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How to Set Up Your Homeschool Supplies

Updated on July 3, 2012

A big time waster in our home is lost school materials. Our homeschool operates on a tight schedule, and misplaced books or papers slow us down and raise the stress level. It’s important to keep homeschool supplies well organized and accessible. To do so, we use the following:

  • A small central area for frequently used items
  • A designated bookshelf
  • A desk for each child
  • A school closet

Good organization begins on paper, so take a little time to list the subjects you’ll be studying. If you have more than one child, list the appropriate subjects under each child’s name. Beneath each subject, list the materials you’ll need. (Of course, there’s no need to list duplicate items beneath multiple subjects.) Once you’ve set up your supply areas, you’ll know where to put each item.

Consider where your family spends most of their school time. For our family (and I suspect many others), this is the kitchen. Here, designate a shelf or counter area for your frequently used items. You don’t want too much – it’s just for the things you need to grab in a hurry. Set up the following:

  • A pencil cup containing pens, pencils, and markers
  • A quality pencil sharpener
  • Scotch tape
  • A small basket for erasers, paper clips and post-it notes.
  • A vertical file sorter

The file sorter is used for current schoolwork. Label two files for each child, one for finished, ungraded work and the other for graded work. Teach the children to put their finished work in their personalized “Finished Assignments” file for you to grade. Use their personalized “Graded Assignments” files to return their graded work.

A handy supply center in the kitchen awaits the upcoming school year. The Rubix cube and bubbles provide a spontaneous giggle break.
A handy supply center in the kitchen awaits the upcoming school year. The Rubix cube and bubbles provide a spontaneous giggle break.
Our school bookshelf is easily accessible and big enough for the year’s curriculum. Note the globe.
Our school bookshelf is easily accessible and big enough for the year’s curriculum. Note the globe.

It’s great if you can place the designated school bookshelf in the room where your children study. Again, this may be the kitchen. If this arrangement can’t be made, place the school bookshelf as near as possible to your school work area. Organize currently used books and binders by subject or by child – whichever you prefer. I reserve a space for my teaching materials (lesson plans, answer keys, and miscellaneous teaching aids) and homeschool references. I use the bottom shelf to store binders of the children’s work from previous years. Teach the children to return books to this shelf as soon as they’re done.

My daughter’s desk, where she retreats to color and create.
My daughter’s desk, where she retreats to color and create.
Personal desks allow children to store and display their unique treasures and interests.
Personal desks allow children to store and display their unique treasures and interests.

Many homeschool families invest in desks and find they never use them, as working together at the kitchen table is so much more convenient – and fun! However, my children treasure the personal space their desks afford. I keep their desks in their bedrooms. Here, they store their personal office supplies and special interest materials – art supplies, fossil collections, scientific instruments and so on. These supplies, while not always used with the regular subjects, nonetheless represent an integral, free-flowing component of education, and they deserve a place. Having a desk for them affirms the children’s identity and uniqueness.

Choose a closet for the supplies that you won’t be using every day. Here, you’ll organize for several categories:

  • Curriculum for upcoming years
  • Reams of printer and art paper
  • General art supplies
  • Science projects and equipment
  • Office supplies

Shelves are imperative. Consider installing some, or look at garage sales or on Craigs List for an inexpensive bookshelf. No need for museum-quality here, but make sure it’s sturdy. Keep materials you won’t be using immediately on the top shelf. If necessary, you can keep a small stepladder handy.

Place your various papers – art, printer, graph, etc. – within the children’s reach. You might also keep a small selection of art instruction books here. I have stored art supplies – paints, glue, glitter, brushes, and so forth – in empty baby wipes boxes and similar containers. There’s no need to spend a fortune. I also use plastic drawers to organize stickers and brushes.

A well-organized school supplies closet takes the pressure off Mom. Perk it up with colorful posters to keep things fun!
A well-organized school supplies closet takes the pressure off Mom. Perk it up with colorful posters to keep things fun!

When my children were younger, I kept a storage box full of interesting “junk” on the school closet floor – empty thread spools, neat packaging materials, small craft kits, googly eyes, and more. My kids enjoyed rummaging through this to make crafts or inventions.

Store science kits and equipment together. If you have young children you will want to make sure they cannot access anything dangerous, particularly chemistry sets. Inform the children of the need to handle science equipment carefully. Some equipment can easily be broken.

The school closet is also an excellent location for office supplies such as a hole punch, extra scotch tape, rulers and pencils, files and hanging files, and so forth. Keep your office supplies well stocked to avoid extra trips to town during the school year.

When you’ve finished organizing your supplies closet, consider pinning up some colorful, instructive posters. I’ve subtly taught the color wheel, the planets, the parts of speech and the numbers using posters! (You can also purchase laminated versions and use them as placemats. My son memorized the full names and terms of all the Presidents this way! But that’s another topic.)

Well organized school supplies create a buffer between you and the stresses that can come with homeschooling. Investing a little thought and time on this during the summer pays off beautifully during the school year.

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    • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Columba Smith 

      6 years ago from California

      Thanks so much for the encouraging words! We have our ups and downs with the disease, for sure. It's been an adjustment, and I'm extremely thankful for the wonderful professionals who help us through. Gradually, we're getting the hang of it.

      I have a friend who used Bob Jones and was very happy with it. That's one I never tried; for now I'm sticking with SOS.

      Blessings! : )

    • profile image

      CJ Sledgehammer 

      6 years ago

      Dear Collisa:

      First of all, congratulations for having the commitment, dedication, and foresight to home school your children...it is the gift that keeps on giving.

      Secondly, my prayers will go out for your second child's autoimmune diabetes. How is your child coping...and how are you doing?

      Hey, your number one son is doing great...please tell him to keep up the good work (as if you hadn't already). :0)

      To answer your question, I have used Bob Jones University Press exclusively. It has worked well for us, but I am sure there are some other great programs out there...you would know that better than I would.

      I am under the gun (even as we speak), but I will be back for more!!!

      God's blessings to a fine lady - C.J. Sledgehammer

    • Collisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Columba Smith 

      6 years ago from California

      Thanks so much, CJ Sledgehammer! To be honest, today my home doesn't look quite like the pictures, lol!

      I'd give homeschooling in general a solid 10. Personally, it's worked well for my family and we've avoided many of the tensions that come with conventional schooling, such as peer pressure and alienation with one's family. (Of course, these can be mitigated by a healthy family, but it's so much harder! As a single mom, I don't have the time.)

      In retrospect, I would have stayed with one curriculum throughout their schooling rather than changing so much. I tend to go with whatever sounds good each year. My oldest is a junior this year. Last year he scored in the 90th percentile on the PSAT, so what I've done seems to have worked; but it's felt a bit crazy at times.

      Since my second child was diagnosed with type 1 autoimmune diabetes last year, our schedule has been maxed out. I got Switched On Schoolhouse for the administrative functions, and it's really helped. I wrote another hub about that, if you're interested.

      How about you? What curriculum do you use?

      Blessings.

    • profile image

      CJ Sledgehammer 

      6 years ago

      Wow, Collisa, you run a tight ship!!! :0)

      Now, I will readily admit that you are more organized than I am, but the ol' boy has come to many of the same conclusions you have and I have employed many of your amazing ideas, but not all. See, brilliant minds do think alike. :0)

      So, how would you rate the home school experience? Any regrets, impediments, or praises that you would be willing to share?

      An excellent article, Collisa. You were concise, clear, articulate and well informed. A job well done!!!

      Voted up and away!!!

      God's finest blessings to you and yours - C.J. Sledgehammer

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