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     The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

July 13, 2011       


Our Writers' Best Organization Tips     



Deborah's  Picture  

Someone asked me at the park today how I do it all and ended by saying I must be very organized. I always laugh when people say that because 1) I think about my state of affairs and know that I don't do nearly all that needs to be done, and 2) it is beyond my comprehension as to how I am ever to get it all done so that I can even think about getting organized.


I have always thought that if I only had everything organized, life would be easier. But life doesn't always cooperate. We get sick, we help friends, children make messes, we lose our keys or our cell phones, kids bring home friends, the dog runs away, we have to move, our husband becomes unemployed . . . these are things you can't organize, and when they are happening, nothing else is. Life can be a series of seemingly disorganized events. So, what are we to do? Here's my advice:


  • Have a framework of order while maintaining a spirit of flexibility! Just keep doing those daily routines as much as possible, but when you have to deviate from the plan, have a spirit of grace and an anticipation of God's divine appointments added to your schedule.
  • I try to practice this advice from Elisabeth Elliot, when she was overwhelmed after her husband died and she was left alone with a baby in the middle of the jungle. An old poem helped her tremendously, and its simple advice was this: "Do the next thing."
  • Homeschooling and organization are both necessary and both take time. Sometimes we have to put aside the one to do the other, and each should be given the time it deserves.
  • Don't stress the messy days. There are seasons of life when disorganization will rule the day. But don't worry, you can take a day off here and there and get things in order when necessary. That's the beauty and flexibility of homeschooling.
  • Don't waste time or become lazy and idle. Stand up and do the next thing.
  • Trust in the Lord and cultivate faithfulness right where you are.


  • Get help from family and friends for those areas that are really bugging you.

Organization is a skill to be learned, and one of these days, I will learn the art myself. I believe that as I get to know my Father better, I will learn more of His highly organized ways. I do hope to become more like Him in all I do, and I pray the same for my children.


"As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him." Psalm 18:30


"She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates." Proverbs 31:27-31



TOS Senior Editor 



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In place of Gena this week:

Organization Tips   

by Amelia Harper    


Summer is a great time to get organized for the coming year. As we sort out the old curriculum and order the new, we can also take time to create better ways to organize our homeschool days for the future.


Organization is not something that comes easy for me. In my mind, I picture an organized existence, but the reality is that organization takes time and a degree of discipline that gets lost as we immerse ourselves in too many activities and projects. Some organizational systems work great for some people but fail with others. The trick is to find the one that fits your lifestyle. Below are two tips I try to implement in my own homeschool organization.


First, organize school assignments. I used to try all the cool books that have little lesson plan charts. But my kids (or I) would lose the charts. What then? Now I create my own lesson plans for each child on the computer in a format that works best for me. It is easy to cut and paste the format from one child to another. Then you can print out the child's assignments for the week and, if they get lost, you can print out another copy. This has saved me many times when the kids claim that they cannot do their work because the assignments are lost!


Next, find a special box to collect each child's special assignments: things like major tests, writing assignments, and reading lists. I like the boxes with lids that lift off. You can find great decorative boxes at craft stores and some discount stores, or you can cover plain craft boxes with contact paper and let each child decorate his own with art or stickers to express his personality. Having a special box to collect the work makes the assignments seem more important in the child's eyes. And, at the end of the year, the schoolwork is organized and easy to store or file away.


Organization helps foster a sense of tranquility and can make us all a little more patient when dealing with our families. Here's to a happy (and organized) homeschooling year!




Amelia Harper is a homeschooling mother of five and a pastor's wife. She is also the author of Literary Lessons From the Lord of the Rings, a complete one-year literature curriculum for secondary-level students. For more information, go to



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Todd Wilson The Familyman
Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I'm organizationally challenged. I don't know how to organize or keep things organized . . . I'm a slob (it's my gift). Now, I will tell you that God has been gracious and blessed me with a beautiful wife who is extremely organized and makes my life wonderful. I know she worries about me though and has given me instructions that if she dies suddenly I'm to get the red folder out of the filing cabinet. I'm assuming it has some sort of master contingency plan to help me through life and paying bills.


I, on the other hand, offer little to help her in case of my sudden and tragic death, other than the location of the key to the lawnmower.


I've observed my wife for more than 20 years, and I think this is what she would say: "If you don't use it, remember the three 'aways': throw it away, give it away, or sell it . . . away."


That's what she does. She keeps it simple and gets rid of things when they are no longer used. I, on the other hand, keep everything, whether I use it or not. That's why I'm a slob.


So, I think she'd say start in one overwhelming area, be brutally honest, and make a pile to throw away, one to give away (like Goodwill) and one to sell . . . away (like eBay or a garage sale). And when in doubt, cast it out!


Praise the Lord for organizers!


Be real,



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It's Just Common Sense

Ruth Beechick, Curriculum Specialist 


Debbie Strayer, Homeschool Consultant 


Are you organized? This is one of those questions that can bring an otherwise confident homeschool parent to her knees. I must start this article with a confession. I have never been as organized as I wanted to be. (You can read it aloud and consider it your confession as well!) I have also never been as organized as the people who write or speak about organization. Some of their ideas have helped me, but it was difficult to put into practice those helpful nuggets if I was busy trying to revamp my life and the personality that God gave me into someone more organized! Then there was also trying to bypass the guilt that inevitably followed a conversation with an organized person.


Here's the good news. My children grew up anyway. They finished high school, received scholarships, and got jobs. My lack of organization did not permanently impair them, largely due, I believe, to the mercy of God, which I must gratefully point out is new every morning. So, from that lengthy disclaimer, let me tell you what I think is my best organizational tip: Do whatever works for you!


Here's one thing that helped us. The children each had a crate where they kept all their school stuff. About once a month, or every other month if life was crazy, we would clean out the crates, putting finished papers we wanted to keep in an accordian file with a slot for each month. This helped us when we ended our school year and provided a dandy review of learning. I knew enough about myself to know that I needed their help to do this organizing, so we included these days as part of our schoolwork, rather than it being a mom-only activity.


Find what works for you. Don't buy into the idea that you have to become someone else to organize successfully. Find ways for the children to help you. Tell them what you need and then ask them how they would do it. Take school time to accomplish this task, letting your children know that everyone can help do what is needed. You may be pleasantly surprised. There just may be a budding engineer or event coordinator in the house, who can't wait to help you organize! That may just be part of His mercy to you as well. 


~ Debbie



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Contest Central  

For the month of July, 2011   


Huge Sounds Like Learning Phonics Pack

(CDs, DVD, Letter Fun Lotto, and Short Vowel Fun)


The preschool years are delightful years of discovery and play. Barbara Milne has used her experience and training in early childhood education and children's music to create many products to aid the young child in learning through music and games. She developed the Sounds Like Phonics and the Sounds Like Learning series for Discovery Toys, though some are also available at, where she sells additional products.


Fingerplays and Fun is a charming CD that contains 14 bright and cheerful songs for toddlers and preschoolers. These songs include 13 action songs and fingerplays, as well as an alphabet song. Many of the songs are traditional children's songs, but this CD also includes six original songs written by Barbara Milne, who also provides the singing voice for the music. The Fingerplays and Fun CD comes with a lyrics sheet that includes the actions for each song as well as an alphabet poster that shows both uppercase and lowercase letters with picture cues that help the child remember the letter sounds. ( . . . )


Sounds Like Learning is a musical CD designed for babies, toddlers, and preschool children. Fourteen of the 20 songs are written by Barbara Milne, who sings all the songs on the recording. The quiet, soothing songs introduce beginning learning concepts, such as opposites, counting, months of the year, and letter sounds. The CD comes with a lyrics sheet as well as a poster that introduces the alphabet and its phonemic sounds.


Sounds Like Learning can be used in the home, a daycare, or the church nursery. It provides a peaceful background for napping or playing. When I played it as background music, my 4-year-old skipped to the music and sang along with the tunes she recognized. It didn't take her long to learn the other songs, just as Mrs. Milne intended. Although the CD appealed to my younger children, my older children quickly grew tired of it. It is very gentle and soothing, which helped to keep my younger children calm during school hours. ( . . . )


Read the rest of the review on all the products in the phonics gift pack here. Win this phonics gift pack for your family!



Email Deb with your name, mailing address, and phone number for contact purposes, with the subject line "Phonics Pack" for a chance to win* this set!


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