Organizing Your Homeschool Life
Organizing Your Homeschool Life
If you are just starting out in homeschooling, or turning over a new leaf this school year, I recommend spending a good chunk of time organizing yourself, and coming up with a great organizational system to keep your homeschool running smoothly.
Why Organize Your Homeschool Life?
Why? Well, the number one reason is your sanity. Your child is going to test you – and often. You are going to feel like you don’t know what you are doing at times (maybe a LOT of the time). And when you do feel like you’ve hit your stride, something is bound to happen to throw a wrench into your awesome homeschool plan.
Being organized won’t solve all of the above issues, but it WILL help you to set yourself up for success. It will help your kid/s to feel like you are in control – you know what’s coming next – you GOT this…even when you don’t.
Two Organizational Scenarios
Think of this scenario. First day of homeschool.
Homeschool Mom #1.
Um…okay, so let’s get started. What subject should we do first, Freddy? Science? Ok, awesome – hang on one sec, let me just see what we’re going to need for today’s experiment. Hmm…Oh shoot – we just ran out of foil. I guess we can go to the store after lunch. How about we start with spelling? Hang on – let me just sharpen a pencil for you…
If you are anything like me, you feel a little sick after reading the above paragraph. The mom is clearly in over her head – she has no clue what she’s doing. It’s only a matter of time before the child gives up, finds something else to do, gets frustrated, or throws a tantrum. He/she doesn’t know what is expected, doesn’t know if her mom knows what she’s doing, and thinks maybe this homeschool thing isn’t so great after all.
Okay, now imagine this:
Homeschool Mom #2.
Okay, Freddy – you are going to start with language arts which is here in your red folder that says “Unfinished Language Arts Work.” We are going to learn three new vocabulary words that are going to be in your chapter book that we’ll read after lunch today. You will complete the vocabulary graphic organizer using these tools (points to dictionary, thesaurus). After you’ve worked on the three words, you will draw pictures to help you remember the words on one side of these index cards and write the word that goes with it on the back of the card. When you have finished, you are going to put your three cards in the red folder that says “Finished Language Arts Work” so that I can look over them later.
How does that scenario make you feel? Like the mom is in control? Like there’s a plan? Like the student has everything he needs without someone having to go find a book or office supply in another room? Don’t get stuck on the scenario itself (maybe you would approach vocabulary in a different way, for example), but think about Freddy. Does he know what is expected? Does he know where to put his work when it’s complete? Does he know what will happen after lunch today?
Which System to Use?
It doesn’t matter if you use the workbox system or a folder system or a binder system or a composition book system. Any of these systems can work effectively. The key is PICK A SYSTEM and TRY IT. You can always revamp your system later on.
As you develop an organizational system, consider the following:
- What are the different subjects my student will learn?
- Do any of the subjects cross over (such as thematic teaching)?
- How do I want my child to turn work into me for checking/grading/feedback?
- How do I want my child to indicate questions they have while completing work? Will I be there to answer all questions immediately? Or do I want to set up a time to review these questions that is separate?
- Will I have my students date their work?
- Do I want to rip off/tear out ONLY the thing I want my child to be working on?
- Do I want all of my child’s work to be kept in one place as a record of learning?
- Will I need to turn in any of my child’s work?
- How am I going to keep the work in order (chronologically or otherwise)
- When will I grade the work (look at the work, give my child feedback about the work, reassign or revamp the work)?
- What will I do with the work after I have done the above?
- How will I store the work?
- How will my child access the work if he needs it for a reference?
When Should I Organize My Homeschool Life?
It’s a really good idea to spend a large chunk of your first week of homeschooling establishing your organizational systems and making sure your children understand them, but if you are able to, I’d recommend giving yourself a week or two of organizational time BEFORE the school year starts. It isn’t a waste of time to introduce (and reintroduce) the proper way to write a heading on a paper. Five months down the line, you’ll be thanking yourself that you didn’t have to try to decipher what chapter a certain assignment came from because your child never got into the habit of writing a heading on their paper. Put in the hard work on the front side and you will thank yourself later.
Where Can I Go to See Some Examples?
If you are a visual person and would like to see pictures of some great homeschool organizational systems, I’d highly recommend searching “homeschool organization” on Pinterest. The use of color can be very effective with kids as well – if they know that science is in their green folder (or green binder, or composition book with the green label), and they have all of their school materials in one place, taking our their science work is only going to take a matter of a few seconds. We love Confessions of a Homeschooler and her workbox system as well as Kristi Clover. Check out their videos for some great, practical tips. Not every system works for every homeschooler – see which type of system fits your life and give it a try.
Involving Kids in the Organizational Process
You can involve your kids in making decisions about their organization, too. If your child really struggles in writing, you can create a positive association by letting your child choose a special notebook that will be used during writing time.
Have your child help you create their workspace and brainstorm a list with them of all of the things they think they’ll need for school time. Examples may include: reference books (atlas, dictionary, thesaurus), technology (tablet, computer, cords, mouse, headphones), math manipulatives (counting blocks/bears, stacking cubes, geoboards, dice, cards, ruler, protractor, compass), notebooks, binders, loose-leaf paper, pens, pencils, stapler and staples, sticky notes, art supplies (colored pencils, markers, glue sticks, tape, scissors, tissue paper, paint), science supplies, notecards, index cards, envelopes, stamps – the list can get quite long, but if you can get a good majority of these supplies in one central room or area, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
If you can’t get organized, you can hardly expect your children to. Organization breeds structure, and even if you are the most “unschooley” homeschooler out there, your children will appreciate having a basic level of organization.