I’ve been homeschooling now for over twelve years and dealing with homeschool clutter by far, has been one of my biggest challenges. There are two aspects to clutter that need to be addressed. First is the organization aspect. The other aspect of concern is storage.
What is Homeschool Clutter?
Homeschool clutter starts with the papers, folders, books, documentation, kits, science experiments, co-op projects and the list continues to grow and goes on and on for as long as you choose to homeschool. Homeschool clutter happens. However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
One day, after I had been homeschooling for several years I walked into my storage room to find I had several boxes filled with math papers. There was a box for each year filled with assignments, practices, tests, and notes for all three of my children. As I stood looking at these boxes I thought, Do I need to keep everything? I had kept these, for documentation purposes. Well, that was my excuse. However, it was so unorganized that any chance of using them as proof of work would have been tricky at best.
I began questioning fellow homeschoolers about the need to keep these papers and what types of documentation would be sufficient? Within days I threw the papers away. I didn’t need to keep them.
Some states require a portfolio of work and documentation of what is being taught. In Illinois, it is not necessary or required. However, a portfolio of the best work is a good idea. It is memories. It is proof of work. It is fun to look at on those days that are challenging. It is a wonderful feeling to see just how far your child has progressed. In our house the spelling lists are rather comical…now.
Paper clutter, for me, was not only a storage issue but also an organizational issue. I wanted to keep things but I didn’t know what to keep or how to keep them. This was resolved by making a folder for the year for each child. The folder contains examples of their work. One folder per child is a lot less of a storage issue than three boxes.
Books, Books and More Books
Another common clutter problem is the accumulation of books. When we first decided we would homeschool, I remember visiting a family that homeschooled. When I walked into their homeschool area there were floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with schoolbooks. I was in awe.
Now twelve years later as I sort through my books I don’t have that same sense of awe. Instead, I keep asking myself, “Why do I need nine biology books?” Yet when I go to a bookstore, I can’t seem to stop looking at the cool history books or the science books and oh…let’s not forget the books for literature studies. This also applies for exploratory kits and supplementary materials.
The answer for this clutter is a tough one for me. Sort through the books and get rid of the ones that I definitely will not need anymore. This should be easy. Yet I really want to keep that phonics book; I might be able to pass that on to someone. It was such a great program.
This way of thinking is a trap. Let the books go. Trust that they will find the owners that need them. Give them away or sell them to buy books just for you. Let them go. It is ok. Really.
For the books that are left. Find an organization strategy that works. I like to keep the current, in use, books on the top shelf of one bookcase. The other six and a half bookcases are for reference materials. Yes, I still have a problem. I suppose that is the first step; admitting that I have a problem.
Homeschool Clutter Control
My only consolation in this is that I believe; I am not alone. So my recommendation for new homeschooling educators is to buy only what you need. When you are finished with it, get rid of it. Keep only what you need for documentation purposes or for sentimental reasons but don’t keep it all.
Personal Experience, Drowning in the Clutter, Julie Darleen Durr