I’m preparing our homeschool room for fall 2014, and I’m focusing on organizing the homeschool room for our preschooler and toddler this year. Successful homeschooling when you have little ones is highly dependent upon organization, time management, and knowing how to keep the little ones occupied so that you can accomplish homeschooling the older children. These are my tips to keep your homeschool room organized and maintained on a daily basis to maintain your sanity and not fall behind on school work.
I love self directed learning. I love hands on learning. However, I’ve learned the hard way that when you get wrapped up in teaching your older children, small children can really tear apart a room. This makes my day really long and hard. I keep manipulatives, puzzles Melissa and Doug puzzles are great for little ones!), and office supplies high on a shelf to make less of a mess.
Have lots of manipulatives in easy-to-store containers. I use counting bears, tangrams, and unifix cubes on a regular basis. I use old fruit trays from Sam’s Club to organize mine on a budget. This helps reinforce responsibility to clean up the manipulatives when finished and also teaches sorting skills.
I use trays often when I work with my preschoolers. They contain the mess and help the child feel less overwhelmed. Trays are excellent for beads, play-dough, paints, and you can write on them with dry-erase markers. (Note: Be sure to check on the underside of your trays to be sure the marker will wipe off before allowing your children to mark all over them.)
4. Create a Visual Schedule
I created this schedule last year for my older two boys (Kinder and 2nd). However, my nearly-4-year-old has benefited greatly. The large pictures and bright colors help him to know what’s coming next, when he gets time with Mommy, and most importantly, when it’s time to eat. I created the schedule by taking photos of our school room with the boys doing various activities. I edited them using PicMonkey, a free online editing website. Check it out! (To make your own picture schedule, just put the photos in the order you want them, and then laminate them in a vertical line. You could also do your schedule horizontally if you’d like that better.)
5. Keep ‘Fancy’ Books Up High
Hardback books, as well as expensive ones, are called ‘fancy books’ in our home. Keep these up high. I am a huge advocate of making books accessible to little hands, but some books belong out of reach until there is adult supervision. It’s also a beautiful decoration piece when you are all finished. My husband built these ‘ledge shelves’ for me (I got the idea from Pinterest), and I don’t know how I’ve lived without them before this school year! (Here’s a tutorial if you’d like to build your own ledge shelves.) I’ve lost too many book jackets to count to eager toddlers and preschoolers. These ledge shelves are cheap to make and beautiful to look at! Make ’em, folks!
6. Invest in a Fish Tank
When I need five more minutes to teach spelling or history, our new fish tank helps distract the little ones. They can feed the fish, count them, name their colors, or give them new names. It’s a great tool for learning and distraction. If you don’t have the budget to get a large tank (ours was a hand-me-down), even just a simple bowl and a beta fish can ignite your preschooler’s imagination. Craigslist and local Facebook Resell groups are great places to find a used tank.
7. Board Books Down Low
Although I protect our ‘fancy books,’ board books are free range! I keep them down low on a shelf and rotate them often. You can bring out books that go with the seasons, holidays, or a unit you’re studying. You might be surprised to find even your toddler sitting and “reading” independently when you walk by the ‘low’ book shelf one day.
8. Invest in an Oil Pan
A brand new oil pan only costs about $30. You can purchase them at any auto repair shop (O’Reily’s, Auto Zone, etc.). They can be written on with dry erase marker, are magnetic, and are perfect for felt board characters. I keep Command Strips (that Velcro) on the back of mine so I can easily take it off the wall if I need to.
9. Label Supplies and Toys
Literacy starts in the most basic areas of life. Everyday life is what we need to equip our children to handle. So, I like to label all my supplies in tubs. I also *try* to do this with toys and book shelves as well. When preschoolers begin to learn their letter sounds, you can point out all the words around the room they can now decode. It helps them learn independence and feel like a big kid. Any teacher supply store has ‘cute’ labels like those in this picture. However, a good old index card also does the trick.
10. Start a Tradition
This school year I took hand prints of all my boys and let them paint some 4×4 pieces of board to decorate a blank wall in our schoolroom. Whenever friends see them, they love the idea. So do my boys! “Look how small I was!” “Look how big my hand has grown in one year!” How I WISH I had started this tradition when my first child was a preschooler. It’s so easy. Can you imagine how glad you’ll be to have all those hand prints on the wall after they graduate from high school as you look back at your homeschooling years?