How to Get Organized When Things Are in Chaos

How to Get Organized When Things Are in Chaos

Is your life so chaotic right now that you can’t even begin to get organized? If that’s your situation, you’ll appreciate these six steps you can take today to break through the chaos and get organized.

How to get organized when things are in chaos

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#1 Stop and pray

Too often when our lives are chaotic, we are in the midst of spiritual warfare and we don’t even know it. If it seems like everything is going wrong, we ought to consider the possibility that we are engaged in battle with the enemy. The day the post on marriage was published, my husband and I had a big disagreement (a.k.a. fight) that made no sense to me. A friend of mine pointed out that this was likely spiritual warfare. Of course it was! My husband and I were trying to strengthen marriages — something the enemy opposes.

When we are doing God’s work (and homeschooling is God’s work), we may find ourselves oppressed and challenged at every turn. The most powerful thing to do when we are in the midst of spiritual warfare is not to pick up another organizing book or to find another cleaning list on Pinterest. Instead, it is to stop what we are doing and pray for God’s strength, for His protection, and for His wisdom. This is step number one.

#2 Do what you absolutely, positively have to do today

When we are in chaos, we imagine that we have 100 things that have to be done today, and of course there isn’t enough time to do them. The truth is we have very few things that absolutely have to be done today. First let’s define what “absolutely has to be done today” means. It means that you would be willing to stay up very late to finish this task. You couldn’t stand to go to bed without it being finished.

Homeschool Mom To-Do List

I have created a list to help you find these tasks. Use this form for subscribers or a notebook to record your tasks. In order to find those things that are critical for today, we need to first check our calendar. What do you have coming up later today or tomorrow that requires any work on your part? Write it down. Next go through your inbox or wherever you keep physical mail. Make a list of any of the items you find that require action. Next look in your purse. Look for anything that requires your action and add it to your list. Next look at your phone text messages and listen to unanswered phone messages. Write down any tasks that have to be done. You are going to want to check your email inbox for things that absolutely positively have to be done today. Make a list of these. Finally, check social media. Did someone message you, tag you, or invite you to an event that requires your action today? Make a list of these things.

On the form I’ve created for you, you can add these tasks to a list based on where you found them. Then write only those tasks that have to be done today on the Tuesday list (or whatever today is). If you used note paper to make your list, star the items that must be done today and rewrite them on a separate list. This should be a short list. Remember that it should not include “like to get done” tasks, but “have to get done” tasks.

Now that you have your list, get to work on them. Do them in any order you please. Do the easiest first or the worst first. You can even roll a die to choose the task to do first. Whatever you do, get them completed as quickly as you can. You will feel so much better when they’re done.

The Organized Homeschool Life

#3 Plan dinner

After you have prayed and have tackled your critical task for today, you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, if you really want to break through the chaos to get organized, it’s important that you also have a plan for dinner. Even if your plan is to order pizza or to go out to eat, your plan will give you tremendous peace of mind. There will be no last minute scramble to determine what you’re going to eat with your family. If you will be eating at home, make sure any necessary preparations like thawing is done.

#4 Do the dishes and clear the table

I once visited elderly people’s homes as part of a research study I was doing. The tell-tale sign of an older person who was living in chaos was dirty dishes stacked in the sink and on the counters. Dirty dishes are a distraction and a discouragement to us. Getting them clean, whether that is loading them into the dishwasher or washing them by hand, will go a long way to helping you feel organized. Doing the dishes does not have to be something you do alone. Get your family involved to help you get them done.

In order to have that peace of mind that comes from being organized, you also need to clear your primary table. If there are dirty dishes on the table you will want to wash those. But if you have leftover school books or experiments or newspapers or just clutter on the table, you need to remove it. Don’t even worry about getting everything put away. Just get the stuff off your table. Your table is like your brain. The more clutter there is on the table, the more chaotic you are going to feel. This is also critical for your family’s peace of mind. Now you can enjoy dinner at the table if you’re cooking or having takeout.

#5 Declutter for 15 minutes

Set a timer for 15 minutes to clean or de-clutter an additional area of your home that is robbing you of peace. You definitely want to get your family involved in this. Don’t spend a lot of time deciding which area to focus on. If the kitchen counters need attention and that’s what you were looking out at the moment, choose to start there. If the family room or bedroom or school room are robbing you of peace, go to work there. If an area of your home is cluttered, declutter it before focusing on deep cleaning chores. Always work on visible clutter before tackling hidden clutter. Get clothing off the bed and floors before decluttering drawers or a closet, for example.

To begin getting organized when things are in chaos, you don’t want to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to give away. If something is obviously trash, throw it away. You may want to have a trash bag with you as you work. If something does not belong in that room of your home, put it in a box or laundry basket to be moved later. Do not waste time walking from room to room to put things away. Stay in the room you are working on the entire time — and that includes your children. If you find something to give away and you are emotionally prepared to give things away, you can also use a box or bag for giveaway items. But this is a very quick organizing sprint. Do not concern yourself with where you’re going to put things, where you will donate items, and certainly not with selling things. Stay focused. I recommend listening to upbeat music while you work.

#6 Take time for self-care

Set a timer for 15 minutes of self-care. One reason our lives get to feeling out of control is because we try to mix self-care time with work and family time. This doesn’t work. This is a common form of multitasking which leads to discouragement. If we are on Facebook while our kids are asking us to help them with their math, we won’t feel like we’ve had a break and our child will be frustrated by not having our full attention. We need set boundaries for our time. If you haven’t heard the podcast on self-care I did with Andy and Kendra Fletcher of Homeschooling in Real Life, you will want to listen to that episode. We need time for ourselves to be refreshed. It’s the most loving thing we can do for our families.

Some of the things that I do during my self-care times are reading the Bible, journaling, reading other books, exercising, spending time on hobbies like scrapbooking, or socializing through a variety of online sites and apps. Of course, it’s very important to set a timer for our personal time, just as it’s important to set it for work. Personal time without boundaries creates guilt which works against the refreshment we are trying to achieve. Teach your children to take personal time at the same time you do. You could encourage your child to nap, play with Legos, listen to an audiobook, play an educational game, or watch a favorite television show while you are having your time. If your child trusts you to abide by the time boundaries, you are more likely to get his cooperation.

What next?

When your self-care time is up, you can choose to do another 15-minute organizing sprint or work on tasks that don’t absolutely have to do be done today. Follow your 15-minute work period with another 15 minutes of self-care. That may sound crazy to you. The Pomodoro technique that many of us are familiar with recommends working for 25 minutes and then taking a five minute break. The reason I am being so liberal on the self-care time is because if your life is in chaos, you need extra rest. You’re likely overwhelmed and burned out. Short work periods followed by liberal periods of rest are healing. Once you’ve regained your equilibrium, the work-to-rest ratio can be increased. 

When things calm down, I highly recommend my book, The Organized Homeschool Life. You’ll get 15-minute missions to complete four days a week that are designed just for homeschoolers.

These six tips are survival strategies for today. The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow but to focus on today. If you simply repeated these six steps tomorrow, you would be well on your way to getting organized, regardless of how chaotic things feel right now. You can do this! I’m cheering you on.

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Homeschool Refreshment Through Organization

Homeschool Refreshment Through Organization

The excitement of the new year is starting to wane, leaving me with a need for refreshment. I don’t want to wish my way through the rest of winter. Neither do I want to give in to sloth and discouragement. I want energy and vitality in my homeschool now. How about you?

Organizing Your Homeschool for a Refreshing New Year

There are a number of ways to incorporate a little Energizer bunny into our homeschools. I’ve discussed them on The Homeschool Sanity Show podcast. But I have one favorite way of getting refreshed — organizing.

I’m not one of these ultra-organized women. I don’t have everything in a beautifully labeled basket or bin. Martha Stewart wouldn’t be impressed. But I do geek out on getting my act together. I once purchased an organizing system for my scrapbooking supplies and couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about using it. I get a little jolt of energy, a burst of encouragement, and a bit more tenacity when I organize something.

I think refreshment from organizing is hard-wired. We crave completion. It’s one of the hardest parts of homeschooling. We have to wait more than a decade for our work with one child to be done. Organizing in your homeschool or your life gives you a win. It’s like running a marathon and feeling like you can’t take another step. Then you reach a mile marker where there’s a refreshment stand. Suddenly you believe you can finish. (I’m guessing that’s what it’s like because I don’t run marathons!)

I wrote a post on refreshing your homeschool through organization at Year Round Homeschooling. I’d love to be one of the people who cheers you on to the finish line when you read it. It helps me finish my journey.

See you there!

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Organizing Challenges You Should Take On This Year

Organizing Challenges You Should Take On This Year

If you want to get organized this year, you’re in good company. It’s the second most popular goal for the year. But it’s a big one. Where do you start? I recommend starting with six areas.

Organizing Challenges to Take on This Year

Want to listen to this article on a podcast? LISTEN HERE or SUBSCRIBE ON ITUNES or ON STITCHER

#1 Organize Your Tasks

The first area I recommend you organize is your tasks. Nothing makes me feel worse than forgetting to pay a bill, forgetting to RSVP or even forgetting a party completely, or letting someone down because I don’t have my tasks organized. This used to be commonplace for me when I started homeschooling. There is one good reason for that. I didn’t have a system for dealing with all of my tasks.

As homeschooling moms in a digital culture, we have tasks presented to us in multiple ways. In addition to traditional mail, we get email, phone calls (sometimes on more than one device), text messages, and social media messages and event invites. We also have family members and friends asking us to do things in person. If you’re like me, this happens all the time. If any of these tasks fail to make it to a common list, we are likely to forget them.

The solution seems simple enough. We need to choose one place to house all of our tasks. The first decision to make is whether you will have a digital or a paper task list. A digital task list has the advantage of always being with you if you have a smart phone. This is the method I choose. The advantage of having multiple alarms to remind me of appointments is huge for me. If you choose a paper list, choose something that you can take with you wherever you go. If you have a home planner and want to have a smaller planner with you when you travel, it can work. But you will have to be disciplined in transferring your tasks to your planner when you get home every time.

Once you’ve chosen a central to-do list, your work in organizing this area isn’t done. Next, choose a method of insuring that all tasks make it to that main list. I was once in the middle of a meeting when I got a phone call asking me to be a substitute teacher for a class at my church. I was sure I would remember to put the date on my calendar when I was done with my meeting. I didn’t. I no longer allow myself to put off adding tasks, appointments, or even grocery items to my list. Develop routines for adding Facebook events, text messages,  and phone tasks to your list. For example, every night before dinner, go through your messages of every sort and add them. Use a checklist for all the places you need to look for tasks. Organizing your to-do list will help you feel organized this year.

#2 Organize a Parent-Teacher Conference

A second organizing challenge to take on this year is to have parent-teacher conferences. This is certainly not a typical organizing challenge and it may seem funny to suggest to a homeschooler. But it is amazing how much anxiety we homeschool moms can have about our children when we aren’t discussing them with our spouse or someone else if we aren’t married. The successes feel more significant and the challenges seem smaller when they are shared.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that my husband has some anxiety about how our children are doing. Having a parent-teacher conference gives me the opportunity to talk about what each child is working on. It also gives me the opportunity to share ways in which my husband could be supportive. For example, if my kids are doing a computer coding course and he doesn’t know, he might tell them to get off the computer. It’s a good idea to talk about all of your children’s needs and accomplishments during this conference. Discuss progress in chores, sibling relationships, and attitude. If there is something your spouse or another confidant can do to help you in homeschooling or parenting, be sure to ask.

#3 Organize Your Homeschool Space

The third organizing challenge I recommend you take on this year is to put your homeschool space in order. A cluttered and disorderly space takes a toll on your morale as a homeschool mom and does not encourage your children to work hard. Rather than ogle designer homeschool spaces on Pinterest, my recommendation is that you remove anything in your homeschool space you aren’t using. Simplify your space and keep frequently used items accessible. If the kids have to move things around in order to access their books or tools, you will have a mess every day. It’s better to have these items visible, even if they aren’t pretty, than to have the frustration and mess making.

In order to make your homeschool space decluttering easier, don’t make any final decisions about curriculum and material that you’ve purchased at this point. Just remove it if you aren’t using it. Put it in storage and leave the possibilities open. Ask your children to help you find the best place for the things you are going to be using. When you’re done decluttering, then pretty up the space. Attractiveness is important, but only after you have simplified. Buy a nice art frame or two to display your children’s work. Or put maps in a frame. Have favorite photographs of homeschool activities enlarged and framed for your homeschool wall. I love this idea and will be implementing it this year.

#4 Organize Your Used Curriculum

The next organizing Challenge I have for you is the used curriculum challenge. If you know you have things that you won’t be using again, then you can absolutely get them out of your home now. Otherwise, wait until the end of the traditional school year to decide what to do. When you have younger children who may be using materials in the future, It can be hard to let go of curriculum. But I can tell you that I have sold or given away curriculum only to have to repurchase it and I survived. I also could have asked to borrow curriculum if I did not want to repurchase it. It feels great to sell or donate items you won’t be using anymore. You can bless other families with them. I wrote a comprehensive post about the best places to do just that.

#5 Organize Kids’ Clothing

Once you have organized your to-do’s and your homeschooling, I recommend you get clothing organized. Make it simple for your children to choose what to wear. The easiest way to do that is to remove clothing that they cannot wear right now. I have spent countless hours organizing my children’s hand-me-downs. I did save money doing this, but I honestly wonder now if it was worth it. I do know homeschooling moms with large families who don’t hand clothes down. If you need to keep used clothing, I recommend that you start with the oldest children. Have them choose clothing that no longer fits.  Then have the next oldest child of the same gender give it a try. Choose a number of clothing items that you think is appropriate for each child. If your child is in need of more clothing, add those items to your shopping list. You do have a shopping list now, right? I use the built-in list on my iPhone for this purpose. Having your children fold clothing in drawers using the Konmari method well help them to remove items without making a mess.

#6 Organize Meals

The final area I recommend you organize this year as a priority is your meals. Unfortunately, dinner has to be made at the end of the day. If we haven’t planned ahead or put something in the crock pot, we’re likely to be irritated by having to get dinner on the table when we’re tired. Without a plan, we are likely to go out and spend more money or time having to run to the grocery store at rush hour. Failure to meal plan costs us money, time, and good health. Fortunately, there are easy ways to meal plan. The simplest way is to make a list of easy meals your family loves. Create a meal plan and grocery list from them. Start with a one-week plan and keep creating more plans as you can.

A more advanced way of planning your family meals is to use Plan to Eat. Sign up for a free trial. Once you have your family’s recipes added, you can drag and drop them to a calendar. In this way, you can plan an entire month if you want to. Another advanced meal planning method is to do freezer cooking. You can not only plan your family’s meals but make them in advance. It’s one less thing you have to worry about at the end of a long homeschool day. My favorite freezer meals go into the crockpot in the morning. Finally, you could opt to use a premade meal plan. The problem with that method is not liking all of the recipes. I have had very good luck using Tastefully Simple’s 30 day meal plan, however.  I also have a free meal planning book for you.

theorganizedhomeschoollife_2piecemockup

When you have completed these challenges, you’ll be well on your way to an organized year. If you’re ready for more, I think you’ll enjoy my book, The Organized Homeschool Life. It includes 52 challenges for organizing every area of your homeschool life.

Which area are you organizing first? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.

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How to Use Time Boxing to Organize Your Homeschool

How to Use Time Boxing to Organize Your Homeschool

Do you consistently find yourself with more to-do’s than time? If you’ve tried routines and schedules and planners and you’re still not organized, you’ll want to try time boxing. I love it!

How to Use Time Boxing to Organize Your Homeschool

How I’ve Organized Time in My Homeschool

FLYLady wasn’t a homeschooler, but in my early homeschooling years she introduced me to the idea that I needed routines. My plan was putting out fires. I handled whichever baby screamed the loudest. I learned that I needed to do the same things in the same order every day. Sure, there were interruptions, but the basic pattern created peace in my home.

I still use routines and talked with FLYLady about the power of routines in homeschooling in an episode of The Homeschool Sanity Show. But when I added more children and more students to my homeschool, I decided I needed more than just routines; I needed a schedule. Managers of Their Homes showed me how mothers of many could homeschool and parent and have a life, too. Time had to be allotted for it. I created the perfect schedule. But I forgot that my family is far from perfect. The schedule never really worked. It felt too constraining. So I started using what I called anchor points along with my routines. There was the noon anchor point by which the majority of my teaching should be done. There was the 5:00 p.m. anchor point at which time I needed to start dinner. Then there was the 8:00 p.m. anchor time which was when I wanted to have the kids in bed. I was usually disappointed in that one.

Today I have more scheduling in my day than I did years ago. Scheduling can be very effective if you don’t resist it. But I find that the more I schedule, the more resistance I feel. I like freedom and I suspect many homeschoolers are the same. Fortunately, routines and schedules aren’t the only options when it comes to organizing your homeschool day. Time boxing is another option and it’s flexible and effective.

What Time Boxing Is

Time boxing is a list of tasks you’d like to complete in a day, together with the amount of time you plan to spend on each. Unlike a routine, a time boxing list will be different every day. The list can be arranged in order of how you would like to complete tasks, but unlike a schedule, can be easily changed as you go through your day. A list for a homeschooler may look something like this:

Bible time – 30 mins.

History – 15 mins.

Read Aloud – 15 mins.

Raking leaves – 30 mins.

Tutoring Time – 60 mins.

Break – 30 mins.

Organizing – 15 mins.

*******

You decide to do one of these tasks first and set a timer. When time is up, you can either wait to start another task or move on to the next one of your choice. When you’ve finished the list, you’re done for the day.

Tips for Using Time Boxing to Organize Your Homeschool

Sloth app   Do Now app

Use an app. The Sloth (iOS) and Do Now (Android) apps make it easy and motivating to keep track of your tasks for the day. You can easily rearrange the task order, start and stop the timer, and mark tasks complete. I love having my task list with me on my phone. I’m easily distracted!

Don’t include routines. If you already have morning time in which you do the same things in the same order, don’t put them on your time boxing list. Instead, make a list of the other things you’d like to spend time on that day.

Use generous time estimates. Most people underestimate how long things will take. The more time you anticipate, the more likely you will finish with time to spare. You’ll also be less frustrated by the day’s accomplishments.

Use it to add balance to your day. What is it that you never seem to have time for? Add things like sewing, reading, or Bible journaling to your list. Even 15 minutes of these activities matters. The more time we spend doing things that rejuvenate us, the more likely we will get less enjoyable tasks done.

Use it to create habits. Until exercise is a habit, try adding it to your time boxing list. If there is something you always forget to do, add it to your list.

Use it to organize your homeschooling life. The Organized Homeschool Life provides you with 15-minute missions that will help you get organized all year. Add a 15-minute organizing task to your time boxing list and you’ll be on your way to experiencing more peace and joy in your homeschooling and life.

Use it to organize your distracted child. I have a child with ADD who flourishes with time boxing. He learns to plan work for the day, estimate how long tasks will take, and to work quickly when timed. If you use the app on your phone, rather than your child’s, you can help remind your child to stay on track.

Don’t time box your whole day. If you have a whole day’s time allotted to tasks, you are scheduling and not time boxing. The beauty of time boxing is it allows for response to distractions, new tasks, and our need for margin. Keeping the list short is more motivating, too.

10 Days of Homeschool Organization

If you give time boxing a try, let me know how you like it. If you’d like even more homeschool organizing tips, check out 10 Days of Homeschool Organization Ideas at They Call Me Blessed.

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How to Organize Your Homeschool Life the Easy Way

How to Organize Your Homeschool Life the Easy Way

You know what the hard way is. You wait until you absolutely have to get curriculum, ideas, and your homeschool space in order. You stay up late, get irritable, and feel like you’re behind before you even start.

Then once you make it past the back-to-school rush, you find yourself wondering how to get dinner on the table when it’s covered in school projects, how to stay connected with your kids as mom and not just as teacher, and how to get ready for the holidays when it’s all you can do to teach and keep up with the laundry. You even wonder if you’re cut out for homeschooling since you can’t seem to figure out how to balance it all.

You troll the Internet for answers, pinning things that seem like they could help, and downloading creative worksheets that you think will help your child finally grasp a concept you’ve been trying to teach. The problem is you have no idea what to do first and if you can even find the resources you need again when you decide.

That’s the hard way: last-minute, go-it-alone, willy-nilly. 

 

How to Organize Your Homeschool Life the Easy Way

There’s an Easier Way to Organize Your Homeschool Life

#1 Plan Ahead Instead of Waiting Until the Last Minute

Planning ahead is the best way to save time, money, and stress in your homeschool life.

You save time when you plan ahead. When you make a list of everything you need for science, you only have to make one trip to the grocery store. When you register for outside classes before there’s a waiting list, you don’t have to waste time trying to find other options. When you have the kids put their shoes by the door at night, you won’t be late for a morning appointment because someone couldn’t find theirs.

You save money when you plan ahead. You get school supplies, curriculum, and gifts at the best price. You don’t have to spend extra money on gas driving around looking for what you need because your regular store is sold out. You don’t have to pay extra for expedited shipping.

You save yourself stress when you plan ahead. You don’t have to worry that you’ll let everyone in your co-op down. You don’t have to worry that your child will be miserable because you didn’t register for the team in time. You don’t have to feel like a failure as a mother and teacher.

Planning ahead is the easy way to organize your homeschool life.

The Organized Homeschool Life

#2 Get Advice Instead of Going it Alone

Getting advice is the best way to find what works for you, what works for your children, and to be encouraged.

You find what works for you. The main reason we don’t ask for advice is because we think we have to make our own way. We think we’re unique and we need a custom solution to organizing our lives. The truth is we’re not that unique. Other homeschooling moms like you have been down this parenting, homeschooling, homemaking road and have discovered solutions to the problems you’re experiencing. It may take you years to figure out answers on your own. Ask for advice!

You find what works for your children. We have the same view of our kids. It’s true that there’s no one else exactly like your son or daughter, but there are plenty of other kids who are strong-willed, anxious, or dyslexic. We can read books, see professionals, and Google, or we can get help that’s much more likely to work for our child by getting advice.

You’re encouraged. When we keep our difficulties to ourselves, they loom large. They take on nasty personas that tell us we aren’t cut out for this–that other moms are doing it better. We think our kids may be better off if we quit. But tell a homeschooling veteran what you’re insecure about and I’m willing to bet she will laugh and hug you and say she’s been there. She’ll say that if she can do it, so can you. You’ll have the encouragement you need to keep doing what you do.

Getting advice is the easy way to organize your homeschool life.

#3 Follow a Sensible Plan Instead of Working Willy-Nilly

Following a sensible plan is the best way to achieve your goals, find balance, and maintain organization.

You achieve your goals. Without a step-by-step plan, we won’t get what we hope for from our homeschooling lifestyle. We can end up spending lots of time on subjects we and our children hate that aren’t even required because we saw a great lesson plan on Pinterest. Or we can fail to adequately prepare our students for college entrance exams when college is extremely important to our family. A reasonable plan that fits your priorities will help you get what you dream of in your homeschooling life.

You find balance. A huge list of ideas for enriching your studies of history doesn’t take into account your schedule, your marriage relationship, or your budget. The best homeschooling plan is worth nothing if it runs you ragged, causes conflict in your marriage, or puts you in debt. In contrast, a sensible plan will help you keep homeschooling in its proper place. You’ll thrive in the other areas of your life as well.

You maintain organization. Binge organizing sessions whenever the mood strikes are very unlikely to result in lasting change. Instead, you need to develop good organizing habits that will maintain the order and peace you crave. Habits are borne of small, consistent steps. A sensible plan will outline potential steps so you don’t have to wonder what to do.

Following a sensible plan is the easy way to organize your homeschool life.

The Easiest Way I’ve Found for Organizing My Homeschool Life

I’ve struggled to organize all the aspects of my homeschool life and keep them that way over the years because I waited until the last minute, went it alone, and worked willy-nilly. But I had finally had enough. I needed a sensible plan that incorporated other homeschooling moms’ advice and allowed me to plan ahead. But I couldn’t find one. I found organizing calendars that were created for housekeeping, but nothing that was specifically designed for a homeschooling mother’s needs. So I created my own.

The Organized Homeschool Life

The Organized Homeschool Life is an easy-to-follow plan that will help you develop lasting organizing habits 15 minutes at a time. It’s a plan that reminds you to plan for homeschool tasks, holidays, and seasons well in advance. It is the result of the advice of many homeschool moms who’ve solved the problems we struggle with. And it’s available now. I will be using it all year to organize my homeschool life the easy way. I would love for you to join me.

Learn More

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The Best Homeschool Hack: Organize All Year

The Best Homeschool Hack: Organize All Year

You spent so much time organizing the books, supplies, and notebooks at back-to-school time and now…they’re a mess.

The kids can’t find their notebook, binder, or workbox that you knew would solve all your organizing problems. And for that matter, they can’t even find a pencil!

Your toddler has gotten into the art supplies because your older child left the cabinet unlocked. To top it off, your preschooler has mixed up all the pieces for those 40 great learning kits you created.

Or maybe that was just me. I would tell myself that I’d find the hacks I needed to fix everything over Christmas break, when I would have so much extra time. Ha ha ha. I don’t have to tell you how that worked out, do I? As winter turned into spring, I would give myself the same pep talk. Come summer, I would figure out how to get and keep my homeschool organized. No matter how determined I was, the cycle kept repeating.
The Best Homeschool Hack: Organize All Year

 

If you’ve struggled to get your homeschool organized and keep it that way, one explanation is because you think organizing is a once-a-year event. After 16 years of homeschooling, I’ve learned that it isn’t. In fact, I’ve learned that the best homeschool hack is to organize all year. Here are three reasons why:

1. You’re Not Just Organizing Your Homeschool; You’re Organizing Your Life

As a homeschooling mother, you know you’re more than a teacher. You’re the cook, janitor, technology director, homeroom mom, field trip chaperone, and much, much more. Yet we often approach organizing our homeschools as though we were only a teacher. Once the classroom and lesson plans are organized, we think we’re done. Wrong!

In order to have the peaceful, organized homeschool we desire, we have to organize our entire homeschool life: meal planning, housekeeping, computers, parties, and trips. There is more to do than you could possibly finish in a summer organizing session.

Because you’re organizing your whole life, you will also have tasks that must be done in season. Holiday planning, outdoor activities, and purchasing items at their lowest price are examples of to-do’s that can’t be completed in one organizing session in the summer. Not being prepared for seasonal activities is a source of stress that none of us needs.

The Organized Homeschool Life

2. Organizing Isn’t a Skill; It’s a Habit

We say we didn’t get the organizing gift and we don’t know how to make our school rooms and homes look Pinterest-beautiful. But the pretty bins and baskets we ogle are primarily the result of the skill of decorating–not organizing.

We can definitely be overwhelmed and need help from an experienced homeschooler in scheduling our days, planning lessons, and arranging our space. But that skill (that honestly comes primarily from experience and not genetics) is a very small part of homeschool organization. Organization that lasts is because of the habits you have. 

As a psychologist, I’ve been exposed to the let’s-analyze-why-you-don’t-have-good-habits philosophy and I can tell you it doesn’t get you the organization you want. Maybe your home was a very disorganized place and you didn’t learn good housekeeping habits. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn them. Keep doing the same small things in exactly the same way every day (as I did with flossing my teeth) and in short order, you will have developed a habit. If we try to organize once a year, we will not develop the habit that will keep our homeschools and lives organized.

3. Organizing Isn’t Static; It’s Responsive

We started homeschooling in part because we wanted an education that fit our student’s needs. In fact, learning how to teach to our child’s strengths and interests can be one of the most rewarding aspects of homeschooling. It’s tempting to sigh with relief that we’ve found the curriculum, the environment, and the activities that work for our child. We got organized and now we’re done.

But then things change. A new baby is born. A learning challenge is uncovered. Puberty happens. Our homeschool has to respond to these changes. A once-a-year organizing session can’t address your family’s needs in a timely fashion. Waiting to address them can threaten your and your family’s commitment to continue homeschooling.

Static, once-a-year organizing can also lead to perfectionism and procrastination. We wait to address a problem until we have lots of time (summer?) and the perfect solution. Procrastination can lead to disappointment, frustration, and discouragement. In contrast, organizing all year means we find practical, if not perfect, solutions to the challenges we have in our homeschools and families now.

But How Can We Organize All Year Long?

Perhaps you agree with me that you should organize all year long so you can organize your whole life, develop the habit of organizing, and be responsive to your family’s changing needs. Your next question may be, “How do I do that?”

That was honestly my question. Over the years, I learned many of the things that I should do to make my homeschool and home more peaceful and effective, but I didn’t know where to start. So I started brainstorming. I made a list of everything I thought would lead to more sanity and put it on the calendar for the week it made sense to do it. I broke each of those organizing challenges into daily missions that took about 15 minutes. Then I looked for ideas and resources that would help me complete those challenges.

It made organizing all year long seem so simple! And it specifically addressed my unique needs as a homeschooler. But I didn’t want to be selfish with it. I knew this simplified approach to homeschool life organization could help other homeschoolers, whether they were new or experienced. So I put it in book form. The Organized Homeschool Life will take you to homeschool sanity week by week. You can have a more organized life no matter what time of year it is. It’s available now.

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