Amida’s Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: Saving Projects for a Rainy Day

Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling

I used to be a hoarder, stashing away all sorts of goodies for a rainy day. Sometimes, these were fabulous books I had found that I wanted to look over with the kids. I’d read them (in private) and put them away for that perfect time to share. Or I’d acquire some new art supplies, and then store them away for that next great project.

Other times, they were more ordinary things such as math manipulatives or even interesting paper. A big component of my secret collection were the science kits for every subject imaginable, from owl pellets to solar models, carefully hidden away in the garage.

Unfortunately, the rain never came and my wonderful resources just collected dust. Sometimes the perfect opportunity presented itself but I either couldn’t find the time to share the item, forgot where I had stored it, or worse, forgot it even existed.

I soon realized there was a flaw to my plan. What was the  point of amassing such a wonderful resource of learning materials if no one was benefiting from it?

About the time I started testing the waters for a more relaxed approach to schooling, I started purposely leaving things out in the open. Blocks found a permanent home in my living room. Manipulatives and science kits were free for the taking. Art supplies were available to whomever chose to use them. I grabbed many, many interesting books from the library and left them out for the kids to discover.

I loved that things were being used. As the kids were left to openly explore and play with the science kits and manipulatives, they became familiar with them and many times “learned the lesson” on their own.

It was wonderful to see that they didn’t have to wait for me to be ready to teach them something. Through their play, they learned to blend colors, grow crystals, and build complex circuits.

In the interest of keeping some order, I don’t keep everything out, but rotate them. This also helps the kids see the objects with fresh eyes.

I love seeing our “school” supplies in use daily, and especially love seeing them used in ways other than their original purpose. Learning is happening all the time, rain or shine.

Are you making full use of your school materials?

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About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.


  1. Oh my goodness! I am a Hoarder of fun learning things, too! It’s practical to hold things back at times, but it’s far too easy for me to procrastinate using them. In fact, I find great pleasure in having those things stashed away. Why doesn’t enjoying and using them give me more pleasure than having them organized and dusty on a shelf?
    Jimmie’s latest post: Teaching Textbooks Curriculum Review

    • “In fact, I find great pleasure in having those things stashed away. Why doesn’t enjoying and using them give me more pleasure than having them organized and dusty on a shelf?”~Jimmie . Just happened to find myself reading & enjoying this blog. Then, I read your comment and it is absolutely eye opening for me! NOW, I ponder the same thought. WHY doesn’t enjoying and using things, bring me as much pleasure as having them organized and dusty on the shelf!?! Time for a little (personal) soul searching and using the above post for a reminder and a little guidance. 🙂
      – See more at:

  2. This is great Amida. I am a big believer in letting kids “use the good stuff” and experiment, learn and grow on their own. I rarely schedule any science instruction but our kids have learned so much through the self-directed methods you discuss.
    Renee’s latest post: Herbs For Winter

  3. I am SO guilty of doing the EXACT same thing! And I too, have learned, that leaving things out for them to discover, on their own, is a very CLEVER thing to do! 🙂

    Loved this! (mostly because now I know I am not the only one that does this, AND I can now show my husband that I really am not the only person that does that! So there! LOL!)
    Sofia’s Ideas’s latest post: {this moment}

  4. I do keep a small stash of things for rainy or blah days or as special treats when my husband has to be out at night and I’m with the kids all day. My kids are still young to use things like science kits on their own, so I keep those things in reserve so they can use them with their daddy on the weekends. But I try to check the stash on a regular basis so I don’t forget about things that would be appropriate for the kids right now and might not be so appropriate later on. I also rotate items and find it very helpful to have a specifically designated place in the basement where I store all the toys and other resources so I can go down there and bring up a toy or kit or set of manipulatives or book that my boys haven’t seen in a while.

    Thanks for the reminder to be careful how much I hoard and to check the stash regularly so things aren’t wasted!

  5. Thanks for this warning. As a new homeschooler I do find myself thinking that we will save certain things for a rainy day. I will not do that now.

  6. Thanks for the challenge ~ I too save things for a “rainy day” and then forget about it ~ I like the idea of my boys having more access and left on their own to learn and explore!
    Lori’s latest post: Happy October!

  7. MissMommy says:

    Guilty – I just don’t want to miss them enjoying these wonderful things so keep “saving” them for the perfect opportunity – I don’t think I can “cold turkey” this, but would welcome any ideas that would help me ease out of this ……..

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. “It was wonderful to see that they didn’t have to wait for me to be ready to teach them something.”
    This line alone made your post awesome! Thanks for the reminder that there is no “perfect” time or place! Learning is for everyday and anywhere!!

    • This statement struck me too. My girls are still very little, but I sometimes feel like I am not meeting their desires for “instruction” It is nice to be reminded that by making sure our materials are available to them they will learn through their “play” and it will be more true learning than if I relied only on “instruction”

    • Thank you!

  9. Your home sounds so much like mine! I love, love, love finding fun learning resources at garage sales, thrift stores, swaps, Half Price books, e-bay and use on Amazon. Pretty much our homeschooling is bringing up a box of those resources and me going through them with the kids, deciding which ones they like and which ones they don’t want to do (in which case I box them up and bring them out again a few months later for another try). I work on things with them for a while, an then they’re left out for awhile for the kids to play with them as they’d like. When I see interest waning, then I know it’s time to bring up a new box. I intergrate this with lots and lots and lots of adventures outside the house, too. I love this lifestyle of learning. You don’t need to write up complex lesson plans, half-of which will probably not be completed. The kids get a huge say in what they like to do and for how long, so there isn’t fighting about doing “schoolwork.”

    I’ve just started a cataloging system where I’m tracking in an Excel file where I store everything along with the title, type of resource, topic, and so on. So when the kids express an interest in something, I can look to see what we have on hand.

    • I love your box method! Reminds me of when my son was younger and I had all these activity boxes for him — clay box, sand box, noodle box. Same idea of keeping things fresh… and organized!

  10. I actually made myself a sign that reads, “THIS is the ‘special occasion’ you’ve been waiting for to USE the art supplies.”

    I haven’t figured out yet how many books & other ‘special’ materials to put out available for free use and what I should hold back until it’s on our schedule. I’ve noticed that with some of the math manipulatives, if they play with it without instructions, they do one simple thing with it and then don’t seem to be able to switch gears and use it in a structured manner to learn the thing it’s designed to be able to teach them. Sometimes there’s also the problem that if they’ve been handling something themselves for a while, they’re not interested in it when it’s on our schedule and then I get frustrated!

  11. While DS is not quite 5, I still am tempted to keep things away. But I remember what you learned: there’s no time like the present! 🙂
    Emily’s latest post: Financial Freedom: THE Baby Step You Shouldn’t Ignore

  12. I think the hardest part of that is simply letting go of your control. When you hide them, you are the one who decides when and what they learn, but when they are free for the taking, the kids are the ones who decide their level of interest. Kudos to you for relinquishing some of that control and giving your kids more freedom to decide what interests them.
    Jennie’s latest post: Simply Ten Good Things

    • I think I lost control when the number of kids outnumbered the parents… 🙂
      In terms of the “school toys” I don’t regret relinquishing the control at all. I love letting the kids’ natural curiosity lead the way.

  13. I always think there is going to be a perfect time, but my “special projects” tend to get forgotten. I actually have a Halloween one I have been waiting to start, perhaps that will be our afternoon activity! Thanks for sharing.
    Melissa’s latest post: The more I think about unschooling…

  14. well, the stuff is always out, but the kids don’t usually pick it up to play with. they are much more entertained by the boxes we get from the grocery store. lol. except with art supplies, there they go into their drawers and paint, color, create to their hearts content whenever they feel like it!

    i agree, why wait.

    jen‘s latest post: Modern Homemakers

    • That’s why I find it helpful to rotate things, so they don’t get bored and no longer “see” them anymore. When only select items are on display, they are more likely to play around with them.

  15. I was definitely guilty of this as well, but learned over time to loosen up and realize today was just as good a day as any! We also had a family business we ran from home so I did save some of the less structured things for when they didn’t need my help and could learn while I was working!
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center’s latest post: How to stop wasting time

  16. When my girls were younger I wrote down all the activities/sets we had (which was probably more than 20 items). Then I tried to do one of those activities a day. At least it made me feel better that all the fun things I had collected were being used on a regular basis.
    Heidi’s latest post: Home Based Business Moms

  17. I so want to get out all the good stuff! My 2yo can be very destructive, which makes me cautious, but recently I put some of the good books on a lower shelf and I’ll take that risk!
    Shelli’s latest post: Learning Is Like a Chain Link Fence

  18. I’ve found that if I tell everyone (when I buy new supplies) how to use or work and play with the stuff, I can leave it available on the shelf and they can use it without too much stress on my part.
    Nothing has made me sadder than to find an amzing book of a model castle that I forgot I had and the theme had come and gone.
    Now, what’s there is there for anyone at anytime.
    Nadene’s latest post: Free Poster to Inspire ~ Believe God’s Promises

  19. I am all for that, but how do you keep it from becoming a disaster area? I tend to never get it out as it just gets too messy.
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Maggie’s Journey by Lena Dooley

  20. Ha! I could have written this!!! It occurred to me in a huge clean out about two years ago that we just weren’t getting to the fun stuff… Now I schedule it in the summer: a week of science and I toss all the science bits and pieces out on the counter and leave them to it… and a week of art and all the little bits and pieces that aren’t our regular crayoned and markers get left on the counter and so on with sewing and microscopes and games and “how to books”… it is amazing how much of this sort of thing has become part of the everyday – because we actually USE it now!!!
    se7en’s latest post: Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun #89 – And Super Speedy Packing for a Trip…

  21. I do this too! My son is only 6, so I haven’t gather a whole bunch of stuff, but have already realized it needs to be USED! In a similar fashion I need to move from research mode to implementation mode. I find all these wonderful resources but save them to my computer w/o making plans to use them. I’m taking the first steps, but hearing from another is helpful!
    Kelly’s latest post: Monday Meal Plan, Oct 10-16

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