Here at Christianbook.com we are blessed to have two Homeschool Specialists, Alicia and Cassie, who were homeschooled growing up. Alicia was homeschooled through 8th grade, and Cassie was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. We’ve asked them to share some of their best tips for staying organized in the midst of homeschooling, and we think you’ll gain some wonderful insights from their experience.
What tools would you suggest for getting and staying organized as a homeschool student?
Alicia: Planners are your friend! Using a planner is one of the best ways to keep your life organized. Start by picking out a planner that fits your style and meets your needs. There are so many to choose from! Always keep your planner in the same place. Get an overview of the big picture of your semester or year by filling in important deadlines, tests, projects, and events. Keeping these dates in your planner will help you stay focused on your goals.
Once you have your planner set up, create your daily school schedule. Block out time for each subject. Don’t forget to schedule yourself breaks or phone time throughout the day. This will keep social media in its place and prevent it from becoming a distraction during school time.
Do you have any suggestions for setting up an organized homeschool workspace?
Cassie: Create a designated learning space where you can avoid distractions. This could be an entire school room or a small desk in your bedroom. Having a specific space set aside to complete a given task actually makes it easier to focus on that task over time. It also creates some separation between “home time” and “school time” which makes it easier to transition to and from schoolwork.
Give everything a home – a place it belongs when it isn’t being used. This makes putting away and finding things much easier. You don’t need a label maker or fancy storage containers to do this. Just work with what you have! Set up shelves, totes or drawers to give books, craft supplies, and graded schoolwork a place to go when you’re done with them.
Alicia: Pick a spot that feels like your ideal study space. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Try to choose a place that fits your personality and needs. Keep all the materials you need each day in one place (pencils, pens, rulers, calculators, etc.). The important thing is to keep each item in its own spot and put it back as soon as you are done with it.
This all sounds tedious. Do you have any tips for making organization enjoyable?
Alicia: Organization doesn’t have to be a chore. Keep an open mind and use creativity to match your organizational systems to your own personality and style. Try decorating your binders. Peek ahead in your textbooks and draw, paint or sketch an image that represents the subject you are studying. Add decorative elements to your study space to make it more inviting and appealing to you. Take ownership of your space to create an environment that brings a smile to your face and makes you feel relaxed.
Organizing homeschool paperwork can be stressful. What do you recommend for staying on top of record keeping?
Cassie: Sometimes the sheer amount of paperwork homeschooling parents have to go through every day can be overwhelming. Keeping it all straight is practically impossible without some kind of system. Create a VIP (Very Important Papers) location for only the most crucial documents for the year – transcripts, report cards, curriculum formation, documents from your school district, and so on! This can be a physical folder or even a digital folder where you scan and save these documents.
Alicia: Keeping records of your work is very important. Some states require parents to present a “show of work” to satisfy their homeschool regulations. Keeping a portfolio is a great way to do this! You’re never to young to start a portfolio, and if you keep your work organized throughout the year, you can easily create a portfolio as you go. First, set up a binder for each subject you are studying. Next, clearly label each binder with the appropriate subject name (Science, Math, Literature, Health, Bible, Art, etc.). Then, color code or label dividers within each binder to keep essays, projects, tests, and other graded work in its own place. You can make a special section in each binder for your favorite work or the work you are most proud of. Then at the end of the year you can pull your favorite work out of each binder and put it together as a portfolio.
Organization feels difficult to maintain day to day. Once I get my system in place, I do well with it for a short time, but then everything descends back into chaos again. Do you have any tips for staying organized long term?
Alicia: Set aside time to clean up your study space at both the beginning and end of your day. At the end of your school day, put away any binders, textbooks or materials used as soon as you can. Any papers or supplies that are not currently being worked on should be put away. This will keep your space neat and clutter-free.
Cassie: A saying I heard growing up was “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine,” which is a catchy way of saying spend five minutes fixing it now or an hour fixing it later. Staying organized is like that – if you don’t organize it now, you’ll spend more time decluttering and sifting through it all later. Remember to take it one day at a time.
Any final thoughts on organization?
Cassie: Give yourself grace. Becoming organized and developing a system that works for you will take time. Instead of trying to perfect your organization in every area all at once, focus on one small step you can take today to make your life a little bit more organized.
We hope you enjoyed these tips from our homeschool veterans! Even though organizational skills won’t make it onto most report cards, we believe organization is an important life skill that will serve your student well in years to come and make your life easier as a homeschool parent. We’re cheering you on as you take steps toward bringing greater order to your homeschool days. It will be worth it!