If you’ve been part of the homeschool community for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that some mamas naturally super organized with all their neat rows and brilliantly white school rooms. The rest of us ooh and ahh over all the shininess and then get back to looking for that math book we’ve been trying to find for over 15 hours. It’s ok, friend. I am your people.
I’ll the first to tell you: you don’t have to be a super organized, “Type-A” mom in order to homeschool your children successfully. But it would be nice to know where the math book is. Organizing your homeschool to some degree is necessary because it helps you keep track of your stuff and get more done. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. Even us “Type-B” homeschool mamas can swing it. 😉
Put some simple strategies in place for homeschool organization so that you can get on about the business of educating your children well and building relationships with them. No alphabetized books or label makers required.
Homeschool Organization: Six Strategies to Calm the Chaos
Tip #1: Get rid of all the extra stuff.
Lol! Ok, well, it’s easier to say than to actually do, I know. Especially when it comes to books or curriculum. I mean, I’ve been known to hug a book or two. And for a homeschool mom, aaalllll the books spark joy! ((group hug!))
However, the fact is that the more you keep the harder it will be to find what you need. This is my number one tip for all areas of home management, actually: get rid of the extra stuff!
If you won’t need it in the next couple of years, but you aren’t ready to get rid of it just yet, put it in a plastic tote for storage. (I have two in a closet upstairs just for that purpose – but I won’t let myself go over that.) Decide that whatever books and supplies you don’t need will be donated or sold. Also, all those broken crayons and pencils and empty markers? Throw them out.
Be as heavy handed as possible when deciding what to toss/donate. It’s ok if your “get rid of it” muscle needs to be developed over time. It certainly did for me. But start now make it a regular habit.
✅ DO IT TODAY: Pick 10 things to donate or toss today. That’s it. Just 10. Yes, a piece of paper or a broken crayon counts. Feeling good? Try doing that every day for a week or as often as you can. Keep a bin in your van specifically for those donations and move them there immediately to get them OUT of the house. Baby steps, friends. It works.
Tip #2: Put every item in its proper place.
The first thing is to decide on a place for everything. Try to use the storage and organizational items you already have on hand. Fancy storage pieces don’t do a lot of good if you don’t need them or don’t use them well.
Start with one type of item (scissors, maybe) and ask yourself where you’d look first if you were trying to find that thing. This might be a good place to set up a little spot for them! Noting where you usually are when you need those kinds of items is helpful too. For example, the kids color while I read at the table, so we need a little caddy of coloring supplies near the table.
Over time you’ll change things as you observe what works, the flow of your tasks or layout, and what is still getting lost or cluttering things up. And you’ll organize homeschool supplies a little bit more. It’s a work in progress. Keep at it!
Once you have things mostly where you want them (at least for now), the tricky part is making sure all the kids know where things go and they actually put things away. Here’s what can help:
- Keep working at Tip #1 and whittle down the extra stuff. It will make it easier for everything to have a proper and useful home.
- When you organize things, take your kids on a mini-tour and explain where it all goes. Be ready to patiently remind them as often as needed.
- Make phrases like “let’s put things away properly” or “everything has a home” a part of your daily vocabulary.
- Have your kids take turns each day organizing homeschool supplies and putting them away. Help them the first few times until you can see they know where everything goes and are diligent to put things away correctly.
✅ DO IT TODAY: Make a short list of the types of items that are causing you homeschool clutter grief (art supplies, curriculum currently in use, binders, pencils, etc.) Pick an easy one to start with and ask where you’d look if you needed it. See if that spot or something nearby can be redesigned a bit to provide a home for that item. Repeat for other items!
Want to be extra? If you have time and courage to spare, another good strategy is to dump ALL the homeschool stuff in one spot and then start identifying homes for each type of item based on when and how they’re used most.
This is an IKEA entertainment center we’ve used for years. In this photo it was in our dining room and our main hub. Nowadays it’s in a separate room for storing all the books and supplies we don’t need every day. See the magazine files, colorful dollar store baskets, and fruit crates on the top for storing art supplies? Still use them all!
Tip #3: Strike a good balance with homeschool organization.
Let’s be strategic here because a microscope stuck away in a box so it doesn’t break is two things: it’s a microscope that won’t break and a microscope that won’t get used. Homeschool organization is all about striking a good balance between hidden away and visually displayed so it will actually get used. It’s sort of like how I put the cheese in the refrigerator drawer (let’s face it, I’ll dig that out every day) but the fresh veggies are displayed on the center shelf. Lol!
For example, the books I want to make sure we read this year or that curriculum I keep forgetting about? Those get pulled out and placed in a basket or bookshelf at eye-level so I don’t forget. The microscope sits on a dresser in the schoolroom where it can be easily used but isn’t terribly likely to get knocked over by playing kids. On the other hand, the perler beads I’d rather the kids forget existed (am I the only one that twitches over those?) are hidden away in a drawer for rainy days. And the glitter is in a lockbox.
✅ DO IT TODAY: Identify one thing you want to make more visible so it actually gets used. Then find a place where it can belong and catch your eye more readily. Now find some things that can be tucked away nearby without worry that you’ll forget them and identify a good spot for them to belong.
This is the current setup in our dining room. Nice big wall map (use it daily), a loop schedule checklist for each kid, Scripture cards, history/Bible map, calendar, a clipboard for our art study selection and a clipboard at my eye-level of our current routine.
This is a fold out timeline that was one of those things I could easily forget if I didn’t see it all the time. We ended up putting it next to our living room bookshelf so it was visible and super easy to grab and use during a history lesson. This is the Adam’s Chart of History from Master Books.
Tip #4: Make the kids responsible for their own stuff.
Once your kids know where everything belongs, make them responsible for their own stuff. For example, all my kids’ binders and books are on two bookshelves in the dining room and they are always there… unless they don’t put them back. Whenever we clean up, they know where the homeschool supplies go.
When the new homeschool day or week rolls around, if they can’t find the necessary book, it’s on them. If it becomes a pattern, they may have to pay me for my time (x amount for every y minutes) while I stop the other lessons or work I was doing to look for it.
That puts a little bit more gumption behind their searching and over time encourages them to actually put their stuff away and take responsibility for it. Or instead of money, you can have them pay with their own time in the form of extra chores.
But keep your head about you, dear mom, and don’t go grumping. This isn’t only about making life easier. It is about instructing them about life consequences, as well as helping them understand the value of time and the importance of being good stewards of their resources.
✅ DO IT TODAY: First make sure you have already set them up for success by having a place for everything and plenty of practice to know where things go. THEN, if you still see a pattern of carelessness, talk with your kids about what is expected of them and why (because it’s an important life skill you want them to learn) and what the process and consequences will be if they can’t find their items in the middle of the school day. Remind them that you are there to help them develop better habits in this area.
This is where I keep the read alouds and my own binders for easy access.
An IKEA buffet has bins for toys and we use the horizontal cubbies to store binders. Each kid has one 3-ring binder for all loose papers. The older three kids also have a Bible notebooking binder and a piano binder.
This bookshelf is in our open floor living/dining room area. It holds all our Bibles, readers, and curriculum books that are currently in use. ALL the books go back on this shelf at the end of the school day. We should probably vacuum the floor eventually too. 😀
Tip #5: Get the right tools for the job.
Eventually you’ll need to get some containers and similar supplies to help you keep all the little bits of things together. Things like manipulatives, colored pencils, erasers, playdough, glue, and learning toys need containers. Contain all the homeschool things! Just make sure whatever labeling you do can be easily changed.
I have found three things most helpful for us:
- Bins: The Ikea cube units are handy if you have space. Or anything that will hold bins that you can stack or slide in and out. Just a heads up that you can’t see what’s in bins without sliding them out. So if you’re like me you’ll need to go through them once a month or two and clean and organize.
- Drawers: If you don’t have room for a lot of bins, drawers can help. Dresser drawers or even the plastic storage drawers can be used to organize homeschool supplies well.
- Bags: Ziplock bags! I get the gallon size and the sandwich size most often, and use them to hold busy bags for the younger ones, counting bears, math blocks, erasers, decks of cards, etc. Plus bags go nicely in bins and keep things from being a mess.
- Some helpful bits: Besides containers, a good pencil sharpener increases student productivity and stewardship. A good three-hole punch encourages personal paper organization. A cool spinning bucket and easy carry caddies attract more pencil returns.
✅ DO IT TODAY: Remember, first use things you ALREADY HAVE. Identify little bits you need a container for. Find or buy a container to help you make that happen. Again, check out thrift shops, “buy nothing” groups, or local marketplaces for anything beyond ziplock bags.
We have the plastic caddies, but you can use whatever you have to make it work. Recently I organized all these from around the house and made a little caddie out of a repurposed wood box, an ice cream tub, a plastic easter basket, and plastic cups. It works!
Tip #6: Homeschool organization rocks – Now keep on top of it as much as you can.
This is the toughest part of homeschool organization. Getting organized is not so bad (although it’s not always easy) but staying organized is a whole different ballgame! Here are TWO big things that will help you succeed:
- Have everyone spend a little time at the end of each day to put all the homeschool things back where they belong. If you do this consistently it should only take a few minutes each day and will make a huge difference to the useability of your homeschool space.
- Once a week do a little tidying, organizing, or decluttering with your homeschool items (including the bins tucked away things). Just one of those tasks – it should take no more than 10-15 minutes. Put it on your loop schedule or perhaps set a reminder for every Monday or Friday afternoon.
If you can take just a few days to work on homeschool organization, and a minutes each week to keep it up, it will make a huge difference for your school year.
✅ DO IT TODAY: Decide what time each day you and your kids are going to be organizing homeschool supplies. We like to right before lunch or dinner. Then once you’ve got that habit down, decide one time each week where you will either find some things to toss/donate or do a 10-15 minute organizing sprint in your all the homeschool, craft, toys, etc. Put it on the calendar and set a reminder. It will make a HUGE difference!
I hope these homeschool organization ideas helped you! Don’t forget to revisit tip number one often — getting rid of stuff is one of the most freeing things you will ever do and if you keep practicing it won’t seem so overwhelming after a while. We don’t need to hold on to every single homeschool thing that comes our way in case we might need it later. The Lord will give us all we need to educate our children well!
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