I chuckle when friends or family comment on how organized I am. Between homeschool, my home based business, Girl Scouts, softball, singing and instrument lessons and the 4,345 things we are committed to each week I’m not sure how I manage to keep everyone on track and where they are supposed to be. I definitely don’t consider myself “organized” by any means, but I do have some systems in place and have learned a few homeschooling hacks to help keep our heads above water.
1. Have a dedicated space for homeschooling
This helps us keep our homeschool books and supplies in one area so we aren’t constantly searching for things. Now, we do like to take our schoolwork to other rooms in the house, outside or even in the truck when we travel but our books and supplies always make it back to their dedicated space.
Bonus points if you label the areas where everything should go. This helps the younger ones learn organization, prompts them to learn to read the labels and makes clean up time much easier.
2. Use subject tubs to keep books, supplies, and activities together
We use various sizes and styles, depending on what we need to keep in them. This helps us keep any manipulatives, flashcards, workbooks, readers, and other things associated with that topic in one spot while we are learning about it. Once we finish that topic, we empty the bins and put those items back in their regular spaces and refill the bin with the next topic. This works well since we do a lot of unit studies and jump from theme to theme each month.
Some of our bins are permanent and hold all the materials for subjects like Spanish, Sassafras Science or Pet Store Math. This way I can tell the girls we are going to work on a Spanish lesson and they can immediately go and grab that bin. We use several different types of bins for each group of items. We like the open baskets for unit studies and themes (these aren’t the exact ones we have but similar and what we are transitioning to).
We also like to use magazine holders when we have a lot of larger books or for subjects that are going to remain in the bin.
Then for subjects or curriculum that has lots of extras we use the Sterilite storage boxes. They stack perfectly on the shelves and can be moved around without losing any of the pieces inside!
3. Use plastic page protectors
These are extremely handy to use on workbooks that will be passed down between children. This helps save on the cost and keeps me from having to laminate any pages. We like these ones because you can load from the top or the side – so you can slip a page from a book inside without having to tear it out.
4. Get a library card to save money and sanity
If you have a library card (and you definitely should) use the library’s online system to hold books ahead of time. Then you can stop by and pick them up which saves you tons of time searching and wrangling children while trying to be super quiet in the library. We utilize our library for lots of additional reading for our unit studies and when we can’t get a book in time from the inter-library loan system, we download them on our Kindle using our library card and the Libby app. I make a list of the books we need each month and try to make the trip once per month.
You can grab our free Library Book Log printable from our Reading Printables Pack to stay organized and ensure all those library books get returned on time…..or at least returned! Read more about our favorite library hacks and how we get the most out of our library card.
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5. Keep a running portfolio
If you’ve created and submitted a portfolio at the end of the school year then you know how much of a hassle it is to sift back through a year’s worth of work. We keep “running portfolios” for the girls so at the end of the year I just need to add some labels and dividers and they are finished. We simply dedicate a 3 ring binder for each kid at the beginning of the school year and then as they complete work throughout the year I select pieces that they add to the binder instead of leaving with their regular work. This also ensures that we include enough samples from throughout the entire year and not just the beginning and end.
Just a tip – you’ll want to grab a 2″ or 3″ binder because those samples can pile up quickly!
6. Use digital copies of teacher’s manuals
We have accumulated SO MANY BOOKS over the period of just 5 years. Many curriculum have workbooks, textbooks and teacher’s manuals and as you can imagine, it starts to really pile up. I recently found that many publishers offer digital formats for their books. Although I’d love to move to all digital, the girls really enjoy having the physical texts and workbooks. But I can still get the digital copy for the teacher’s manual.
I use this many different ways:
- save all the teacher’s guides in one place on my iPad using Goodnotes
- project it using our Apple TV so we can all view the teacher’s guide (works especially well with our Gather Round units)
- use snippets from the guide to drop into my digital planner in Goodnotes
- highlight, make notes, create lists, etc and then erase or reset for the next kid if needed
7. Keep a moving schedule
I’ve seen lots of amazing homeschool schedules or outlines on the internet and while we do usually follow a schedule, I think it’s important for the unorganized family to realize they can be fluid with their scheduling. This is one area that can quickly stress you out and make you feel defeated. I created this elaborate schedule when we started homeschooling Amelia. It was precise, down to the minute and included the exact pages and worksheets we would work on daily. I quickly realized though that one of the things we love about homeschooling is that we can work school around our life or incorporate it into our life.
Keep a weekly goal list of all the assignments, lessons, projects and reading you want to accomplish. Then, as your week progresses you can see how you are tracking and adjust as needed. This way if you get a beautifully sunny day and decide to head to lake to fish, catch crawdads and kayak while identifying birds – no harm to your schedule, just adjust the rest of week and keep moving!
8. Schedule a printing day
Printing resources, worksheets and projects can take a long time – especially if you heavily rely on online resources or digital copies of your curriculum. I found myself spending 30+ minutes each morning locating and then printing what we needed for the day.
I started scheduling a “print session” once a week (or every two weeks, depending on how far ahead I have planned). I save all the resources that need printed to one folder in our Dropbox as I find them or plan them. Then, I schedule time to sit and print the entire week’s worth of pages.
It’s been especially simple since I can now print directly from my phone to our Epson Ecotank Printer. I can even do all the printing while I’m laying in bed in the evening!
I hope you found some of these tips helpful and you are ready to implement them into your homeschooling routine. We have found that these simple steps or items have helped us save time and energy which keeps mom less stressed and able to focus more on learning and having fun alongside the kids!
If you have more homeschooling hacks that you swear by – I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!