Thursday, July 9, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Organizing Supplies

Caution: You are about to enter the Disorganized Zone. In this sector of the universe, craft supplies run amuck. Materials for science experiments attack the unsuspecting people who open pantries. Messes spread like a fungus. And scissors are lost in the vast cosmos of God's creation, never to be held by human hands again. Enter if you dare….

Episode I: The Hunt for the Red Pipe Cleaner

The scene opens with Homeschool Dawn, Orville, and Wilbur seated at the kitchen table, unaware that they are about to be transported to The Disorganized Zone.

HSD: Boys, today I want you to use the craft supplies on the table to create a 3-D model of a caterpillar's metamorphosis into a butterfly. Each of you has a shoe box…

HSD looks at the table. There is one shoe box, but she does not see the other one.

HSD: Boys, did one of you move the shoe box?

O and W: No ma'am.

O: I have not seen a shoebox except for the one here on the table.

W: I don't even know what a shoebox is.

HSD: Okay, let's pause for a minute and go get another shoe box.

Our three characters get into the van and drive to WalMart. After successfully begging for a shoebox, they return 45 minutes later.

HSD: Now, you both have a shoebox. I want you to cover it with construction paper… now where did the paper go?

HSD looks on the table, in the cabinet, in the storage baskets in the classroom, in the closet, on her desk, and finally under the bed.

HSD: A-ha! Here it is… cover your box with construction paper.

W: Mommy, I can't get the paper to stick.

HSD: Wilbur, sweetie, that is because you have to use some glue. Did I not give you some?

W: No.

O: I don't have any either.

HSD looks for the glue. She finds one bottle that is empty and another that is mostly full. However, the cap on the full one was left open and the glue inside has hardened. She pops the top off the bottle and digs through the crusted glue mass along the opening. She evidently applies too much pressure because the liquid glue breaks free and squirts out onto her face, hands, and shirt. After cleaning up, HSD pours some glue into a plastic bowl and goes to the craft closet for two paint brushes.

HSD (while digging through mounds of craft sticks, art paper, bottles of paint, and craft pom poms): Now, where are the paint brushes?

W: I know, Mommy.

Wilbur opens his desk drawer and proceeds to pull out crayons, markers, dried-up glue sticks, stickers, and water colors that have been used until all the palates are black, but no paint brush.

HSD: I guess it's back to Wal Mart.

20 minutes later they return with paint brushes and more glue bottles. After the boys glue the construction paper to their boxes, HSD continues with the next step.

HSD: Now take your red pipe cleaner and cut it into four pieces using your scissors.

W: I don't want to clean the pipes. It's scary under the sink.

O: Wilbur, she doesn't mean the pipes under the sink. She means a pipe like Grandpa's. Mom, I thought Grandpa's pipe makes you cough. Is that why you want us to clean it?

HSD: No one will be cleaning any pipes, kitchen or otherwise. Pipe cleaners are the different-colored, fluffy sticks that we use in crafts. You should each have a red one on the table. Now, where did they go?

HSD returns to the craft closet. When she opens it, all the paint bottles she moved in her previous search roll out and land on her feet. The papers and pom poms start to slide, and she quickly throws herself against the shelves, blocking the landslide. While pushing against the mound of supplies with the left side of her body, she reaches around with her right arm and pushes everything back inside the cabinet.

O (from the kitchen): Mom! I found the pipe cleaners.

HSD (rubbing her sore arm, side, and feet): Where were they?

O: Under the table.

HSD: *sigh* Okay, cut your pipe cleaners into four pieces.

W: How do we cut them?

HSD: Carefully use your scissors to do it.

O: I don't have any scissors.

W: Me either.

HSD: Where are they?

O and W: I don't know.

HSD(exasperated): Oh, never mind.

When I read this scenario to my husband, his reaction was to ask (in disbelief) if this had ever really happened. "Well, yes and no" is my honest answer. This particular situation is fiction but it is based on reality. I have spent many hours looking for paper or scissors or paint brushes. I have made numerous trips to Wal Mart in the middle of the school day to purchase a forgotten supply. I have been injured by supplies toppling out of an over- crowded cabinet. Worst of all, many a well-planned activity has been abandoned because I did not gather the needed supplies ahead of time.

I already mentioned my best piece of advice for new homeschooling moms in this post. The second most important thing I would advise you to do is make a list of what you need before each and every unit and then check it twice.

Before school begins, I look through all my teacher's guides and plans that I have written for my first unit and make a list of all the materials that will be needed to complete it. I try to keep a stockpile of certain materials; however, I keep it to the basics like construction paper, crayons, and paint (we LOVE to paint). Be careful when making stockpiling decisions because you do not want a cabinet full of things that you "might need".
To avoid the landslides, I store these materials in shoe boxes, trays, crates, or any other inexpensive or free storage container I can find. I keep these inside a cabinet and do not look for pretty containers. Cheap or free and durable is what is important. I label the outside of the boxes so I know the exact contents. After I have my list together, I check off anything that I have plenty of on hand. If I see that I am running low on an item, I leave it on the list so that I can restock.

I have taken two different approaches to the next step. The first two years I homeschooled, I wrote out a weekly shopping list for school materials and placed each list in my planning folder in the front of the section for the week before I would need the supplies. Each week, I removed the list and added it to my grocery shopping list. I also wrote books I would need to check out from the library on this list and made my library stop on the way to the store.

I found this approach did not give me time to get materials organized and I would still find myself scrambling at the last minute for something I had forgotten or misplaced. Two years ago, I started buying everything that I need for an entire unit in one shopping trip. I plan this shopping trip for a day that I have time to organize the materials immediately upon my return home. I put general items, like construction paper, that will be used during multiple lessons in the correct storage bins in my school cabinet. I put items that will have a single use in a bin that is numbered according to the week it will be needed. I store all science supplies in the kitchen and have dedicated one shelf for those things… with the exception of common, household items like baking soda. Those are easy to find when needed and won’t send me on a scavenger hunt during school hours, so I leave them in their normal spot.

The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner has a shopping list with room for writing in schools supplies. There is also a form to help you keep track of library books.

To keep messes under control, I have arranged the boys' desks front-to-front so they serve as an individual work station or as a shared space for projects. Each boy has his own garbage can at his desk and is required to check it daily and empty it as needed. I also have an old, king-sized sheet that when folded covers the entire workspace and prevents paint, glue or other messes from damaging the desks. The paint has stained it, but I can throw it in the washing machine when finished to wash away the messy, sticky remains of a project. If we will be working on a painting project for multiple days, I spread newspapers beneath the sheets as the paint splatters will soak through if left to sit. The sheet over the newspapers prevents the boys from getting ink on their fingers (and arms, face, the furniture….).

Make sure you buy plenty of pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, and glue at the beginning of the year, too. Our state has a tax-free shopping weekend. I have found that the week before is the best time to buy though. The back-to-school sales usually run during that week, at least in my area, and the prices are so low that even after paying tax, it is a much better deal. I keep a basket on my desk for storing extras of these items close at hand and keep a can of pre-sharpened pencils there, too.

How do you stay out of The Disorganized Zone? Feel free to share your tips, too!

Blessings and Happy Planning!

Return soon for Plan-It School Series: Preparing for Household Responsibilities


Christy said...

Ok, I was reading through this post and thinking, "No, this is not real...this would never happen to *Dawn*!!! You are so much more organized than I am. LOL! :)

Heather said...

Things at my house are somewhat different. I don't have a dedicated school room. Since I'm doing pre-K, I have a 3 ring binder which holds attendance records, year scope/sequence, and weekly lesson plans. We have a daily schedule which keeps us on task. As far as organizing supplies, I have 4 or 5 different plastic drawer organizers. Each drawer is labelled: paper, craft supplies, stickers, etc. I keep these in the basement. Things like chenille rods, pom poms, and feathers have their own containers inside the craft supply drawer. I have a basket which holds scissors, glue sticks, and glitter pens. Drawers in the family room hold white paper, markers, crayons, gel pens, and anything else for coloring! I have the kids play while I get a messy craft ready. They usually need a break anyway.

Many craft supplies are kept out of reach. I can't handle any additional leaves missing from my fake plant, or erratic hair cuts, or new designs on my make up bag.

If you look at my blog, you might be able to find the post on how I organized my home. I know Dawn you've already looked at this, but maybe another one of your readers would like to cross-reference it.

Louisiana Laura said...

Wonderful series! I am now on the road to a much more successful start in homeschooling. THANK-YOU!
I am somewhat in the same boat as Heather, pre-schoolers who enjoy using scissors on inappropriate things,... so I still have to keep things 'up',out of sight and out of mind, so he doesn't climb. But, I'm confident if I'm better organized I can make things available for a more spontaneous feeling, by having a 'pull-out' box of supplies for the day's use.
Really, I can't thank-you enough, I really did, jump when I read 'best advice' for new homeschoolers!-- Wishing you the best in this school year ahead - Laura

Homeschool Dawn said...

Thanks so much everyone.

Laura, I am glad this series has helped you feel better prepared. That makes me so happy to know.

Heather, thanks for the additional advice.