Ora et labora
~St. Benedict

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tips to organize your homeschool life

By: guest blogger Jennifer Jones

I have eight children...yes, eight. I homeschool them all. That's right. It's totally possible with just a little organization and a lot of flexibility. Homeschooling eight kids can definitely be a challenge so organization is key to making it through our day! We are eclectic homeschoolers and have a pretty loose schooling schedule, but being able to be flexible in a family of ten means there has to be some kind of underlying system in place that works for all of our varied personalities. Through much trial and error over the years I found that I keep coming back to four simple ideas that really work for us and hope that they can help your family too.

*Set Goals! - Goals may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you're considering how to organize your homeschooling supplies or your child's weekly schedule - but setting goals is truly the basis for how I organize everything we do, goals give me a path. I am constantly touching base with my kids to find out what their personal goals are and meshing those ideas with mom and dads ideas. We have weekly family meetings and we even have individual meetings with each child every six months or so with the primary purpose of discussing their short and long term goals and coming up with concrete plans for those goals. We have daily goals, weekly goals, monthly...and long-term goals. On rough days we even have hourly goals. I may not always call them "goals" but that's what we are doing when we set our schedule for the day or decide what activities to attend each week.

*Weekly Schoolwork - Having eight kids means eight individual academic levels and needs to be met and kept track of. This is the area that I have had the most trial and error in, so much error! But after a lot of research and patience I found a system that works well for us and I think it would be useful for a smaller family too. One of my personal goals for homeschooling my children is for them to become independent learners so they are able to teach themselves about anything they become interested in. So I approached organizing our schoolwork in a way that would allow them each the most independence and freedom of choice, from the oldest to the youngest child. The checklist is different for every child and includes their educational and personal goals for the week. Here are a few examples:


As you can see, the lists vary based on age and interests. All the lists are posted on a bulletin board at the beginning of the week and the goal is to complete the list. They have freedom of choice over when to accomplish the items on the list - depending on their personalities, some of mine finish it all in one day, some stretch it out and a few procrastinate and do it all at the last moment. Each of them are learning about their own style of learning through this process as well. For the youngest kids (6 & 7) I give them a daily checklist so that it is presented to them in smaller chunks. I am able to be more in control of their choices this way, but they still feel that they have the same freedom as the older kids when they choose which task they want to do first, etc. 

My big job to support this system each week is to fill up their individual folders with everything they need to accomplish their weekly goals on the checklist. Each one has a pocket folder with sections labeled according to what they are working on. If a child has a goal of completing 4 phonics lessons for the week, I make sure those are all in the right place in their folder when the week begins so they can easily do them whenever they are ready. And so on for all the subjects. I also double check at the beginning of the week to make sure that any items that don't fit in their folders (books, etc.) are readily available on the bookshelf. It takes me some time each Sunday to get all of this ready, but once I have it done I don't have to spend time at all the rest of the week looking for items the kids need. This frees up my time to be accessible to the kids as they work on their goals during the week.

*Project Books - Two years ago I started looking into project based learning and found out that it really fit our family's homeschooling style. If you haven't already heard about project based learning I definitely suggest researching it more yourself! One of the things we added to our schooling is another great organizational tool for the kids - project books. Basically, each child keeps a journal of sorts of all the things they want to do and learn about - their "project" ideas. They jot down notes about how to accomplish those project goals, what they need to purchase, who they need to help them, what to research, etc. For the younger kids they will draw pictures of what they want to do (lately it has been a lot of project ideas for Minecraft builds) and tell me words to write down concerning how they will do it. The project books are kept in the kids' pocket folders so that they can add to them each week, look through them to help remember any goals and take steps as needed to reach those. I love this! It is very personal for each child and extremely empowering for them to know they can follow their passions. And the project book itself is an excellent peek at what is going on in their minds. This can be a great tool for any style of homeschooling!

*Curriculum Organization - Homeschool families LOVE books, right? And despite all our best efforts, curriculum keeps piling up around the house. With a large family and many levels of study this is even more true. From the beginning of our journey I needed a way to be able to get the most out of all the curriculum I collected so I did something that a lot of people wouldn't do. I tore up the books. Even those expensive Saxon math books. All of my curriculum - free, purchased, downloaded and printed - has been taken out of their original binding and placed into large binder notebooks. Why? So I can reuse it and reuse it and reuse it...and share with friends too. In addition to taking packaged curriculum apart, I use the same system to create my own unit studies. I have binders on many, many topics - from Egypt, to birds and the Grand Canyon to robots. In each binder I include everything that I have gathered to study about that subject. It's all there in one spot so I can reuse it as younger kids get older and also share with friends studying those topics. Saving so much time, energy and money along the way!

These are my four favorite tips for organizing your homeschooling family! Of course there are many other things we do at our house to organize on a daily basis - like joint Google calendars and bags/baskets ready to go for various activities out of the house, but these tips I have shared with your are the ones that have the biggest impact on our crazy family. I hope that they are helpful for you too. Have fun setting your goals!


  1. Great ideas and they really work. Thanks for letting me go on this journey (home schooling) with you guys. I learn something new from the kids every day.

  2. Nana you are so sweet! They are lucky to have you!

  3. These are great ideas! I never thought of hole punching a ziploc! I love the idea of project-based learning - the boys are interested in so many things - I think all of them would enjoy this way.. off to research! Great guest post, Mara! Love your blog & the way you write!