Some of you may already be all organized with a nice set of curriculum books perfectly laid out in front of you. I’m not. We don’t have money to go out and buy a full year of school books for each grade level. No, I’m a little more haphazard. My materials consist of books I’ve collected from yard sales and Craigslist mostly, and stuff I’ve printed off the internet.
If your method sounds more like mine, then you are no doubt left with the question of how to organize all of those books!? With so many different subjects covered in so many different texts, sometimes it’s hard to find what you are looking for amidst the clutter.
Now, I know this shelf looks somewhat tidy, but try finding all of the “telling time” worksheets hidden within several of these multi-subject books. I was having to flip through every single page in almost every single book!
After too much time wasted searching through all of these daily (plus the dozens of others not pictured here), I decided it was time to get organized!
The goal… to separate the contents of every book by category. And if that meant taking a workbook apart… gulp… that was the sacrifice I was willing to take!
When you’re organizing any room, your three goals should be to prioritize space convenience, and appearance.
How much room you have available, how accessible you need certain books to be and how to maximize the appearance of the display are the three most important factors in how you choose to organize your space.
Here are some ideas to help you on your own homeschooling journey.
A DIY Binder Organization System
Before I dive into my longer list of homeschool book organization ideas, I want to start off by telling you what I did and worked well for ME in my personal situation. This method won’t work well for everyone, but for my family, it was ideal.
It started with a failed shopping endeavor.
After pricing binders at a local office supply store, I quickly decided that I was NOT going to pay $7+ for one binder! I needed a lot of binders, big ones, and was determined that I was not going to pay a small fortune to get them.
Isn’t it amazing how the Lord always blesses our efforts to be good stewards of what He has given us? About two days later my husband came home with his arms full of boxes crammed with white binders!!! Oh, how that made my day!! He had rescued them from the dumpster at work. Can you believe that?! There were over three dozen binders to choose from, all different sizes.
Perfect! Notice my extremely professional looking cover:
Now that I had those, it was time to begin organizing. I took out each multi-subject workbook, and began sorting one subject at a time. Math first.
I tore out every single page from all of the workbooks with anything having to do with Math. If it was a front and back page with a different subject on each side, I photo copied one side to file separately.
Using page dividers, I separated my binder by math categories. This is a First Grade subject binder, so my categories were: Measuring, Time, Addition, Subtraction, Money, Place Values, Geometry and Fractions. Next, I punched holes in each page, and placed them in their correct categories.
Man, it was SO nice to finally have everything in one neat place!
So, I went on to do the same with other subjects. I’m still working through the piles of books that I have for all different grade levels. But I’ve completed several binders so far.
Maybe one day, when I actually have some time, I’ll print out nicer labels and covers for my binders. But in the meantime, this method of organization has been such a blessing to me!! Getting lessons in order for the day has never been easier.
Start by Making a List
And no, you don’t need to check it twice!
However, you should start off by making a list of everything that you need to keep organized in your home library of homeschooling books.
For example, you might want to make a list of all the subjects you teach (Math, Reading, Science, History, etc). You could also make a list of genres of reading materials you have in stock (Poetry, Fairy Tales, Early Readers, etc).
Once you have a list of everything that NEEDS to be organized, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to go where and how you’ll go about getting organized.
Unpack and Unshelf
This might fly in the face of traditional organizational advice but hear me out! I want you to get started with your system of organization by going through and unpacking all of the books you own. Take them off the shelves. Make a real mess of things!
Once you have everything off the shelves, you’ll be able to see more clearly what needs to go where and what you actually have. This will allow you to organize with intention.
Put similar books together, using the mental directory you’ve made as a guide. By grouping things together, you can start to get an idea of what you need to organize.
Don’t Be Afraid to Cull
Growing up, I was taught to never, ever throw out any books. Of course, I don’t like the idea of throwing books away – that’s why you need to donate them! But the main goal here is to get rid of the books you aren’t going to use.
Read that again – you don’t need to throw out the books. They don’t have to go in the trash. You just need to get them off your own shelves and into someone else’s home.
Don’t be afraid to get rid of books that are duplicates to ones you already have, are falling apart or are just generally in rough shape, or are low-quality and not well-suited to your homeschooling goals.
Adjust the Bookshelves
Once your books are organized and you know what you need to keep and get rid of, you’ll be able to have a clearer picture of your usable space.
If your bookshelves have shelves that can be individually adjusted, do your best to adjust the height so that you can organize based on the size of the stacks and the height of the books. You might have to rework several different stacks by the way.
Make Accommodations for Little Readers
Know that nonfiction books tend to be wider and taller than fiction books, so you might want to arrange them accordingly.
Picture books tend to be floppy and difficult to keep upright on a shelf, making them well-suited for baskets. If you’re going to allow young children to choose their own books, know that young kids who can’t read yet are almost always going to choose books based on the covers.
Therefore, it makes sense to have the books cover-first in a basket so that your child can look at all the books without pulling them all off the shelves.
Putting books in baskets makes sense for another reason – it makes it easier for very young children to put their own books away. Baskets are much easier for them to manage than shelves.
Give Each Child a Spot
For some homeschooling parents, it makes more sense to give each child a designated spot on the homeschooling book shelf. That way, they can have their own spot to keep organized and stash all of their books.
If you have an empty dresser, consider giving each child a designated drawer. They can put all of their own school materials in each drawer, keeping things neat and tidy and, most importantly, under their control and not your responsibility.
An alternative to using an old dresser is to give each child their own storage bin, milk crate, or some other container to stash their binders or books.
You Don’t Have to Own Everything
So many homeschooling parents think that they need to go out and buy every book known to man in order to properly educate their kids. While it helps to have a solid library of books at home, know that there’s an alternative to this too – the local library.
Think carefully about which books you actually need and which you can do without. You can rent most titles you need from the local library and in addition to it not costing you a cent, it will also free up tons of space for you,too.
Make One Room the Designated “HomeSchool” Room
You wouldn’t try to work at home without a home office (or maybe you are, in which case, I give you major props!) So why are you trying to teach at home without a homeschool room?
If you have the space to do so, consider making one room of your home the designated room for school time. This should be where the kids do the bulk of their school work as well as where you stash all of their supplies.
By keeping the clutter contained to one room, it will allow the rest of the house to remain free for…you know, everything else you have to do in your home! It will also help to save your sanity.
Organize By Category
After you’ve taken an inventory of all the books you have, categorize them. Use a categorization system that makes the most sense to you but consider adding some of the following sections:
- Picture books
- Language (French Spanish, etc.)
Of course, you’ll need a section for the “Mom” books – your teacher books, too!
In addition to grouping books of like categories together, you may also want to consider using a sticker system so you can keep track of which books go with which curriculum. Use stickers of the same color to indicate books in the same genre.
Use an App
If you find that you’re more technologically inclined, you may want to consider cataloguing all the books you have for homeschooling in an app.
This will allow you to keep track of what books you have in a more accessible way – you can pull up the app to see which books you already own when you’re out shopping and can’t remember what’s already on the shelves.
Pack ‘Em Away
You might not want to purge a set of homeschool books because you know you’re going to use them again with younger kids. However, you might not want to keep them on the shelves indefinitely, either, because you know it’s going to be quite a while until they are needed.
If that’s the case, you should pack them away. Put all homeschool books that you aren’t currently using in a box, mark it clearly so you know what’s inside, and stash that box somewhere out of sight until it’s needed again.
Try Alternative Solutions
Are you still using regular old bookshelves to organize your home library? If so, you might want to switch to cube storage. By using cubes instead of plain old bookshelves to organize your books, you can get books or other materials out of sight so that they’re there, but not as visually cluttering as stacks on stacks of books might be.
Find a Separate Space for Well-Loved Books
Are there certain books that your child loves more than any others? If so, you might want to separate these out. These books should be easier to access so that you don’t have to pull out a box and rummage through it seven times a day just to find that same book.
Share With Other Homeschool Parents
There’s a good chance that, no matter where you live, there is a network of homeschooling parents you can tap into to share resources and information.
Create a loaner system that will allow you all to share books with each other. You can keep track of who has what in an index card box, a note on your smartphone, or a spiral bound notebook.
This is a great way to free up space and also make it easier for everyone in your network to access great reading materials for less money!
Organize Your Homeschool Library in the Way That Makes the Most Sense to YOU
Of all the advice I’ve given you above, the most important thing I can tell you is this – organize your library in the way that makes the most sense for your needs and goals.
Sure, you can create a homeschooling book organization system that would put the Dewey Decimal system to shame – but that won’t be helpful if it doesn’t meet your needs.
Consider these tips as a template to help you get started and then don’t be afraid to experiment! There are all kinds of fun ideas out there – it’s simply a matter of finding the ones that work best for you.
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.