There is much to be said for simply getting organized in your homeschooling routine, yet it can be a challenge for even the most detail-oriented mom. If you have multiple children, it can be quite a juggling act, making sure to find the perfect balance between curriculum, outdoor time, appointments, and field trips. And that’s not to mention groceries, household chores, cooking dinner, and making sure everyone has something clean to wear.
Organizing, for some, can be as simple as getting a nice day planner or some other means of scheduling daily activities. However, for others, this is the worst possible way to plan. They might do better with an app or personal assistant. Be sure to find a means of organizing that works with your personality so that you’re not tempted to drop it and fold back into old habits long before the school year is over.
Step One: God!
“But seek ye first the king of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33, KJV)
Putting God first, above any and everything else, has benefits that will long outlive your homeschooling journey. In addition to allowing Him to guide you as you endeavor to plan out your homeschooling year in a way that is pleasing to Him, you’ll be teaching your children the importance of putting God first. In everything.
Additionally, remember to start each homeschooling day with prayer. If you’d like to follow up with devotion time or the day’s Bible lesson, it will certainly create a great flow, or you could spread that out to a different time during the day. There’s no doubt about it. God will honor your devotion in putting Him first and you’ll see a much more comfortable flow to the days ahead.
There’s no better way to sabotage a great organizational plan than to expect more from yourself than you could possibly follow through with. Yes, of course we all want to be super-mom, but let’s face it, that’s not likely to be the “norm” on most days. One of the best ways to do this is to keep tabs on things you might be setting aside on a regular basis. If these are related to the homeschooling curriculum, it might be time to reevaluate the whole thing to be sure you’re using the one that best suits your needs. If it’s certain things around the home, then you might need to plan your day in some different format for best results.
It’s also important to evaluate how much time certain subjects take. If you have a slow reader, for example, and in real life, it takes 40 minutes to read through an assignment, don’t plan to finish those assignments in thirty minutes. You’ll be rushed, your child will be rushed, and before long, you’ll both come to hate reading time. And no one should hate reading time! Instead, set aside an hour for those 40 minutes and spend your “left-over” time for bonding over good conversations about what you’ve read, which can, coincidentally, be marked as a quiz, a context lesson, or just good, solid family time.
Get realistic with your schedule. It’s nice to look at your planner and see that your homeschooling day starts promptly at 8 A.M., but if you’re actually not getting started until 10, then you’re not being very realistic with your schedule. If you’re really super laid back, that might work well, but if you had a play date, dentist appointment, or vet visit scheduled for 3 P.M., you might not make it. The best thing to do, if 10 A.M. seems to be a valid starting point is to just schedule it that way. It will give you a more realistic view of your day, you can schedule other things without worrying that you’re going to miss them, and you’ll relieve a ton of stress in the process.
Homeschool Organization is an Extension of Home Organization
When it comes right down to it, having a well-organized homeschool reflects your well-organized home. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to organize the homeschool if everything else is in disarray. This is a very different scenario than, say, a stay-at-home mom who gets to work on organization, cleaning, and order while the husband is away at work, and the kids are in school most of the day.
One of my most valued sayings is, “Everything has a home, and everything should be in its home”. So if there are things in disarray, the entire organization plan is thrown off. Make sure you have a place for everything from dishes to stray pens and pencils. I think everyone has that one drawer in their kitchen aptly named, The Junk Drawer. In our house, that’s where tons of miscellaneous items go. You might find electrical tape, pencils, paper clips, curtain rod hangers, stray Christmas lights, or even the dog’s flea medication. But oh, how important that junk drawer is!
Meal planning is also important when you’re trying to get your home/homeschool organization under control. It can throw off an entire day to have to stop at lunchtime and shuffle through the pantry or refrigerator, trying to find something to feed the children. Then, by the time dinner rolls around, you’re actually quite tempted to simply ask your husband to hit the drive through on his way home. Getting some kind of simple meal plan in place, using a slow cooker, or freezing meals ahead of time are great ways to really get that time of day under control once and for all.
Create a Specific Planning Time
Planning time is crucial for a homeschooling family, especially if you create your homeschooling curriculum, or have pieced one together from different plans. This requires making your own lessons plans, your own calendars for getting certain things accomplished in a certain amount of time and setting ways to measure progress. Having a prepackaged curriculum that provides these for you makes it a little easier, but it still involves a certain amount of planning time.
For some, it’s simpler to plan out entire weeks, months, or the whole year, before ever getting started. This can certainly work well, but nevertheless, must still be revisited from time to time to measure progress on intended goals. Getting this time to yourself is helpful, but at least once a month, it doesn’t hurt to bring your child in, especially if they’re getting older and more independent, and let them have a hand in the process. It could be that they have specific insights that can make the plan better, even if only by adding a to-do list or specific bit of information on how to make the week flow more smoothly.
When your children are old enough, you can implement a studentplanner into the agenda and plan with your child, allowing them to fill in specific times with volunteer activities, sports, music lessons, gym time, free time with friends, or a variety of other activities they could plan for themselves. This not only help you by helping to see what kind of time you’ll be dealing with, but it also helps them to learn to plan, prioritize, and even rearrange appointments if necessary, when other more important things come up.
The Learning Area
There is no rule that, as a homeschooling family, you must have a dedicated area set aside for homeschooling, such as a specific room. For many homeschooling families, it’s actually important to get away from the idea of “doing school” at home, so often, no single location is put into place. That means one day might find you doing lessons in the kitchen, another in the living room, and another still at the public library. That flexibility can actually add a great deal of excitement to the homeschool day by keeping things fresh.
Still, even without a dedicated learning room or space, you should still try to keep all your homeschooling textbooks, workbooks, and various supplies all together in one place. For some, that might mean a bookshelf or two in one particular room. But if you’re strapped for space, it could be as simple as a tote with a lid to keep everything together.
Have a Filing Plan in Place Before You Get Started
Most state homeschooling regulations dictate that you either keep a tally of attendance and grades, or a portfolio of some kind to show your child’s progress throughout the school year. Even in states that have very lax regulations, it’s always best to keep as many records as you are comfortable keeping. Not only does this keep you covered should there ever be a question about your homeschool, but it also helps you keep grades, resources, and other information well-organized for your own personal records. For older children, this can help you with tallying credits, electives, subjects covered, and all the necessary information to be entered into an excellent transcript by the end of the senior year of high school.
There are many ways to do this, including a nice filing cabinet with clearly marked drawers and folders inside them. However, if you lack the space to dedicate to this kind of detailed record keeping, you can always choose a simple notebooking method, allotting a binder for each subject covered. Simply mark the spine and/or cover with the subject and year and then add in whatever records you deem important. Attendance records and cumulative grade charts can be kept in a separate binder where they’re easy to access any time you need them. Of course, in this 21st Century the benefit of electronic recordkeeping must not be overlooked.
These are just a few basic tips on how to organize your homeschool and stay on top of things for a much more peaceful experience. It’s worth putting the extra time, at regular intervals, to make sure this peaceful flow continues. It’s just as good for the children as it is for you, and if this is your first time dedicating yourself to the art of organization, you’ll find it extremely rewarding.
For even more tips and ideas about homeschool organization, plan to attend one of our seven regional Great Homeschooling Conventions. With a great variety of speakers, workshops, special events, and extensive curriculum and resources vendors, you’ll likely find even more than you bargained for.
You can learn more by visiting the Great Homeschool Conventions website where you’ll find all the current convention locations and schedules. You can even purchase tickets there online, including discounted hotel packages and reservations. Don’t delay, however, as these hotels fill quickly, especially as the event date draws closer.
We look forward to seeing you at one of these conventions. And remember, Great Homeschool Conventions are: Equipping. Encouraging. FUN!