Staying home with our children is one of the sweetest blessings of homeschooling, but it also presents an inherent challenge: lived-in homes get messy more quickly than empty ones. The family home can be quickly overtaken by the stuff of a learning lifestyle—textbooks, teacher’s manuals, art supplies, science experiments—even eating three meals a day at home makes for more messes. Although we have more time at home than the average family, the homeschooling life is a busy one with a focus on learning that often looks past the mess on the floor as we focus on accomplishing the next lesson. Fortunately, as homeschooling parents, we can approach this dilemma and its solution as an opportunity to teach a valuable life skill. Add the subject of “organizational arts” to your homeschool planner and get ready to teach your children how to bring order to their spaces. Best of all, as they accomplish their “homework,” you’ll reap the benefits of a more organized, peaceful home.

Teaching From the Right Perspective

Before we can jump into the mess with our kids and begin lessons in organization, we must first make sure we have the right perspective. There are five essential precepts we need to understand before successfully teaching our children to get organized.

1. Organization is not perfection. Organization is a structured way of keeping things so you can easily find them and use them. When your home is organized, it will function well, but it isn’t necessarily going to look like the cover of a magazine. To some degree, involving your children in the process of organization means letting go of control. If you want your children to take ownership, then you have to relinquish it. It will be worth it in the long run. If a child is going to maintain his personal space, the way things are organized has to make sense to his way of thinking, not yours.

2. Organization is a lifelong habit. Teaching your kids to be organized isn’t a one-shot lesson but rather a lifelong process— some might even say a challenge. Ideally, it begins in early childhood when the toddler learns that after playtime, all the blocks need to be picked up and thrown into the bin. It continues toward adulthood as life moves from a bedroom, to a dorm room, to an apartment, and ultimately, to a home of his or her own. All of these stages will take what they know about being organized and challenge it to move up to the next level, which takes time, practice, and patience. Realize that you will be walking beside your children as they learn these lessons in your home. They will have successes, but the challenges will continue, and your job will be to lovingly guide them toward the goals of peace and efficiency.

3. Organization is difficult for some. Children possess natural abilities; some have a knack for organizing, and some do not. Of my six children, half of them exhibit this natural talent to see a mess, sort through it, and organize their space. The other half seems clueless about the need and overwhelmed with the thought of sorting out their belongings with any semblance of order. That doesn’t mean they aren’t required to do it; it just means we work at a slower pace and approach the challenge in small incremental steps without judgment or making the child feel “less than” for not possessing this ability. Chances are these kids are gifted artists and exhibit creativity in other ways. Your job is to help them tap into their God-given creativity and apply it to the task of organizing their stuff.

4. Your attitude is contagious. Organizing can and usually should be fun. You’re going take a mess, attack it with your best problem-solving skills, and transform the mess into a functional space. It’s an exciting process that is full of possibilities. Keep the atmosphere light and hopeful. If “getting organized” is talked about as a dreaded task, your children will inherit that mood, which will only serve to make organizing more difficult.