Homeschooling with Littles: Part 2-- Organize!
Now that you have some items prepared, it's time to organize them all.
Why? Well, if you are like me, you may forget what's in all those bags, or you might be teaching your preschooler about the letter "c" and wonder if you have anything in your arsenal that you could use to assist or reinforce the topic taught. We also implement the "A place for everything and everything in its place" mentality in our home. That way you can find what you need right away and don't lose any precious school time. Organization is KEY to this system.
Here are some organizational ideas that I have found to be very useful in our home.
1. Keep things close to your school area-
I keep all my preschool items within arms reach of the school area. I have an organizing shelf that is strictly preschool friendly. I keep toddler friendly books in a basket next to the shelf. Teach your child where the "home" is for each item, have the child put away that item after they are done, and monitor them for the first couple of weeks to maintain the "place for everything and everything in its place". After a few weeks, your child will automatically (in theory) put away the item when they are done, in the correct "home", with little to no reminding on your part. I keep this organizing as uncomplicated as possible and as easily accessible as possible.
I keep my extra empty boxes a little bit higher on a bookshelf, out of toddler-hand reach. I do this because I can get these out when all other activities fail. I don't use them often, so when they come down, it is a special time. Each container can be used in different ways. A few boxes I have taped shut and cut a small opening in, so they can place small items inside, others have flaps or doors cut in. Egg cartons make great sorters.
I keep my activity bags in the shelving unit also, stored in two easy to slide out bins. One bin holds bags that we are currently working on, that incorporate with lessons, or bags that my preschooler still has not mastered. The second bin I keep bags that he has mastered and still enjoys using.
When one of my older children has finished their lessons for the day, but is still in the school area, they can help mommy out by pulling activities out of the second bin and sitting on the floor with my toddler. They act as a fun playmate/teacher and both parties enjoy this time (including Mommy who can use this toddler-free time to work with another student at the table). I store any other bags that are no longer age appropriate in our attic until a younger sibling can enjoy them later.
2. Catalog your items--
I have the memory of a bowl of oatmeal. If I do not immediately jot something down (ideas, conversations, dates) it will whiz right out my brain, never to be thought of again. To keep me from forgetting what's in all those activity bags or what books I can use for my preschooler, I came up with a catalog system. Right now my "catalog" is a crude sheet of ruled paper, with a list of every activity bag, book, and manipulative that I can use with my preschooler. I numbered all of my bags, front and back with a permanent marker (if you look closely, you may be able to see some numbers at the top of the bags in the pictures above). On my list I wrote down the bag number, the "title" of the bag, and included my own list of icons that help me understand the purpose of the bag and for what age it is appropriate. I keep a "key" at the top of the paper so I can easily identify the icon or icons I wrote next to the bag title.
For example: #22 Foam Letter Sorters A // 2+
According to my "key" at the top, I can tell that it uses letters (A), is a matching activity (//), and is appropriate for ages 2 and up (2+). You can come up with any icons that you choose, just be sure to include a key so that you can actually decipher your catalog later.
When I store my activity bags, I try to keep them all upright in the bins, with the numbers visible. You don't have to store them in numerical order, but it might help in locating a bag that much easier.
I include preschool educational books (like ABC books or shapes and colors books) and wooden toys in the list as well. These don't have a number, but I included the book title and what it's purpose is, or a description of the wooden toy/manipulative.
This catalog can now be my quick reference guide when planning out my school day or making out my lesson plans. But that's a whole 'nother blog post!
For the next installment, I will continue on with organizing...Your SCHEDULE!