We have made it to the end of the homeschool year! I’m sure you are just as happy as I am. But, since we are at the end of the year, we need to start thinking about going through our homeschool materials. It is the perfect time to spring clean your homeschool!
When we talked about going through old homeschool materials and figuring out if we could sell them or not, we were mainly concentrating on those old old boxes of used curriculum from years ago. But, now we are talking about going through all of the curricula you are currently using. Do you need to keep everything? What about worksheets? How many worksheets do you really need to keep?
We spring clean our homes to freshen up after a long winter and get ready for the spring and summer seasons. The same should happen for your homeschool. You need to spring clean your homeschool so that you are ready for portfolio reviews, and so that you know what you have currently. This will be a huge help when you start to plan your next homeschool year.
Spring Clean Your Homeschool: Get Ready!
When you spring clean your homeschool, it will most likely be a big project. Depending on the size of your space and the number of kids that you have, will determine how much you need to go through. It is OK for this to take more than your afternoon quiet time to get through. When you deep clean your house you don’t expect to get everything done in an afternoon (OK, so I know that we all hope for that, but it isn’t realistic!). So, you can’t expect that you will be able to deep clean your homeschool space + all of your homeschool materials quickly.
Don’t let that discourage you though! Getting your homeschool space and materials cleaned up as you finish out your school year will be an encouragement. Not only to you but to your kids. Let them be involved if they are old enough. Taking the time to go through all of the materials, books, papers, etc. throughout the year will instill a sense of accomplishment in you and your kids. It is especially helpful during these last weeks of school (or if school is now complete!) because winters can be long for homeschoolers, and seeing an end in sight is always an encouragement.
If you are still in the process of finishing your year, you are going to want to take a break while doing this particular spring cleaning. Perhaps you can reduce to 4 days of school, and take one day for the spring cleaning. Then work on one part each day you aren’t doing school until you are finished. Or, if you are almost done with school, it wouldn’t hurt to wait until you are completely done.
Spring Clean Your Homeschool: Papers
Is it just me or do we all seem to have a lot of paper in our homes? There are instructor’s guides, worksheets, to-do lists, random scraps of paper that you have made notes on. Plus, there are all the wonderful crafts and blank books, or other pieces of paper the kids have used.
Can I tell you a secret? I tend to throw it all into a box throughout the year. My kids have a folder in their school bins labeled “papers” and that is where they can put anything they would like to keep. I periodically grab what is in the folder and put it in our current school box in the attic. Yes, there are other papers about the house. I tell my kids that if they really want to keep something, they need to grab it and give it to me. Otherwise, it goes in the trash.
Now, this may not be the best way to organize papers throughout the year, but I am being realistic. My kids go through a lot of paper. I really never know exactly what I want to keep until the end of the year. That is when I start to put together their portfolios. The papers are slightly organized in the box. Mainly by the child, and in order of when they did the worksheets/books/papers, etc.
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It’s OK to Throw Stuff Away!
I know how hard it is to throw away your child’s work. You want to keep everything! It could be something they want to look back on. I am going to let you know, it is OK to throw most of it away. Now, I would recommend saving your child’s portfolio each year. That is a great memento to keep! It is much easier to store than trying to keep up with all the papers. But, the likelihood of your child wanting all of the boxes of stuff when they graduate and move out on their own is pretty slim. If you want to store it, that is fine, but don’t feel like you need to.
Sometimes it takes a little distance in time to be able to get rid of old papers from your children. Once we are further removed from the time that the work was completed, we can see that while it is a beautiful stick figure drawing, we have approximately 75 of them, and can get rid of a few. If you haven’t been keeping a meticulous portfolio for your child each year, and instead have boxes of papers and other work in the attic, take it one box at a time. Start with the current year, and go backward.
If your kids are a little older, it is a perfect time to get them involved. Set them down in front of their own work and figure out what is important to them. If there is a memorable story that they wrote, keep it! If it is pages of math work that means very little to them, you can save what you need for reporting purposes and get rid of the rest. I highly doubt that any child will come back from college asking for the math workbooks they used in elementary school!
Don’t throw everything away!
Yes, if it is junk, we can get rid of it. But, sometimes, you just don’t know whether or not it is something you will need later on. It is OK to keep these items, and then revisit it again at a later date. If it is current work, and you don’t need it for the homeschool portfolio, but it is still sentimental to you, put it away. A great way to keep these types of items is in a file box. As long as the items are of an appropriate size, you will be able to organize one box for each of your kids. Then keep the items you still want to have, but put them someplace that they are out of the way – a storage closet, or the attic, or a garage.
My mom kept a lot of my stuff from my elementary years, and surprisingly it is coming in handy now. My oldest daughter wanted to create a weekly newspaper. I just happened to do the very same thing when I was in elementary school with a group of my friends. It is awesome to be able to share that with her!
The 3 Categories
You will have three categories for your papers. They are, Keep for a Portfolio, Keep for Memories and Trash. Once you have the papers sorted into these three categories we can move on. But, this is one of the bigger parts, so it is OK if it takes you a little while to go through it all. And even once you have these sorted into categories, you will still need to go further and organize what you are keeping both for the portfolio, and also for your memories.
Spring Clean Your Homeschool: Curricula
When you start to go through all of the curricula you have used this year, there are a couple of ways to go about it. First, if this is the last year you are using a certain curriculum, you can set it aside to sell. This would be the case if you just put your youngest child through the curriculum. If it isn’t in good enough quality to sell, you can donate it, or even trash it. Don’t be afraid to get rid of the old curriculum if it is no longer applicable to your stage of homeschooling. Yes, it can be difficult, but it is better to let those things go rather than keeping them and letting another box of old curriculum weigh you down due to clutter.
Organize Curricula you will Keep
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If you are going to be using the curriculum again, obviously you will want to keep it. Make sure that everything is in working order. Do binder pages need to be reinforced with stickers? Are you missing pieces of instructor’s guides? Do you need to replace some worksheets? Make sure that you write all of this down. Make sure that you keep a good record of what you need. Then add this to your list. Then take the list and use it to see what you need for your next student. If the curriculum isn’t complete, it won’t be useful.
I would recommend replacing what you need sooner rather than later. If you are able to get it all put away, complete, it will be easier to start using that material again. If it is curricula that you will be storing for a year or more, again, make sure that you replace what you need and then pack it away in a box that is well labeled. I tend to keep all of my material by age, so that I can easily pull out what I need. When they are young, this means everything (books, instructor’s guides, worksheets, etc.) all go in one box. As the kids get older, we tend to need to add another box to the mix.
Did this Curriculum work for your Child?
You need to ask yourself whether the curriculum worked for your child. This will also be a good hint on what you may need to do for next year. Be observant. When going through the material with your kids, you can have a conversation about what they liked and what they didn’t. Is there something that could be done differently teaching a particular subject? Were the books not engaging?
If it did not work well for your child, ie you were fighting tooth and nail to get through it, you should write down the type of curriculum it is – was it too much reading, was it hands-on when it didn’t need to be? There are many ways of learning, and what works for one child may not work for another. That doesn’t mean that the curriculum is bad, just that it needs some tweaking. Paying attention to these types of things while you go through your old curricula is going to be the pre-cursor to planning your next homeschool year.
Spring Clean Your Homeschool: Books
We have established that books are my lifeblood. Because of that, I am going to say keep all the books! OK, not completely. If a book is ripped beyond repair it needs to be replaced because it is so well-loved. Not all books will be replaced. If it isn’t one that you want to keep for your children, it is OK to let it go. In fact, there are all kinds of reasons to let go of old books. The best one? You don’t have room for it.
If you want to repurpose your books, there are all kinds of crafts that you can do with old books. But, the purpose is to spring clean, not to hoard, so if it needs to go, let it go!
This is also the best time to make sure you have all the books that go with a particular curriculum. Inevitably books walk away in my house. That means I often have to search for them. I try to keep all of our homeschool books together on specific shelves. However, often the kids will want to read those books. So stacks of books end up everywhere. Sometimes you may need to replace a book. If that is the case, write it down on your list. You want to make sure that you have all of what you need written down. The reason? It will be easier when you are setting up for next year to have a list already in hand of what you need.
Organize all the Books
Obviously, you want the books organized by grade. If they are general books for reading, they can be put someplace else. Homeschool books ought to be marked. Why? It will be easier to organize and find them later. I realized that with all the books we use, and all the different levels, we needed a better organization system. Hours were spent searching through our books to get everything put back together. I used to be resistant to labeling books. However, then I realized how much easier it would be.
We use Sonlight for most of our homeschool materials. They offer colored labels for each of the core packages. I need to put these stickers on the books, and then I can easily find them and sort them without too much extra effort. You don’t need to get special labels. Instead, just get some different colored stickers. Figure out a color coding system, and then implement it. If you are hesitant, like me, about putting stickers on book bindings, put it on the inside cover. It won’t take much more time to open the cover of a book to see where it belongs.
Spring Clean Your Homeschool: Supplies
Office supplies are probably some of my most favorite items. Unfortunately, they are also some of the hardest to organize. And in our house, homeschool supplies and art supplies often become one category. This is the perfect time to get rid of the junk. Old, broken pencils, dried out markers, broken crayons. Get rid of it! I know that it is hard to get rid of some of it. You spent good money on it, your kids need to use it up. But, often, they won’t use it. You instead have a bin full of broken, dried up junk, just taking up space. I’m giving you permission to throw it out.
Start a list of what you need for school supplies now. What needs to be replaced? What was purchased, broken, and forgotten quickly? Don’t buy those things. But, crayons and new pencils will be needed. Notebooks, blank books, and other paper supplies will most likely be needed as well. Having this list ready when school supplies go on sale in July (yes, July) will mean that you can pick things up during the best sales. It will also save you money because you will already know what you need to buy. This is the alternative to making a list on the fly and ending up purchasing a bunch of stuff you do not actually need.
The Bottom Line
Spring cleaning your homeschool is going to give you a sense of peace as you move into the summer. It will allow you to start forming a plan of what you need for the next year. This, in combination with putting together your portfolio, will give you a great sense of accomplishment over what has been done during the past year. And you will move into summer without the weight of homeschool mess on your shoulders.
Include your kids in the process. They don’t understand all the work that goes into planning a homeschool year. They often will move through homeschool, doing what they have always done. But, when you take the time with your kids to go through this activity of spring cleaning, they will see all the effort that you make. It will help them to take some ownership of their own homeschool experience.
Don’t be afraid to get rid of what didn’t work, or what you no longer need. But, keep what you feel is most important for your children. If you are having a hard time deciding on whether or not to get rid of a particular story, put it in a file box and store it. Just because we are spring cleaning right now, doesn’t mean that we have to make a final decision on every piece of homeschool material. You can go through these boxes again in a few months, or next year. When there is a little space, it will be clearer on what you want to keep and what you can let go of.
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