A Homeschool Lost and Found

If only our school had a “lost and found” box.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that will even help.  I would actually have to find things first in order for them to be in that box.

Help me!  I’m homeschooling a house full of little people and lost items are a regular occurrence.  The hardest part of homeschooling so many tiny people?  Finding things when you need them!  I don’t have the secret to success but I’ve learned the hard way that I have to be a little bit organized, a lot proactive, and immeasurably patient.

What if you’ve lost your school stuff?

Everyone is snuggled in bean bag chairs and it’s read aloud time.  You reach for your book and it’s gone.  You find it two days later and realize that it’s served as a coloring book for the toddler.  Or you reach for your math books and have only the student book.  Where did that teacher’s manual go?  Nothing derails my day faster than searching for something.

I have a huge bookshelf in one closet and I made good use of those tall shelves.  All of our books for the year are on those shelves.  Weekly I fill portable file boxes with our school books for that week.  Each child has their own box of books and the lids keep the toddler out.  This also makes our school portable-if the toddler heads downstairs, we can follow her with school boxes in tow.

What if you’ve lost your child?

Yes, I’ve actually lost track of children.  It can happen to anyone.  You’re in the middle of a gripping read aloud-the baby’s in your lap, the preschooler is coloring, the PreK’er is folding paper airplanes, and the big kid is listening with rapt attention.  You’re to the best part when the mystery is about to be solved and you take a quick head count and realize that you’re missing a crucially important person-the toddler.  Lovely!  That particular day I found her in the bathroom with an empty soap bottle, fully clothed and covered head-to-toe with strawberry scented soap.  I declared a 30 minute recess period while laundry was started and a bath was given.

So, to make sure no children are MIA, I make use of lots of baby gates.  I gate children out of rooms; I gate them in rooms.  I have to keep them where I can see them and out of important things like the permanent markers.  (Yes, I learned that one the hard way too.)  Toddler proofing your house is essential to success.

What if you’ve lost their attention?

Little people have zero attention span and no patience.  Therefore, we have to keep our day moving.  I have a weekly plan with lots of activity ideas that are ready to be pulled out at any time.  I keep coloring pages, busy bags, boxes of blocks and magnets and easy crafts on hand.  I give the kids things to hold or do while we read.  I also make good use of the older kids and give them the job of teaching “Totschool” for the toddler or reading to the baby.  They are great helpers (usually) and this gives me some distraction-free time with one child.

I’ve also learned the importance of the 30-minute switch.  I have my day planned in 30 minute blocks of time with a new activity or subject every 30 minutes.  I don’t give my kids the chance to get bored (read: destructive).  I stay one step ahead all day long.

What if you’ve lost your marbles?

I lost mine long ago.  If you haven’t lost yours yet; don’t worry, you will soon.  Embrace the insanity and know that this stage is just for a short while.  One day they will be grown, the house will be clean, your life will be quiet, and you might even be a little bit bored.  Until then, extend yourself some grace and lower your expectations.  Life in the trenches is tough.  Fight back with lots of chocolate!

Here are the things that keep just a few marbles in the bottom of my jar:

  • Use teamwork – Keeping up with the house and completing school takes cooperation.  Have defined jobs for everyone.
  • Write stuff down – Yes, you will forget later.  So, keep a calendar handy on a tall shelf and keep all your notes there.
  • Have a plan – You might have to deviate or scrap it altogether, but it’s best to start somewhere.
  • Be flexible – Have a Plan B and Plan C waiting in the wings; you’ll need both on many days.
  • Be in the Word daily – God is the best sanity-saver.  Have daily chats with the One who is Peace and ask Him to share – and to send a little grace along with it.

Lexi and her husband Justin make their home in the Texas Hill Country where you will find messy art projects, dress-up clothes, Nerf battles, piles of books, laughter, and lots of chocolate.  She blogs about the challenges and blessings of motherhood and homeschooling 5 children (ages 7 and under) on her blog Lextin Academy.

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