Back to school is right around the corner—and for most families that means it’s time to create new routines, take stock of school supplies, and get your new homeschool workstation ideas and organization ready for the year.
How To Setup a Homeschool Workstation
But what if you are a homeschooling family? Getting ready for back-to-school goes WAY beyond a trip to the local office store for brand new notebooks and binders.
Curriculum materials need to be sorted and grouped. Designated homeschooling spaces need to be optimized and organized. Books and resources all need easily accessible homes so as not to cause clutter. Overwhelmed? Don’t despair! We have storage ideas for your home, storage ideas for your office, and tips for organizing your homeschooling workstation, so everyone starts the new school year on track.
Homeschool Workstation Guide
Sort Your Way To Homeschool Organization
Don’t know where to begin with your homeschool workstation? Just as you would sort your clothing by season or activity, you can look at your homeschooling supplies in very much the same manner. Use the following sorting categories to begin to formulate ideas for sensible storage.
- Supplies Used Daily
- Supplies Needing to Be Easily Reached
- What Supplies Need to Be Accessed Solely By Me?
- Supplies Specifically for Each Child
- Surplus Supplies for Storage
- Supplies by Subject or Curriculum
When starting, think like a library. Pair like with like. I can’t stress this enough. Place items that are used together in the same category.
For example, all math manipulatives in one group; art supplies in another. Surplus supplies, too, can be categorized and stored together elsewhere. As you begin to look at your lists of supplies, logical places to organize and store each of these categories will come to mind.
Categorizing your supplies makes it easier to decide where to store them. Assigning specific locations for your homeschool workstation makes maintaining spaces specific, simple and easy. Again, here are a few questions to use as a guide.
- Will I be homeschooling in one dedicated room in my home?
- Will I be teaching in several areas of my home? If yes, then is “portable” storage my best option?
- Where do I have ample space in my home for my essential supplies?
- Can I relocate other items in my home to another location if necessary?
- Do I prefer to store items in drawers? Closed cabinets? Open shelving?
- Are my spaces easily accessible? Can my children access their supplies with ease?
- How many children are being homeschooled? Whats the difference in their ages?
- Can I hang hooks, a peg board or over the door organizers to maximize storage if need be?
- Will my children be leaving the house for any of their schooling and therefore do I need a launching pad for school items that go in and out of my home?
It’s critical that you ask yourself these questions so you can find organizing solutions that work for you. Don’t worry if storing day-to-day supplies in your kitchen pantry between the pasta and the canned goods is your best or easiest option. What matters is that the system you create for your homeschooling supplies works for you and your children, is organized and easily accessible, and maintained.
Don’t forget to take your children into account when assigning locations for your homeschool workstations. Here’s an easy guide to follow.
- Can they access materials quickly and easily?
- Are the things they need to access daily in their prime real estate.
- Are things tucked away and in hard-to-open cabinets or drawers?
- Do you have adequate shelf space for books, supplies, etc?
- Will everyone know where everything belongs and are things clearly labeled?
PRO TIP: Use your STUDENTS’ height as YOUR guide when assigning locations. Set up your school space so it is easy for your children to help maintain organizing systems.
Creating A Command Central
Whether it’s a bookcase in a designated homeschool workstation space or a section of your pantry closet, earmark one area in your home that will function as your “command central.” This is where the bulk of your homeschooling supplies will be stored.
We want to make sure rule #1 is that everything has a home. It’s really that simple. No matter what your organizing style, knowing where everything lives are essential to effective, organized spaces.
If you have either a dedicated homeschool workstation room or even space in another room of your home, bookcases or cubbies (my favorite cubbies are the IKEA Kallax) are storage gold.
Open and accessible shelves are just a natural and easy choice. And not just for textbooks or reading materials. Bookcases and cubbies can be customized in multiple ways to suit your teaching and family’s needs.
Here are a few tips and tools to maximize their efficiency.
- Store homeschooling supplies that you use on a regular basis in open bins or containers. meori Storage Bins are my favorite as they are portable, easily labeled, and super customizable (they come in different sizes and inserts) so you can design to your needs. They fold up flat to be easily tucked away when not in use. Plus they’re durable (important for homeschooling supplies!), hold a ton and are pretty and modern. All traits I can get behind!
This simple organizing method of using open bins and containers takes the guesswork out of homeschool organization! Just easily remove the bin from the bookshelf or cubby, grab the necessary supplies needed, and quickly put the bin back, no miscellaneous items lost or better yet, no clutter! Added plus? Small hands can grab what they need as well.
There are endless ways to organize with bins. My favorite? Sort your curriculum by units in open bins that hold all the books, kits, resource materials, games, and tools needed for that subject.
PRO TIP: In my experience as an academic/coach, if it takes a student more than three steps to get something they are not going to do it. Using open bins or baskets makes the supplies THEY need easy to find and access.
- If you have deep shelves, think organizers that stack on top of each other. Containers with drawers are an added plus since there’s no need to unstack containers to get to the ones on the bottom. A win win during a busy school day.
- Labels are YOUR best friend! And your child’s! Make sure to label each container clearly. This will act as a visual reminder of what’s inside each bin or box and also help your child know where things go when they’re tired after a long school day. (meori’s hanging labels are perfect for labeling their bins. They’re erasable, reusable and can easily be removed.)
- Keep those items you use most regularly in your prime real estate. This means the space between your shoulders and knees. If you have to reach up or move several items out of the way to access supplies all day long that will take precious time out of your day and make maintaining your systems difficult and time consuming.
- If you store items on a high shelf and they are not easily reachable, keep a small folding step stool on hand for easy access for both you and your children.
Rolling in the Deep Drawers
Now that you have your supplies and containers in order, it’s time to discuss “how-to” properly use drawer space. Deep drawers are wonderful for housing supplies that little hands need to access easily. They can see everything at a quick glance, make grab ‘n go a breeze, and foster independence and autonomy.
Use modular dividers in each drawer to create specific compartments. That way everything has a spot, and you can add on as you or your child need more or different supplies. For example, index cards, staplers and staples, scissors, tape and glue, rulers, markers, and such can all be separated by dividers but grouped together in one drawer.
If you have deep drawers, think “air space.” Yes, even in drawers! Drawer containers or baskets with high sides are the perfect way to maximize drawer storage. Or better yet, use stackable storage drawers that can easily be taken out when needed and put back when the day is done.
Short on Space?
Making a homeschool workstation in a small space can be challenging and frustrating. We understand that not everyone has the space to store all their necessary supplies in one area. Or that you don’t have a dedicated room in your home for homeschooling.
Time to get creative. And literally, think out-of-the-box! Here are our tried-and-true ideas for maximizing your small spaces to organize your homeschooling supplies.
- Purchase small plastic drawers that can sit on top of each other on a counter in the kitchen or a credenza in the den. Mini drawer units work really well for school supplies, math resources or science experiment materials.
- Make storage multi-purpose. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if possible your furniture should have more than one function. Instead of a living room coffee table, purchase storage ottomans; swap out a regular step-ladder for one that has storage on the sides. Or replace your kitchen table chairs with a storage bench. In other words, multi-purpose pieces will instantly maximize your homeschool workstation storage.
- Install sliding baskets on deep shelves to store papers, workbooks or notebooks. This organizing idea truly uses every inch of available space.
- Turn it around. Use Lazy Susans and plastic turntables in deep or corner cabinets. Perfect for art or coloring supplies, this lets you have everything right at your fingertips.
PRO TIP: You can easily take out the turntable, place it on a work surface for project work, and then put it right back in the cabinet when finished.
- Are you teaching in different rooms? Purchase a rolling cart with ample storage space to house items you frequently teach with. Then store the cart out of the way when not in use.
- Think of creative ways to use not-often-used spaces. An empty area under your stairwell can be turned into a reading nook with cozy seating and bins for books, or a science “lab” housing a small table and slim shelving.
- Magazine files are your best friends when short on surface space. Use clear transparent magazine files as a catch all for papers, workbooks, forms, or important information you need at your fingertips.
Time to Look Up!
Don’t forget your airspace. Bring your walls and closets into action to optimize your homeschool workstation.
- Hang a peg board with small organizing baskets or high placed shelving on an empty wall. If you have ample wall space hang bulletin boards. They come in fun colors, are easy to hang and provide space for notes, lesson plans, charts, schedules or other visual teaching aids. Or use your wall space to create a message center.
Use magnetic boards, cork, and dry-erase boards to hold papers you need to quickly access, keep-to-do lists in sight and the daily schedule easily visible to all.
- Have ample hanging space in your closets? Hang clear shoe storage bags in your closet or behind a door and tuck supplies and materials in the individual pockets.
Store cords and wires for your electronics or math manipulatives for games. The list and uses are endless! Have bigger items to store? Our favorite is the meori Hanging Organizer.
They allow you to easily hang their storage bins. The Hanger is a clever way to visually organize and maximize tight storage spaces. The organizer can be hung anywhere and creates easy access for all your homeschooling supplies.
- Go behind closed doors! Hang door-mounted racks on the inside of pantry closets or cabinet doors to maximize storage space. This is a great technique for freeing up counter space.
- Organize with clipboards. Clipboards are a terrific way to keep track of your child’s schoolwork progress, post chores and responsibility charts or even schedules and routines.
Color My Classroom
Do you or your children have trouble keeping track of assignments, what supplies belong to whom, and everything in between? You might want to try organizing by color. Color coding makes finding items easier and more streamlined. And research shows we recognize color before words. I’m a huge fan!
You can color-code your homeschooling supplies by designating a color for each subject. Use that color scheme for every notebook, index card, binder, sticky note, folder, etc. Follow the color scheme you’re using for your storage bins. (meori has so many colors to pick from they make color-coding a breeze.)
Or feel free to color code by the child. Have each child pick their favorite color at the start of the school year and purchase rulers, protractors, scissors, even pens specific to each child’s choice. This will easily end the debate of whose scissor is whose!
Multiple devices mean lots of chargers and cords. Color-coding devices by the individual with a permanent marker or a strip of colored tape on the cable.
Homeschool Workstation Designed with Students In Mind
Make sure to set up your room with your students in mind. If you’ve designated one room for homeschooling make sure to create individual spaces for each child so they can access their own supplies. Create individual work zones by placing a meori Mini organizing bin with a customizable insert with grab-n-go supplies for each child on a desk or table. (Don’t forget to color code!)
If your child gets distracted by the noise or commotion of having many people working in one room, make them a privacy shield using a three-sided presentation board. This will help them stay focused while still being in the classroom. They can decorate their board with markers, stickers, post-it notes, even stick-on pockets for organizing papers. When they’re done, it folds up easily to stash out of the way.
School Stuff Storage Stations
Your children shouldn’t be working in the same space all day every day. This tip is especially helpful if you have different learners who need to move around to focus. Get your students moving around the house. From under the dining room table to inside the pantry closet to sitting in the bathtub (no water of course) movement helps us stay on task. Change up your student’s homeschool workstation from time to time, it also keeps it interesting and exciting for them.
Equip each child with a portable School Stuff Storage Station. Gather all the supplies each child will need for school work throughout the year and keep them in a portable tote.
Label each tote with the child’s name and a list of all the supplies it contains. Remember, children of different ages need different supplies. So where your 8-year-old might need scissors, glue, and colored pencils; your 16-year-old will be grabbing his calculator and mechanical pencils. The meori Foldable Tool/Hobby Box has roomy compartments and interior pockets, making it the perfect portable carryall for your student’s homeschool workstation.
Ready. Set. Launching Pad
Does your child attend a homeschooling co-op or community center? Set up a launching pad — a designated place in your home to keep your child’s belongings that go in and out of the house. Backpacks, athletic clothes, instruments, etc., can all be stored here.
A launching pad takes the stress of “I can’t find my notebook” or packing up for the day out of the equation. Remember to pick the most trafficked area that your child uses. It could be by the front door, mudroom, or even outside his or her bedroom. Having pre-stocked totes ready-to-go (meori’s shopping totes and bags are perfect.) makes getting out the door a breeze.
Maintain. Contain. Retain.
The saying goes that a system is as good as it is maintained. So if you use any of these systems, you will have to clean them out regularly to prevent them from becoming unwieldy.
A good rule is to empty them after a unit or project is completed. Figure out what can be tossed and find the best way to store what you need to hold on to. Don’t make it complicated. meori makes a variety of storage bins and hanging file boxes for all your archival needs.
Here’s to a successful and organized homeschool workstation! Which organization tips are your favorite?
Leslie Josel is also the creator of the award-winning Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management®, a planner that helps students develop time management skills, and the award-winning author of 3 books including the recently published, “How to Do it Now Because it’s Not Going Away: An Expert Guide to Getting Stuff Done.” A respected resource on ADHD and Executive Functioning, Leslie writes the weekly “Dear ADHD Family Coach®” column for ADDitude Magazine, the premier magazine for adults and children with ADHD. She speaks to audiences all over the world helping them utilize their resources to best navigate the task-driven world in which they live. Last year, Leslie’s line of student organizing products – a collaboration with Samsill Corp – was released. And for the last five years, Leslie has been named by Global Gurus as one of the top 20 Time Management experts in the world.