Organizing the Large Family Homeschool

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supplies organization

Welcome back to 10 Days of Large Family Homeschooling!
Start at the beginning of the series.

I love the concept of cutesy color-coordinated and labeled organizing, but putting it into practice confounds me and feels rather time consuming.  I want quick and simple homeschool organizational methods that will work for the large family household.

So, in this post you will find a smattering of simple ideas based on what we do to keep our homeschooling materials organized.


I have yet to meet a homeschool mom who doesn’t like bookshelves.  They are an absolute necessity in a large family household!  I have my bookshelves divided up into 3 different sections.

1.  The main bookshelves.

main bookshelves

This conglomeration of bookshelves is in our “sitting room”.  My mom and my older kids painted the long bookshelf brown to sort of match the other shelves so it doesn’t stand out as badly as it did when it was a dingy white.  Most of what is housed here are our family’s personal collection of books.  I do keep the Phonics curriculum in here and a few extras like that.  But, for the most part, these are just books that the children can get out any time they like.

2.  The Books of the Year.

This bookshelf sits in our dining room and houses all the books that will be used during a particular school year.  I also put any books I plan to read in this shelf as well.  This keeps everything for the year in one place so I don’t spend precious time hunting down that one book we need to finish our Ancient Egypt study.  This has been a huge time saver and probably ranks right up there as one of my favorite homeschool organizational tips.

3.  Corporate Studies bookshelf.

corporate bookshelf

When I use the word “corporate” I mean anything we do together as a family during our homeschool day.  The corporate bookshelf is home to our Bibles, our devotionals, the read-aloud history books I have all the children listen to, our art curriculum, some audios and DVDs from Vision Forum, and a few of the series books we are working our way through. (Elsie Dinsmore, Little House on the Prairie, and The Boxcar Children)


homeschool closet

I have had some type of homeschool closet since the very beginning of my homeschooling years.  In our new house, it literally is a shelved closet in the hallway.  Prior to that, it was a cheapie stand-alone storage closet with doors.  I consider this to be one of the essentials of homeschooling organization.  Homeschool books are not used every year, even when you have back to back to back children.  You have to have a way to store all the unused curriculum.

This is also a good place to put those items you use only occasionally that would be in the way if left out.  Since our new house had so much space in this closet, I decided to use a portion of it for workbooks we use every day as well as scratch paper for the kids to draw and write on.  {If you look closely on that bottom shelf, you will see the bulk box of crayons I bought from Discount School Supply 😉 }


mom's basket

This is the basket of curriculum and extras I am currently using.  The things in this basket are used nearly every day.  It sits beside my chair where I am most likely to be sitting while using these items.  It’s a handy place to put them so that all I have to do is reach down and grab the next thing.  I started doing this when I was pregnant with #6 and our school room was downstairs.  I was too worn out to make the trek down to that dingy, dark basement, so I hauled everything I needed upstairs and put it in a basket by my chair.  Since then, it has become a staple of our homeschool organization!

School Binder for Mom

household notebooks

Not long ago, I introduced you to my revamped household binders.  My school binder was one of these.  This is where I keep lesson plans, notebook paper, pens, any extras I want to use in our homeschooling, but haven’t quite figured out where to put it, etc.  I’ll talk more about planning in tomorrow’s post, so you can see a little better how I use this binder.


library bag

I used to use a Library Box, but it wasn’t very portable.  When my friend , Stacy, started selling Thirty-One Gifts, I got this large utility tote from her and it has been great!  We keep all the library books in here and then just grab the whole thing and go!  It’s tough and holds up to the massive amount of books we bring home from the library.  It’s also a gauge as to when to stop the children from bringing us more books while at the library.  If the bag is full, we leave!

Organizing Extras

Plastic tubs and totes – They make a size of plastic tote for everything!  Currently, I use 2 small pencil boxes to hold crayons for all the kids.  I used to have a box for each child, but decided this year that was a waste of space.  Two boxes have been plenty for all the children to use together.  Besides, they were dumping them all together anyway!

I also use a tub for paints and another for extra supplies like glue, brads, magnet tape, and such.

Metal containers – I don’t use a lot of these, but I do like them for pencils and paintbrushes (see the photo at the top of this post).  We also keep our mail in one and we used to keep our napkins in a couple, but have since started using a basket on the table.

Baskets – Oh, how I love baskets!  They make the ugliest of things look lovely.

Laminator – For a large family, it is imperative you take as many measures as you can to make things last.  A laminator helps with that.  Amazon runs specials on this laminator a couple of times a year or you can buy it at WalMart for a little better price than Amazon’s every day price.

Binders & Page protectors – I love the versatility of binders and page protectors.  Everything from ebooks to nature notebooks can be put in binders.  I even know some homeschool moms who use page protectors as a way to reuse workbook pages.  I actually keep a stash of page protectors and notebook tabs on hand because you just never know when you are going to need them!

Other organizing ideas we have used over the years

Things change and as homeschooling families, we learn to adapt.  Here are a few organizational tools we have used in the past.  Perhaps you find just what you need amongst them:

Workboxes for the Large Family
Assignment Binders
Our Homeschooling Spaces over the Years
How We {used to} Homeschool Preschool & Kindergarten

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32 Comments on Organizing the Large Family Homeschool

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32 thoughts on “Organizing the Large Family Homeschool

  1. Amy, I love baskets and keep those around for some of our ‘various’ topics…that are extras, as well… And..I have to say, I fought page protectors…until this year….and found the beauty in that little investment!

    • LOL – I had to go back and look at the photos to see what you were talking about…wow! They do look nice! Must be the lighting! lol

  2. Thanks Amy!! We are moving this summer and I am trying to glean as many ideas as possible to set-up our schooling space(s). It seems like you can’t go wrong with book shelves and storage areas:)

    I also like the bookshelf organized with just the books you use in the year (or semester)… that sounds very practical and helpful in keeping everyone’s materials in the right spots;)

  3. This is a very practical, helpful post. My favorite idea is the smaller bookshelf for your current curriculum. I can’t wait to implement that, thanks!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I love organizational posts because for us, when we have everything generally organized I get to spend so much more time with our kids (and my husband). Blessings upon you, your family and the work you are doing with your blog.

  5. I’ve taken to using over the door pocket organizers to sort some school items such as glue, scissors, pencils, etc. If it were up to me, each door in our home would have one of those suckers to tuck all kinds of stuff into. But alas, the hubby is not so fond of them, lol!
    I do also have a designated book shelf holding school books. What is it about books that makes collecting them SO addictive??? :- )
    Thanks for the tips in this post!

    • I don’t know if it is the books that I’m addicted to or the information I can glean from them. Oh, how I love books! lol

  6. I am completely obsessed with hoarding bookshelves and plastic tubs!!!!:) The plastic sheet protectors are one of my new favorite things this year. One thing I find so helpful in organizing my homeschool and to make my days go smoother is a good copy machine. This year my husband finally convinced me to invest in a good copy machine and I LOVE it!!! If I realize I need something or one of my little ones are begging to do the same thing as one of their older siblings I just run down and make a quick copy and then our day can continue. Best Valentines gift ever!!!!:) My husband knows that any tool to make my days easier is far more romantic than flowers or candy.:)

      • I finally got a three in one copier/fax/inkjet printer last year. I use it all the time with just three in school (1st, 2nd, and preschool). Art, science and history plus any extras…my weekly planning stuff, ebooks I want to read etc.

        I do print ebooks as I can then three hole punch and mark them up to my heart’s content.

        We use a lot of report covers and pocket folders with prongs so after the copier/printer my three hole punch is my next best friend :-)…

        I run the printer (HP Officejet 4500) on the economy setting and by my ink at FedEx office which seems to be the cheapest place. Seems like an ink cartridge lasts about 4 months and a pack of paper about 2.5 months…K

  7. I have to smile–we use every one of these tips! One additional thing that I began last year with our family–each child is given a magazine file to store his current spiral notebook(s) and individual workbooks. Then when they announce, “Mom, I can’t find my ___ book,” I can tell them it is in their file. If it isn’t there, it isn’t my problem and they need to find it!

  8. The saying at the opening of your post makes me grin ear to ear – thank you!
    We do have mutual friends, don’t we? That includes bookshelves!
    And thank you for the reminder this week about Discount School Supply. I’m working up my shopping list as I plan for next school year.
    Enjoying this series!

  9. Just looking at bookshelves filled with books makes me smile. We have lots of bookshelves and still need more. I do need to upgrade my organization of school supplies though. That seems to be the thing that ends up all over the place around here.

  10. +JMJ+
    I recently subscribed to your blog and love it! What an encouragement. I am wondering if you could post a link to which bag it is that you got from Thirty-One. I’ve been looking for a similar bag to take along to church (for books, tissues, etc.) and this might be just what I’m looking for, but I’m having a hard time navigating their site.

  11. I love the idea for bringing a large bookbag to the library! That is a great way to gauge when the library trip should be over! 😉

  12. I have that same rocking chair! Exactly the same. My parents gave it to me when I was eleven years old (I am now 48) and I am sitting in it this very moment. I have never seen another one like mine before now.

    • Oh wow! That was my mom’s and I’ve had it now for about 5 years. I grew up with it, so I don’t even know where she got it. How neat. :)

  13. Hi Amy,

    I have a similar system for organizing my supplies. My problem is that our school area is also used for other purposes in our home. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. My 2 younger children both have special needs, and I am constantly frustrated that the organized school supplies get moved or disappear altogether in between sessions. I look for tape, scissors, glue,etc and there they are- GONE! I have tried various discipline strategies for this, but the issue remains. Any ideas? The kids are 10 and 6 but both struggle with impulsivity and an inability to understand cause and effect due to neurological damage in utero.

  14. One of my pet peeves is that purchased bookcases aren’t tall enough or wide enough. They are on average, 6 ft tall. But our ceilings are 8 ft, leaving 2 ft of “wasted” space. And if the width isn’t right, I am missing several inches per shelf of storage. Now I build them to fit the space. Lumber and screws don’t cost much more than the packaged unit. Building it to fit the space and fastening it into the wall studs means much sturdier bookshelves that aren’t going to topple under the loads we put on them! There are plenty of instructions available on the internet for how-to build if you don’t already know.

  15. I organized my crafting stuff for the kids several years ago when we live in a small home w no basement. Now we live in a bigger home with a basement and I still use the same system. My favorite tool has to be a medium sized 3 drawer unit from Walmart. In one of those units I store crayons, markers and colored pencils each in their own drawer which can be pulled out of the base and taken to wherever they may need it. I then have another one with our cutting/paper tools (scissors, fancy scissors, paper punches) and our stamp pads and stamps too. They work great we know right where to find them and right where they go back. I even have one of those in the bathroom to store our stuff in there.

  16. Hello! I am new reading your blog and I have really enjoyed your wisdom and encouragement about home-schooling. I have one specific question too! May I ask why you chose to switch to Phonics Museum from 100 Lessons? And do you like it? Do you think it fits a certain type of child better than another? My first born (in 1st grade) has done incredible well with 100 Lessons but I am not sure how well it will work for my 2nd child.