Friday, June 19, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Organizing Materials, Part One

Okay, so the books have all arrived, and now my house looks like this….

And this….

But I want it to look like this….*

Well, at least like this…

The first year we homeschooled, I nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to organize and keep track of books. First, finding shelf space for everything was tough. Then, it seemed like almost every day I could not find the books I needed when I needed them. I was an organizational train wreck. Over the years, I have learned to tackle these issues early and stay on top of them throughout the school year.

I begin by tackling the most difficult task of the year, imho… clearing out the previous year's books, materials, paper work, etc. My state requires that I create a year-end report for each of my children. I am not a strong record-keeper so I have to make this simple for myself.

During the school year, I place finished, graded assignments in my filing cabinet. I have one folder for each boy. I also take pictures of art work or larger projects that cannot be filed. At the end of each six weeks, I remove their papers from the file, and the boys and I sort through them. We keep samples of work from each subject. I let them help me decide what stays and what goes. I guide them through this process so that the best work stays but, at the same time, I value their input because it ensures I keep assignments that were meaningful to them. The "keep-it" work goes back into the file, and the rest goes to a grandma or to the garbage.

At the end of the school year, we place the work they decided to keep each six weeks into an expandable file. I also print pictures of projects and art and place them in the file. The filing cabinet is clean and ready for the next school year.

To complete my state's requirements, I also type a report on each boy. I write a short paragraph describing each of the following:

  • Subjects studied (I use the TOS 2009 Schoolhouse Planner's "End-of-Year Evaluation" form)
  • Grades earned (I use the TOS 2009 Schoolhouse Planner's "End-of-Year Report Card" form)
  • Mastered content
  • Areas of weakness
  • Strategies I intend to implement the next school year to address weaknesses
  • Extra-curricular work (TOS 2009 Schoolhouse Planner's "Extra-curricular Activities Log"
  • Special achievements

The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner has several forms that could be used for this record. I highly recommend it. I also include a copy of each boy's attendance report (the Schoolhouse Planner has a form for this too) and achievement test results. In my home state, homeschooled children are required to take a standardized achievement test every three years. I try to test mine every year as I think it is a helpful tool. I use the results to guide my planning for the next school year.

After this is complete, I remove books that we have completed from the shelves. I sort through these books and decide which ones will be needed again in the future. Of the ones I know will never be used again, I decide if I want to sell them or store them. I log the ones that I will be keeping, especially those that will be used again in a later school year, using the Schoolhouse Planner's "Homeschool Book Inventory". I store the books in numbered boxes. I write the box number where I will find each book beside its title on the inventory form. I try to sell the others at my local homeschool association's book sale. I list the ones that do not sell there on ebay.

Now, my shelves are clear and ready for next year's curricula. Return soon for Organizing Your Materials, Part Two in which I will share my system for labeling, logging, and shelving our books.

*image from

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