Color Coded Classroom


One of the things I’ve learned during my summer of Organization is that if an item is given a well-labeled place to belong, it’s more likely to be there when I need it. I know that should be a “duh” but when 8 people are systematically coming behind me and moving stuff, I felt like I was living in an oversized find-the-pea-under-the-shell game.

Not to mention, no matter how prettily I organize the art supplies at the beginning of a school year, by Christmas, we can’t lay hands on a pencil, most of the crayons died at the hands of the vacuum cleaner, and we can only find all of the yellow colored pencils. And the markers have been left on the carpet to leak and then dry up.

All of that to say: It was time for something drastic.

I went back to what I know works – color-coding. Each child in the family has a color. Their towels, their water bottles, their sheets, their shoe bins… all of these things correspond to their color. So why not their school supplies?

While we were doing The Big School Supply Shopping Trip of ’15, I grabbed 2 washi tapes for each child in their color. I also let them pick their own duct tape, and it had to at least have their color in it.


Then I ponied up the cash for each child to get their own set of everything: pencils (I tried to find the pencils already in their color, just to make it easier), crayons, colored pencils, markers, glue, glue sticks, scissors, rulers, protractors and compasses (for the big kids), tape… I bought 7 sets of each.

When we got home with all of our loot, I handed the kids their rolls of tape and all their supplies and told them to mark each item. Not just the BOX of crayons, each CRAYON has been labeled with their washi tape or duct tape. That way when I find that one rogue yellow colored pencil in the couch, I know who to call to put it up.


And where will they put it? In their very own color-coded carrier, of course:


We also took everyone’s stack of workbooks and notebooks and color-coded them with the duct tape.

This is because I’m a busy mama trying to check what will be close to 30 workbooks every day. I haven’t got time to hunt for the random spot where the child hid their name on it or to think really hard about whether Adam is in level C or D. It has simply become too much to remember. So we spelled it out in black and white. Or in tiger print, as the case may be.



I also bought each kid a small zippered pencil case in their color. Our goal this year is to make the whole school room fairly mobile. If we have to race off to a doctor’s appointment or if I need them to go to a friend’s house and do school, we need to be able to identify everyone’s stuff quickly and then grab and go. I also want to give the older kids the freedom to find a quiet corner of the house if they prefer to work without a small army in the same room.

I followed the same system for my own stash. Once again, my blue cart holds everything I need for teaching.


I chose two pretty and unique tapes and covered my teacher’s manuals and each one of my pens. (So nobody swipes my pens!)


One more tiny color-coded tip that is already making life easier – use post-it tabs that match each child’s color to mark where they are in their books and what page you need in the teacher’s manual. I’m all about the literal “open and go” when it comes to curriculum. Down to the page number.


(That may only be a useful tip if you’re schooling a horde, but, if you are – *fist bump.*)

I put a plastic bin in the middle of the table when we start school and the kids can turn things in as they finish. I get them graded with my assortment of colorful (but color-coded) pens that make me happy and can easily file the finished work on my own because of the colors.


Truthfully, even with this shiny new system, I can’t guarantee that my school room won’t be a disaster by Christmas in spite of my best efforts. If life gets the better of us and we ultimately fail at keeping a tidy school room, my goal is that my kids learn to take ownership for their things. That if I ask them to help me manage the mess, they can see their contribution to the mayhem and easily sort out how they can help make it better.

Listen, I’m all for sharing with others and community property, but I also want my kids to learn to be responsible human beings who don’t leave their underwear in the couch when they’re 30.

So we’ll try this.

In just the few days that we’ve tested it, things are already so much neater. We don’t play 800 rounds of “Who left their pencil at the table? Whose spelling book is this? Whose markers are on the floor?”

The dining room table where we work is tidier because I can easily spot the culprit if books or pencils get left behind. It doesn’t all sit and fester until lunch when I’m tired and hangry and can’t see one square inch of my nine foot table underneath the educational rubble.

If nothing else, all of this color-coding makes me saner. It imposes order on what could easily become total chaos. It challenges my kids to take responsibility for their stuff. And it’s pretty. Whatever helps, right?

What new system are you trying this year? What problem are you trying to solve or what lesson are you trying to teach?



Organizing The House For a Great School Year

When the summer began, I made a list of goals. See?


There were many times when I wondered if I’d cross a single item off. But as of last week, all but one item is done. Finished. And we’re slowly rolling our way into another school year…

Here’s how I got my metaphorical big girl panties hiked up and safely in place before another nine months of slightly controlled chaos and a few tips I picked up along the way:

I organized just about every closet in the house. I labeled everything in sight so that there could be no doubt where Things That Belonged should belong. And then I phoned a friend to help me organize my pantry, because I was flat out of ideas. It’s like Christmas in July in there now…


Free labels obtained here, includes an editable PDF so you can label “lunch stuff” and “baggies.”

For school planning, I’ve relied heavily on Everyday Snapshot’s Plan Your Year stuff. The older the kids get, the more value I find in having nice typed copies of our course of study and curriculum choices should The Man need proof of our proper educating.

As far as coming up with a schedule? Nothing but tears, graph paper, and talking it through out loud with Ms. Jennifer. Between the two of us, we have a plan. Whether or not it works remains to be seen. Check back soon…


Meanwhile, my school room is organized. I think it deserves it’s own post, or at least half of one. I do have SOME respect for your poor eyeballs. I promise.


Once I start teaching my co-op classes and Brave Writer launches the fall quarter, I’ll be full up to “here” with things to do. And while I’d love it if my people would agree to eat cereal every night for dinner (the way my Daddy raised me, proper, yo) they seem to think they need proteins and vegetables. Enter Gran The Brave, who valiantly volunteered to help me get a few things in the freezer before school started. She even did the grocery shopping.

I know.

I’m a lucky gal.

Slightly random aside: My friend Amber’s book arrived in the mailbox today. I cried halfway through the introduction when she described the adult longing to always go “home” again. It’s the place we know we can go, where we’ll be received and fed. It’s where we know we have a name.


I’m one blessed girl to be able to say that about my husband’s home, too. My mother-in-law lets me lay on her couch with a book like I’ve done it since my childhood. She plans every meal and my father-in-law lets me slip away for mid-day naps, just because. I’ve known them since I was 18, but it’s the sweetest thing in the world to feel like they’ve loved me even longer.

Back to my empty freezer…

Gran and Pops arrived with groceries in tow. (Andrew got all of the meat at Costco, and we planned to double each menu.) We didn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, so we opted for a bunch of freezable crockpot meals that didn’t require much pre-cooking. I chose Baked In the South‘s menu options. I figure if she’s got six different menus, she’s at least had fair to middlin’ success. Even better, I recognize the recipes as some of my favorites, including Pioneer Woman’s pot roast.

Full disclosure: we haven’t eaten these yet. So I’ll try to remember to update the post when we’ve given it all a taste. But I liked all of the ingredients as they went in and I felt each menu offered a variety. We chose meals from this post and this post, but I substituted this corn chowder for pork chops because I have a fear of meat on the bone and my people must suffer for it. (I tried to grow as a person and keep the chicken wings recipe, but at the last minute, I snuck in a chicken breast for me. I’m a chicken. Hee.)


Chop all the onions before you get started. This saved SO much time.


The good news is, between Gran, Andrew, myself, and Ian serving as our runner, we got 24 meals in the freezer within 2 hours. That’s five minutes per meal. We also did a bunch of ground beef in my roaster as we worked, so we bagged up another 7 meals worth of ground beef that’s already cooked. Tonight, we grilled the leftover chicken and had enough cooked chicken left over I can get two more meals out of it. 33 meals in my freezer? YES, PLEASE.


Will these feed our size family? Well, looking at them in the bag, I doubt we will have leftovers, but I also think they will stretch easily. Several of them call for a rice or noodles, which obviously stretch things even further. I think a family of 5-6 could easily get even more meals out of these. My family of 9 will get exactly 24 nights worth of meals from those bags and not a bite more. But, oh, how happy this mama will be on those 24 nights!!


A few handy tips I found on Pinterest:

  • Freeze each meal in a crockpot liner to save time and clean-up. I put them in the liner and then put the liner in a Ziploc gallon bag.
  • I froze each bag in a loaf pan so that it will fit in my crockpot frozen. This saves me even MORE time.


And that’s the end of what I did on my summer vacation, y’all. We’ve already started a few subjects for school and will launch a full week next week. This week we are potty training Finn (hold me) and I’ve got to plan for my co-op classes. Even though I thought I would never feel ready, I think we might almost be.

It does wonders just knowing my house is as organized as it can be. School plans will change, meals will get eaten, but the labels in my pantry will stay the same.

Here’s hopin’….

What did you get done this summer? Got any tips or recommendations to share with the rest of us?