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    Home Education

    What’s in My Toolbox? (Keeping Homeschool Organized.)

    September 7, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]M[/dropcap]ystie-My-Pretend-Life-Coach first mentioned a portable command center during her 31 Days series last year. (The concept also fits in nicely with the Declutter Module of the Simplified Organization Course.) Naturally, I paid no heed until I found myself constantly struggling against my temper because my things were never where I left them, and I was having to stop school in order to find them.

    Totally. Annoying.


    Tired of chasing down my supplies all the time, I use this portable toolbox to carry my most important tools with me wherever I go.

    So Mystie calls this a “portable command center,” but my children call this “Mom’s Toolbox,” and the name has stuck.

    I already have a similar plastic tote for basic art supplies that we often need to pull out, even for math. That one has colored pencils, markers, and crayons in it. I got it for two bucks during Christmas shopping a couple years ago. But, naturally, when I wanted one for me, I couldn’t find one at any store I shopped at, and so I finally broke down and ordered one from Amazon.

    And then, naturally, I filled it up.

    Here’s a map of what I’m keeping in it — I still need to add some Post-It notes!

    Tired of chasing down my supplies all the time, I use this portable toolbox to carry my most important tools with me wherever I go.

    The point here is to keep with me the things I always need, am always looking for, am sending children to run get for me, and so on. My big criteria was that my Kindle had to fit in it. Otherwise, I would still be losing my Kindle all of the time.

    I’ll run through what’s on my list of necessities, but your mileage may vary.

    • Bullet Journal. This actually has nothing to do with homeschooling, except that I’m often looking for it during school hours. My bullet journal isn’t for everything in my life — I only use it for major projects for my blogs — and those are exactly the sort of details that pop into my head while I’m waiting on little girls to finish a section of their math worksheets. As I think of things that need to be remembered for whatever it is I’m currently working on or planning for, I can write it all down without leaving the table.
    • Kindle. Need I say more? I use Push to Kindle all. the. time. and I also email PDF documents to it. It has my grammar answers, math answer, entire pages from the AmblesideOnline website, and more. This is pretty much the best invention ever.
    • Commonplace Book. When I’m done with this one, I’m replacing it with a Moleskin, but for now, this is what I use. I keep this box with me when I’m prereading as well, which means I definitely need my commonplace.
    • Pens and Pencils. Don’t underestimate the power of writing utensils exactly where you expect and need them to be! I keep my youngest’s mechanical pencil (because he seems incapable of keeping track of it himself) with his pencil claw attached, and three for me: pencil, blue ink, red ink. Someday I’ll get a pencil case and add all my fun colored pens, but for now, this is my bare minimum.
    • Post-It Flags. This is another one of those things I can’t live without, but can’t hardly ever find. Putting them in my Toolbox has been a big time saver. I use these flags on everything — mainly as bookmarks that cannot be lost quite so easily. They will move from page to page for a number of months before needing to be replaced.
    • Washi Tape. This is totally frivolous. I think it’s pretty and so I like to use it in my bullet journal.

    We do not have a designated school room, so I don’t know if this sort of thing would be helpful for those of you who do but as far as tool kits for school go I think this is the best tools kit ever — you will have to let me know if you agree! For those of us who wander around the house, though, it’s indispensable, I think!

    We start our day at the dining table — that’s where we do our Circle Time. I also teach phonics and math at the table. After that, we move to the living room for Drill and Snack, and then to the couches for individual lessons. I might wander into a bedroom to help the 8th grader — or to the Office to teach something quietly where we won’t be disturbed. And then it’s back to the living room again.

    This toolbox has really helped me keep it together this year, as I’ve felt a little bit crazy with four students for the first time. Now, instead of asking myself if I have what I need before I leave a room (and inevitably forgetting something), I just grab my toolbox. I know that if I have that with me, I will be ready for Whatever It Is 99.8% of the time.

    What about you? Do you have a toolbox?

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  • Reply Kim September 8, 2015 at 6:55 am

    I’m new to homeschooling so when I saw your post I thought, “whew, there is at least one thing I am doing right!” LOL! Mine is a basket that started as a morning basket but then I just kept adding to it, and now I can’t live without it. It includes my master homeschool binder, a stripped down “control journal,” my diary, coloring pages and crayons for mama (because my little guy hates it when I stare at him while he is doing his work), and ziplock bags with post-its, clips, notecards, writing utensils, lip balm, hair ties, and a couple of EO rollerballs. I even keep my prescriptions (in child proof containers, of course) in my basket and it helps me remember to take my medicine because I am never far from the basket! It goes up to bed with me at the end of the day and that makes it easy to do a little school planning and prayer journaling before I crash.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 8, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Hair ties! That is a great idea. I should add that…

  • Reply HC September 7, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    I’m intrigued, what do you use the washi tape for, such that it has earned a respectable place in your toolbox?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 8, 2015 at 10:38 am

      Well, I often use it as a sort-of page break — so I’m diving a page into two parts {or columns sometimes} and I use that … mainly because it is pretty. 🙂 My calendar/planner isn’t in the basket, but it is always around, and I use the tape whenever I have an all-day or multi-day commitment so that it really jumps off of the page at me. I use it for other stuff, but those are the main two things.

  • Reply Tanya Stone September 7, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I had a Thirty One utility tote all set up once, and I loved it. I stopped using it . . .and now I don’t know why! LOL I need to reorganize it and get it back in gear. Thanks for the reminder. You’re good at that. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 7, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Oh, Thirty One totes are awesome! Mine is the discount version. 😉

      • Reply Tanya Stone September 7, 2015 at 11:18 am

        LOL Well I definitely need to organize it this evening. Today is our first day of school and already I feel derailed because I keep looking for stuff. 😛 Thanks again!

  • Reply Queen of Carrots September 7, 2015 at 8:54 am

    I don’t think the toolbox would work for me–I would misplace it and it would get filled with a lot of things that shouldn’t be there. But I only do school in two places–group time and big kids downstairs and twins’ separate work upstairs in the playroom. So this year I set up a second station upstairs with twins’ books, paper, pens, etc., so I wasn’t trying to haul three dozen things upstairs and forgetting half of them every time. I still have to take my big notebook and iPad back and forth, but it’s a vast improvement.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 7, 2015 at 11:11 am

      Ha! Mine collects things that should be there, too. Sort of like my purse. I am trying to make myself clean it out regularly…we will see how I keep the habit up as the year progresses.

      I love the idea of basically having two stations. I remember when I finally purchased a buffet for my dining room so that I had a place to hide school stuff right behind my chair at the table. Not running back and forth for all the Circle Time and math stuff? PRICELESS!

  • Reply Melissa September 7, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Oh, another great idea Brandy! I actually have that exact organizer, but it’s red and I never know what to use it for. I think I’m going to give this a try!

    We have a designated “school room”, but it’s an addition on the back of our garage, all be it very nice, but none the less, I’m running from school room to main house at various times throughout the day. This caddy of sorts may help me stay better organized as I often have “great ideas” when I’m cooking or cleaning or whatever in the house. Then I have to search for a pen/paper, which have been hidden so the 3-year old doesn’t color on the walls…ahem. An organizational caddy that I could tote between would be revolutionary 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 7, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Melissa, have you ever posted photos of your school addition? I would love to see that!

      • Reply Melissa September 7, 2015 at 8:58 pm

        There are snippets of background in various blog photos, but I’ve never given it an official full fledged post. It’s a work in progress 🙂 ….we just added a couple of books shelves to create a sort of alcove. I could post about that….

  • Reply Mystie September 7, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Love it! 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 7, 2015 at 11:13 am

      You love the tote? Or the washi tape?? 😉

  • Reply Kortney September 7, 2015 at 7:20 am

    I don’t know how your life coach will feel about that washi tape?!

    I’ve got a basket that I use in much the same way…though it hasn’t gotten cleaned out from last years lessons. Maybe that should get pushed to the top of the to-do list 🙂

  • Reply Julia September 7, 2015 at 6:15 am

    This is exactly what I need! I am continually misplacing my things and this casts a shadow on the day as I try to find it. You just may have saved the atmosphere of our day. Thank you!

  • Reply Heather September 7, 2015 at 4:13 am

    I’d love to see pics of your bullet journal. 🙂

    • Reply Annie September 7, 2015 at 9:37 am

      I’d love to see pictures of the art caddy. I have a 9 year old, 5 year old and a 3 year old. The 9 year old is very productive with her art supplies. The 5 year old is copious in production and output (let’s copy every written word in the house) and the 3 year old is destructive and abusive with all things. All girls. And of course, they all want to do what the other one is doing all the time. Any suggestions?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 7, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Now that I have a decent camera, it is not as scary when you guys ask for photos! 🙂

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