10 Tools to Organize Your Homeschool
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When you’re a homeschool mom, you need to organize homeschool stuff: papers, routines, and schedules; it gives the new school year a good chance for success.
Whether you have a dedicated homeschool room or cart your homeschool supplies from living room to kitchen table and back again, you can make sense of the new homeschool year and all its trappings with good organization. Here are 10 favorite homeschool organization ideas and simple tips to help you enjoy your homeschool and your time with your kids a whole lot more.
So you’re homeschooling…
Whether this is something you’ve been wanting to do for some time or a choice you made in just the last year or two, welcome to the party! I’m officially starting my 21st year of homeschooling with about 4 more to go. It has been one of my best life decisions ever.
I’ve learned a lot over the years. Two kids have graduated college, two are currently in college, two are still on my watch. So far, the experiment is working!
Not just academically, either. I love each of my kids and the unique people they are becoming. They are people my husband and I love to be with! Homeschooling has played a big role in that.
Over the years, we’ve done school in small spaces and big ones. We’ve paid big bucks for pricey homeschool curriculum and art supplies and we’ve made good use of free homeschool supplies whenever they’ve crossed our paths. We’ve homeschooled away from home and hunkered down just like everyone else during lockdown.
One of the things that I’ve gleaned in this home education gig, is that organizing homeschool stuff: supplies, routines, and schedules is super duper important. Since we live, eat, sleep, and school at our home, there is a myriad of tasks — and stuff – to juggle.
If you don’t manage them well, there will be utter chaos. No thank you!
I’ve found that you have not only to organize your homeschool, but also to do it in a way that suits your family’s personality and practice. There’s no right method of homeschool organization, but boy, you sure do need to do it!
If you’re wondering if your homeschool could run more efficiently, today’s the day to find out.
Here are the things that help us save money, time, and energy, and make homeschooling more fun: ten tools and tips to organize your homeschool:
An Academic Calendar
One of the beauties of homeschooling, is that in most cases, state law-depending, you get to create your own academic calendar. Not only does this allow you to be flexible with vacations and crazy family seasons, but it’s an ideal tool for homeschool planning.
Every summer I create a calendar for the year, matching it up with my husband’s work calendar. It’s better if I plan for school holidays when he has time off work as well. Student and teacher birthdays are considered school holidays so I mark those off, too.
Having a calendar ready helps me plan lessons and map our way through the curriculum.
If you’re coordinating online coursework, it’s important to know when they start and end and have weeks off, so your calendar is incredibly important for tracking your homeschool schedule.
You can buy the Organizing Life as Mom homeschool pack which includes a number of homeschooling organizers and calendars for the year, including the one pictured above.
Assignment Sheets, Assignment Binders and/or Student Planners
Depending on the grade and maturity of your students, you’re going to want a way to communicate and track their assignments. We’ve done this in three ways over the years: weekly assignment sheets, yearly assignment binders, and individual student planners.
Assignment sheets can be super helpful to organize your homeschool because you have to create lesson plans anyway, and your kids will benefit from knowing what’s on the docket for the day. These are included in the Organizing Life as Mom homeschool pack.
For years I relied on weekly assignment sheets to map out my kids’ work for the upcoming week. I found these to be super duper helpful, particularly for kids who love to check off the boxes every day.
It also allowed me to homeschool more than one kid at a time, knowing that the others could work independently on something while I worked one-on-one with another.
My only problem was that I could only plan one week at a time because I never knew how far we would get in a given week. If you’ve been homeschooling longer than a week, you know that things don’t go always according to plan. So much erasing!
Assignment binders were my answer to this dilemma. These binders held each child’s assignments for the whole school year!
I spent a week of each summer writing out every child’s assignments for every subject for the whole year. It was time well spent when I was managing many kids in coursework I was teaching myself.
We used the assignment binders to chart our course through the curriculum. If we skipped history one week, it was no big deal, we picked up where we left off — no erasing of weekly assignments involved or shifting of dates.
This was the best way that I could plan ahead without having to undo my own work.
As my kids hit junior high and high school and had teachers besides myself, I transitioned them to using their own Student Planners. In this way, kids learn to track their assignments themselves, something that will serve them on into college and graduate school.
The Student Planner works best for students from 6th grade to college. My freshman and junior college kids are currently using it as well as my high schoolers.
If you’ve got more than one child, I highly recommend assigning each child a color to organize your homeschool and all the stuff!
Here’s how to color code your homeschool:
- Assign each kid a color or let him or her choose if they can do it without fighting.
- Buy coordinating folders, binders, copy paper, even post-its in these colors.
You will know at a glance whose binder is whose instead of having to flip through and decipher handwriting.
I don’t know about you, but my homeschoolers don’t always write their names on their papers.
Dedicated Cubbies, Shelves, or Desks
A place for everything and everything in its place, right? No matter what fancy homeschool room ideas you may be entertaining, be sure to keep your storage ideas practical.
Organize your homeschool by making sure that every child knows where to find (and replace) his or her books and assignments. You will go crazy if you don’t make sure that they have places to put their school stuff.
Make it as easy as possible for your kids to put things away!
We’ve always dedicated the formal dining room of our home into a schoolroom. This works for us since we don’t mind eating in the kitchen. Guests get to see our real life schoolroom when we overflow to dining room-school room for meals.
We homeschool more than we entertain, you know?
Giving each child a cubby, or in the case of the teens, a dedicated shelf, makes it easy for them to find their books as well as know where to put them away. If it’s possible, give each his own desk, something we’ve only been able to accomplish once our kids were in junior high and above.
Pro tip: It really helps if you’ve got clean kids’ bedrooms. We’ve lost (and repurchased!) many a grammar/vocabulary/spelling book when a certain child did assignments in his room and then lost the book.
Organize your homeschool with dedicated storage for each child so you don’t have to rebuy books! Consider keeping school to certain areas of the house to prevent loss and confusion.
Clipboards are some of my favorite school supplies for homeschool as they are ideal, portable work spaces that hold papers together. Get enough for each child as well as yourself so that you each have a mobile work station and storage space.
You want your kids to feel organized, to be able to do school anywhere, including the hammock outside, so make it easy to do so.
If you can color code them, so much the better!
The Library Bag, Box, or Shelf
The library is a homeschooler’s best friend. There’s a wealth of knowledge to access within its walls for FREE — if you can avoid the ever pesky late fees.
Organize your homeschool resources by making sure your library check-outs don’t get mixed up. Placing them on a designated shelf or in a box/tote bag can make library returns so much easier!
School Records/Portfolios/Cumulative Files
Have a space for your longterm school records. Depending on what your state requires, you may need to save portfolios or cumulative files for longer than the school year. Be sure to have a designated space for this.
I keep a yearly expanding file for each kid in the school room. At the end of the year these get boxed up and stored for longterm in our homeschool library.
Kindles, tablets, or other devices
In this day and age, it’s pretty hard to do school without an electronic device of some kind.
Years ago, I bought each of the kids a Kindle Fire tablet for the first day of school. They were incredibly affordable and easy enough to load with learning apps and a way for the kids to turn in homework to me digitally without fighting over who was going to use the computer.
We used these for all kinds of things, including book storage, to-do lists, timers, music, movies and documentaries, and life skills. You can read more about how we use Kindles for homeschool.
A few years ago we retooled our school room. In addition to the desks for the three kids still on my watch, we bought each one a low-end laptop. With all of them doing online courses this year, it was imperative in order to make sure each student had access to his school work throughout the course of the day.
Do what works best for your family and your budget.
Inevitably there will be school and art supplies that all your students will need to access. If you can store these items in ways that are easy to find and even easier to put away, you will save yourself a lot of heartache.
We use an old dresser to organize homeschool supplies such as post-its, note cards, pens, pencils, crayons, paper, and art supplies. You might consider a portable tote for these things if you’re operating in a smaller space.
A standard operating procedure or SOP is an important tool to organize your homeschool. It involves making sure your kids KNOW all the systems you’ve put in place.
- Do they know what to do with completed work?
- Do they know where to put library books when they’re done reading?
- Do they know what the next assignment is?
By making these procedures clear to your kids — and possibly repeating them 5,436,987 times — you stand a chance of getting through the day without tearing out your hair. All the organizing ideas in the world won’t work if you don’t explain them to your kids and help them learn how to follow your system.
Your SOPs should also include procedures for YOU.
- Do you have a system for remembering when library books are due?
- When to file papers for the cumulative files?
- When you’re going to tackle lesson planning.
Develop your own SOPs and write them down so that you don’t have to think about what to do next. There’s enough to think about already as a homeschool mom!
More Homeschool Tips
Originally published October 24, 2015, this post has been updated for content and clarity.
— and possibly repeating them 5,436,987 times — I’ve been there. 🙂 But it does pay off in the long run when the kids know what to do and when to do it, and they can work through things with a little less supervision.
We end up with library books EVERYWHERE. But we always get a printout that stays with the library card, so we can gather things up when it’s time to go back to the library.
We have cloth bags for library books. We do one book in and one book out at a time. Every child is responsible for their own library books.
We homeschooled 15 years, relocated to a wonderful school district where our youngest two completed school, but I used all these tools. Please expand on the color-coding to every aspect of mama-hood. Towels, toothbrushes, drinking glasses, etc.. I instantly could see who left the mess, and nobody got confused and used someone else’s towels.
I started the color coding for homeschool things a few years back. Mostly to make clean-up easier. I automatically knew who still had their things out. But I have started to expand it a bit. It does come in handy.
Yes! When my littles were more numerous, we absolutely used the colors everywhere.