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!

Related Article(s): Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)

Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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