Homeschool Organization 101

 

Systems. Streamlining. De-Cluttering. De-Stressing. 

Nothing makes me happier {or more productive} than a well-curated, organized space for living and learning.

Today's blog post is dedicated to helping you streamline, declutter and organize your homeschool in order to optimize learning and deepen play for your little ones, AND so you can finally stop stressing about where to put things, store things or find things.

All humans appreciate good design, and children are no exception. A thoughtfully curated and intentionally designed learning space goes a long way on impacting our attitude, behaviour and learning. When we have a clutter-free, streamlined space that surrounds us, we are calmer, happier and are likely to feel more productive.

But just how DO we organize it all? 

First, we need to categorize our stuff.

Let’s talk name and talk about each of these categories.

Teacher Resources

    • Subject specific
    • Assessments and checklists, library lists etc.
    • Homeschool reporting
    • Joysheets

School Supplies

    • Open source
    • Extra supplies

Art Supplies

    • Open source
    • Extra supplies
    • Sensory materials
    • Loose Parts

Kids’ Work

Toys

Books

    • Read-Alouds
    • Independent Early Readers

Rhythms / Routines

Now that we have categories, it's time to talk about storage - the HOW and WHAT or organizing items in each place.
 

Teacher Resources

Teacher Resources include the printables, blackline masters/reproducibles, flashcards, math games, sight words that will be used for your lessons. 

My favorite way to store these is in Dollar Store bins and or color-coded binders (hole-punched) according to subject area.

So, a separate binder for ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies and OTHER (includes health, entrepreneurship, emotional literacy etc.)

Anything “loose” or laminated, or 3-D goes into a Dollar Store locker bin, labelled.

My program, Artful Teaching. Joyful Learning. includes Joysheets - the "fun worksheets" or companion printables to extend the hands-on learning - so we keep these separated in a dedicated binder as well, ready to be pulled out for each lesson.

Also housed in a separate binder is my Teacher Toolkit - a space for checklists (like this scope and sequence chart); day plans, reading logs, mini assessments and observations / notes. 

School Supplies

Next up… school supplies! These are the fairly traditional items needed for learning:

  • Paper
  • Pencils, erasers
  • Markers / crayons
  • Scissors, glue
  • Lined paper
  • Tape dispenser

We use these portable caddies for storing day-to-day materials and this way, kids can grab them as needed. I can see - at a glance - which materials need replenishing. Our girls do a great job of keeping the caddy neat and organized, and we always find it more inviting if pencils are sharpened and everything has a home.

Paper is stored in a dedicated basket in small amounts to limit waste. We also have colored paper, cut in different sizes.

I call this the “open-source” supplies, and these should be made readily available and easily accessible for learning and lessons on the go - either inside, or outdoors. That’s why these caddies are so helpful.

For the overflow - extra materials I have on hand - I keep these in my office, hidden away so that when we run out of markers, I have  another pack ready and waiting. It’s like a mini-store.

Art supplies

If you’ve been part of the ATJL community, you’ll know just how important those art supplies are, and how valuable it is to offer systems to display, organize and clean up these supplies so that we foster ownership in our kids, and they learn to take responsibility and show respect for these tools.

The art supplies you’re comfortable with displaying - be sure they’re presented so children can see the materials, feel their textures and make decisions for project work. If materials are presented beautifully - in glass jars, on shelves or systems like the IKEA GRUNDTAL - then children are more inclined to create. If supplies are always hidden away in margarine tubs and coffee cans, or if they’re always having to ask for permission, this can impede their creative flow.

Opt for sturdy glass jars - these are from the dollar store, or baskets.

In our Art and Messy Zone, we offer: 

  • Watercolor pod paints
  • Pastels
  • Paintbrushes
  • A glass jar for water
  • Plasticine
  • Colored paper
  • Liquid tempera, paint trays
  • A tray for project work
  • Clay
  • Beads, buttons, pom poms, feathers and other crafty loose parts.

I do my best to keep the organized and beautifully displayed. This careful attention encourages children to respect the materials, and invites the child into the creative process by engaging with materials, and diving deep into their many languages of knowing,

For our extra supplies or things I’m not comfy displaying all the time (liquid watercolor, india ink, watercolor paper, fancy paper, glitter), I dedicate shelf space in my office as well. Sensory Materials - salt, sand, rice, plasticine, clay, beans, etc. - these deserve a special place too.

** If you homeschool around the kitchen table, or space is an issue, try a homeschool cart. This page is part of my Set-Up Guide for an Organized Homeschool Space.

Source: Jen @MamaPapaBubba

You can download the guide here:

Loose Parts

Loose parts are open ended materials that can be re-purposed and re-imagined in many different ways. There are nature-based loose parts (pine cones, stones, shells), crafty loose parts (pom poms, feathers, buttons, beads) and many other kinds of loose parts. I will admit, I’m not the best at storing these and keeping them organized, but a giant cutlery tray is the perfect storage solution. This way, it can come out all together, and I can have a bit more control rather than a free-for-all buffet of tiny objects which I end up cleaning off the floor!

Other loose parts (those that don’t involve a ton of monitoring) get stored in glass jars: pipe cleaners, feathers, pom poms, sticks etc.  The color and texture of these items brings an added layer of beauty to the space, and allows children to “read the media.”

Children’s Work

When I was actively homeschooling, I would keep girls’ work inside a dedicated basket. 

We used duotangs to keep their work separated by subject area. A duotang is a three-pronged folder, and can be expanded to fit many pages.

We had a duotang for:

  • Language Arts (phonics and spelling)

  • Printing

  • poems, songs, fingerplays

  • Math

Each of these was colour-coded with their name, and stored in a dedicated basket on the floor. All work was hole-punched, and children independently keep their work inside these folders.

The girls also had a writer's notebook and Idea Book - a growing, organic portfolio to document the hands-on learning and thinking throughout the year. 

Toys

Less is more.  Research shows that the less toys a child has to choose from, the longer they will play.  On display, offer a few baskets for:

  • Building (wooden blocks)
  • Imaginative play (people and animals to bring playscapes to life)
  • Role play (costumes, play food, dolls, play kitchen or woodworking shop)
  • Puzzles and Lego

Be sure these baskets are labelled clearly for independent clean up!

Books

We are BIG fans of beautiful children’s literature and our book collection is exploding! However, I only display 10-15 read-alouds at a time, forward facing in beautiful baskets. These get rotated out weekly. While a beautifully curated bookshelf with spines out in rainbow-coordinated style makes my heart SING! It is not practical for our early readers. It in fact, can be incredibly overwhelming, and make it very hard for our children to make thoughtful decisions about what to read.

Instead, opt for a few (10-20) displayed forward-facing in a lovely basket. These might also include your read-alouds for the week - the books that will connect with your lessons and activities and your themes for learning. They are also the books that your child will explore by looking at the pictures, retelling the story in her own words (not reading independently YET!)

The other basket of books will be dedicated to your child’s independent early readers.  These are the books at their reading level - simple patterned texts - and should be displayed separately from your more advanced read-alouds. This way, when it’s independent reading time, your child knows exactly where to go. Multiple children? Either dedicate a basket for each child, or offer a divider (labelled with each child’s name) inside the basket.

Rhythms and Routines

Finally, rhythms and routines for independent learning, play and self-care.

These come as part of my comprehensive program and can be tailored to suit your needs. Once your child has an opportunity to add their own colorful flair, display these routine cards in a visible location (clothesline style? Chalkboard? On the wall?) Offering the rhythms and schedule for the day allows your child to feel sense of predictability and structure in which they THRIVE. No more battling over transitions, or tantrumming over writing time. When your child knows what to expect, they feel safe, secure and ready to learn! 

Have you enjoyed this tour? If you’re ready to make learning BEAUTIFUL this fall - with room for wonder, creativity AND important academics - you’ll want to join the waitlist for Artful Teaching. Joyful Learning.® A comprehensive all in one, K-1 program and implementation designed for families who value a playful and gentle education.

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