Organizing your homeschool seems hard, but it pays off in huge dividends. Let’s run through some simple ways to organize that will transform the way your homeschool runs. If you’re a busy person, you have more than one kid to teach, or you tend to misplace things, you’ll love these ideas all the more. Off we go…
Organizing Your Year
First off, if you haven’t visited Karen’s page about planning your school year, you should hop over there really quickly. She’ll walk you through how to create homeschool plans that are usable, but flexible so you won’t be flying by the seat of your pants each morning and wondering just what to learn about that day. Creating your homeschool pacing guide will give you the framework for all of the rest of your organization. Once that’s in place, you’re ready to organize the rest of your homeschool.
Organizing Your Printables
Print your printables ahead of time. It takes so much time to print everything out, especially if you have several kids and only one of you. Imagine just pulling things out instead of searching for that file, looking up that pin, running to make more copies, or wondering what on earth you did with that stack of papers.
I like to prepare all of my printables for the whole year during my summer planning session and sort them into weekly folders for the whole year all at once. It’s a marathon couple of days of getting prepared. Then all through the year I just have to go to my folder for that week and pull out the already ready math test, map of Turkey, or whatever I’ve planned in my pacing guide.
All of my folders fit into a single plastic basket that I pull off my shelf each morning for school. If that day’s lesson calls for a printable, I know it’s in my basket in the folder for this week.
The best part is, it helps me be prepared and accountable. It’s easy to pull out and get done. You can also put your unit booklets or notes in there. I like to jot down a list of extra learning ideas right on the file folder.
I label the folders with the month and which week of school we are on. If you are using an undated planner for flexibility, you can just include the week number. It will match the week number from your Homeschool Mom’s Planner so you can keep track of where you’re at.
If you don’t get to something, you can just slip it in next week’s folder. If you find something on Pinterest, print it out right away and add it to that folder. It’s flexible, but awesomely organized.
Organizing Your Kids’ Schoolwork
There are lots of different ways to help your kids stay organized too. We really like a combination of kids’ planners and a simplified version of the workbox system. The workbox system usually involves a system of drawers for each kid, with a subject in each drawer. The kids finds their assignments and everything they need for that assignment in the little drawer. Once the drawers are empty, the assignments for the day are done. The main drawbacks of this system are that it takes a lot of work for mom, a lot of space, and quite an initial investment to get the drawer set for each kid. We use a modified version.
First, we rely on our planners. Every kid has a planner with a list of work that must be completed and checked off. I love the accountability and independence this has created in my kids. Whether they are 5 or 15, they all have planners and check things off as they are completed.
They also have school bins. I purchased colorful paper file folders, 8 – 12 for each child, depending on how many school subjects they are doing. In each file folder are the special materials they need to complete the assignment, saving them time and keeping us from scrambling all over the house looking for this or that.
Each kid already has access to basic school supplies at their desk, so we don’t have to worry about pencils, crayons or colored pencils, calculators, scissors, glue or other basics.
I often include a 15 min break, a snack, a math game, and other bits of fun scattered through the harder work.
When the kids are done with the contents of their file they put their completed work and workbooks into our turn-in basket, which is just a milk crate at our house. Everybody’s stuff into one crate.
When they are done with their day, their files are empty and my crate(s) is full. They line their work boxes up on our big chest freezer which resides in the schoolroom.
Now I go through the contents of the crate one by one, checking work and reloading the files for the next day. It takes me about half an hour a day to check through six kids’ work and reload their boxes. Learning how to organize school work has taught me how to help them organize our whole day.
I should note that we do the 3 R’s and electives individually, because each kid is a different age and at a different level, and that is where we incorporate the simplified workbox system. Most of that is completed by lunch time. But we do Layers of Learning work together as a family after lunch. For those lessons we generally don’t use the workboxes because we are all working together.
Organizing Finished Work
What on earth do you do with all those papers? First of all, I want to give you permission to throw things away. You do not have to keep every single handwriting sheet, spelling test, and math assignment.
We do keep notebooks for various school subjects. My kids also use composition books for a lot of their daily work. They each have a 3 ring binder for our Layers of Learning subjects with dividers for each – history, geography, science, and art (although most of our art is done in our sketchbooks). We keep our work for the year in those notebooks, and then at the end of the year we create portfolios with our best work, and discard the rest. Projects stick around for no more than a week or two, then we photograph them and let them go. Truly, we probably keep 1% of the work we do.
Organizing School Supplies
If I didn’t have supplies ready to go ahead of time we would probably never make a single project in school. I don’t love messes and clutter, and I don’t want to have to run to the store every other day to get what we need for this art project or that science experiment.
I make a list of our supplies before our school year begins. And I have specific places for our supplies, sorted by school subject. We have a science cupboard, an art cupboard, and a drawer that holds miscellaneous crafting supplies.
Each kid has their own basics at their desk area so they don’t have to search for supplies they use every day.
And we also keep little buckets hanging on hooks for common writing utensils.
Tour Our Schoolrooms For More Ideas
Every school room is different and yours won’t look like mine, but you can tour our schoolrooms to get a closer look at how we set things up. My sister, Karen, and I have different set-ups that both work really well for us. You can see them both. We’ve also homeschooled without any school room at all very successfully. We applied the same organization, but we used totes and containers that could easily be stored and pulled out as we worked at our kitchen tables.
Organization Makes A Difference
The reality is that it takes time and effort to get and stay organized, but in the end, you SAVE time and energy. When I’m not prepared, my kids tend to wander off. They lose interest and I am too preoccupied with trying to get things together to keep everyone engaged and learning. I’m always playing catch up, trying to corral people to get back on task, and canceling our plans because I’m missing something we need. When the day ends, I feel like we’ve accomplished almost nothing except getting Mom riled up!
Organization Pays Off
But when things are in order, everything just runs. Each kid knows what to do next. They not only stay on task, but they do better work. I am more available to pay attention to what they need and be there to help individual kids. We accomplish far, far more.
Imagine going to work for a company where you never had the supplies you needed, weren’t sure what your job involved, and didn’t have any real deadlines or expectations. It would be frustrating and waste your time and talents. Now imagine a company that provided clear direction, gave you what you needed to have success, and supported you in a tidy, timely environment. Create that kind of learning place in your homeschool.
If you are homeschooling a high schooler, keep reading. The high school years have their own unique set of challenges.