I've always had my eye out for a way to organize the kids' homeschooling work that I could maintain and that wouldn't take up much room. About a year ago I finally put something together and it's been working like a charm ever since. I kept meaning to post about it but never got around to it until a few days ago when I mentioned it on a forum I frequent. It was a big hit so I'll share it here and hope someone else finds it useful.
The first and most important components are the wire dish racks. Yup, wire dish racks. I first starting using these years ago for picture books. I'd read about them in a blog somewhere. You stand the picture books up in the rack and then your younger children can flip through the books without making a mess. Works for homeschooling stuff too. I stick all the texts and workbooks that we use daily in the rack where the plates would go, the binders along the side and the pencils, erasers, rulers, etc. in the utensil bucket. Both kids have one.
Here's what my daughter's dish rack looks like:
The dish racks sit on a couple of old press board nightstands I picked up at a yardsale. I use the drawer for staples, flashcards, tape, stickers, glues and any other assorted supplies we might need on occasion. On the bottom shelf are the science or craft kits, books and binders I need more occasionally, and the texts and workbooks we've completed or will be using within the next 6 months or so. The Big Box of Colours also gets stuck in there.
I tend to get confuddled when there's too much stuff so this forces me to keep our materials compact and well edited and stop the homeschooling from taking over too much of the house. It also means it's all within reach of the dining room table where we work.
Another tool that keeps the walls from getting cluttered and helps the kids focus and shut out distractions are the tri-fold presentation boards I picked up. School kids usually use these for science fair projects but they make excellent mini-cubicles and give the kids a place to keep reference sheets. The board facing the camera is Catherine's and contains the vocab lists from Jensen's Vocabulary (I like to mount such things on construction paper first so they stand out a bit). When these aren't in use I can fold them up and tuck them away.
I have a couple of other little tricks that make things easier as well. I mark the current pages of all our texts and workbooks with little plastic sticky tabs so that I don't need to flip through a book to find where we are. I use Donna Young's weekly planning sheets (I only really plan a week at a time. Any more and I find I'm too easily thrown off if we miss a day or two) and give my older child the sheet when she's doing her work. As she finished her work she corrects it and then figures out how she did in percentage terms and records it in the slot for that subject and day on the sheet. It's a lazy way for me to record grades if I ever need them and it gives her some much needed percentage practice.
Total cost for all this? Not quite sure. I think the dish racks were $5 - $10 at a local hardware store. I've seen plastic ones for cheaper. The used night stands cost me between $10 and $30 for the two. Can't remember. I do know the presentation boards were $8.99 each because that seemed like a lot for a couple of sheets of cardboard. I probably could have made similar ones from old cardboard boxes for free. Sticky tabs were a buck or two at the local Dollar Store.
It's an easy system that requires hardly any work, is not expensive to put together and is one that my ADD brain can live with. If anyone else finds this useful and sets up their own version please let me know and leave a link with pictures. If anyone comes up with improvements or tweaks that makes it even better I'd love to know about that as well.
Update: Jamie has a picture of her version of this up at her blog, The Chemist at Bradford Academy