When we first dove into homeschooling, I was convinced it would be more magical with a room dedicated to the craft. Or maybe I just wanted to paint a giant tree up the wall and onto the ceiling, because I totally did!
So I spent half of the summer painting clouds and a reading tree and building bookcases and just generally creating a magical environment in which to teach my children magical things. I spent the other half obsessing over curriculum and subjects and homeschool methods.
I admit I was kind of a disaster!
(This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosures for more information.)
It didn’t take me long to realize that homeschool isn’t all sparkly unicorns and rainbows, no matter where you homeschool, and that my isolated, out-of-the-way, basement school room, as cute as it was, would never be as convenient as my kitchen (central to the laundry room and the nursery). Unfortunately, I’m not a quitter and we persevered through a couple of hard years.
Our first year homeschooling I had a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and an infant. Before long, we added a couple more children and a pet. Banishing myself to the dungeon daily became less and less practical.
Our school room evolved into a playroom. A defunct one.
Keeping your adorable dinosaur counters (like counting bears math manipulatives, but the cutest dinosaurs you’ve ever seen) on an open shelf in your playroom is not ideal. I had to replace those darn counters (they weren’t dinosaurs every time — we got to try out all the cute sets) every year no matter how fiercely I forbade their use as toys.
Oh, and art supplies in the play room? That’s only a good idea if you want your play room too look like paint ball headquarters.
We had also reached a point in our familial development cycle in which school and life had become inseparably intertwined. I was nursing babies and feeding little people and cleaning and changing diapers AND doing school.
It didn’t work to try to force school into a separate space. School really wanted to happen at the heart of our home — the kitchen table.
So we’d drag school supplies up the stairs and then we’d drag it back down the stairs. Or at least that was the intent. The playroom was a black hole, and who really wants to put things away where they go in a black hole?
So school supplies ended up strung out all over the house. Remember how I said I was a disaster?
About that time the hubs switched jobs and we had to move and his company paid for the movers and for an executive rental for a few months until we found a home. I took advantage of that move to purge thoroughly and to formulate a plan for moving forward in a more organized way.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized yet that our homeschool really wanted to happen in the kitchen. Duh!
So I built a brand new problem, though, again, a cute one. My thoughts were that our former school room had been too closed off and isolated, so we decided to finish our new basement into one gigantic room.
Well, not really. That room was only about half of the basement, but it was huge. And I added a nice, big closet with locking doors for all of our homeschool supplies.
And again, school migrated to the kitchen. This time we had a little desk area for books and supplies in the kitchen, so it wasn’t crazy messy. And because our school room downstairs wasn’t the play room, it also worked a little better. It was easier to keep clean and organized anyway, probably in part because it wasn’t getting much use.
It was a step in the right direction, but not a big enough one.
We moved again a few years ago to a larger home and farm. This was my chance to finally get it right. Our space has been a loooong time in the making, but I think I finally have it down.
I knew we needed a huge closet devoted to the homeschool supplies we don’t need on a daily basis (things like lab equipment, art supplies, geography puzzles and textbooks not currently in use). But it needed to be in a dual purpose space so it wouldn’t be wasted (I finally realized we were never going to homeschool in a homeschool room).
School was going to happen around the kitchen table whether I liked it or not, so I needed to devote a cabinet and a bank of drawers in the kitchen to our textbooks and homeschool supplies that we need daily. It took us over ten years, but we finally arrived at a situation that fits us perfectly.
Do you want a little tour?
Our homeschool closet is one wall of our library, plus our library’s lower cabinets give us plenty of behind-door storage. The closet is where we keep textbooks, curriculum and homeschool supplies, but not literature.
We still always have literature in every room of the house, but it’s lovely to have a dedicated space for the majority of the books and to be able to organize them by subject. And it’s lovely to have a great big window seat so we really utilize the space.
We remodeled our kitchen after moving in and I made sure to include an extra cabinet for all of the kids binders (which is where they keep their personal lesson plans and supplies) and textbooks, plus our morning basket. The extra bank of drawers I included is home to all of the math games, manipulatives and supplies that we use daily but don’t belong to the children. They stay out of my drawers!
I also wanted a cute chalkboard (the kids have individual white boards in their binders) and a display area (the pantry door) for things we are in the process of working on. None of us are sentimental and we don’t keep the kid’s projects, though I do take photos and make memory books.
Obviously, your home will look much different because your family dynamics are different. But I always think it helps to see how other people do things. Plus it’s just fun to look through people’s homes!
Back when we had a dedicated school room, I’d put up our history timeline and we had a huge wall map, a cursive letter display and a bulletin board for the kid’s artwork. I don’t want those things in my kitchen.
Losing those cute, “school-y” displays was probably one of the hardest things about deciding to get rid of our school room. At the time I thought they probably contributed to a love of learning.
We don’t even miss them!
I know I could hang them in the library, but I just never have and I don’t really want to and we don’t miss them.
Anyway, our current setup works really well for us mostly because it’s convenient for me. I can work on all of my chores from the kitchen so I don’t have to leave my kids working in the school room and then come back to find that they’ve all disappeared or are on their electronics or just playing. It’s also convenient for snacking, haha!
You’ll find the most success and happiness when you organize your homeschool in such a way that your needs are met as well as your childrens. Everything is better when you don’t feel like you could be featured on an episode of hoarders!
Homeschool Supplies Organization
By supplies, I typically mean things like pencils, paper, crayons, markers, glue, etc… I estimate what we’ll need all year and purchase it in August when the huge back-to-school sales are going on.
I store these things in organized, labeled baskets in our homeschool closet. When they’re stored in baskets, I feel like it keeps our closet tidier and it gives it a uniform look. When things are tidy, my kids tend to put things away better.
I also include supplies I need, like laminating sheets, coils for binding, printer paper and ink cartridges, because they also go on sale in August. I keep them on the very top shelf in our homeschool closet so they don’t get played with.
Homeschool Books Organization
I’d be a liar and a hypocrite if I told you our literature was organized. I keep the textbooks and school books organized, but that’s because I can lock them up!
Instead of trying to fight this losing battle, I settle for having books upright on the shelves with the spines showing. And that’s enough for me for now. When my kids are older I might be willing to take on that battle, and I’ll organize them at least by author, the way the library does.
I have one friend who does a great job at keeping their literature organized. She organizes them by author, but she also color codes them by subject, using little colored circles on the spine. Now those are homeschool organization goals!
Digital Homeschool Resources Organization
We use lots of digital resources in our homeschool, just because I always find such terrific resources for free! (And I share a ton of them in my newsletter, so if you’re not already on my email list you should be!) Kindle also has really great, free offerings.
During the 17 years we’ve homeschooled, we’ve accumulated quite a library of digital resources. I love that I can just print off what we need and throw them away once we’ve used them. I don’t have to store them for subsequent children and they don’t junk up my house.
I bought an inexpensive terrabyte external hard drive years ago, but you could also use a thumb drive. I just didn’t want to fill it up too quick and have to keep track of multiple thumb drives. I have a folder for each subject, including lots of extracurricular subjects, and a folder for organization where I keep planning materials.
Inside each subject folder, I’ve created subfolders for grades or for further breakdowns of the subjects. For example, my math folder contains folders for multiplication and division, fractions, graphing, order of operations, etc…
That way you can pretty easily find whatever you’re looking for. The key thing is to rename the resources you download to something you’ll be able to recognize later, so you don’t have to spend hours going through each file.
Digital resource organization can help you save money in your homeschool because you have things on hand for when you need them, but you don’t have to print them until you need them, potentially saving yourself the paper and ink for things you might not end up using.
A Place For Everything and Everything in its Place
When everything has a place you will have peace. Just kidding — maybe that only applies to me. Nothing makes me more irritable than messes or having to search for lost things that I know I put away. And both of those issues can be solved by having a place for everything and putting everything in its place.
My biggest organization hack (and it applies to your entire household, not just your homeschool) is to take care of things right away. Don’t procrastinate things until later, but do it right now, and teach your children to do the same.
I don’t even bring junk mail into my house because I don’t want the clutter. I go through the mail while walking up the driveway and toss any junk mail in the rubbish bin before coming back inside.
I also don’t save paper clutter, even if it’s a project that took my kiddos hours to complete (our state doesn’t require a portfolio — if they did I’d cry). If they’ve worked hard on something, I’ll take a picture of it and include it in a memory book so they can remember it.
Fun Tools for Homeschool Organization
I love the fancy, lazy susan type art caddies, but sometimes you just need something functional and cheap. These are both functional (look at how much it will hold!) and cheap, but they’re also super cute and they’re compact enough to fit anywhere. A simple art caddy will help you to organize all of those art supplies and will make it easy to keep them neat and tidy.
I actually bought the one we use at Walmart for $1.99 and it still looks great after 10+ years!
I use these all over my house because they make organization easy. You might already have some you could pull from elsewhere in your house. The best baskets for homeschool organization are rectangular so they fit on shelves. I particularly like baskets with labels, but if they don’t have built-in labels, you can add one by writing on an index card and tying it to the handle.
You can get super cute, super cheap galvanized buckets at IKEA. I think the last 3-pack I purchased was about $5. I use these for organization all over my house. They’re great for holding markers, paint brushes, crayons and pretty much anything else you can think of.
File Folder Expanding Organizers
I showed you above how I use these to organize all of our file folders by subject. We use a lot of file folder games and lap books, and they take time and effort to make, so I like to keep them in good condition. After laminating them, I staple a zip top bag to the back to hold any small pieces, and then we store them in these file folders to keep track of them.
I let my kids earn prizes from our “sticker basket” on Friday mornings, and one of the ways they “earn stickers” is by playing Spanish games or math games to review concepts.
Rolling Drawer Cart
I don’t have one of these, but I’ve always thought they looked incredibly helpful for homeschool organization! You could have a different drawer for each child’s work and an inbox/outbox for yourself! The drawers would also be a great way to store office supplies and books.
I think these were originally intended as magazine holders, but they work great for holding answer keys and books that should be kept together. I like to use science readers to get my kiddos thinking and asking questions and math readers because math discussion is as necessary to great number sense as problem solving. But I don’t like those, or our phonetic readers, beginning readers, and Spanish and Latin readers out on our literature shelves. They seem to get ruined when the kids have free access to them. So I keep them in these vertical organizers!
How do you organize your homeschool?
The honest answer is however works best for you! Check out some ideas on Pinterest. Read some blog posts.
Then mull it over. Don’t jump into something just because it’s cute and you want to paint an enormous reading tree on your wall.
Ask yourself where homeschooling will be most convenient for you. Where can you actually make it happen? How much storage do you require? List your desires for your ideal school room.
Then try homeschooling for a little while and see where you all gravitate. Those questions will help you come up with the perfect solution for your own family.
Pin these homeschool organization solutions for later!
Do you have any brilliant homeschool organization solutions? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!