that there are two kinds: the kinds we feel like we should make and the ones that we aren't really sure that we should make.
The should resolutions are ones that we hope will reverse the bad habits that we've gotten into: loose the ten pounds that we gained between the time Halloween candy entered our house and our final New Year's toast and then the ten more from the year before, organize all of the stuff that got jumbled into a chaotic mess during the chaos of the holidays, stop spending money on little things so we can save more for the important things, and the list goes on.
Funny thing is, these are the resolutions that often fail. The weeks get busy again and we fall into habits. We always know what we should do, the problem is that a new year really isn't that much different from the old year. So why not put that should off until next year.
The resolutions that we at we aren't really sure that we should make are the ones that seems bit extravagant or even self-indulgent. Last year, I decided to learn to paint so I asked for a paint set, small desk easel, and a how to book for Christmas. Once we got through the holidays and the dust settled, I began working through a lesson a day. After several years where I had given up all of my time to care for a baby and a toddler while spending my spare moments figuring out homeschooling for my oldest it really felt unnatural to reclaim that time for something other than giving of myself to my family. After all, if I had any extra time it felt like I should be spending it catching up on laundry or organizing a drawer.
Despite what I should have been doing, I decided to paint every day during my youngest's nap time. It is interesting that one of the key steps in painting is to wait for the paint to dry before moving on to the next step. While I waited for paint to dry, laundry got done, drawers were dumped out and organized, and the occasional push up and plank happened. The resolutions that I should have made happened without any "resolution making" on my part.
As far as resolutions go, I didn't learn everything about the art of painting, not by a long shot, but I started the process and I learned so much more after this year than from my previous 37 years combined. If I want to take the next step, I know where to go next. I call that a resolution achieved.
This year, I decided to make another resolution that reflected more of what I could do, and less of what I should do and so, in an effort to work on my writing skills, I have started a blog.