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Holiday Sale

It’s my favorite time of year! The air is crisp, there’s a fire in the pellet stove, and my children and I are baking up a storm! There’s just something so homey and warm about a Christmas tree and holiday lights. It makes me want to snuggle on the couch with a good book and some hot chocolate.

To kick off the holiday season, we’re having a sale you won’t want to miss! From November 27 – December 5 you can take 30% off your entire purchase when you use the code “HolidayFun” at checkout.

If you’ve been wondering if Build Your Library is the right program for you, this is a great time to try it out and see for yourself.

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Charlotte Mason 101 – Living Books

I’ve been doing a series at my youtube channel called Charlotte Mason 101, where I talk about different aspects of the Charlotte Mason philosophy and how I incorporate them into my homeschool. Today I made a video about living books, so I thought I’d share it here with all of you!

I hope you enjoyed the video! If you like it and have any ideas for future videos in the series, please let me know! I will see what I can create. 😉

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Holiday Countdown!

Holiday Countdown

Not to alarm any of you, but there are only 50 days until Christmas! So that means there are only:

– 22 days until Thanksgiving

– 23 days until Black Friday

– 56 days until New Years!

We have been using these cool Countdown Clocks for Christmas for years. Every Christmas morning it goes off at 6AM, then it immediately gets reset for 364 days and counting until next Christmas. It is a little disappointing to see over 300 days but the clock gets left on the living room bookshelf and forgotten for weeks at a time. With the exception of a few random glances over the past several months, it had recently come back into play when it hit the T minus 90 day mark. Now it gets almost daily attention as it ticks closer and closer… Did I mention there are only 50 days left until Christmas?!

These countdown clocks only run about $10 or so, and they come in a variety of different themes, such as wedding countdown, retirement, vacation, etc. But the front face pops off pretty easily and the themed paper boarder can be flipped over or replaced with any design you can come up with… hence the “bloody machine gun snowman” my then 12-year-old drew last year for Christmas.

But don’t panic! You can make the best of the next few weeks by studying one of our holiday themed unit studies! We have a Thanksgiving Unit Study that is perfect for learning the history behind the holiday. Then we have a Jan Brett Christmas unit, which is a gentle and relaxing lead up to Christmas (it even comes with a fun countdown chain you and your children can decorate and use to count down the days until Christmas morning!) as well as a Winter Holidays Around the World – which explores a variety of holidays, from Christmas and Hanukkah, to Chinese New Year and Kwanzaa. All of these units are suitable for elementary age students (with the Jan Brett unit being geared to the youngest learners) and are a steal at just $5.99 each!

In the next few weeks, I’ll also be re-running our Educational Gifts series that I created last year, which will be highlighting some of our favorite educational gift ideas. And of course, our annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale will start on November 27 – it’s one of our biggest sales of the year, so you won’t want to miss it!




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Nature Study Tips and Tricks

I find that one of the hardest parts of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education for modern parents to adapt is Nature Study. In this video, I give you some tips and resources to take the fear out of studying nature with your children. I share some of my favorite resources, and I take my youngest on a nature walk and show your how we do Nature Study at our house.

I hope you enjoy the video! My kids finally wore me down and we started a family youtube channel. I plan on doing some more videos about how we make use of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education, as well as book reviews, fun field trips and more. So if you like what you see, we’d love for you to subscribe to the channel!


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New Unit Study: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

It’s time to head back to Hogwarts! 20151004_162111

I’m excited to announce that the third unit in our Harry Potter unit series, based upon Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,  is finished and ready to purchase! I had so much fun writing this unit – it’s always a pleasure to return to Hogwarts and the world of Harry Potter.

IMAG2133Buckle up, because this is an exciting year at Hogwarts! There’s a murderer on the loose, and he’s after Harry Potter! While the school tightens security, Harry has to learn to deal with fear, dementors, a new, mysterious Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and new information about his family’s past.

In this unit, like the units preceding it, you’ll continue your Magical Terms and Spells Glossary, Magical Devices Guide and Weekly Prophet, but you’ll also be adding in a Travel Guide to the Wizarding World, noting all the interesting places a new young witch or wizard might want (or need) to visit. As always, there are copywork/dictation passages taken from the novel, as well as vocabulary and discussion questions.

This year’s Hogwarts course is Care of Magical Creatures! Much like the characters in the 2015-10-16 13.23.45story, you’ll be learning about mythical beasts, as well as mythology and origin stories. Using Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Monsters and The Mythical Creatures Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Beings your child will be creating their very own Monster Book of Monsters – similar to the one in the story (only much less dangerous!).

The Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban unit study will take approximately 4 weeks to complete and is appropriate for upper-elementary and up. The PDF file is 55 pages and includes a full schedule, project ideas and 17 activity pages.

Purchase the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Unit Study – $5.99

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Favorite Fall Reads

10606249_10204211670107812_3386104408020602338_nThe leaves are changing, the air is getting crisp and cool, and the school year is new and fresh. It’s the season of apples and pumpkins and football. Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year so I have quite the collection of fall themed picture books that I love to share with my children round about September. I thought I would share a few of my family’s favorite fall picture books with you on this first day of Autumn.
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

This is one of my all time favorite fall picture books. It reminds me of one of my children, who when he was small, wanted to put the leaves back onto the trees. Fletcher is a sweet, caring little fox who is distressed that his favorite tree is shedding it’s leaves. The story is sweet, but the illustrations are what really make it great. The pictures are just glorious.

Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro.

Why Do Leaves Change Color is the perfect pairing with Fletcher. I’m a big fan of the whole Let’s Read and Find Out series, and this book has an excellent explanation for children as to why the leaves are changing. I love that it gives a real explanation, using scientific terms (like pigment and chlorophyll) but also making it understandable for the youngest listeners.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

Lois Ehlert’s picture books are just gorgeous. I love her style of watercolors and collage – you can linger over the illustrations for hours. Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf tells the life story of a sugar maple tree. I love that she tells the story in a beautiful way so that it feels like a story, but like Why Do Leaves Change Color, she doesn’t talk down to children. In the back of the book she explains scientific facts and even includes instructions for planting your own tree and making treats for birds.

Apples, Apples, Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Apples, Apples, Apples is a sweet story about a family of bunnies and their trip to the apple orchard. This has been a favorite in our family for many years. We always read it before we take our annual trip to the orchard for apple picking. I love the fact that the author includes a chart of different apple varieties and what they are best used for – cider, baking or just eating. The author also includes some great information like how apples grow, how many seeds are in an apple and even a recipe for homemade applesauce.

Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson

Pumpkin Circle is a lovely poetic story about the life cycle of a pumpkin – from seed to jack-o-lantern. My children appreciate that the pictures are real photographs rather than drawings. In the back of the book the author includes scientific information as well as tips for planting your own pumpkin patch.

 Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell

Pumpkin Jack is another great life cycle story. Tim carves a jack-o-lantern and names him Jack. But rather than throw Jack in the garbage when he starts to rot, he puts him in the garden and watches how he changes throughout the seasons. Eventually fall comes around again and he has lots of pumpkins to share. Lovely illustrations really capture the story.

One of he best things about most of these books is that they are great lead-ins to Nature Study! You just can’t help but go outdoors after reading them, and investigate the season’s changes yourself. What are your families favorite fall reads?


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B2HS: Tips for a Great First Day

This is the 5th and final post in my Back to “Home” School blog series. So far this week, I’ve given advice to the new homeschooling mother, helped you to get your school materials organized, and given you tips to avoid burnout, and shown you a variety of ways to make your own timeline. Today I’m going to give you some tips to have a great first day of school!


Is there anything more exciting than the first day of school? All those new books and shiny new school supplies…it’s pure joy. I don’t know about you, but after a long enjoyable summer, it’s still a huge relief to get back to our normal routines.

Many families have special traditions for the first day of school. My goal every year is to make this a special day, one they’ll look forward to at the end of summer. Here are a couple ways you could choose to make your homeschool opening day great:

313323_2276889077568_4088768_n1. Make a special breakfast treat. I know I can’t be the only one with kids who love junk food for breakfast. I usually try to keep meals healthy, but on the first day back to school we splurge. My children LOVE monkey bread. It’s been our go-to 1st day breakfast for the past 7 or 8 years. Maybe you could make chocolate chip pancakes or french toast with syrup and whipped cream… or even better – go out for breakfast to your favorite diner or restaurant. 

309665_2276889597581_201391_n2. Take first day of school pictures. Every year, I take a first day photo of each of my children. Since we rarely get professional portraits done, these are special treasured photographs of my children as they grow up. I love looking back at older 1st day pictures to see how they’ve matured. They each pick out a special “first day of school” outfit to wear and if the weather is nice, we go outdoors for our pictures.

58838_4426125767142_329765418_n3. Do some fun things first. Start your year off with something they are already excited about. Is your child really into art? Begin with a fun art project. Does she love science? Start with a science experiment. Begin with a new read aloud, a nature hike, an exciting field trip… whatever gets you and your children excited to jump back into learning mode. One year, we started off with a Harry Potter theme. All of the spelling words were from the books (pensieve, lumos, wizard, etc.), we made wands, read aloud one of the books, wrote copywork and dictation from the books, did some chemistry experiments (potions class!), and sorted ourselves into Hogwarts houses (thanks to Pottermore).

4. Complete an “All About Me” survey. This is a fun thing you can do every year just like pictures. It’s a great way to get another form of a snapshot of your child right now. It can be great fun to go back and see how they’ve changed over the years.

Download All_About_Me Survey

5. Go out to dinner. If you didn’t already do it for breakfast, consider going out to eat dinner as a special treat. It can be a great time to reflect on our first day back, discuss goals for the year, and just kick back and enjoy time out as a family when no one has to be in charge of either cooking or clean up.

6. Go on a Field Trip: What could be a better way to celebrate the start of a new year than taking a trip to the beach, a state park, or a local museum. Not only will you get to do something fun, but the crowds should be minimal, because everyone else is back in school.  Pack a lunch and make it a picnic – for some reason my kids think simple pb&j sandwiches and juice boxes taste better when eaten on a blanket at the local park. 😉

It can be easy for us moms to get wrapped up in the curriculum, the schedule, the dailiness of school. But by just working in a few simple things, we can add meaning to the day and make special memories in the process. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

I’d love to hear your first day of school traditions! What do you do to kickstart your school year?

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B2HS: Build Your Own Timeline 101

This is the 4th post in my Back to “Home” School blog series. So far this week, I’ve given advice to the new homeschooling mother, helped you to get your school materials organized, and given you tips to avoid burnout. Today we’re going to talk about timelines!

BYL Timeline 101

Timelines are essential when it comes to showing your children the grand scope of history. They help your children see connections, giving them a way to visualize when events overlap that they may have not realized when just reading about them separately. It is one thing to know that something happened in a particular year – memorizing dates is helpful for test taking, but if you want your children to have a deeper understanding of history, you really want to show them events on a timeline.

For instance, did you know that both Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born in 1929? We may think of them as living in distinctly different time periods, but they would have been contemporaries, had Frank lived passed childhood. Timelines can bring these kinds of connections to your children’s attention.

In this post, I will show you the basics, as well as give you some examples of different ways you can make a timeline work in your homeschool.

But how do you create a timeline?

857000_10200317515356377_1699091222_oExample 1: Timelines can come in many shapes and sizes. When we first started out, I went the easy route. I bought the largest  tri-fold display board from our local Staples for about $5, pulled out a yard stick and divided the workspace into sections, drew colored lines and labeled dates. When we got to an event, we colored in the timeline figure, cut it out and used a glue stick to attach it to the board. As far as a “functional” timeline goes, it fit the bill. It was also portable as it folded flat and could be stored out of the way when it wasn’t in use. Was it the prettiest? Nope, but it worked.

Example 2: Eventually our first couple kids outgrew the large wall-style timeline and switched over to a 3-ring binder Book of Centuries. This was also neat, portable and worked well.

But now our youngest is coming up to the year where she will start her timeline project. I told my husband a few weeks ago that I really wanted to put together a wall timeline for her. She’s a very visual person, and I wanted something we could keep out all the time. We have a large section of blank wall space in our school room (or kitchen as it is also known). I expressed a desire to utilize that real estate in some manner, but was quickly shot down by my husband who was hesitant to let me start taping papers to the paint and use my meager art skills to come up with something. So I dropped the project into his lap since he is much more artistic and tasked him into coming up with a visually appealing timeline that he would approve of…

Example 3: He said he would think about it and a week or so later we noticed two good sized bulletin boards sitting out at our local recycling center. After a minute of quick brainstorming, we both knew that this would be the basis for our wall timeline and grabbed them. Originally I was thinking we could just give the boards a coat of fresh paint and use some sort of paper boarder strips for the lines and thumbtack the figures on. But then while they were resting against the bookshelves waiting to be cleaned up, my husband got a better idea. He looked up some old style maps on Amazon and found one that was just a few inched bigger than the boards.

20150821_155947Two days later after Amazon Prime shipping and a trip to Walmart, we were ready to create the “timeline masterpiece” in my husband’s mind. We gathered our materials – 2 “free” 23″ x 35″bulletin boards (notice they are kind of beat up), two 24″x 36″ antique style map posters ($9.55 each), 1″ colored scotch tape in 4 colors ($2.25 each), a Sharpie marker, ruler and thumb tacks. Not pictured are post-it notes, a pen and our handy-dandy label maker.

20150821_171817We removed the frame from the boards so the edges were way up under the molding and cut the maps to fit. Then we tacked them on with  thumb tacks. When we replaced the frame, we made sure the posters were smooth and tight inside the frame. Now we were ready measure out the spacing to add the tape lines to mark the time periods.

When you create a timeline, you want to differentiate the major time periods. For an 20150821_175913elementary student, you can simplify it into four categories – Ancients, Middle Ages – Renaissance, Early Modern and Modern. I like to color code these categories. It really doesn’t matter what colors you use, so long as they are different. Once you have your categories, you can start to place your dates. I used colorful scotch tape for our categories. They just happened to have 5 colors of masking tape at Walmart, so we picked 4 of them. We measured to make sure the periods would be evenly spaced – it will depend on how large of a surface you are working with. We ended up with about 4 inches between each category.

Once you have your colored categories, you can start adding your dates. This is the part that caused me most stress to lay out. When you are creating a historical timeline, it can be difficult to figure out when to begin, how much space between dates, and how many dates. I like to keep things fairly simple – I look at what the earliest event we’ll be covering in history will be, and that’s our starting place. So for our timeline we started at 5000 BCE. Then the distance between dates will change depending on how many events you expect to add. These are the dates I used on our timeline:

Ancients                  Middle Ages – Ren         Early Modern              Modern

B.C.E.                                    C.E.                                       1600                                1860

5000                                       25                                         1625                                1870

4000                                      75                                          1650                                1880

3000                                      100                                       1675                                 1890

2500                                      200                                       1700                                1900

2000                                     300                                       1725                                 1910

1500                                      400                                       1750                                 1920

1250                                      500                                       1775                                  1930

1000                                     600                                       1790                                  1940

900                                       700                                       1800                                  1950

800                                      800                                       1810                                   1960

700                                      900                                        1820                                  1970

650                                      1000                                      1830                                  1980

600                                      1050                                      1840                                  1990

550                                      1100                                       1850                                  2000

500                                      1150                                                                                  2010

450                                      1200                                                                                  2020

400                                      1250

350                                      1300

300                                      1350

250                                      1400

200                                      1450

150                                       1500

50                                         1525

.                                             1550

.                                             1575

20150823_115023I started adding temporary date markers with post-it notes so that it would be easy to adjust them as needed to be sure they all fit. You could add more dates if you have a larger space to work with, but I find these dates sufficient for the elementary aged child, and they fit nicely on a tri-fold display board or my two bulletin boards. Once I arranged the spacing to my liking (about an inch or 2 depending on how many dates I was trying to fit), I created the permanent date stickers with my label maker.  You could just as easily write them on the tape with a Sharpie, but we were aiming for pretty on this project. Since this timeline is hanging prominently in our kitchen where we spend a lot of time, we wanted to make it look as nice as possible. My handwriting is not the greatest, so we broke out the label maker. 😉

This is our finished product (along with my 6 year old who will be the main student using the wall timeline this year):

20150823_144747The maps are purely decorative and will eventually get covered up by timeline event figures, but doesn’t it look nice? :)

This is just one way of making use of a timeline. Not everyone has wall space for something like this, or the patience to put it together. For some more excellent ideas, I asked some Build Your Library customers to send me pictures of their working timelines so that I could share some of their creativity with everyone for some further inspiration.

Example 4: This timeline was created by Annie. She says:

AncientTimelineCollage“The cover and banner are from and the images were free printables from, but I don’t have a color printer.  I just trimmed and taped together file folders, and guessed at most of it. It will be on a wall once we move, but for now it is folded on a bookshelf when not in use.”

20150824_103033Example 5: This timeline was submitted by Diana. She says:

“We used index cards paper-clipped to yarn on our dining room wall. It makes it easy to add additional cards later and gives us a room for a little review info (especially helpful for my husband and I!). It has led to lots of good dinner conversations and games. Our favorite is trying to guess which time line card someone is describing.”



timelineExample 6: This is how Amy set up her timeline. She says:

Here’s a photo of a timeline my daughter, Ava (age 8), and I have been working on.  As I read from Story of the World, she draws a picture.  She then narrates a short sentence or phrase to caption the picture.  We did a timeline for Book 1 about 18 months ago then put it away (attached).  This week, we took it back out to review before starting Book 2.  Although I wasn’t sure what some of the pictures were about, she was able to tell me exactly what they were and how they each tied in with the event!  This is a favorite part of our week for me.

Example 7: Finally, here’s Claire’s wall timeline. She says:We will be starting this week so there are no figures on it yet. I wanted to have the whole thing fully visible so I used an 11 foot long piece of paper and hung it in our hallway.”


Thanks Annie, Diana, Amy and Claire!

So as you can see – timelines can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be. I hope that I’ve taken some of the fear and confusion out of the process.

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B2HS: Tips for Avoiding Homeschooling Burn Out

This is the third post in my Back to “Home” School blog series. I’ve given some advice to new homeschooling mothers and helped you to get your materials organized for a great year. Today, I’m going to give you some tips to avoiding burn out.

avoiding burnoutWhether this is your first year or your 13th, no one is immune to homeschooling burn out. It can strike at any time, but for many, it hits right around February, when your smack in the middle of the winter doldrums and everyone is getting tired of the same routine.

How do you know you are experiencing homeschooling burn-out? Well, let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms:

  • Are you feeling like maybe it’s time to just send your children to the local public school?
  • Do you want to toss your school books out the window?
  • Do you find yourself feeling irritable at everyone all day?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed?

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, then you are probably experiencing burn out. We all question our decision to homeschool at some point in time, but if you step back and re-evaluate and realize that you did make the right decision, then it’s time to dig your way out of the quagmire of fatigue.

Get inspired with a good book.

Here are a few of my favorite go-to homeschooling books:

  • The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home You really can’t go wrong with The Well Trained Mind – it’s probably my all time favorite homeschool read. I also adore Susan Wise Bauer’s Audio Lectures – and she even has one on avoiding burn out!
  • Learning All The Time – really any of John Holt’s books are a great place to go in order to remind yourself of why you are on this journey in the first place. I first read this book when my oldest was about 7, and I’ve returned to it several times since. I would never consider myself an unschooler, but I love the idea that learning is always happening, and that children naturally want to learn.
  • The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 Ruth Beechick’s books were some of the first I read when I began homeschooling. She lays out a great foundation for the K-3 years in The Three R’s and then extends it with You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, which covers grades 4 – 8. There is a bit of Christian content in You Can Teach, but it’s easy to skip over.
  • A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning
    If the thought of reading Charlotte Mason’s original writings overwhelms you (they are massive!) then this is a beautifully written guide to how to give your children a Charlotte Mason style education. It was one of the first books I read about the Charlotte Mason philosophy. This book does come from a Christian perspective, so if that would bother you, definitely skip it. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a secular Charlotte Mason book. I should probably get on top of that. 😉
  • Drive: 9 Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Achieve I came across this book when I was looking for a way to inspire my oldest child to be more motivated about her education.
    This book is full of great ideas and tips on how to help your children become motivated and inspired. I’ve read this book a couple of times over the years and I actually just added this to my To Read pile again, because it’s been about a year since I read it last and I feel like we all need a motivation boost.

Change up your academic routine.

Sometimes burn out happens because you have gotten your homeschooling into a rut. You could try changing things up with a unit study. Build Your Library has several to choose from. Unit studies can be a great way to combat burn out, because it gives you the opportunity to change up your studies for a brief period of time. Then, when you return back to your regular routine, it will feel fresh again.

Or why not have a read-a-thon where you spend a whole day or even week just reading lots of great books. Curl up with blankets, hot chocolate, finger food snacks, and piles of books.

If you live somewhere that get’s snow – do a bit of nature study focused on winter and snow!

If you’ve gotten behind in a particular subject – say science or art, spend a few weeks just focusing on that particular subject. My kids love it when I surprise them with an Art week or a Science week.

Get out of the house.

Go on a field trip, or even just get out of the house for a walk. A bit of exercise and fresh air, even when it’s cold and snowy, can really do wonders for your outlook on life. Especially if you’ve been cooped up for an extended period of time, you will all benefit from a fun field trip.

Take care of YOU!

Sometimes burn out has nothing to do with homeschooling. When you spend all of your time doing things for everyone else like planning lessons, cooking meals, or running the kids back and forth to activities, you can lose yourself a bit in the shuffle. Do something just for yourself. Get a haircut, spend some time alone and read a good book, take a relaxing bath, eat some chocolate – I’m convinced all problems can be solved with chocolate. 😉 Be sure you are taking care of yourself – drink enough water, eat well, get enough sleep, and try to fit in a little exercise (I say this as much to myself as I do to you). When you take care of yourself, you’ll have the energy to face everything else.

Clean something. 

I know this sounds counter-productive – if you are burnt out, you’re too tired and overwhelmed to clean! But seriously, pick a spot that you will see regularly, and get it pristine and organized. This will become an oasis of sorts. Having at least one area of my home completely cleaned and organized makes me feel better and gives me the energy to tackle anything else that comes my way. Even if it’s just walking into the bathroom to gaze at the neatly folded towels in the linen closet.

Know that Burnout can strike anyone…

Even the most enthusiastic among us. So having some tricks up your sleeve can alleviate things before they get to the point when you are ready to throw in the towel completely. Sometimes, just knowing you aren’t in this alone can be enough to pull you out of the doldrums.

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B2HS: Getting Organized for the New Home School Year

This is the second post in the Back to “Home” School series. Yesterday I gave some advice to new homeschooling mothers, and today, we’ll be discussing how to get organized.

Getting OrganizedSo you bought your curriculum and you went school supply shopping… Now what? If you are like most homeschooling parents, you are hoping to find a way to keep your materials both organized and accessible. I’m not claiming to be any sort of organizing guru, but I like to think I have at least managed to keep our homeschool materials in order. Today I’m going to share some tips to help you stay organized all year!

20150824_132956Last year, I bought this cubby-style book shelf for our kitchen, where we do the bulk of our schooling. I love it because each of my children get both a shelf and a canvas bin for their things. As long as they put their materials away when they are finished, everything stays both accessible and easy to find. I keep their binders on the shelves and workbooks, lapbooks, and any other odds-and-ends in the bins.

I keep the stapler, 3-hole punch, sharpies and pens on top, mainly to keep them out of my 6 year old’s reach. It is  also the perfect perch for our globe and American flag.

One thing I am always asked is how to organize all of the papers that go with Build Your Library’s curriculum. We keep our work in the binders – my high schooler has a Book of Centuries that she’s been adding to for the last 4 or 5 years, as well as a catch-all for writing. Most of her 10th grade classes are going to be online this year, but I like to have a place for her to keep some printed copies of her work, divided by class. Anything and everything can go into the Book of Centuries – from current events, to mapwork and written summaries.

My twins are going into 8th grade, and they have their Book of Centuries binders, an English binder and a Science binder. We’re using Grade 8 – History of Science this year and for English, we’re going to be doing The Giggly Guide to Grammar, Writing With Skill, Level 1 and Adventures in Fantasy: Lessons and Activities in Narrative and Descriptive Writing (which we are using to have the twins collaborate on a graphic novel or series of comic books). My goal this year is to spend some time really focusing on building up their writing skills. Between those three programs and weekly dictation assignments, I’m hoping they’ll more than ready to tackle high school level writing in the next school year.

My youngest is going to be a first grader this year, working through Grade 1 – The Ancient World. She’s just starting to read and can write her letters and numbers. She’s going to have one binder for all of her work – divided by subject. She’ll have History, Science, and Narration sections in her binder. I’m not planning on starting copywork with her until the second half of the year, so we will add a Copywork tab later to have a place to file those assignments as well. In the past, I’ve also had the children each keep their own composition book for copywork.

Here is how I set up the twin’s binders to help them keep their work organized. For their English binders, I placed these divider tabs:


They are mostly self-explanatory, except for the reading section, which is where we put things like narrations, character journals, book reviews, as well as a running book list of everything they’ve read (or listened to) all year.

The science binders are divided like this:

20150824_134301They will file their lab reports behind the Experiments tab,  and Notes and Writing is where they will place the lists and outlines they write as well as any writing assignments and any science-based activity pages they complete from History of Science.

20150824_133536I also have a white board on the other side of the room where I write their dictation passages, as well as any notes about assignments due, classes they are taking that day, spelling words to practice, and anything else that strikes our fancy.  You can see that right now, we have our Back to School countdown posted. 😉

Behind the table, where we do our work, I have added a 20150824_114651shiny new art cart. I’m really excited about this, because keeping the art supplies organized is the bane of my existence. On any given day, we have crayons and color pencils scattered all over the house, and no one can EVER find a pencil to do their work. So, I was thrilled to find this adorable cart.  Now everything has a home, and it’s all within even the littlest one’s reach. The cans that hold our pencils and markers are recycled cans that we spray painted. We’ve been using them for about 3 years, so they have held up really well. I also store some of our manipulatives and games in the bottom 2 baskets.

20150824_155515My living room serves as a library, of sorts. It’s where I keep all of our school books, arranged in a way that makes sense to the kids. Reference books are on one shelf, 2 shelves for world history, two for American history, two shelves for science books, two smaller shelves for geography, and then the books that we’re going to be using for the current school year on their own shelves.

20150824_155313This other bookshelf is where I have our printer and a 3-drawer organizer for paper and index cards. The little basket in between is our chore basket where I have written out several different chores, like sweep the floor, wipe down bathroom counters, vacuum the stairs, etc. on index cards and fold them up. The children each choose 2 chores every day.

The top shelf is where I have all of our Grade 1 books, as well as the SEA Tween book club selections for the year. The middle bins house extra notebooks, loose leaf paper, folders, divider tabs and a some of the kits and odds-and-ends we’ll need for the year. The bottom shelf has the teaching guides or other reference books we’ll use on a regular basis during the year.

Lastly, though not pictured, is my own “Mom Binder.” Years ago, someone sold me on the idea of keeping all of the papers I’ll need for the year in a separate binder. This is where I print out any instructor guides I’m using, as well as activity pages and such that we’ll need each day. I don’t print out everything at once – that would be one massive binder! I like to print about 2-3 weeks at a time so that I can look ahead and see what materials and such we might need. I also keep a section in my binder for menu-planning, as well as notes about the kids interests, any project ideas, lists of materials we need and anything else that comes to mind that I do not want to forget.

And that’s how I keep our little homeschool running. There are numerous pictures on Pinterest and other websites with gorgeous school rooms and a thousand different ways to organize every single thing. But do what makes the most sense for you and your children, high style or high function. There was a time we stored each child’s notebooks and workbooks in milk crates – this worked great until we got a dog and the crates ended up holding more dog hair than school work. Just because an idea works well for someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit into your household, or that it will work for you every single year.

What are some of your best homeschool organization tips? I’d love for you to share any tidbits on what works for you in the comments below!




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