Parenting

Homeschooling Doesn't Mean Filling Your House with Clutter

| by Journey Into Unschooling

I am a huge fan of model homes. I love visiting them and poring over photos of perfectly arranged rooms with that too-perfect-to-be-lived-in quality.

I know that many of these are set up for a spectacular photo shoot — I’m sure if you could see the other side of the photographer, there’d be a pile of mess that had been shoved aside! Obviously, the imaginary occupants of these fantasy residences don’t homeschool.

However, just because we can’t live in the perfect model home, doesn’t mean we have to wade our way through a cluttered one...

Removing clutter from your home isn’t hard in theory. If you don’t find it beautiful or useful, then get rid of it. There are plenty of books and internet sources showing you how to accomplish this.

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But for the everyday, slightly messy, order challenged homeschooler, it isn’t so easy. What do you do with all the curriculum that is not in use but might be one day?

I set out to answer this when I got rid of as much junk as I possibly could. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. It all started with mold.

The weather had been particularly wet and the moisture seemed to have bred some mold onto various walls throughout my home. We didn’t even see it at first, just smelled it — that slightly musty odor whenever we walked into the bedrooms.

Unable to live with the thought of my kids inhaling disgusting spores every night, I armed myself with a spritz bottle and set out to uncover the source of this unwelcomed intruder.

After the first hour of tossing scrap paper, used tissues, and orphaned toys, I came across a beautiful wooden Papo Buccaneers pirate fort. As I was cleaning it, I turned it over and was shocked to find the entire bottom covered with fuzzy green mold. After that, something overcame me and I started working with a frenzy.

My friend, after hearing of my project, later said she envisioned a Tazmanian Devil whirling through the house, cleaning everything in sight, and that wasn’t too far from the truth. I suddenly lost sentimental attachment to 90% of everything I touched. Old artwork that I had already scanned? Toss.

Odd pages from workbooks of years past? Dump it! Scooby Doo books we’ve outgrown and have no desire to read again? Donate it all. It felt great.

Being homeschoolers, we had educational supplies tucked and distributed throughout the house. As I was going through the shelves and closets and drawers, I thought about what I really needed to keep.

Library discards are often fantastic bargains, but do we really need to have a copy of The Inside-Out Stomach when we’ve never had a lesson on invertebrates?

If we did come to that point, I’m sure there’s another copy at the library. The books I ended up keeping were the field guides, science books, and well-loved ones, like The Wizard of Oz collection and Rosemary Wells Nursery Rhymes.

The toughest decision turned out to be the World Book Encyclopedia. It was from my own childhood and in mint condition. The fact that it was in mint condition, probably should have been a good indicator.

If I had never bother to read it all these years, what was the point in taking up an entire shelf to store it? Would any of my kids even use it in this Age of Google? Probably not. Alas, it was time to bite the bullet and just pack it away.

I think I’ll keep that spot cleared forever as a reminder of what little we need.

And indeed, we don’t need much at home in order to homeschool.

I’d much rather spend the day tromping through the outdoors exploring or excitedly reading the next chapter of our latest library book, visiting museums, walking through parks, conducting wild science experiments, painting a masterpiece, banging away at the keyboard, or inventing the next big game.

Homeschooling doesn’t happen on the shelves.

In the end, I donated an entire bookshelf worth of books, tossed a bin full of old schoolwork, and got rid of every piece of educational material I had not used in the past year.

The fact that our latest routine requires the use of less workbooks was enough reason to stop hoarding them for the day my younger children might use them. I filled that newly emptied bookshelf with beloved boardgames instead–a reminder to enjoy our time together.

So stop living in the classroom and free yourself to better things. Let go of the unsuitable curriculum, half finished workbooks, and never-opened encyclopedias weighing you down.

Play a game that you had forgotten you owned. Get a whiff of that fresh, uncluttered air.

Start filling your children’s minds and lives with learning, not their bookshelves.

 Photo by Jeremy Levine Design via Flickr