Before You Begin: Getting Started and Staying Organized

Are you one of the homeschooling moms who finds planning and organizing to be the fun and easy part of homeschooling? The planning part might be almost as exciting as Christmas! Would you agree? I am probably not the only mom who loses sleep while the wheels turn as I sort through ideas and coordinate schedules for the coming year. Talking with other homeschool moms and pouring over homeschool product evaluations, like the ones right here on, is time well spent before deciding on curriculum needs. Here are a few thoughts to help you start your homeschool year well—and stay organized.

Getting Started: Press Pause before Start

Everyone will enjoy the first day of school much more with planning and organization. Don’t start your school year without a pause to get everything in its proper place. A friend told me to invest in bins, shelves, baskets, or whatever would help me keep my school area organized. I purchased a few items but also used what I already had, like our old diaper-changing table. It was still in beautiful shape when we were finished with it, so we relocated it into the school room for school storage. Having a place for everything truly does help keep everything like books, curriculum, pencils, paper, etc., in its place.

I’ve found it helpful to have a Rubbermaid-type bin labeled for each child, ready to collect their papers, art, and consumable books as they complete them. One homeschool mom uses a portfolio system to compile and showcase her children’s work and progress. She also explains how to implement a binder system to keep yourself organized in Homeschool Planning & Record Keeping. Or you may prefer to keep your thoughts organized with simply a dedicated notebook where you capture your to-do’s and plans. Grab a nice one so it doesn’t disappear.  The Schoolhouse Super Mom Journal is here to save the day and keep a grin on your face.

If an official planner is more your style, check out this post, also from Planning, Planners, and Preparing for the New Homeschool Year. You’ll be an expert on homeschool planning after browsing all of the links and discovering the best planning secrets shared by other homeschooling moms. The Mama of all homeschool planners has arrived for 2023–2024. Capture your wildest ideas with the Schoolhouse SmartMama Planner. If you’re looking for something for students, a high school version of that planner is launching soon at the Homeschool Store. Here’s another find that homeschool students can use to stay accountable: Daily Student Planner for Homeschool Review.

Plan for your students, plan for yourself, and don’t forget to plan for your littles. One of my favorite things to do when I had sweet and busy toddlers and preschoolers was to offer special and worthwhile ways to keep them occupied during school time. This helped me devote (somewhat) uninterrupted time to their older siblings. Here’s how I did it: I purchased a ten-drawer cart—the colorful kind that are available at craft stores. I filled the drawers with safe items that would keep my littles busy: coloring books, stickers, Lauri puzzles, simple crafts, activities like The Fine Motor Bundle from The Crafty Classroom post on, and age-appropriate educational toys. The idea is that these items only come out during school time. My cart had two each of five different colored drawers (red, green, blue, purple, and orange). I placed the like colors together, so, for example, on Mondays my littles knew they could entertain themselves with whatever they found inside either of the two red drawers. On Tuesdays, they could play with the options found inside the two green drawers, and on it went through the days of the week. They looked forward to the fun, I felt good about how they were spending their time, and the older kids and I were able to work together more efficiently.

Before You Begin: Getting Started & Staying Organized (photograph of scissors, pens, pencils in background)

Staying Organized: Schedule It!

Once school has started, put a few plans in place for a regular reset. I’d love to tell you that I’m  one of those moms who takes a few minutes every evening to tidy up the homeschool room for a fresh start in the morning—but I’m not. I run through my energy early in the day, and it disappears by evening. A Saturday reset usually worked well for me, but even that, realistically, did not always happen.

As my kids got older and became involved in extracurricular activities that included many performances, I found that show days made perfect days for a break from regular school. The event prep and excitement took up so much energy that it made sense to set the kids up with downtime like reading or catching up on projects. That naturally led to a little time for me to organize a cupboard or closet or to catch up with a little housework.

I also schedule a day off of math on the last Friday of each month. Since math tends to be a time-consuming subject, a day off gives my kids a welcome break from their work and gives my house a welcome bit of attention from me. I’ve heard of other moms scheduling a full week off from school after every six weeks. You have the freedom to do whatever makes sense to you to stay organized while homeschooling.    

Similarly, scheduling an afternoon or day off once a month can help with interruptions. Your calendar will quickly fill with appointments and unexpected opportunities, and someone is bound to need a little time off from school for an illness during the school year. Planning extra time to allow for interruptions will help you feel ahead instead of behind.

Keep in mind, too, that you won’t get to every single lesson or project you plan for your school year. Don’t worry about that. Instead, focus on the things you did get done, especially those wonderful things you are able to accomplish because you homeschool. You know—those deep character-shaping conversations with your kids that happen best when you’re unhurried and home together.

I captured a few more thoughts on preparing for the new school year in an article for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine: Not Your Ordinary School Supply List: A Checklist for the Homeschool Mom’s Heart and Mind. It’s filled with ideas I picked up from homeschooling friends and also with tips I learned the hard way. I’ll keep learning right along with my kids as the sixteenth year of homeschooling begins soon at our house.

Happy planning!  

Before You Begin on labels of three-ring binders and other office supplies Author

This article has been written by Heidi Mosher, a mother of two homeschooled students and two homeschool graduates. Heidi is thrilled to serve other homeschoolers by writing for The Old Schoolhouse®, a company she has looked to for support and ideas over and over through the years. Heidi also serves as the podcast manager of the Hey, Mama! Homeschool Show

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