Tag Archive: family

In the last post, I posted an idea or two about filing solutions that could help our children keep track of their schoolwork. But what about filing solutions that help parents keep track of their children’s work as it is brought home (or turned in, if you are a home educator).

When my children were much younger and attending public school, it seemed like my life was inundated with their paperwork, art projects, and permission slips. Does that sound familiar? 🙂  I thought, perhaps, when we decided to bring them home in order to home educate them that it would be different, that somehow, that pile of paperwork would disappear, or at the very least, lessen. After eight years, it hasn’t. Granted, there are no longer macaroni art pieces to be hung, but as I write this, my younger daughter (who is 14), has taken it upon herself to create “slime”. You’ve got it…SLIME! A budding kitchen chemist…Now, I ask YOU…How am I to file THAT piece of artwork?! As the ideas I am about to share with you, just will not do the job. So, seriously, if you have any ideas, let me know!

Okay, the way I managed our children’s files when they were younger, was that each was assigned a particular color. Three sets of colored files lined our file boxes, representing each of our children. Each child had a file for art work, finished schoolwork, permission slips and the last held notes from the teachers and friends, as well as their grade cards.

At the end of each week, we would go over the first two files and each of the kiddos would pick out two school assignments and two pieces of artwork they would like to keep. My husband and I would also choose two items from each that we would like to keep (if our preferences differed from our children’s) and these, too, would be lain aside. We would also place report cards, friends notes, or encouraging or comical notes from the teacher in the protective sleeves.

The rest are disposed of. I know this sounds harsh, heartbreaking, horrible and all the other synonyms that mete out this idea, but think about it. I have four children. The younger three, at this point, were still in elementary and middle school. If I had kept each and every piece of paper they brought home throughout their educational careers, my entire home would now be filled with boxes! What an overwhelming thought! It is hard to enjoy that which overwhelms, right? So, we chose the best of the best.

With the choices made, we slipped them into protective sleeves and placed them in binders where they would be stored.  At the end of the school year, we typically had 1-2 binders for each child. For those macaroni art pieces, take photographs of them, print them and then place in the protective sleeve. I completely understand the desire to keep them. I have kept some “one of a kinds” that just needed to be kept as the original. For those, I framed them and they still line our upstairs hallway. However, think about this. Each time these pieces of artwork are taken out and viewed, the risk of damage is increased and then, we can’t completely enjoy it, whenever we would like, either. With a filed photograph, you can!

This is how I have chosen to deal with the schoolwork, even now that I home educate.

As a side note, I know many mothers who scrapbook their children’s work at given times during the month. I think it is a fabulous idea if you have the ability to work that into your schedule. I think it would be a beautiful tribute to the work of our children. I, too, would like to do that, but for the time being, I have not had time to do that, so I have stuck with the binder system. Hopefully, when I am no longer a full-time student and instructor, I will get around to it.

I look forward to that day!

In the meantime, I will share some fun find links…

Here is a post from Megan and Jake at “The Nerd Nest”, where there are photos posted that perfectly represent the system I use. Their link is http://thenerdnest.com/2011/11/elizas-school-work-scrapbook.html

The scrapbook idea offered toward the end can be seen here by Beth from the blog site, “It Is What It Is”.

While Erin, at the Sunny Side up Blog, has some great pics of a similar file box system that I use. I like her colors better than my own though. I have mahogany boxes and while they work, they are just not as fun! By the way, she has some great scrapbooking ideas, as well, for those of you who would like that next step. 

Happy Organizing, ladies (and gents…should you choose to join us! 🙂 )

We will see you next post!

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When we examine the question, “Disorganized or Just Plain Messy?” it may seem to be quite obvious…aren’t they one and the same?

Well, not really. Organization is about being about to find what you need, when you need it and quite frankly, there are a few folks who have been clients that have literally astounded me with their ability to find the darndest things in the middle of what I call complete chaos! They are messy people, but they are not “disorganized” in the sense of being able to live life without the mess interfering. In this case, these folks simply needed help in setting up systems that work in reigning in the mess, a task they did not have time to do themselves. When I checked in with them after the job was complete, they were using the systems and functioning quite alright. If they had truly been disorganized, this would not have been the case.

Let’s review why…

Messiness occurs, and accumulates quite rapidly, I might add, when we either do not have time to tend to certain tasks, or we do not have the proper systems in place to reign in the mess properly. A person may know where to find their items, but their “storage system” is unsightly.

For example, I spoke with a professional our family frequently uses for a service he provides and he was commenting on his paperwork and how it builds up and makes him stressed. On the outward, it appeared to be disorderly, indeed. However, as my husband and I spoke to him about the situation, he demonstrated being able to find anything he needed. The problem was, as we found later in the conversation, the computer system he uses to invoice and the consequent storage of printed invoices, receipts, etc. were lacking. This caused a “back-up” in his system, which was causing him stress. We made some suggestions and look forward to seeing his back-log cleared up. Problem solved.

True disorganization will have some tell-tale signs, which just seem to scream “I am disorganized!!” Here are just a few:

  • Unable to find what is needed the majority of the time
  • Constantly have to “run here or there” to pick up something they were just at the location to do.
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Forgetting assignments
  • Late payments on bills due to not knowing the due date and payment amount (or where the bill is!)
  • Frequent “melt-downs” when the person is under a deadline.
  • Procrastination
  • Lack of follow through in the details

While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a springboard for evaluating whether a person is messy or really dealing with the effects of disorganization.

One last note, I would like to comment that I have found that messiness is a thief, as much as true disorganization, so I am not advocating remaining a messy individual. But the solutions, while similar, are different in the sense that the truly disorganized will require new systems, new thought and behavior patterns and a LOT of practice; whereas, the one who is messy simply needs a system that works and, generally speaking, can have the mess taken care of fairly quickly with the right tools.

Diagnosing properly is important, particularly within a family, where provocation can happen very easily. Knowing what we are really dealing will give us a “leg up” on solving the problem.

Tune in tomorrow for some practical paperwork solutions for your kiddos schoolwork, as some of them will be needing help right about now!

My Favorite Thing…

Rambling through this ole mind of mine trying to identify my most favorite thing has been quite interesting. Well, you may wonder why I would embark upon such an adventure, and, no, it wasn’t because I have been listening to the sound of music! God forbid!!! No, I am warbling about mentally because of a wee lil challenge that was put forth to word press bloggers…blog about your favorite thing.

For me, this challenge summoned memories of cold, winter mornings at Van Buren Elementary school in Van Buren, Ohio. Steve Scothorn’s Dad, Mr. Scothorn (of course) attempting to corral all of us energetic, wiry, and, frequently, out of tune youngsters into the choir room so that he could teach us to sing. I look back and marvel at his patience! “My Favorite Things” was a song he introduced me to and has remained a favorite ever since, especially during the holiday season.

On a side note, I was never one to place too much value in musicals, especially the filmed kind, so I had never viewed “The Sound of Music”. In fact, I avoided it like the plague when I was a child!

So, can you imagine my utter surprise as I sat with my daughters watching “The Sound of Music”and discovered that a singing nun was the source of my song?!

Just for the record, I still love it just the same, despite its shady past! ;D

For me, it conjures wonderful memories of all things Christmas. I just could never relate well to musicals despite my love for music itself…still trying to figure that one out. 🙂

All of that to say, music did come waltzing down the central corridors of my memory, as a favorite, but it doesn’t quite qualify as a possession and that is what this week’s challenge is about…my favorite possession.

My silver teaspoons that make breakfast delightful? No. Though, they are quite wonderful.

Going through the list of items I own, though I really enjoy them, there are very, very few things that I find incredibly important to the point that I would call them a favorite.

The one item that continues to come forward in my heart and mind is my parent’s Bible.

My father gave it to my mother as a Christmas gift in 1977, two years before the demise of their marriage and our little family unit.

One may question the value of an item that holds that memory with it, but because my father gave it to my mother, it tells me that it meant something to him at the time.

It holds more importance to me than just that, however. This Bible has a prominent place in my office. It is a reminder that I do what I do in my home, I study what I study and I do the job I was called to do in order to encourage more little family units to stay together and to learn to grow more in love with Christ and through that more in love with one another.

For me, it is not just another book. It is the Word of my Lord. The One who completely changed me, who has in the years since 1977 has changed my parents and despite the break-up is still reconciling and making new all that was broken.

For me, He is the key; He said that He is the Word represented in that Bible on the stand in my office and I believe Him. He has shown Himself faithful in the lives of my family, though we often have chosen not to be.

I took it down this morning to flip through the contents. There a few faded, yellow letters from my father to my mother tucked inside. My Dad’s handwriting communicates family history as he knew it. Those are the things that I, also find to be precious. They are the icing on the cake, so to speak.

So, my favorite thing? My Bible, which represents my Lord, which represents His power to keep my family together and many, many others. That…my friends… is my favorite thing.

follow the megaphone guy!

I was speaking with a woman recently about the relationship she and her child have in regards to education. It occurred to me that this mother was trying to achieve meeting her own needs through her child. When they were not met the way she desired, she became angry; her daughter is struggling with being respectful, there is something that she is wanting, too. The breakdown in their communication has caused problems, because each can only see what they, personally, want and are not receiving.

The book of James says that the things that cause fights and wars among us is the fact that we desire something that we are not getting; that we covet and kill but do not get what we want because we will not ask of the Father and when we do we ask, often we ask amiss to use it on our own pleasure rather for the glory of the Father.

So, how does this apply to communication in the new school year? Throughout the next months that make up our school year, there will be things that we and our children will want from one another. And, there are specific ways in which we have learned to communicate; ways that are both good and bad. This is important to accept and understand, because communication is a tool. It can be used as an implement to build and restore or it can be wielded as a weapon to tear down and destroy.

We, as parents, can set the example of loving communication that deals with problems as they arise in gentle truth, allowing our children to flourish and grow as they begin to see that we are committed to loving them the way Christ loves us.

We can teach the way He did…consistently, lovingly and truthfully, with God’s glory in mind…not our own.

When we communicate to our children that we are “here” and willing to commit to responding to them in the love of Christ, we build trust.

As I mentioned before, however, communication can also be a tool of destruction…it can be detrimental to the lives of our children.

When our children’s mistakes arise ( and they will, just as our own do) it is imperative to remember, that like ourselves, they need to be corrected, but gently, kindly and with loving patience. Is that not what the Father does for us?

He does not scream, throw things, give us labels such as “stupid”, “dumb”, or “incompetent”, storm off or ignore us. Rather, He tells us the truth in love. He calmly addresses the heart, and then the actions that came out of the position of the heart. Then, guess what? He gives us room to grow…to practice! He is not intimidated by not getting exactly what He wants from us as His children. After all, if He waited to meet us and help us until we responded perfectly to Him each time, He would be waiting an awful long time, even among those of us who call upon Him as Savior! We do not respond to Him perfectly and yet, He is always faithful in every way. Our children will not do things perfectly, but that should not keep us from committing to loving them, teaching them, being faithful parents and setting an example that they can follow and respect, as we ourselves, submit our desires to the Lord.

As we look to begin a new year in school, what would you like to see as growth in yourself and your child by the end of the school year? Lay these before Him and let Him equip you to equip your child.

Set the example of praying for both your needs. You will not be sorry.

When looking at your goals for the year, begin to also examine what is working in your relationship with your child in regards to communication.

If it working, praise the Lord for it!!! We are so good at looking at the bad in a relationship and completely missing all that is good about it!

Let’s start off the year right…Looking to the Lord, looking at the good, noble things about our relationship, give thanks and rejoice over those things and then, set off to do what the Lord shows us. Communicating with one another in love, so that our parent/child relationship will show to the world that there is a God who cares that we stay together and that we stay together because of love, not just because we are a parent and child.

Well, I had hoped to get this new post up before now, so sorry for the delay, but I have stumbled onto a new resource for organizing tools that I was unaware of before now. I will share that tomorrow in the (R)estore section of the post.

For now, let’s look at organizing the spaces that your family uses which affect their (and if you are like me, possibly your own) education. The spaces that come to the forefront of my mind are backpacks, bedrooms and supply storage.

It is a given that these spaces are different, but the organization of such areas requires the same tasks! Let’s look at the acronym D.A.R.E. to find out how to tackle these areas. Today, we are looking as the first two parts of this acronym, Define and Analyze. So, let’s get started…

First, we are going to DEFINE our goals for our spaces, hence the “D”. What would you really, really like to achieve with this space? By defining what you want the end result to be, you are able to work backward to better formulate a plan of action for reaching the end goal. A goal for a space might look something like this, “I want my child’s spaces to be organized in such a way that will allow him or her to find whatever they need at any given time. I also want them to be able to easily maintain it throughout the year, so there is less stress on our relationship.”

This is a great example of a goal because it not only defines what you hope to gain physically from an organized space, but you are also identifying what is happening in your relationships when organization is not maintained. It may sound a bit odd, but this latter part is significant and incredibly important to organization. It gives flesh to the issue and helps you address the “whys” of organization with your child, so hopefully they understand better that you are not just wanting this because you are being persnickety!

Defining also helps in the sense that it aids in identifying what is not currently working and how being disorderly is affecting your life as an individual and as a family.

Another aspect of the defining process is to specifically define exactly how you want to use the space but specifically what you would like the space to contain. This becomes important when we reach the (R)estore segment because this is when we will begin to removed items that do not belong to a given space and add those items that need to be added to make the space the space that we intend it to be.

After we have set about defining our goals and the desired use of our space, we can then move on to the (A)nalyze stage of the process. It is at this stage of the process that we begin to analyze what is working and what is not in our spaces. Make very sure that you identify what is working, as this will help to spur you on when the going gets tough in the (R)estore segment.

A few examples of what is working are 1) the closet is large enough and I always keep my clothes there rather than strewn throughout the room. 2) my backpack has sufficient space and I never leave home or school without it, if you are a student or your child exhibits this valuable habit. Or, 3) you love to fold and store your clothing neatly, but you simply don’t have enough drawer space to do so. Take heart if you have examples such as these, it is a good starting point. You can use these good habits to help you defeat the bad habits.

Don’t cop out on this segment and refuse to see the good for the bad. There are ALWAYS things that are working well, even if they are seem to be few compared to what is not working. As a good friend of my family says, “Don’t through the baby out with the bath water”. Meaning, don’t toss what is good in an effort to discard what is bad. Hold onto those habits or tools available that are good and will help you get the job done.

That being said, it is incredibly important that brutal honesty is employed in both the identifying of the good and the bad. So, when dealing with the bad, resist the urge to become overwhelmed. We are simply looking at what is not working and we are going to find solutions that do! This may take some time and some trial and error, but if you keep at it, you WILL find what is very effective for you and your family.

Examples of what is not working might look something like this…1) your closet is large enough, but you do not ever return items that belong in the closet back to the closet. 2) Your closet is too small or there is not enough rod or shelf space. Or, 3) you want to be prepared so you try to pack everything and the kitchen sink in your backpack and then, can never find what you really need, so you quit using the backpack.

**Just a note on the habit of not putting things back where they belong. Many who have formed this habit  find that it creates much chaos not only in the closet but, generally speaking, all over the house! And, then, they are completely confounded and overwhelmed because they are not able to find what they need when they need it. We will deal more with creating a home for an item tomorrow in the (R)estore segment, but for now, resolve yourself to creating a home for an item and consistently putting it back when you are finished using it. You will save yourself a lot of time and potentially a lot of money and frustration in the long run.

Okay, so there you are. I hope this has encouraged you to get started, even if school has already started for your children. An organized home is a more efficient home and the people who live within its walls are more content and joyful, less frustrated. That is our ultimate goal… Happier families and better relationships.

Happy Organizing!


“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of  newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.” (Joe to Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail”) Folks, if I knew you, I would be tempted to do the same…that is how much I LOVE school and the year it encompasses!

Before we get started, let’s do a  little exercise. Let’s relax and take a deep breath.Yup, that’s it…inhale deeply…can’t you almost smell the crayons, construction paper, and glue? As a mother who home schools her children, Fall has always represented a time of fun, but always there are  a lot of ‘to-do’s” that make it onto my list and into my life. The list, for some, can be viewed as daunting, overwhelming. It looks something like this… Rush to Target, “shoot, what did we need?”…Rush to the grocery with not an inkling of what would be best to add to the lunch box, and let’s not even get started with the backpacks, bedrooms and clothing needs! The intentions of an organized approach were there, but not quite planned out and executed well.

I have known many a mother (and, sometimes, father) who have great intentions for overcoming the difficulties faced last year by beginning the new school year out on better footing. And, yet, Fall sneaks up like an unseen assailant and before you know it, “BAM!” the first day of school is Monday and you are scurrying the night before to get it all done. So, the school year begins as it had ended, with frazzled and tired parents and students.

But it doesn’t HAVE to be this way!

For me and my younger two children, school began last Monday. For the high school students I teach, it begins August 15th, and for my older children, their college start date is August 29th, whereas our local school district schools begin the 10th. No matter whether your start date is a few days away or a couple of weeks away, there are some things that we  can accomplish CALMLY and in an orderly fashion over the next few days or weeks.

There are a few areas which most every parent has to review before their children return to school. They are as follows: Supplies, schedules (both family and personal), clothing needs, bedrooms and study spaces.

First, let’s take inventory of what we have on hand for supplies. Very frequently, I will keep my eyes open for supplies as they go on sale or clearance throughout the year, but, of course, I have found the most cost efficient time to purchase school supplies is at the “Back to School” sales. I typically take advantage of the great prices, particularly with notebooks, ruled paper, pencils and pens at the beginning of the school year and stock up, but only if I foresee a need for them. To that end, the first place to begin is taking inventory. I have a supply closet that I have set up to keep all these items in and more. If you have a closet, shelf or other system available, begin to weed out those items that cannot be used any longer. Then, begin to assess the need items which are on the list provided by the school. Now, at this point, some of you will not have a list and that is okay. You will have enough of a list from experience to know the basics of what they will need. Begin with the basics: Paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, binders and loose leaf paper.

I have a note to share with you on the whole binder issue. A couple of years ago, I was about at my whits end with one of my children’s habits of NEVER using their binders to store their homework, assignment pages, etc. As a result, he would lose assignments, lose work he had completed or come to class without the proper necessities. I home educate, but I am not lax in these matters, nor am I a drill sergeant, but I do expect age appropriate responsibility. To this end, I HAD to get down to the underlying problem here. We would have what would seem to me like endless discussions as to his use of his binder and how important it was to utilize it as a tool and still, at the end of the day, we both would be very frustrated at his faithful insistence in not using it. Then, one day, as I was pondering the whole situation, I realized that it wasn’t that he necessarily did not want to be responsible or respectful of my wishes, but he was enough like me that when he greatly disliked something, there was a lot of resistance that came along with it. So, I asked him a simple question. “what is it about your binder that you cannot stand?” His eyes lit up as if to say, “EUREKA! She FINALLY sees!” and he told me that he cannot stand two things, one, the binders were cumbersome and two, his papers were often ripped when he was leafing through those few pages he did put in them. His solution…just don’t use it. It wasn’t effective in his life. The problem was, he needed at tool that was. Now equipped with understanding him better, I purchased an accordian file with twelve sections. He was able to use notebooks or loose leaf, assign a course name to the appropriate section, carry with him a planner where he recorded his assignments, as well, a supply pouch that housed his calculator, pencils and pens. Problem solved. It has been two years since we made the change and to date we have had very, very few hiccups to the system. He has a tool that doesn’t make him crazy and provides a solution to both of our needs…he turns his homework in on time.

Once you have the appropriate supplies, they can set up their backpacks (with assistance if the children are younger). If you have more than they need at the time, you can begin to set up your storage solution for the extra supplies.

Tomorrow, we will deal with how to tackle backpacks, storage areas and bedrooms in preparation for the school year.