Getting Started: Organization

Getting Started Homeschooling: Organization

If you are getting started with homeschooling, you may be asking yourself: What do I need? Where am I going to put it? Should we study at the kitchen table? Or should we sit in a row at child-size desks? Do I need a separate room?

Over the last seven years, I have tried varieties of all of these and have learned much. First, let me say that I am not one of those naturally gifted organizers who can sweep into your home and make order out of chaos. I have clutter, especially when it comes to books. However, I have developed a few strategies that keep our school day organized.

My primary goal is to wake up each morning with instant access to everything we need for the school day. In addition, I am working each day to train my children to be more and more independent and self-sufficient. Below, I describe my file box system for each child which allows even very young ones to start their own school day.

This year, we have a separate room for school (it used to be our formal dining room), but we have functioned equally well without that as long as we had an adequate space to store our things. Here is a look inside this year’s room.

1. Bookshelves: This is a must. Every summer, I purchase a number of read alouds and independent readers for our family. We also have a handful of reference materials that we use frequently.

2. Reference materials: My children need ready access to certain types of materials. On our reference shelf, I keep a children’s illustrated Bible and a complete Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus (I like the Synonym Finder), a history encyclopedia, and a science encyclopedia.

3. Supplies: This seems extremely basic, but I grew impatient searching for sharpened pencils each day. I now keep a very large, well-stocked pencil can on my desk. Other supplies include: pencil sharpener, stapler, three-hole-punch, washable markers, crayons, watercolor paints, colored pencils, and math manipulatives.

4. White board: I simply cannot function without a white board anymore. Your local home improvement store can cut a large piece of shower board (sometimes called tile board). We mounted ours to the wall with mirror brackets. I use a self-adhesive dry erase container which holds five dry erase markers and an eraser. How do we use the board? Here are a few examples:

  • a. Date and day of the week for my youngest to copy
  • b. Math facts that are new
  • c. Copy work and memory work
  • d. Diagramming sentences
  • e. Spelling words
  • f. Working difficult math problems

5. File boxes: Each of my children has a plastic file box with a handle from our local office supply store. In the box is everything my children need to start the school day and work independently. More than anything, this simple step has saved us much time. To illustrate, I’ll give you a peek inside my children’s boxes this year.

11 year old:

a. General supplies – notebook paper and Essentials task sheets
b. Assignment guide – filled out by Mom each Sunday
c. Math – Saxon math book, protractor, compass, ruler, graph paper
d. Latin – Textbook, workbook, instructional video
e. Science – Apologia Astronomy
f. Literature – book club selections for this year

9 year old:

a. Math – A Beka book and drill book
b. Latin – Latin’s Not So Tough Level 2 workbook
c. Science – Nature readers and sketchbook
d. Spelling – A list for each week to be copied daily
e. Handwriting – lined paper for copying Scripture
f. Literature – Book club selections or free reading

6 year old:

a. Math – Saxon math
b. Handwriting – Handwriting Without Tears
c. Phonics – Get Ready for the Code
d. Reading – beginning phonics readers

6. Desks: For us, having a child-sized desk has not been a necessity except for my very small children. It is nice to have the proper size when your little one learns how to write and to copy from the board. The rest of us usually work at the dining room table and on couches and beds.

7. Geography: I have four essentials supplies for our study of geography. Since I did not have any geography instruction as a student, this is extremely important to me.

a. Large wall map: Depending on our plan of study for the year, I post either a large world map or a large US map.
b. Globe: Every once in a while, we need to be reminded that our world is round.
c. Geography terms poster: While studying, we occasionally need a visual reference of terms like channel, strait, sound, bay, mesa, and bluff. An inexpensive poster from my local education supply store works well.
d. Small maps: Each year, I make an 8 ½ by 11 color copy of the Classical Conversations maps that we will use for the year for each child. I put them in dry erase sleeves so that they last all year and so that we can trace and label on them with markers. (These sleeves are larger and more durable than page protectors. They are used by mechanics to store customer receipts and car keys and can be purchased inexpensively online).

8. Posters: Other posters that come in handy include:

a. 100 chart for children just starting math
b. Number words to twenty so that children can reference the spelling
c. Multiplication tables
d. Memory work posters – Preamble to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, phases of the moon, etc.

If I could only have two things from my list, I would choose the white board and the file boxes. I hope that this list gives you a starting point for developing a space that works for you and your family.

Jennifer Courtney

Jennifer Courtney

Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as the Director of Training and Development for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. She and her husband have been home-educating their four children classically since 2005. Jennifer is also a Challenge III tutor in her local community. She is the co-author of Classical Christian Education Made Approachable and the Classical Acts and Facts History Cards. Jennifer enjoys traveling throughout Oklahoma and to other states to speak to parents about home education and the classical model.

Jennifer graduated with an Honors degree in English from Oklahoma State University, summa cum laude. She was a Rhodes Scholar semi-finalist and a National Merit Scholar. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and four children.