We all hear a lot about getting organized and keeping the clutter down. But today I want to talk about becoming organized in a strategic way… a way that helps our homeschool day run smoothly. It’s not really about making the pencils and markers look pretty and organized, though that definitely has its appeal. It’s about making sure our days flow smoothly. That the kids have some sense of what needs to be accomplished and can work independently whenever possible.
How do we make our homeschools run like a well-oiled machine? And how does that happen? It takes some thinking and planning ahead of time. That’s what I want to talk about today.
When it comes to strategic organization, here are some of the things might want to ask yourself:
- Where will we keep curriculum books?
- Where will we keep library books?
- Where will basic supplies be kept? (Will there be a pencil nearby when it’s needed?!!)
- Where will each subject take place in your home?
- How will the kids know what to do each day?
- Will the kids be able to get started on their work independently from you? If so, how will you keep them updated?
- With sticky-notes in their book?
- With a planner?
- With weekly planner page?
- With a subject journal/notebook?
- With a white board?
- On a bulletin board?
- Will we have subjects that the kids need to cover each day? several times a week? twice a week?
So obviously, our Back to Homeschool Challenge for Day 2… is organization. That can mean that you spend 20 minutes tackling a hot spot or re-organizing some part of your homeschool room… or it could mean thinking about how you will move from one subject to another.
- Will you have a designated spot for all your curriculum?
- Will you move around to different parts of the house?
- Will you do certain subjects in a particular area?
You’ll want to think about the strategy behind your homeschool materials. Here are some systems that you might want to consider:
When my kids were quite little — I think the kids were about 18mo, 3 and 5 or so — I found a system that really resonated with me. It was based on a book by Sue Patrick called the Workbox System (affiliate link). A quick internet search will also bring up hundreds of examples that different homeschool families have implemented.
There was a group that formed – and hundreds of us joined… We were all inspired by the book and by each other. We shared cute labels and workbox ideas with one another. We were all energized and excited by what it did to our homeschools… The system gives a bit of structure and routine to the kids’ days with visual reminders of what’s next and what has already been accomplished.
How does the system work? If you’re interested I suggest you read the book, but in a nutshell it is a physical set-up with labels. Sue suggested shoe boxes placed on a wire rack. Many of us wound up ordering various drawer systems. Here’s a peak at ours; they now sell the 10-drawer sets on Amazon (affiliate link):
Other people purchased magazine holders like these (affiliate link) and placed them on bookshelves.
Anyway, the workboxes are labeled with numbers (or many of us labeled them with the subject name). These are attached with velcro. As students finish their work, they remove the labels and place those on a schedule strip. I’ve made an example set below that you’re welcome to download and print out.
The workboxes are filled with basic curriculum, fun boxes, perhaps a “work with Mom card/s,” or even snacks or “go play outside for 15 minutes.” Each evening the boxes are re-stocked and materials are back in their place.
With this system you can cover the subjects in different orders each day. And since you might want to cover certain subjects only on certain days, Sue suggested that you fill out a curriculum grid. Then you could include something like math everyday, but spelling just twice a week.
This system worked well for us for a while especially when the kids were younger. As with most things, though, we’ve grown and changed things up. We still use the drawer system, but we don’t use the numbers and rotating boxes. I guess that’s partly because the kids have more autonomy now and can choose the order in which they tackle their independent work. I’ll talk about how things are organized for us now in just a minute.
First, I’d like to go on to mention another system that works for many homeschool families…
Kristi over at Raising Clovers does a terrific job of explaining how she uses hanging file folders to organize her entire year! She has the weeks neatly labeled and has a file folder color for each of her kids. Then she tears apart the kids’ workbooks and places the pages they need to cover each week in their folder. She has a post and video that describe her system that you might want to check out.
Other homeschoolers use file crates with folders for each subject and/or for each day of the week…
Again, you might want to do a quick google search if this system sounds appealing. It has the added benefit of not taking up anywhere near as much space as workboxes.
Homeschool Subject Areas
As my kids have gotten older, we’ve moved away from workboxes to organize our day. We use them mainly to hold packets, workbooks, and textbooks. Our workboxes are labeled (with a label maker) with subjects. The kids don’t go through each workbox over the course of the day like they used to.
Over the course of our homeschool day, we move physically to different parts of the homeschool room (or house!) for different subjects.
The best example of this is our Writing Workshop area. I wrote a post about Creating our Writing Workshop Space. It was really important that we establish a writing routine and we had a specific space set up to hold our writing journals (including mine!) as well as various office supplies. (The kids love the date stamp we now have in that area!) These two photos are from a couple of years ago, but the routine we established with our writing workshop helped writing to become one of our *favorite* subjects!! (I’ll link to some of those posts below.)
We also have a set area for German, which has everything we need for our foreign language activities… 4 chairs arranged in a circle, their German texts and books, a CD player, books, portable DVD player (for movies in German), conversation cards, etc. Again, the kids know when it’s time for German we all meet there… everything is at my fingertips and the routine is predictable.
We have a spot near the dining room table for our read aloud novel. We still spend time during lunch time to read something together… even though the kids generally have one (or more!!) books that they are reading for literature and/or history.
Likewise, the kids have set places for some of the materials they use regularly. ED and DD have desks in our homeschool room, but LD now prefers to work on math and a couple of other subjects quietly in his room. He has a basket to hold various texts, journals, etc. upstairs in his room (rather than in the workboxes in our homeschool room).
Having a set space for certain subjects has helped with the transition from one subject to another.
I’m telling you all this not because what works for me will work for you, but because we’ll all tweak and adjust through the years!
Today’s Homeschool Challenge is to look at your home in a new way. What will work for you *this* year? Will kids work independently on certain subjects? If so, where is the best place to house that material? What subjects will you do together? Where will that be done? Will you move to different areas of the house?
Do you want to set up a curriculum grid to make sure you cover certain subjects on certain days? Will there be a predictable routine or will you change things up each day?
There’s a lot to think about, right?!! Good luck!
You might also want to check out this post:
FREE Homeschool Planner: Oh, and if you’re interested I finally got around to sharing our Homeschool Planning pages this year. I like to jot things down on paper. This is more of a Homeschool Vision Planner (it is not a daily planner with attendance sheets and stuff). You’ll find that FREE to download at this post:
See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! Don’t forget to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter. You might also want to check out some of our resources pages above (such as our Science, Language Arts, or History Units Resource Pages) which have links to dozens of posts. You might want to join our free Homeschool Den Chat Facebook group. Don’t forget to check out Our Store as well. ~Liesl
P.S. Our store is getting a bit of a make-over. Hooray! I can’t tell you how many people have asked me if there was a way to purchase more than one item at a time. Since I run this blog on my own and always super busy juggling our homeschooling (and homeschool planning), outside activities, and work on the website/business… it has taken a long time to get to this! (Sheepish grin here!)
You can pop over to check out our store here:
I’ve chosen not to use pop-up boxes at this point, but you can click here to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter! Newsletters will resume in the Fall.
Above I promised I would link to some of our Writing Workshop Posts. We have dozens, but here are some to get your started!
Do you want to learn more about starting your own Homeschool Writing Workshop? Here are some related posts:
- Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing program
- Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #2: Creating a Writing Workshop Area and Materials to Have on Hand
- Creating a Writing Workshop Post #3: This post is about Mini-Lessons during writing time, mentor texts and includes reviews of 8 or 9 writing books that you might find helpful.
- Writing Resource Pack: This is a post about the 30-page pack I made for our writing workshop. Reference pages on the 6 +1 Wri ting Traits, Mini-Lessons, the types of writing, creating a powerful beginning, techniques for ending a story/paper, and so forth. (These writing resources are free to download.)
- Writing Workshop: Dr. Seuss Style: The kids and I had fun writing in the style of Dr. Seuss!
- Biography Research Paper Resource Pack
- Practical Pointers for Working with a Reluctant Writer (or any Writer)
- Writing Activity to Spark Kids’ Imagination!
- 40 Journal Writing Prompts (Free Printable)
- Animal Portfolio Project: writing, art and geography activities that go with any animals… With many activities to choose from. Writing activities include both fiction and non-fiction suggestions such as
- Write a speech or a letter to the president on why your animal needs protection in the wild.
- Menu: Create a humorous menu at a restaurant where your animals would like to eat.
- WWII Portfolio Project
- Writing Workshop: What We’re Doing for Writing This Fall
- Writing Workshop Rules! Why the Writing Workshop continues to work so well in our homeschool.