Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where Does It All Go??

Papers, projects, old curriculum, new curriculum, books-to-be-read, books-that-have-been read.

Reference materials, manipulatives, curriculum we're never going to use but is just waiting for me to admit it...

Whew! That's a lot of stuff! "Stuff management" is definitely something to consider as a homeschooler, no matter how simple you keep your school and how organized your home. Kids and "stuff" seem to go together!

Here are some solutions I've found. They may not work for everyone, but they, well, "work for me!"

Filing Cabinets

Early on in our homeschooling career, my husband came home from work one day and mentioned that his office was getting rid of some old filing cabinets, and asked me if I thought we could use one. From underneath a pile of books, behind a tower of papers and folders I managed to squeak out, "Yes!"

He brought home two, and it changed my life! We put them in the garage since they were, well, old and metal, and there it started. I arranged one cabinet into drawers according to time period (the same time periods in The Well-Trained Mind):

Ancients (5000B.C.-A.D. 400)
Medieval - Early Renaissance (400-1600)
Late Renaissance - Early Modern (1600-1850)
Modern (1850-Present)

Since TWTM organizes science to correspond with history periods, I store science materials in the corresponding drawers as well:

Ancients-- Life Science (people and animals), Biology
Medieval/ Early Ren.-- Earth Science and Astronomy
Late Ren./Early Modern-- chemistry
Modern-- physical science/ physics

I was amazed at how just that step really helped get my books, materials, files and ideas where I could find them when I needed them each year! It took a bit of thinking as I sorted them ("When were the Vikings? The colonists? Texas History?) but once I got it all categorized according to those time periods it became very, very handy!

Since that was a 5 drawer filing cabinet, I used the bottom four drawers for my time periods and the top drawer for my monthly files. I made a file folder for each month of the year and put holiday activities, art books, etc. according to the season or month. At the back of that drawer I keep my plan books for each year.

The other cabinet I arranged according to subject areas:

English/Language Arts (all grammar and reading materials/workbooks)
Foreign Language
Art/Music/ Bible
Completed Work

I've been able to use those file drawers to store not only curriculum and files, but also books and manipulatives as well. I can't believe how much will fit in those drawers! A couple of years ago, my husband was able to snag another old file cabinet, expanding my storage even further! This one was a four drawer one, so I moved my time period files to that one. Now Bible has a drawer of it's own and I have three more drawers of our completed binders and work. I'll be culling through those over the next year, deciding what to keep.

Art Portfolios

When we began our current art curriculum a few years ago, we began having really nice paintings and sketches that I wanted to be sure to preserve. So I went to our local craft store and purchased two 21"x 26" portfolios. I store these behind the shelf (pictured) between the shelf and the wall. It's a great, out of the way space to keep their (flat) art, and easy to get to when we need to store something new. If you don't want the expense of these types of portfolios or don't have access to them, you could use two poster boards stapled together. I used to store bulletin board materials that way when I taught school.

Rubbermaid (Plastic) Drawers

I did a WFMW post almost a year ago on my love of Rubbermaid drawers. All sizes. (And not necessarily "Rubbermaid" but whatever happens to be a Walmart and the dollar store!) In my post last year I mentioned the various ways I use them around the house, but for school I use them by the kid's school desks. We covered them in chalkboard Contact paper so we can label what's inside. The kids have fun decorating the front and updating them.

I also have found them indispensable in the school closet (which by the way, is the linen closet in the half bath by our schoolroom).

In the bottom of this closet, I have a large one to store clay projects, larger papers, and miscellaneous work. It usually takes a couple of years to fill one up, at which point I put it in the attic. Like the file drawers of their work, I will be going through these in the next year to see what we will want to keep. I'll be armed with my digital camera so I can take photos of what we're getting rid of. But... that's another post for another day!

I also use them to store their assigned reading books for the year, to make sure they don't get mixed in with the other books on our shelves and so I can readily check and see if we have the ones we need.

Book Shelves

My camera battery ran out before I could snap a picture this morning, and that's too bad because I wanted to show you my bookshelves! Most of the homeschoolers I know have as many bookshelves as they can, and we are no different. But, I wanted to show you that they don't have to cost a lot of money! My dad rescued a couple of sets of shelves from someone's trash awhile back and was kind enough to give them to us. The kids painted them black, and with a clear coat on top they look gorgeous and totally match our "Africa room." We have those two sets of shelves, along with a large (relatively) inexpensive bookcase from Sam's Club. This summer I worked to categorize and alphabetize our books. I thought that sounded kind of nutty when I started, but after the shelves were painted it just felt wrong to just pile books on them without any sort of order. I can't tell you how helpful it's been for me to run upstairs and look to see if we have a certain book and not have to dig and dig. For instance, last week I was seeing if we have Red Badge of Courage, and I simply had to go look for "Crane." Oh, my word! Hard back picture books are all together, paper back picture books are another category (there were too many to alphabetize these, though.) History, Science, Biography, and missionary books are in categories. Everyone else but me may already have their books this way but this is new to us and it is really helping me know (and USE) what we already have and know what I need to buy or check out from the library. Love it, love it.

Well, I certainly haven't cornered the market on organization, and it's certainly a work in progress day by day, but these are a few things that work for me!

To read more of what works for other moms, be sure to stop by Rocks In My Dryer.

Have a wonderful Wednesday and a super school year!


Alycia said...

Great ideas Cyndi! I am looking forward to our visit back to the States so I can shop for plastic containters! I am going to mail them back to Japan (yes, I know, it will cost me :) But, I am looking forward to the organization. I also loved your idea of a filing cabinet to store TWTM History/Science! I just love reading your posts and learn so much from you :) thank you! You are like my blogging/homeschooling mentor! We are trying our hand at Atelier Art this year, thanks to your reviews as well! Blessings!

~Rhen said...

I love my big filing cabinet and I need another one! I have 2 shelves but at least one more would be great. I have most of my supplies seperated into tubs and labeled but I don't have enough shelves to put them on and no closet space. You have a lot of great ideas I will be implementing. I really like the chalkboard contact paper to label drawers. That is too good!!!

Tami, part-time blogger - full time scrapbooker said...

Hi Cyndi!

I am in awe of your storage closet!!! It is so perfect! If you want a laugh, you should see my storage 'stystem

: )

Tami, part-time blogger - full time scrapbooker said...

Whoops! Here's the correct address:

: )

Christy said...

WOW! Can I be you when I grow up?


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