Homeschool Planning, a year at a time: Organize Stuff & Spaces

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Homeschool Planning Series, introduction & index

This is my third year of planning, preparing, and organizing our entire year of school all at once before we begin. I am not consistent enough to have a regular weekly teacher preparation time, much less a daily one, so this is what works for me. I hope it helps you, as well.

Now that all the plans are in order, it’s time to get and deal with the actual stuffs.

1. Place orders and go shopping


The fun part! Revise your shopping list, do any price comparisons, and place orders. Also take your supplies list to WalMart or Target or some other supply store and get what you need.

Set aside a table or place somewhere to collect the stuff related to the next year. Pull all the supplies and books you already own and gather them in your designated space.

2. Completely empty everything

While you wait for your orders to come, and if you are not currently “in session” with school, completely empty everything, clean it, and re-sort. I don’t know how, but crumbs and junk and toys tend to accumulate in our book and paper bins, and the children often squirrel all manner of stuff into their desks. The beginning of the new year is a time for a fresh, clean start.

3. Line up all bins, crates, binders — Label & add inventory to them all!


The first year I created my year’s set-up, I did — of course! — label my bins and tabs. It’s helpful when you can know at a glance what a thing is supposed to contain — because half the time it probably won’t contain what it is supposed to. Give each bin and shelf a mission and purpose, and stick a label on it. Then sorting and putting things away will tax your mental reserves much less.

I am taking it a step farther this year. Not only am I labeling everything, I am adding an inventory sticker to each bin & binder, focusing primarily on any the children will be using. This way, they can refer to the list, see what is supposed to be in the container, and if it doesn’t have those things, they have a problem. This will also make my checking in on them easier, I hope. I’ll also keep master inventory lists in with my notes.

4. Organize the papers (start printing!)


Before you start tearing apart workbooks or printing pages, set up the bins and files that will hold them. I use file bins, with labeled hanging folders, containing labeled manila folders. Sometimes these are outrageously priced. I have found them on sale sometimes at WalMart or Joann’s for $5-$6, though. I have plenty now, but I’m always tempted to buy backups when I see them at a good price.


Last year I had a hanging folder for each term and manila folders for each student as a way to organize checklists and necessary pages. This year I made those manila folders into more broad categories (coloring pages, extra maps, math drill sheets, extra preschool sheets), and have accordian folders for each student. Each term has a section and I have gathered the pages each student will need to complete his independent work into piles, paperclipped by week. So each week the student can get his packet of papers for the week and I don’t have to be at their beck and call answering, “I need lined paper! I need a map! What kind of paper should I use for my drawing?”

We’ll see how it works.


Additionally, you’ll want to set up an “inbox” for each student. This has been a clutter-saver for me! Instead of piles of papers collecting on the table or counter or desk, when the child finishes something, he directly puts it in his inbox. We all know where it is if we need it, and, importantly, it’s not littering the house. My children also put their free-time drawings in here, and anything else they might want to keep.

That inbox, then, can get full fast. I have a separate “completed work” file box at my desk, where I put completed & corrected papers that I want to save. I put any writing assignments here, a couple representative math and Latin pages, and the best of their artwork. This year I started putting these papers in a binder for each child, and they do like to pull them off the shelf and browse them, which I think counts as “review.” Plus, they have a quick thing to grab and show off to dad or grandma. At the end of the year, I’ll sift through them again to cull the very best, then scan these and then toss — or burn — them. I don’t want to keep papers around, but it’s probably a good idea to have some record that they did something.

Also, decide where you will put work you’ve corrected but needs to be redone. Does your student have an inbox or folder or clipboard at his desk? We started off with clipboards last year, but 12 weeks seems to be the lifespan of a clipboard in my sons’ hands. However, they have shelves above their desk, so I designated one as their inbox; this is also where they can keep their weekly packet of papers.

Having a place for all the papers to go makes for a smoother process and a less littered (and less homeschooly looking) house.

5. Organize the books


If you keep a personal library catalog, you’ll want to enter and possibly label your books as they arrive. I use LibraryThing and I like to put a “from the library of” sticker in all our books.

6. Fill chapter and page info into the checklists, if you must

If you prefer specifics in your plans instead of a general guideline, then now is the time to fill in the plans with page numbers. However, honestly, do not do it this way for a whole year at a time unless you are a really meticulous, stick-to-the-plan-no-matter-what type. I have never found that keeping to that detailed of a plan is possible even on a term basis, much less yearly.

Instead, my checklist items are general rather than specific; more of a “do the next thing” than “read pages 120-129.” Really, that’s the only realistic way to do it if you’ll be planning out the entire year at the beginning.

I do try to figure out how much we have to do daily or weekly, on average, to finish by the end of the year, and I write that inside the book or on a post-it inside the book. On the table of contents made I might mark generally where we should be by the start of each term, too.

This year I’m adding a color-coded sticker to the spines of books I want to stay in our school area. Books tend to migrate at our house. I’m hoping a spine sticker will make reorganizing weekly or between terms faster and easier. And I’m hoping the stickers stay put. Often my sons seem to think that people put stickers (including library bar code stickers) on books to be mindlessly picked at while they read.

7. Set up Circle Time Binders

A final set-up step will be to set up your Circle Time stuff. I have a bin with our Bibles and coloring pages and stuff like that, but we each have our own binder with the hymns and memory work. I have a detailed post on setting these up coming in May. Stay tuned!

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And now, from you:

  1. I love the idea of this! But, what happens when you get behind? This is the one thing that stops me from planning out my year at one time, because we never get a full day behind, we get behind in one subject or two and ahead in another and then my schedule is a mess!

    • I handle this by not planning out lessons or pages, but just what happens on what day, and we just do the next thing. So, for example, my plan says “Math” every day, but that’s all. After we do math, I write in what we did. Then the next day we do math (which, yes, might not end up being the very next day), we do the next page or lesson (this works well with MUS, which is mastery based; so I never know where they’ll be a week from the current day anyway).

      This model works well for us because I don’t use very many pre-planned curriculums except for math & Latin. We read books, and just read the next chapter when we sit down. My oldest’s assignment for history and science is “write at least 3 sentences about what you read today.” :)

      Once my plans are all finished up and looking good, I’ll post our specifics so this will make more sense. :)