If you are the type of person who could tear open a bag of M&Ms® and just eat the candies as they tumble out, you may not be able to relate to the color coding of our homeschool chaos. However, if you, like me, carefully tear open that candy bag and take a minute to sort candies according to color, you may want to consider using color codes in your homeschool.
Our color-coded system was created over several years of homeschooling our five children (ages 9, 7, 6, 4, and 2.) Several years ago, we began our homeschool adventure when our oldest was a preschooler. Colored file folders and notebooks helped me stay organized. As our homeschool grew with each additional student, I found myself misplacing books and losing papers. I needed a system of organization for our homeschool, one which would enable me to better manage our schedule, as well as our supplies. The M&M® color obsession led me to the epiphany of using color as the basis for an organization system for books, notebooks, schedules, and supplies.
The new system of color coding began with our massive collection of books. I collect books and find great joy in sharing wonderful stories with my kids. Owning multitudes of books, with no real method of organization, frustrated me with lost books among the rows of spines. I could never find the book I needed.
Using colored tape, I developed a system of color coding books to keep them together in categories. A different color (or combination of colors) is used on the top of the spine of each book, denoting the grade in which we read that book. For instance, the books we will read for my oldest child’s 4th grade year are labeled with a combination of blue and yellow, while the preschool books are marked with red. White tape is used to set apart the books which are “readers.” Moreover, I devised a system for labeling books by their historical time period, using a different color tape at the bottom of each spine – one for each of the four main historical time periods. For example, books about ancient history are marked with red on the spine, while medieval books are yellow. Now, with a quick glance at the spine of each book, I know the grade level or historical time period of each.
Rather than trying to keep track of loose papers in our homeschool, we use a system of notebooks. At the beginning of each school year, one notebook is created per subject for every child. Pages are printed for the year, with more being added to any notebook as needed. Next, I make a colorful spine and cover with the child’s name and subject. Of course, these are each done in a different color.
The color-coding system for notebooks is a little different, however. Instead of having every notebook spine the same color for each child, the color is determined by subject. Geography notebooks are red; math is pink (or orange for my son.) The shelf is now an organized rainbow of notebook spines for each subject!
During the school year, I often need help managing time and staying on task. I want to make sure each child has time with me, and each subject is taught every week. In order to see what needs to be done and find adequate time, I created a schedule in a spreadsheet. Each child and I have a color assignment. When I created the schedule, I made sure I used the designated colors to show each activity. Therefore, by glancing at the schedule, I can tell which children are paired together or which child is working with me, by looking at the color alone. My color is green, and my middle daughter’s is pink. When I’m working with my middle daughter, the activity in the column under my name is coded pink so I know when it is my time with her. This schedule has been a quick and efficient way to organize our day.
I don’t know about you, but my kids tend to argue over the crayons and pairs of scissors. To eliminate these arguments, I color coded our supplies. Everything from art boxes, scissors, pencils, water bottles, and iPods are in a color that is specific to each child. This helps them keep track of their own supplies. Yet, it also allows me to know which child left supplies throughout the house. When I see the yellow supplies on the floor, I know right away that they belong to my youngest. Somehow this system has allowed us to keep track of the various supplies throughout the year.
We recently moved to a new state, and I spent the summer setting up our new schoolroom and planning for another homeschool year. The moving experience has given me an appreciation for my system of organization. It has allowed me to quickly categorize our books; organize our notebooks; arrange our schoolroom and plan our new schedule. I love that I can easily find the supplies and books I need, yet the colors add a bright spot to our room.
How beneficial to easily locate supplies and books during the homeschool day! And, just like those M&M® candies, colors add bright spots to our space. After several years of homeschooling, and with multiple little people underfoot, I appreciate living colorfully organized. Now, please pass that bag of M&Ms®!
Copyright 2016 The Old Schoolhouse® used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine.