We’ve all heard the humorous question posed to homeschoolers: Do you just do school in your pajamas? Since we are at home, the temptation to do that is very strong, but what are we teaching our children?

An international image expert says first impressions count, evaluations are made in the first three seconds, and these are virtually irreversible. When I was growing up, our school made the decision that the students could wear jeans to school. There were some off days when I would indulge in this new ruling, and dress a bit sloppier than normal. At times, my wise father would gently pull me aside and ask why I was wearing certain clothing. Then he would say, Kym, when you feel your worst, dress your best. It helps you feel better. Off I would trot to change into something to give me a better edge.

When we began homeschooling, I had been in the fashion field as a consultant. I enjoyed my role as a professional shopper, helping people put together wardrobes for their profession and lifestyle--which helped them make the best use of their clothing budget and gave the image they desired. Coming home to teach my children, I didn’t lose the desire for us to dress nice; I just had fewer opportunities to wear my business suits. However, I wanted my children to learn to dress presentably, even if we were living most of our lives at home and on a modest income.

I also noticed that the way I dressed set the tone of our lives: if I chose to show up in sloppy clothes or a houserobe, school just didn’t seem as important to the children, nor did I get the performance level and attitudes I desired. But, when I made the extra effort to wear something nice, even if it was simple, it dramatically changed the atmosphere of our home and school.

We don’t wear school uniforms, but while researching the effect uniform dressing standards has on schools, I found these positive results:

  • decreasing violent behavior
  • instilling students with discipline
  • helping students concentrate on their school work

So, for our house and school, we decided to set some standards of dress for personal integrity and wholesomeness. We don’t usually dress alike, though when the children were younger, I did make many of their clothes, and dressed them in the same colors--just because it was easier to dress them each day and pick them out of a crowd while on a field trip. Everyone wear your red outfits today, just made sense.

Some of our desires were to get dressed first thing each morning, wearing modest clothing that matched its mates and were the proper size, appropriate to the weather, and not wrinkled or dirty. With little boys, the last one was a challenge--sometimes their activities just seem to manufacture dirt!

Every day, I put on something presentable, and so did the children. But, soon we found we had to make some organizational changes to accommodate our raised standard. So we chose to prepare ahead for every situation that arose. Let me share some of the steps along our way.

Organization

There were two specific areas we needed to organize in our lives: clothing storage and cleaning--or, in more everyday terms, closets and laundry!

Closets: Before I tackled our closets, I read books on organization and found that there are basically two ways to store things: vertically or horizontally. Horizontally, we can put items in a drawer, a bin, or on a shelf. For vertical storage, we can hang them in a closet, on the wall, or on the back of a door.

Research indicates that we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. Well, that just wasn’t good enough odds for me, so I wanted to weed out those things we really didn’t wear to make life simpler and make every article of clothing work for us. Also, with many children, our bedrooms and closets housed more than one child, so space was at a premium.

We set a date to go through the closets, gathered large bags and sorted things to keep, give, or toss. Then we organized the things we kept, storing like things together.