There are three major areas where children need to gain organizational skills. These include: their time, their schoolwork and their personal belongings. In all these areas, clearly defining expectations, having daily, consistent, schedules and systems, and reducing excess will create a formula for organizational success.

Their Time

When teaching children about time management, it’s a good system to start by making a one-page chart that shows their daily to-do’s in picture form. Older students can be given a simple list. But even before elementary school, each child can be given a checklist that includes their tasks. For younger children it can include things like: get dressed; eat breakfast; brush teeth; make bed, and tidy bedroom. As they get a little older, you will want to add things like: one reading lesson, one math lesson, or Bible time. By starting this while young, children learn there is an expected order of things, and quickly they are able to accomplish their entire list with very little input—as long as you are willing to inspect and encourage them as they establish these habits. Keep this list as consistent as possible from day to day for best results. We use little clip-art pictures for each task to keep it colorful and engaging. This is posted in their bedrooms, with an additional copy kept in their schoolwork binder.

Once children have daily assignments, it is helpful for each child to have a planner. In this planner, take the time to write, or help them write, all of the day’s assignments, appointments and chores. Teach them to consult the list as they work and check off items as they go. This is particularly helpful if you have several children. If you suspect they are not finished with their work, or they are not being diligent, you can simply ask, “Have you completed your list?” This helps avoid having to remind the student about every subject or task assigned. It’s been my experience that a notebook-sized planner is best. It is not as easily lost in a backpack or stack of books.

Their Schoolwork

Organizing school papers can be daunting, particularly if you have an artistically prolific child. I have a binder system we keep for each child, where they file schoolwork throughout the year. I generally keep tabs to make it easy to file including: Math, Reading, Writing, Science, History and Bible. If your state has any required paperwork such as attendance and grades, these can go in as well. For things you want to use several times, such as a 100 chart or reference charts, use page protectors. These can also be written on with a dry erase marker, making them handy for reusing. In our home, only graded work gets filed. After I have graded the work, an older child can do all the filing. You could have your student do this daily. It will depend primarily on whether you grade papers daily or want them filed before or after you grade them.

For the copious amount of art projects and papers they bring home from church, each child is assigned a file box. They can put any and all art in the box that they want to keep. Every few months, or when the box gets full, go through it with your child to determine what to keep and what to toss. After a few months, their attachment to many items has faded, and they are glad to recycle or get rid of things they don’t love.

Their Personal Belongings

To help with the organization of personal belongings, start by keeping the amount of things they accumulate to a minimum. Often children are given many toys by well-meaning friends and relatives. These toys and books accumulate and become more than the child can reasonably handle. Then, large amounts of time are spent organizing, sorting, cleaning, or ignoring huge messes. The best way to solve this issue is to have a few well-loved, well-organized toys, and work consistently, daily, to keep them put away. It’s my experience that toy boxes become bottomless pits of junky toys. Use smaller bins, close to the right size for the toy or items it is holding. Put a label on each bin, (or use picture labels) to keep it neat. Make sure these are stored where the child can easily put them away without requiring help. Keep the system simple and easy to maintain. Complex systems just frustrate you and your child and will lead to disorder.

You will find that making your systems easy to use and maintain, consistently following-up on the systems, and reducing excess will make your homeschool easier to manage. Your child will learn lifelong organizational skills and will be well prepared to succeed in work and home management as they graduate from your homeschool.

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by Author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

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Malia is an author, home educator of six children ages 5 to 27, a grandmother to two children, an author, and conference speaker. Her primary ministry is encouraging and empowering mothers and home educators to seek God’s Word when facing challenges and encouraging women in their Biblical roles as wives and mothers.