What is it about certain times of the year that brings out the organizing bug?
Think about it: When the school year starts, everyone is all about getting things organized and set up for the coming year…
When the calendar flips from one year to the next, everyone starts thinking about decluttering and reorganizing…at least for a few weeks…
When you create a new school space in your house or when you move from one house to another, one of the things you want to accomplish is to “be more organized than you’ve been in the past”…right?
Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these times are good times to organize. And it’s no secret that I like to organize, so any time to get more organized is a good time in my book!
But saying you want to get organized, wanting to get organized, and knowing how to go about getting organized are very different things!
So…how do you do it?
How do you take a space – whether it’s a single bookshelf, a corner of the room, or an entire room – and turn it into an organized homeschool space that will work for you?
You start with some simple steps…8 of them, in fact! And when you follow these 8 easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to having an organized space that works for you – no matter what size you have to work with!
Step 1 :: Fit the Funky Pieces
You have them. I have them. Sometimes there are just funky, bulky pieces you need to help you as you homeschool.
The drawer set that holds completed worksheets…
The stack of paper trays to hold the loose leaf paper and handwriting paper…
The globe that you know you need, but it’s just bulky…
The printer to copy out all those math worksheets…
You know, the funky pieces!
Now, I’m not talking about the things you use once a year and just need to keep in the house where you can dig them out when you need them. I’m talking about the things you need to access on a regular – or even daily – basis.
The first step of organizing your school space is to determine what those funky pieces are and then find a place for them.
Now, this could be as simple as finding the tallest shelf on your bookshelf to put a stack of drawers. It could be setting the printer on top of the side table in your school room where you can reach it and get to the top of it.
Whatever your funky piece (or pieces!) is, your very first step is finding the place where you can access it and – here’s the key – the place where it fits!
Step 2 :: The Current Curriculum Pieces
Let’s face it: When you homeschool, you have curriculum. And whether you have books you teach from, binders you use, online resources, or a combination of everything, you use curriculum when you homeschool your children.
And when you use something constantly, you need to have access to it. Makes a lot of sense, right?
So the next step in setting up your school room is to find all the curriculum pieces you are currently using. And don’t forget all your answer key books! (Those are extremely helpful as your kids get older and you’re checking math problems that are more complicated than 11+22!)
Keep in mind, this isn’t the curriculum books or binders that you own but are holding onto until your next child is ready for that level of math or the science book you’re holding on to knowing you’re going to cycle back to it in two years. This is just the curriculum you’re currently using in this current school year.
Once you have tracked down all the books, binders, and pieces of your curriculum, the next step is to find a place to put them. This could be a specific shelf on a bookshelf, a cube in a piece of furniture, the top of a side table…wherever works for you and keeps all these pieces together and easily accessible.
Personally, I like to keep all the curriculum pieces grouped as close together as possible. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to hunt down all the pieces you need for your science lesson each and every day!
And, as an added bonus, you can simply go to one shelf or section of your school space and have all the curriculum you need for walking through your school day right at your fingertips!
Step 3 :: Place the Plan
Along with all those current curriculum pieces, you also have your curriculum plan. Let’s face it: A science textbook looks really intimidating unless you know you’re just focusing on the material on pages 4-5 on a specific day, right?
And knowing where this plan for your school year is absolutely key for knowing what you’re doing on any given day!
Now, I like to bring my master plan for all the subjects together, print it off, and put it into a binder. This way, I can write on it, make myself notes as we go along, and get a clear picture of everything we need to accomplish each and every day.
You may have a single binder with your yearly plan or you may have a folder or you may be looking in the front of your curriculum books. Whatever your plan looks like, your next step is to locate it.
Once you have your master plan in hand, place it somewhere on your shelf where it’s easily accessible. But make sure it’s not within your toddler’s reach! Otherwise you might have some beautiful artwork designs all over your yearly plan!
Step 4 :: The Completed Worksheets
As you walk through your school days and complete all your lessons, chances are you’ll have worksheets. And if you have multiple children, you’ll have lots of worksheets.
…And if you have young elementary children who love worksheets, you’ll have TONS of completed worksheets!
So what do you do with them?
Instead of waiting and letting these papers float all around the school room – or even the entire house – at random, start your school year with having a plan for all these papers.
Now, you may already have a place where you put your completed worksheets. Perhaps this is even one of your funky pieces that you’ve already placed somewhere in your school space. If so, great! You’ve already got this step done!
If you don’t already have a designated space for those completed worksheets, consider creating a spot for them. Personally, I’m a big fan of plastic drawers for this. When one of my children finishes a worksheet, I simply place it in their drawer. And the best part of all? Since it’s a drawer, the fans don’t blow the papers around. The children skipping by and spinning don’t knock the papers out of the drawer. The papers stay put until I’m ready to put them into longer storage!
Now, you could use drawers, paper trays, binders, or even a basket. How you choose to store the papers is up to you. But remember: Choose your spot now so that the papers stay together from the start!
Step 5 :: Space for Everyone
Now, depending on the size of your school space, this may or may not be possible. If you have a very small amount of space to work with, it might not be possible for you to give everyone a cube or a shelf to hold their own school and paper supplies.
However, if you do have the space to be able to give everyone a bit of room to call their own, I highly recommend it!
In our school room, each of my children has a small shelf to hold their school binders and any other papers they would like. And it’s their job to keep their shelf neat.
There’s another benefit that comes with giving each child their own space: In a school room where we share almost everything, it gives everyone a bit of their own space. Siblings are not allowed to get anything on someone else’s shelf without permission. So it gives them a bit of independence while teaching them the responsibility of caring for their things all at the same time.
Step 6 :: The Unused Curriculum
Okay, so back in Step 2 you found all the curriculum pieces that you’ll be using during this school year and placed them where it’s nice and easy to get to them, right?
But what about all the other curriculum pieces you have? What about that math book from last year that you’re not going to get rid of because you know another child will be using it in 2 years? What about the pieces that are waiting to be used? Where do they go?
These are the pieces that go where it’s a pain to get to them!
If you have a lot of bookshelves, break out that stepladder and put those curriculum pieces on the top shelf to wait until you’re ready for them. Or if you have limited space, pack up all the books and pieces into a plastic bin and store them under a bed or even in the garage. (Make sure the lid is on tight to keep out the moisture, though!)
The big idea is to keep these pieces so you won’t have to buy them in the next couple of years, but you don’t need them at your fingertips. So move them out of the way so you can get to those things you need.
Step 7 :: Fill in the Shelves
Now comes the last book step: Fill in the space on your bookshelves with the rest of the books!
This might seem like a rather simple step, but as you start to pile those books into place, here are a few simple suggestions to make sure everyone can get to the books they need – and those nicer books stay out of reach from the little ones!
- Put the coloring books and activity books on the bottom where your little ones can get to them with no help.
- Keep the board books, easy readers, and simple books closer to the bottom where they are easy to reach for the beginning readers in your family.
- Have the books increase in reading levels as you build upwards.
- Keep in mind that all books do not have to stand upright! If you have the space, make your bookshelves look interesting by adding in some stacks of books lying down. This also gives you bookends without taking up any of your space for your resources.
Step 8 :: Pencils, Pens, & Protractors, Oh My!
This final piece of school supplies is interesting. You see, when you put it all together, the books and the curriculum take up the most space. And yet, the pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, glue sticks, and math blocks can take over and make your school space look like a tornado ripped through it if you’re not careful, right?
The big key to stopping the pencil tornado before it starts is to create a space for these items to live from the beginning!
Now, if you have a chest of drawers or some skinny drawers in a side table, this could be adding some drawer dividers to hold the pencils and one to hold the erasers. You could find a pencil or art supply holder to set in the middle of your table to hold all your pencils and colored pencils. For that matter, you could create your own pencil holder with some mason jars and a basket!
Personally, I’m a huge fan of using clear, plastic bins to keep all the loose stuff from exploding. My favorites are the shoebox size ones you can get at the Dollar Store.
There’s a hidden beauty in using these boxes as well: When you put things in them, you can stack the boxes on a bookshelf or in any space. And because all the random parts and pieces are in plastic bins, they look neat and tidy on the shelf – even if the pencils or markers are rolling around at random inside!
Your Easy-To-Use School Space
And there you have it! 8 easy steps to help you organize your school space – no matter the size of your space!
Now, there is one very important thing to remember through all of this: This space you’re setting up is your space! You need to set it up in the way that will work best for you and your family.
Your space, your system is not going to look identical to anyone else’s space. And you know what? That’s okay!
The best organized school space for you is one that you help create and one that works for you and your family. So take these 8 easy steps and go create (or refine!) your school space!
- How To Set Up Your Homeschooling Space for Success
- How To Create Your Yearly Curriculum Plan
- Quick, Simple, & Easy Homeschool Paper Filing System
- Simple Ways To Overcome Frustration and Enjoy Your Homeschool Day
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.