Truth be told, when I first began homeschooling, I did not have an effective homeschool organizational system in place to deal with the materials. I thought I did, but after a few months I pulled everything out to “reorganize” and realized I had made multiple sets of everything. What a waste of time and materials!
In my first attempt, I organized by subject and kept everything in plastic containers - seemed promising. The problem was that I hadn’t separated and labeled the various sets of cards that went with each subject (e.g., Alphabet cards, CVC words, Number cards, etc.). I also didn’t have easy access. I would have to shift and move several other things to get to my containers. What a pain!
In my reorganization, I finally got it right! This blog is all about what I learned from this process. My hope is to help other families with my homeschool organization ideas:
10 Homeschool Organization Tips:
1. Have designated areas for homeschool materials.
Try to keep these separate from other materials, books, folders, and paperwork.
Ideally, have a place that is out of the way, yet very easily accessible. Think roller-carts that can be rolled into a closet or the pantry or a place that is tucked away, but can be accessed with no trouble.
*There is nothing more unnerving than staring at a pile of papers, books, materials each and every day. Yet, if it’s difficult to get to the materials you've created, then you won’t likely use them.
2. Create a system for your homeschooling materials.
Lay everything out on the table or visualize the list of materials you will be creating and develop a storage system that works for you.
You will likely need different storage systems for different levels (e.g., K, 2nd grade, 5th grade).
Make sure your system separates the materials by subject.
Consider organizing by type of materials (e.g., games, cards, supplies, manipulatives).
*Down below, I share my storage system in case you need ideas for a system to use.
3. To store the materials, select bins, containers, baskets, notebooks that fit your system.
You don’t have to use the same types of storage devices for all of your materials (e.g., matching baskets). In fact, it is great to diversify your organizational storage (i.e., small/medium/large, narrow & wide, flat & tall) so that you can easily fit different types of materials.
You don't have to go out and spend money on new containers/bins/notebooks, instead just use what you have!
4. Select what you’ll use to separate items (e.g., paperclips, clothespins, smaller boxes, plastic baggies, envelopes).
This is key! Do not skip this! Take the time to gather items that go together and keep them together using whatever you have on hand and that works best for you.
These are things that you would pull out to use together at one time - get specific (e.g., “-AT” Word Family Cards, Number Cards 1 to 10).
5. Label everything, seriously everything!
This is ultra important! You want to make sure that when you return to your supplies, you know exactly what something is and for what it’s supposed to be used.
Create a labeling system that works for you - the more details the better. I use a lot of clothespins that I write on to hold sets of cards together and old tea boxes with labels to hold a number of related sets (e.g., CVC Words).
6. Create a system for children to access certain materials and items independently.
Determine which materials you want your child to be able to access on their own. Perhaps this includes paper, markers, pencils, scissors. It might be the case that you have these put away until needed, and then set them out for your child to access.
Keep it simple, but make sure they can get out some of the supplies themselves. This empowers them and saves you time. Be sure to create expectations around these supplies (e.g., must be returned after the lesson).
7. Put away the items immediately after homeschooling.
Each day, get in the routine of putting away materials from a particular lesson immediately after it is complete. In fact, schedule time to do this. This might mean putting your littles on an episode or read alouds in order to get 10 minutes to stay on top of your organizational system.
You can also involve your child in helping to pull out and put away the materials for the day. This is likely to empower them and create buy-in with a lesson.
8. Organize homeschool products and artwork.
At the end of the day or the week, review the pieces created by your child in the following way:
Select pieces to use in a portfolio that demonstrate learning of particular skills. I recommend an x-large 3-ring notebook with plastic sleeves. Simply slip the work into the sleeve and label it.
Select pieces your child loves that they would like to display in an art exhibit.
Select pieces to send to family members or to create a book.
Discard the rest, but do so when your children are asleep and do not let them see the discarded pieces in the trash
9. Designate a place to store the necessary items you use to create your homeschooling materials (e.g., blank index cards, Sharpies).
Have a set place where you will keep the various items you use daily for creating cards, games, activities, etc. This might include Sharpies, sticky notes, blank index cards, sentence strips, plastic sleeves, etc.
Think about anything you may need during the year to carry out the lessons for your child(ren). Stock up and put them away so they aren’t used by your children as art materials!
10. If you take learning outside, invest in a set of materials for outdoors.
It’s a great idea to take the learning outside, however, it can be challenging to do this if you have to lug all of your homeschooling materials outside with a fear of them getting ruined or lost.
Consider having a separate set of essentials, organized for outside use. For instance, create alphabet, number, and word cards that have packing tape over them to “laminate” them. Have some chalk and small chalkboards ready to go. Invest is a set of large wooden dice. Clipboards, paper, and writing utensils are also great to have on hand for lessons outside.
Hollie's Homeschool Organization System:
As I show you a window into my system, please know this is not a perfect system. There are lots of different ways to achieve a superbly well organized homeschool! You have to go with what works best for you.
In a large basket on a bookshelf in our kitchen, you will find my language arts cards.
This includes Alphabet Cards, CVC Words organized by word families, Sentence Puzzles, CVCe Words, and Sight Words. Everything is separated with clothespins and labeled. There are small boxes inside the basket for additional organization. I can easily pull out one set of cards or a small box with 4 to 5 sets of cards.
In a large, flat plastic container I store our geoboards and pattern blocks. I have several narrow plastic containers in my pantry where I keep Unifix cubes, materials for math games, including UNO, dominos, dice and a deck of cards, and measurement items, specifically rulers, tape measures, and measuring cups. I have a basket where I keep math cards, cups and plates. These have either numbers written on them or dots for subitizing.
Notice, I use containers or baskets that I have on-hand. I make sure everything is easily accessible, so I can pull it out of the pantry/closet or off the shelf and we're ready to go!
Some of our art supplies my children can readily access on their own. This includes markers, paper, scissors, crayons, and colored pencils. I also have pipe cleaners, pom poms, glue, string, and fabric up high in a container with drawers. This requires permission and for me to get down the items per their request.
I have a science bin with science goggles and a graduated cylinder, beaker, test tubes, vinegar, baking soda, food coloring, marbles, recyclables, string, and more.
We have a globe that I keep up high and we pull down together. We also have a world map and U.S. map hanging on the wall, as well as a World Atlas text and geography-based puzzles that are readily available to my children.
Making Materials Accessible to My Kiddos
I have paper and art supplies that my children can access anytime. I also have a set of pencils, markers, scissors, and a pencil sharpener that I pull down when we are working together on tasks requiring these materials.
My Supplies for Creating Homeschooling Materials
I have several small to medium sized boxes and containers that I use to store index cards,
paper cups and plates, Sharpies, packing tape, blue painter’s tape, plastic sleeves, and dry erase markers. These can be found in the pantry, with the exception of the Sharpies. Those are tucked away in a cabinet, out of my children’s reach. They would use the Sharpies every minute of every day, if I let them. I also tuck away the dry erase markers in a drawer. Too often the tops are accidentally left off and they dry out. Now, I give them each two dry erase markers at a time and collect them back once their finished drawing or writing with the dry erase markers.
We take about 50% of our learning activities outside. We have large wooden dice, chalk and chalkboards, clipboards and paper, along with pencils and markers. These items are stored in the garage. My goal is to create a laminated set of alphabet and number cards - coming soon! I plan to just use index cards, Sharpies, and packing tape.
Enjoy and play on,
Hollie Young, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, Thoughtful Play
Former Math Teacher (10 years)
Current Homeschooling Mama (children 4.5 and 6 years-old)