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My 5 Simple Tips for Starting School - by Mary Ellen Barrett

My 5 Simple Tips for Starting School

2 minutes

Getting organized is one of those concepts that gives a warm fuzzy feeling to the left brained among us—you know, those who are always on time, with check books balanced, kids in clean clothes and dinner in the crock pot at 10am.

Of course, that same concept gives a case of the heebeejeebees to the right brained, poetry-quoting, field trip-going, schedule-resisting, six months late for dental appointments types among us.

I fall somewhere in the middle of that.

Being organized, however, is not a death knell to spontaneity and creativity; rather it allows more time for these things because all the necessary aspects of life are automatically taken care of in their proper time.

This time of year, shortly before the beginning of the traditional school year, is a good time to evaluate our goals and priorities for the coming school year and get the home and kids organized so as to get off to the best start possible. It’s not all that difficult, but it can be an overwhelming prospect and easy to put off when the weather is still summer-like and the beach or lake calls to us.

What’s important to remember is that every moment spent getting yourself together prior to beginning formal lessons will repay itself tenfold over the coming year. Think of all the free time you would have if you never had to search for a pencil or a book, if your first few weeks were carefully planned on paper or on the computer with an eye toward the season, upcoming feast days, afternoon activities and a rough menu plan in place.

“First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” Thomas à Kempis

So, keeping all of this in mind, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. How do I get organized for the upcoming school year within the next few weeks? Here are a few tips:

1. Pick a hard and fast start date.

Don’t waffle on this. Most people work best when there is a deadline looming at them. Just to keep myself honest our homeschool start date will be August 10th this year. You heard it here first.

2. De-clutter.

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This is essential and is the most overwhelming of tasks. Go through your school supplies and books with ruthless disregard for sentimentality. If you haven’t used it in two years, you aren’t likely to. If you might use it in five years, gift it to someone else and borrow it back or buy it used. Abby Sasscer, in her lovely book, Simplifying Your Domestic Church
(setonbooks.com), recommends four P’s for tackling paper clutter: Purge, Prioritize, Process and Put Away. This can be applied to books, toys, clothes, really anything. Be brutal.

3. Clean the room where you will do your planning.

A recently tidied, dusted, vacuumed, mopped up space is much more conducive to creative and cognitive activity. Gather your materials and make neat piles. Make the space inviting. Brew a cup of something pleasant and settle in.

4. Decide on a calendar and homeschool planner.

I like the planners that Seton sells, as they are undated and the layout works with the way I visualize things. My calendar is the Catholic Mothers’ Daily Planner (michelequigley.com). I am a paper and pencil person but I realize that many people are iCal or Outlook devotees. This is all good as long as you use it consistently. When planning school lessons, I always have my calendar open to make note of feast days, holy days of obligation, and special family days.

5. Make a booklist for each child to cover each subject for each year.

My next step is to set out for each child a white dishpan, labeled with a post-it, and with the booklist tucked inside. As I gather the books, or as they are delivered, I add them to the pan and check them off the lists. When each list is complete, the books go into the crate that is reserved for that child. This helps eliminate the possibility of starting the school year thinking I have a book that I don’t (it’s happened and it’s not fun when it does).

When planning out your lessons and school days, try not to plan too far in advance. This will help you not feel behind when the occasional stomach bug or basement flood derails you for a few days. It’s easier to re-adjust a few weeks than a few months.

Now is the time to invest a few hours in the ongoing peace of your family and homeschool. The investment is well worth the time and the rewards will greatly bless you in the coming year.

School supplies photo © BillionPhotos.com / Dollar Photo Club

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About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mary Ellen Barrett
Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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