Homeschooling children comes with its pros and cons. There’s the joy of having your children learning at home by your side. But then there’s the chaos of figuring how to organize all those learning tools. Between notebooks, tech devices and their various chargers, craft supplies, pencils, notebook paper, textbooks, and visual aids, learning can get messy, quick. So how do the pros do it? Fortunately, veteran homeschoolers have some great
product suggestions to stay organized while homeschooling.
While most of us are in our nascent days of homeschooling, hundreds of parents have been doing it for years, so who better to give suggestions for how to keep your "classroom" in order this year?
Romper tapped the following homeschooling pros to share their must-haves, from multi-tasking storage bins to tech tools you may never have heard of: Camille Kirksey, a homeschool mentor and writer of theintuitivehomeschooler.com, Erica Arndt, the voice behind confessionsofahomeschooler.com, Andrea Thorpe, the mom and educator behind African-American Homeschool Moms: A resource for black homeschoolers, and Laura O'Neill of Day by Day in Our World & Life Beyond Kids. These are the things that keep their in-home classrooms organized and their pupils on task. You might be surprised by what they suggest. We only include products that have been independently selected by Romper's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Bet you didn't see this product coming. A shoe container? For homeschool? Here's how O'Neill uses it. "Years ago, we were introduced to workboxing through the Schoolhouse Review Crew," she explains. "The book on it suggests using 12 shoe boxes stored on a shoe rack to organize work for the day. Each box has a single task for the day. The child then works in order and, if desired, you can make a laminated strip of the numbers 1 to 12 (with cute graphics they'll enjoy) to be checked off as they go. Sometimes the single task is something more fun than work (e.g. snack time, 15 minutes outside, etc.)" Pretty genius, right?
For Kirksey, a
white board is non-negotiable. "Whether you use a large board for the family or each child has their own small one, using a white board makes planning for the next school day much easier," she tells Romper. "The night before, simply write down what's happening for everyone the next day, including school work by subject and whatever else will happen. Doing this over time helps you be more organized, prepared, and intentional about your school days, and it lets your children know what to expect the next day."
Tote bins or drawers are essential for Arndt and her four children. "Kids can keep their schoolwork, books, supplies, etc., in their own labeled bin. That way it’s easy to keep everyones supplies organized and it’s also mobile," she says. Because these drawers completely side out of the frame, they can even carry their supplies to their work station to streamline setting up and cleaning up for the day.
Most people may not get the milk delivered anymore but the crates they used to come in are still a great resource. O'Neill uses them to homeschool each of her four boys. "I use a label to put their name on it. Then their books and supplies go into it. This has served us well whether in a house with a 'schoolroom', when we lived in an RV, or now when we have a house with limited space," she says. "I also have one (sometimes 2) of them for me to house teacher guides, a planner, and any specialty papers that I want to pass out when needed."
Don't forget dry erase pens when shopping for your white board. Thorpe gets crafty with her dry erase tools. "I create custom dry erase boards by placing decorative paper inside inexpensive picture frames. I like how pretty they are and how easy it is to wipe away reminders written on the glass surface," she says.
Part of staying organized is not losing track of the time. O'Neill's solution to this is to employ a timer. "Sometimes a child just needs to see the limited amount of time for a particular task. They can be a great way to spur action, too, if they want to 'beat' the timer and finish early," she says. Of course, you could just use the timer on your phone, but a visual aid can be especially helpful to a young child.
"Whether you’re doing online, hybrid, or full homeschool, I highly suggest creating a welcoming area where kids can do their schoolwork," says Arndt. "I find a quiet place with adequate lighting and space to spread out is great. For years our dining room worked perfectly for us. We all sat around the table and did our work together. I also like to keep everyone in the same room if possible. That makes it easier for me to oversee and help everyone at the same time." As Arndt mentioned, you could use your dining room table, or invest in something like this teacher table where an adult can face multiple children at once.
Getting in a rhythm is critical to homeschool success says Kirksey. That's why she employs a daily schedule. "A schedule is a written plan with fixed times, and a routine is doing the same things in the same order everyday," she explains. "If a schedule is a skeleton, routines are the muscles and ligaments that help it move however it needs to. When the two are in alignment, healthy, and disciplined, the body is working at peak condition. Don’t feel as if you need to choose one or the other. Use the power of both to create homeschool days that work for your family. You’ll find that your days go more smoothly and everyone enjoys their time learning when you do."
Colored Binders with Cover Inserts
Thorpe is all about binders with inserts. "I have these binders in a variety of ring widths and colors. I love how easy it is print out an attractive subject cover and slide it into the cover," she says. "This makes finding specific subject binders easy to locate."
If you want your kids to be able to take their learning tools with them from space to space, a few good storage bins should solve the problem. Thorpe says, "I make sure each one of my three children has her own bin. I keep each bin fully stocked with specific school supplies each child needs. I love how it keeps supplies well organized and out of the way."