Involving Children in the Care and Improvement of Your Education Space

By Jessica Wolstenholm


Last year I struggled on a daily basis with my 7 year old daughter, constantly taking on the role of “naggy mom” by telling her repeatedly to clean her room, pick up her toys and clothes, and keep her workspace organized. She never seemed to fully be able to manage her own spaces, and I was constantly needed during clean up times to “help,” which basically meant I cleaned up six things while she did one thing, whining and complaining the entire time. 

Then something amazing changed for us, and it’s called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. It was the perfect show to watch while we took down the Christmas decorations and set our intentions for our family New Year’s resolutions. Watching Marie Kondo help American families with her KonMari method was so inspirational that we joined in with the rest of the United States and started decluttering, donating, and folding our clothing into those cute little rectangular shapes for our drawers. My daughter watched the show with me, and suddenly we had a whole new dialog for caring for our home and belongings that did not end with me doing all the work while she whined her way through her one small task. Suddenly she was interested in folding clothes, and had a new enthusiasm for donating toys and clothing items that she no longer needed. I was especially surprised that she initiated making a home for all her art supplies, notebooks, and crafty things on her own without me even asking!

I had only my knowledge of Marie Kondo’s book and Netflix series, but I knew that Japanese culture was absolutely doing something right in the area of keeping a tidy house, and so I dove deep into the world wide web for more information on the 5S Process, a program designed to promote sorting, organizing, cleanliness, sanitizing and sustainability. 

The Japanese believe that maintaining a well-organized workplace makes for a more efficient, safe, and productive environment, and that it helps people take ownership of their responsibilities by instilling a sense of pride in their work. These are certainly characteristics I desire for my Christian homeschooling practice, but what are the 5S’s, and how can we involve our children in the process? 

These five Japanese words (that begin with the letter “S”) can simplify and revolutionize the way your children care for their workspace, bedroom, playrooms, and other spaces where they may spend a lot of time.

  1. Seiri (Sort)

    Invite your children to help you declutter, first by going through all items that are located in your workspace (or bedroom and play area) to decide what is worth keeping and what needs to be discarded, recycled, or donated. suggests these helpful questions when evaluating each item: 
  • What is the purpose of this item? 
  • When was this item last used? 
  • How frequently is it used? 
  • Does it really need to be here? 

They also say that asking these questions helps “determine the value of each item. A workspace might be better off without unnecessary items or items used infrequently. These things can get in the way or take up space.”

It is helpful at this stage to make the following piles: Keep, Discard, Recycle, Donate.

This step is especially fun for my kids, who enjoy seeing how many bags of donations we come up with at the end of our project. It is always fulfilling for them to go with me to the donation center with items that they once used and enjoyed. We always say something about how the next person who uses the items will be so blessed by how awesome they are and how good they were for us when we needed them most. For Christian families, this is a prime opportunity to emphasize gratitude for what God has given us.

2. Seiton (Set in Order, Organize)

Once you have reduced the clutter, you and your children can begin to organize those items you have decided to keep. Ask them to consider the functionality of the workspace: what items do they need to have frequent, quick, and easy access to? Have them group items such as crafts and art supplies can together. Buy clear bins for storage so that you can easily see what is inside without having to pull everything out searching for the thing you only need twice a year.

  1. Seiso (Shine, Clean) says that the Shine stage of 5S “focuses on cleaning up the work area, which means sweeping, mopping, dusting, wiping down surfaces, putting tools and materials away, etc.” Each child can have a specific set of jobs. For example: George is in charge of wiping down tables/desktops and returning books to their designated place on the shelf; and Tara is responsible for emptying the waste basket and making sure all the art supplies get put away properly.
  2. Seiketsu (Standardize)

    This step of 5S will help you easily maintain all the hard work you have completed in steps 1-3.

    Japan Intercultural Consulting says, “Just as in Seiri (sorting) and Seiton (organizing), all tools and materials have their proper place, in Seiketsu 5S duties are scheduled for their proper times and integrated with other job activities. 5S isn’t something added to jobs, it is an integral and necessary part of everyone’s job.”

    This is where creating a daily chore chart can come in handy, and helps reinforce a sense of ownership and responsibility that’s needed for balanced child development. Ask your kids to make a list of things they think need to be done each day to maintain all their hard work and keep their space beautiful. Divvy up the tasks and create a rotation of jobs so that no one gets bored of doing the same job over and over again.
  3. Shitsuke (Sustain) says, “Sustain is about making 5S a long-term program, not just an event or short-term project. Ideally, 5S becomes a part of [your] culture. And when 5S is sustained over time, that’s when [you] will start to notice continuous positive results.” 

Being consistent with the systems you’ve put in place now will ensure that you can make 5S part of your family’s lifestyle. It will set you on a path to continual success when it comes to keeping your workspace clean and tidy. When our children take ownership of their responsibilities and dwelling spaces, they are actually building characteristics that will carry them far beyond the classroom or playroom. Maybe they’ll even translate these lessons into lifelong practices.

Have you added the 5S Process to your Christian parenting and homeschooling resources? Head on over to our Facebook page and tell us what you think!