50 Homeschool Organization Tips and Ideas
Whether you are a new homeschooling parent or a well-seasoned veteran, it's good to periodically take a fresh look at your program's structure, goals and organization. Use these tips to decide what's right for your homeschool and get inspired.
- Participate in a Homeschooling Conference - Not only can conferences help you find new resources and curriculum ideas, they provide excellent networking opportunities. A quick online search will yield a variety of digital, local and regional events.
- Join a Homeschool Group - Meeting with other homeschoolers or co-ops in your area can provide valuable support and time-proven teaching resources. Search online for local databases. Genius Tip: Organize regular meeting dates and times with online sign ups.
- Work with a Mentor - Find an experienced homeschool parent who can share their years of wisdom, tricks of the trade and encouragement.
- Look for Extracurricular Activities - Home School Sports Net (HSPN) provides a helpful source showing all its nationwide offerings. Many clubs, such as Boy Scouts or performing arts groups, aren't based on school, so research what's available in your area.
- Participate in Community Organizations - Volunteering is always a great to build connections within your community and provides valuable teachable moments for children. Think about delivering meals, volunteering at an animal shelter or collecting donations for a worthy cause.
Organize homeschool co-op classes with an online sign up! SAMPLE.
Designing Your Homeschool Space for Success
- Create a Soothing Environment that Facilitates Learning - This often involves de-cluttering and simplifying an area so children can focus with limited distractions.
- Consider Separate Spaces for Different Teaching Experiences - If possible, consider comfortable spaces such as a soft chair or beanbag for independent reading time and a table/desk for schoolwork like math. Set aside a table or corner for messy science and craft projects.
- Provide Easy Access to Materials - This is especially important for younger students. Help them learn early how to retrieve and then later store all their needed supplies, books and other items.
- Remember the Importance of Storage - Set yourself up for success with a place for everything and everything in its place. Do an inventory of your supplies and then buy storage that easily contains those items. Don't fall into the trap of buying cute baskets or displays without a place to store them.
- Find Spaces for Artwork - Consider special clips or magnets for each child and a system for clearing out weekly or monthly.
- Use Magazine Bins for Great Storage - Available at many different price points, these bins can provide great homes for workbooks, thin picture books, coloring books and many other materials.
- Don't Forget about Wall Space - Colorful posters, bulletin boards, a whiteboard, schedules and maps are just a few ways walls can enhance the learning experience.
- Label It - Whether it's a container for art supplies, teaching manipulatives, books or any number of things that can easily create clutter, a clearly labeled space will increase the chances of items being saved properly.
- Create and Maintain Filing Systems - If it's not easy to maintain, it's unlikely to be useful, no matter how creatively color-coded it is. Think about one color or theme per subject.
- Make a Variety of Materials Easily Available - Whether you use boxes, baskets or shelving or some combination, if the kids can't find or reach what they need, it's time to rearrange.
Organizing Your Schedule
- Plan Time Management Strategically - Since most homeschooling families have children at different ages and skill levels, scheduling can be tricky but absolutely vital for success. There is a wealth of free scheduling software available online. Genius Tip: Plan a homeschool field trip with an online sign up.
- Participate in a Homeschool Co-op - These groups can provide excellent scheduling parameters and the opportunity to share resources about curriculum and more. A quick online search will likely surface several in your area.
- Build in Transition Time - Even though you are most likely not moving to a new classroom or building when you change subject areas, it's common — especially for new homeschooling parents — to misjudge the amount of time it takes to switch gears, mindsets and materials throughout the day.
- Create a Flexible Schedule - Using a four-day homeschool schedule allows many families needed flexibility. The freedom of a fifth day can mean scheduled time set aside for field trips, appointments, library days and more.
- Focus on One Subject a Day - This can provide time for in-depth instruction of key subject areas. Depending on the age group and student's learning style, having one day a week reserved for key subjects such as math, reading or science can be great way to cover material.
- Incorporate Daily Practice Times for Certain Subjects/Skills - While homeschooling's flexibility of reserving days for outside activities and adventures is ideal, many subjects, such as foreign language, math and memorization work require scheduled repetition.
- Allow for Teacher and Student Frustration Breaks - Even under the best of circumstances, frustration finds a way to the surface. Have a plan and supplies to introduce an age-appropriate craft, puzzle or outdoor game to ease tensions.
Plan a book fair with an online sign up! SAMPLE.
Crafting Your Curriculum
- Research Homeschool Laws in your State - Keep abreast of all the newest requirements for testing, registration and more. Take at look at the Home School Legal Defense Association for more resources.
- Understand your Teaching Style - Selecting a curriculum can be daunting, and it's important to play to your strengths. Are you better at communicating orally? In writing? Are you stronger at math than reading? Keep all of these in mind as you go through the options.
- Understand Learning Styles to Capitalize on Strengths - Knowing which curriculums focus more on auditory, visual or kinesthetic learning will make a huge difference in your student's success in the program.
- Decide on Assessment Methods - It's important to choose a curriculum that provides a system of evaluation you agree with, and one that matches up well with any other testing you have planned.
- Research Curriculum Reviews - Once you've got your options narrowed down, keep doing your homework and see what parents have to say about your favorite choices. After all, the proof is in the pudding.
- Change if Needed - Remember that it's OK to alter course, even in the middle of the year. If a curriculum isn't working for your family, homeschooling provides that luxury of modification.
- Ask your Kids - Allow your children to provide input on their curriculum choices, especially if they're older. The more involved they are, the more likely they are to be invested.
- Find a Homeschool Vendor Book Fair - Homeschool conferences are often the best places for a variety of curriculum choices. You'll also get a chance to mingle with other homeschool parents.
- Investigate Sites that Offer Links to Digital Classrooms - Sites such as pbslearningmedia.org and the Smithsonian Institute provide free digital content on a huge range of topics. You might even be surprised what you find on YouTube.
- Take Advantage of the Public Library - It's free and full of all sorts of resources. Plan a regular routine for library trips.
- Find Used Materials to Keep Textbook Costs Down - Consider an online book swap or selling your old materials to help pay for this year's set. Take a look at digital textbooks as well for cost savings.
Managing Your Record Keeping
- Understand Record Requirements - They differ by state, so look this up when you're researching homeschool laws in your jurisdiction.
- Maintain a System - Keeping track of key items such as lesson plans, sample work, days spent per topic and useful resources will help greatly with next year's planning.
- Preserve Work - Keep portfolios of assignments, projects and artwork for your child. Not only will they be treasured later, they serve as a valuable evaluation tool.
- Maintain Samples and Records for Future School Applications - Whether it's college or another special interest program, it's helpful to have on hand.
- Remember your Lesson Plans - Having organized records of past lesson plans becomes a valuable planning tool. What worked? What didn't? Remember to keep notes so you don't make the same mistake twice!
- Plan Expenses - Keep receipt records to help with realistic budgeting and yearly planning.
- Search for Online Tools - You might not be able to afford fancy software, but keeping spreadsheets online or using free record keeping software can help you save money without cutting corners.
Schedule a field trip with an online sign up! SAMPLE.
Planning Field Trips
- Make a List - Think about your lesson plans for the year and what types of field trips could complement the topics you'll study. Plus, it's always OK to throw in some fun trips while you're at it.
- Coordinate Trips with Other Families - Some destinations may require minimum numbers for tours anyway, but it's almost always more fun for the kids (and adults) to have others along. Genius Tip: Collect money for group trips with an online sign up to avoid tracking down cash from everyone.
- Plan a Service-Oriented Field Trip - Whether it's a local excursion to a food bank or animal shelter — or something much more remote — the personal rewards will far surpass the academic.
- Plan Lessons Before your Field Trip - With even a little prior knowledge on the subject, kids will know the right questions to ask and get a lot more out of the experience.
- Follow up with an Assignment - Have children complete a written and art project in response to their trip. Their own photos, maps, brochures and souvenirs will take on even more meaning.
- Indulge a Child's Newfound Interest - There's probably a museum dedicated to it. Reference a worldwide guide to museums at museumstuff.com.
- Celebrate National Parks - The National Park Service has been inspiring for more than 100 years. With 407 sites across the country, you're bound to find one nearby to find inspiration and get outdoors with your kids.
- Use History as your Guide - A program called Teaching with Historic Places, or TwHP, uses properties listed in the National Park Services National Register of Historic Places to enliven history, social studies, geography, civics and other subjects.
- Go on a Virtual Field Trip - Perfect for times when money or time is tight.
- Prepack Activity Bags - Getting out the door in a timely fashion with all the supplies you need can be a challenge, especially with young children. Having different bags already organized for an activity can help move things along.
Homeschooling is a big responsibility. Make the most of the precious time educating your kids by planning ahead. Things won't always go as you plan, but you'll be much more likely to land on your feet!
Laura Jackson is a freelance writer based in Hilton Head, S.C., with her husband and two teenagers.