4 Simple Habits to Help Homeschool Kids Stay Organized
If you’ve ever watched school kids filing into their classroom unobserved—well, it’s a wonder. Amazingly, many teachers have taught their students to come into the classroom in the morning, go to their cubby, hang their belongings, take out their folder of homework/notes, and put it in the appropriate place.
This same child will go home and not even be able to put their coat away, let alone hang it in the closet. Why is this? It’s because they’ve been consistently taught how to be organized at school, but the same expectations aren’t always taught at home. This isn’t a bad thing; it simply shows how expectations and consistent habit building can shape a kid’s behavior. Teachers in non-homeschool settings establish expectations of organization because of sheer necessity. Homeschool teachers can have the same expectations during and after their school time. Teaching responsibility is a valid aspect of Christian parenting. Our job is to constantly be teaching kids about Jesus and to teach them responsibility in all things.
Organization isn’t innate for most of us; it has to be deliberate. In Christian homeschooling, it can sometimes feel impossible, but there are many homeschooling resources to help you get there. As you’re starting out, here are four simple habits to help your kids stay organized.
- Schedule It
Make sure cleanup time is included as part of playtime and other activities. We often overschedule because we feel like there is so much we need to accomplish, but checking off tasks won’t always help with long-term habits. A study at Brown University found that child development, when it comes to habits, doesn’t really change after age 9, or third grade. While this can be a daunting thought, the truth is that it simply involves starting early and being consistent with scheduling a time for cleanup. Habits can be changed, but it’s much easier if done at an early age.
Try to stop activities with enough time remaining to clean up before the next assignment or activity. Kids will see that clean up is part of the activity and they will innately begin to think of it that way. To make it fun, play music from Sing Through the Bible during clean up time. It’s a win-win Christian parenting choice.
- Label It
Label containers and areas where toys and other items go. Reinforcing where things belong helps kids remember to put things away. Teach your kids that everything has a home. When they put something in the wrong place, remind them that the item is not in its home. Invest in a label maker and teach your kids how to use it. Or if your children are too young, take photos of the item and place it in the appropriate place along with the label. This provides them a visual and the words to help make the entire process of organization part of their learning.
- Store It
Find simple ways to store things (cubbies, stackable crates, etc.) so that kids will have storage spaces to open, close, and reach safely on their own. There are a variety of different ways to organize and so many ideas floating around that it almost seems overkill to talk about it. For some of us, figuring out how to store something is a challenge because our storage areas are small, we have too much stuff, or it’s all simply overwhelming. The key is to repeat tip #2: schedule it. You may need to schedule “getting” organized until you’re there, but if you do it consistently, it will get done.
Consider this method: each day, take half an hour or an hour and ask your kids to choose something to organize. If they suggest games, begin by asking them to scour the entire house for all games – board games, card games, video games, etc. When all games are gathered, work together on the best place and way to organize. This will not only get your kids involved, but they will begin to take ownership of the process. With consistent practice, it will eventually become a habit.
- Celebrate It
Affirm good organizational habits by celebrating successful clean up with hugs, high-fives, stickers, or watching their favorite video. As in all things, any task that receives a reward is reinforced. This is especially true for kids who don’t enjoy the organization process. Nevertheless, by consistently providing positive reinforcement and affirmation, your kids will begin to integrate the task into their own habits. Eventually, you’ll probably hear them reminding each other where an item’s “home” is, even without your prompting them.
Success = Simplicity
For Christian families, the amount of things to teach your kids can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re homeschooling. But the key is to keep it simple. Give your kids this advice - touch things only once - pick it up and put it in it’s home. Simplicity. Whether you’re teaching your kids a Bible lesson or simply how to be organized, keep it simple enough for them to remember. If they remember the process, they can even teach it to their friends and younger siblings. Everyone benefits from simple organizational habits.