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.