Nov 292011

I was lucky enough to have a nice long visit with my sister Kelley recently. I love when she comes to visit since she always seems to take a look around when she gets here, and figures out what I need help with most and tackles it. She love organizing, and with a big move this summer that left my home a little disheveled, when she said she wanted to set up a better place for Austin’s school stuff- I was all for it. I thought some of you may be interested in what she came up with in case you are struggling with the same problem, so here’s a guest post from my big sis….. 

Keeping yourself and your children organized can be an overwhelming task. When my boys were in elementary school, I created a zone just for school stuff. Not only to make it easier for me but also to help my boys be more independent. If they needed looseleaf, they didn’t have to keeping coming to me, asking, “Mom, where’s the looseleaf?” Same for pencils, notebooks, construction paper, school calendar, pencil sharpener….you get the idea.

Instead, I would simply tell them, “Check the school zone” and they would find it themselves. Everyday thereafter, they would just get what they need, sit down and start their homework. I think most moms would agree with me that the kitchen seems to always be the spot for homework, sharing the news of the day, serving snack and more. My school zone consisted of a bookcase, a big magnet board and a “brag bar”. What’s a brag bar? Well, its my nickname for a handy dandy place to hang up report cards, school forms, graded homework, even your child’s paintings or drawings.

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My sister knows I’m an organizing nut so she welcomed the idea when I suggested creating a school zone for Austin. We found the perfect place and she gave me free reign to get to work ;-) . I will also share with you how to make your own brag bar.

I wanted Austin to be involved in this project so I took him with me to get supplies. The brag bar is simply made from a yardstick, clothespins and a few painted wooden cutouts. I let Austin choose a theme for his brag bar to get him involved. He decided on a “Florida” theme and helped me pick out the wooden cutouts. You can choose to paint your own if your children are up to the task. It really depends on your children’s ages and how much patience you have ;-) . For glue, I like Tacky Glue, it’s easy to use, dries clear and is less toxic than super glue.

Its important to decide how you’re going to hang your brag bar before you get started. I decided to attach mine directly to the bulletin board but you can screw yours to the wall below the bulletin board, on the book shelf or anywhere; it’s up to you. I drilled 2 holes at each end of the yardstick about 1/2 an inch in from the edge. I also put a couple adhesive velcro strips in the center to keep it from bowing. I like the Command strips with the velcro teeth that snap together, I think they last longer and hold up better then adhesive strips.

Now you’re ready to glue on your clothespins and wood cutouts. Find a flat surface to work on where you can leave it to dry for awhile. I only used 4 clothespins so I could space my papers out but you could squeeze in a couple more if you want. I set size D batteries on top of the clothespins for added weight while the glue dried. Then I added some larger wood cutouts between the clothespins. Keep it fun and colorful! Once the glue has dried under your clothespins, you can glue on the smaller wood cutouts. Watch where you place them, being careful not to cover the hinge on the clothespins. I also set them down about an inch or so from the top. This way, you can push on the clothespin without interference. Again, you can rest the batteries on top to help the drying process and ensure a solid fit.

When everything is all dry, you can hang your brag bar. Be sure it is securely fastened to the wall. This way your children can hang their papers up themselves and there are no worries of anything breaking or falling down! I strongly believe that when we display our children’s accomplishments, we are telling them how important they are and how much we care about the hard work they do at school.

As my children got older, I was hanging SAT scores and the latest form to fill out and get in by a certain deadline for college. My brag bar is still hanging in my house and my youngest is now a junior in high school!

As for Austin, we added a bookcase underneath with bins for larger supplies and spelling flash cards. Next, we set up little drawers for pencils, crayons and more. There is also a place for books for the nightly reading assignment or library books that must be returned. Austin has a little calendar on top that helps him keep track of what day it is and a couple baskets for misc clutter. And last but not least, the bulletin board gives additional space for Austin’s drawings, his reading calendar, notes from the teacher, and more.

A place for everything, and everything in its place! I hope you enjoyed this post and it helps you tackle your own school zone if you are struggling with the clutter too!

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14 Responses to “DIY: Create Your Own School Zone and Brag Bar”

  1. Jen says:

    Cute! The whole organizational thing is awesome and I love the brag bar! I don’t have kids yet, but I hope I remember this when I do.

  2. Rhonda says:

    This is awesome! My daughter is always getting papers & crafts home from daycare and our fridge is getting crowded! This would be the perfect solution to ease the clutter and help her learn to stay organized! Now we need a post on how to coupon to get these items cheap! :)

  3. christine says:

    We have started hanging art creations on the walls of the house. Not all, just the few that my 9 yr old son is most proud of. Plus, its not like there’s anything else on the walls. We’ve lived in our house for 2 years now and I still havent hung anything on the walls. Guess thats what happens when you rent your whole life. Now that we own, I need to get hanging. Great idea. Once my “office” area is no longer in my dining room (had to take the spare room for the nursery) this is a great idea. My son is terrible about giving me his school papers. Maybe if we had an area like this he could just put them all in the basket instead of all around the house. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ava says:

    This would be awesome if I didn’t have an 11 month old who’s learning to walk.

  5. Amy says:

    We desperately need something like this, and the little set-up in the picture is PERFECT. Thanks for sharing, your timing couldn’t be better!

  6. Jen says:

    I have been thinking that I needed something like this to keep my 7-year-old organized…it’s nice to see how it’s done. :)

    @Ava–try using a small cabinet with doors instead of the open shelf. (I have 4 small kids–Everything MUST be contained!!)

  7. Leah says:

    Great info! I wrote down the idea for when my son goes to school (he’s only 1 right now!)

  8. Carrie says:

    Kerry,

    This is a wonderful idea. I was wondering…where do you have your school zone set up in your house? Thanks.

    Carrie

  9. Jennifer Hicks-Enemark says:

    Wow!~ What a great idea! I have 4 little ones: oldest is in 1st grade, next 2 in preschool, and 1 toddler at home. I can hardly keep my head on straight. This will save my LIFE!! I printed it all out- weekend project here I come!! Thank you! :)

  10. Kerry says:

    Hey Carrie- it’s in my kitchen- well- the way my house is set up- the dining room/kitchen are sort of connected & open- so I have it set up in that general area.

  11. AMANDA says:

    LOVE this!!! I just need to find a spot now! :)

  12. Kathy Evans says:

    I used a simlair “brag board” daily chore list with each of my 3 kids. I used a ruler and let the kids paint it and paint 3 wooden clothes pins. I then super glued the clothes pin to the ruler and then super glued the the ruler to 2 command hooks. I hung it up on each of the kids bedroom door. 1 clothes pin holds their morning, afterschool and bedtme checkoff list (I love this list because I don’t have to remind them to brush teeth, pick up dirty clothes etc), I used a colored ribbon that matched the color they used in painting the ruler and tied a pencil to the ruler with enough link that the kids can check off their daily list. 1 pin holds a special daily note from mom or dad (since my husband is gone every morning to work before the kids get up) he will write special notes to them to see before they go to school like “good luck on a test”, your homework looks awesome or just a love note. the other pin holds a weekly picture they painted or a picture I took of them (they usually change this out weekly). I like the organized look of your cabinet and board I am going to put one in my dinning room.

  13. Carrie Kopec says:

    Kerry,

    One more question. Where did you get your write book case. It’s so cute. It looks like maybe IKEA.??

    Thanks,

    Carrie

  14. Kerry says:

    Hey Carrie- I actually got it for $10 at a Thrift store- a little soft scrub and was good as new :) I liked it because it is a little deeper than the normal bookcase

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