The hardest thing about home education…

…is knowing what to do with all the ‘stuff’!

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I have been to the houses of lots of home educators over the years and they cover a wide spectrum of tidiness and cleanliness (with a definite peak towards the messier end) but never have I encounted a home educator with minimalist decor.

It seems that no matter how diverse a group we are in terms of learning styles and approaches, philosophy and lifestyle we are bound together by our tendency to attract and accumulate ‘stuff’ and our on-going battle to contain and order it.  You only have to see how many views a thread on storage boxes can get on the forum ‘A Little Bit of Structure‘ to realise what a serious matter it is.

What do I mean by ‘stuff’?

Well of course there is the general detritus that comes from simply having children -the toys, the books, the craft stuff, the art work, the random collection of pebbles, twigs, acorns etc that find their way into your handbag whenever you leave the house.  The difference between just having children and home eding is that your children are nearly always around – so those toys and craft stuff are out of their boxes more, books are open everywhere (a brief look around spots one on the table, 3 on the sofas and one on the floor, I can guarantee there will be at least one in each bathroom and several in the bedrooms), and even the simplest errand adds a bottle top or pebble or if we’re really unlucky a charity shop bargain that was simply too good to pass up.

Then of course there are the globes, the lemon clocks, the set of geometric shapes, the weather station, the balance scales, the human anatomy model with the removable organs, the historical resource packs… the ‘educational’ equipment that you find in a classroom and that we could probably get by without (and chances are can’t find when we actually do want having relegated them to the back of a cupboard) but at some point we all crack and buy or they get given as Christmas presents by well meaning relatives.  Further consider that our ‘classroom’ covers all ages and all subjects and we are almost all guilty of  the ‘that will be useful one day’ slip (free and cheap ‘stuff’ is so difficult to turn down!)

I haven’t even mentioned the books… with no access to school libraries we build up our own -the majority cheap, second hand or borrowed,  but they are there needing shelves.  For many of the home educators I know book buying is a compulsion, the level of money earned through one year on the Amazon affiliate scheme by the ALBOS forum was staggering!

And of course there is the ‘work’, not just the special pieces of art work or the glossy project sent home from school but the maths worksheets, the handwriting workbooks, the lapbooks on the workings on the eye.  What do we do with them? It feels as if it would be wrong and disheartening to throw them immediately in the recycling bin so we file them away until such a time as the piles threaten to engulf us and we have no choice.

Even if you shun workbooks evidence of ‘learning and work’ is still there… the jar with something growing out of it but you can’t remember exactly what, the model of the Trojan horse made from lolly sticks, the half finished Archimides Screw that they reassure you they WILL come back to and disposal of these ‘treasures’ can be even harder.

Yesterday was clear out day, piles of ‘work’ and crafts went in the bin (after photographing of course).  Tomorrow I expect two deliveries from The Works and Amazon… A problem of my own making, well yes.  We have reached the extreme level of having an extra room built on to the back of the house in which to put the ‘stuff’ but I know it will still be a battle to contain it.  How do you cope with the ‘stuff’?

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