(Adapted from Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers and Home Education 101: A Mentor’s Manual © 2003/2005 by Vicki Bentley)
Set up a Command Center. Remember The Bridge on “Star Trek”? This should be an area close to your family’s activities in the house, not totally isolated – you want to actually use it!
Have a plan. Some sort of planner, calendar, and/or note system will be helpful. Because our family tends to be predominantly visual, I find it helpful to use lists like the Tidy Room checklist. I also have a weekly chore chart system that incorporates child training with housekeeping.
Develop a daily schedule. Even if you don’t always stick to it, have one! Following a basic routine gives your life (and your family) stability.
Store items closest to point of use. Notice if you habitually must go somewhere else to get what you need to accomplish a task. Ask yourself if it can be stored closer at hand, or if it would be practical to have a duplicate item to keep at the task location. Keep stamps and envelopes in the bill-paying area. Store extra staples near the stapler. Ask yourself, Where would I look for this? Where do I most often use this?
Make your kitchen kid-friendly. If you want them to fix their own breakfast, put the cereal or other breakfast items where they can reach them. Put dishes in a cabinet low enough for them to set the table or get their own drinks (unless you are trying to avoid this!).
Speaking of kitchen cabinets: Put your support group phone list in a plastic page protector and tape it inside a cabinet door for reference!
Have an Errand Box. If you tend to forget to return items, or forget to put them in the car, make yourself an Errand Box or Errand Basket. On a shelf near my front door is a basket into which I deposit items to be picked up or returned or dropped off somewhere next time I go out. On the same shelf is a pretty napkin holder that contains the outgoing mail. I usually stash my wallet or purse on the same shelf, so I am reminded to check the basket when I grab my wallet to leave the house; the keys are on a hook nearby.
[Note- In my new house, we have no place for a visible shelf, so I have a small cabinet in which I put my purse, the library book basket, a basket of items to go out with me – and a little key hook bar installed inside the door.]
Color code when possible. Assign each child a color and buy towels, napkins, cups, etc. in those colors. You will easily know whose towel is on the floor, which basket the math book goes into, which file the papers go in, etc.
Pray. I try to remember to pray for the people I’m “doing for” (as I do laundry, toilets, floors, etc.).
Have a short term holding area, if needed. Picked something up and aren’t sure where it goes yet? Have a small short-term holding area (one designated basket or drawer or shelf) but plan regularly to clear it out.
Keep track of library books. Have one location for library books (library basket, shelf, etc.) and remind the children to always return books/videos to that location. Clip a copy of the library book printout or the check-out cards to the basket so you will be sure you have all the books upon your return trip. The system we found helpful was to carry the books straight from the car to the photocopier at the library. I stand as many books on their spines as I can fit, so the titles and hopefully call numbers fit onto the glass (I have to hold them upright while I leave the cover up, and close my eyes when I push Start). I carry the books straight to the check-in counter from the copier, and I then mark the date and branch location on the photocopy. This gives me a record of all the books returned, and I am 100% sure of what got turned in where. I put this paper in a file that stays in the back of my car. It costs me up to about fifty cents per library visit, but this is considerably less than the cost of a replacement for one book I was sure we turned in but can’t document.
Keep current in your lesson planning/work evaluation. It is not critical what system you use. What is important is that you use it. If you need to make adjustments to your plan, that’s okay. It is essential that you regularly assess where you stand in your year to avoid that I-am-so-far-behind feeling.
Ask a few questions. As you survey a room (or a mess!), ask yourself: What is working well in this area? What is not? Why not? What can I do differently to accomplish my purpose? If I constantly have books piled on the table at mealtimes, how can I fix that? Do we need to work at the coffee table in the playroom instead? Or do I just need a book basket nearby? Do the children need milk crates for their materials? Do we need to set a dinner’s-almost-ready timer to clear the clutter?
De-clutter!! Paring down the number of possessions that we have to take care of frees up more time to spend together. If you spend 10 minutes a day looking for stuff, you spend 60+ hours EACH YEAR looking for things.
Delegate. Don’t do anything that someone else could do. Home management training (including a chore system) is part of a well-rounded education!
Enjoy your blessings. Don’t get so caught up in doing school or managing the household that you neglect to teach your children or enjoy your family.
Copyright 2006, Vicki Bentley, Family Resources