How to organize your homeschool supplies (Back to School Week)

Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

You’ve purchased all your curriculum. You’ve stocked up on pencils, paper, and glue sticks. You’ve stockpiled enough manipulatives to outfit a small school. Now, what are you supposed to do with it all? Where are you going to store it so that your family can still use the dining room table for, well, dining?

After 10 years of homeschooling, I’ve gotten pretty good at finding places to store school stuff…and my husband has come to terms with the fact that people will know we homeschool when they sit in our dining room.

Some of my favorite simple storage solutions include:

The China Hutch

Make use of what you’ve got available. The top half of our China hutch holds the typical stuff, but the bottom half (pictured at the top of this post) is our school supply cabinet.

I use clear plastic storage boxes to hold things like manipulatives, composition books, and extra pens and pencils.  There is also a small hanging file folder box that holds various types of paper: lined, construction, and computer.

There are glass jars that hold glue sticks, markers, and paint brushes, while doubling as water jars when we do watercolor painting. You’ll also find our books and binders there.

And, speaking of binders, each kids’ binder has a zippered pencil pouch inside for pencils, colored pencils, glue sticks, and scissors, so those items are always handy (when they remember to put them back in the pouches).

Bookshelves

Maybe normal people don’t have bookshelves in their dining rooms, but everyone knows that homeschoolers aren’t normal. The small bookshelf in the corner of our dining room holds the books that we use most frequently, library books, and high-use items like: a stapler, an electric pencil sharpener, a tape dispenser, sticky notes, and 3X5 file boxes.

bookshelfPhoto by Kris

On top of our bookshelf is a CD player and a mail sorter that holds, in addition to bills and stamps, pens and pencils, dry erase markers, bookmarks, and a magnifying glass.

Milk Crates

My oldest daughter’s favorite storage spot is a milk crate with hanging file folders. The materials for each subject go into a file folder. The front folder holds her assignment sheet with check boxes so she can mark things off as they’re completed.

milk cratePhoto by Kris

Not only does this method help her stay focused, but it also provides easy portability, so she can easily work on school anywhere in the house.

Presentation Boards

Another highly portable resource for school is a presentation board. We’ve used these for a middle school writing center and a preschool learning center. You can either use permanent adhesive and library card pockets or page protectors for long-term storage and display or re-positional tape to easily change out the elements (such as on the preschool learning center).

presentation boardPhoto by Kris

The boards mean no need for a bulletin board on the wall, and they fold up for easy storage or transportation when you’re not using them. You could even pair this idea with shower stall sheets from a home improvement store to make a portable, compact dry erase board.

Art Caddy

Photo by Kris

Years ago, I got the idea for making an art caddy from my friend, Jamie. It’s simple to make, cute, and easy to update. We used the little metal buckets that are frequently for sale in the dollar section of Target. Because they have the buckets for many seasons, such as Christmas, Easter, and 4th of July, it’s fun to change the buckets out to add some seasonal festiveness to your schoolroom.

Where are your favorite places to stash your school stuff?

About Kris

Kris, who blogs at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, is a homeschooling mom to three amazing kids and wife to her unbelievably supportive husband. She enjoys photography, running, and drinking sweet tea. You can connect with Kris on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Comments

  1. This is great. Kind of funny, because I am planning on switching the bottom of my hutch this weekend to make room for art/school supplies. I am glad to know that is a great idea.

    I absolutely love the art caddy idea. You have my creative juices going now!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Finding A Rhythm to Your Days

  2. We moved this summer and are lucky to have a large school room in our basement. The main part of the room is unpacked, clean, and organized. The backroom with the extra toys, manipulatives, and art supplies is a totally different story! Hopefully it will get organized this weekend.

  3. This post is just in time! I’ve got all my supplies; I’m just trying to figure out where and how to store them so everyone has access.
    Angela’s latest post: Homeschool: Teaching Area and Perimeter.

  4. I love the milk crate and art caddy ideas. I might have to try those as we homeschool in our dining room as well. Thanks!
    Tanya’s latest post: Spaghetti Sauce Recipe~

  5. I just recently switched things around in our laundry room and added two shelves for art supplies so my daughter can easily get to them without having to ask every time. Speaking of “homeschool looking” dining rooms, we have a gigantic whiteboard in our dining area (which is part of the kitchen). Even though our kiddo is too young for homeschooling I know it will come in useful. And my husband and I love it – even if other people think it’s weird.
    Steph’s latest post: Six Reasons to Apologize to Our Children

  6. Since we don’t have an actual school room, the bottom of our dining room hutch is WONDERFUL for keeping everything organized. It is a school room by day, dining room by night (we don’t have an eat-in kitchen either). I love that I can put everything away and my dining room not blatantly say “We homeschool.” ;o)
    Janna’s latest post: Tour de Missouri~Branson

  7. We keep most of our school stuff in our dining room, too, though not everyone works in there. Each of our five school age kids has a labeled bin for their books. We also have bins for crayons, pens, colored pencils, scissors, etc. I wrote this post three years ago and it has photos: http://startwellhomeschool.blogspot.com/2009/08/bin-there-done-that-or-how-to-keep.html

    This post, written last week, shows our two main supply shelves. http://virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/2012/08/weekend-gratitude-in-every-situation.html

    Besides them, we have four other bookcases in our dining room to store school books, all sorted by topic and format. There is another one in the living room. We all have bookcases in our bedrooms, too.

  8. I use a bookcase to store our books with canvas totes for the supplies. I believe I got an idea for the portable carts with drawers from your blog that I’m going to implement this year. We school around the kitchen table so it’s much easier to have something portable to clear the table and keep everything in one area.
    Southern Gal’s latest post: Homemade Laundry Detergent

  9. We got a couple of inexpensive pantries from Walmart that house our homeschooling and art/craft stuff..I also put our educational games and puzzles in there. I use plastic shoeboxes and magazine holders to hold most things. It’s nice because I can adjust the shelves to different heights, and there are doors..which means I lock the baby out of it all! There is one small bin of toys i can pull out for the baby to play with when I’m busy doing school. The shelves are in our living room because we don’t have an actual school room.
    Savannah’s latest post: Urban Walls Decals Giveaway Winners

  10. We have an armoire that we use for school stuff, it works pretty well, but I think we are going to have to move to the other armoire as well…I am starting to overfill the first one :-)
    Heather’s latest post: what i am eating #4

  11. I really hate clutter so I’m a real minimalist with what I keep out. We’re waldorf inspired so do main lesson blocks. I have a dresser in our keepingroom with our supplies out of sight, except for what we’re using right now and that is kept in baskets on a shelf – they’re flattish seagrass tray baskets easy for the kids to get down and put away and they don’t hold a lot so nothing gets messy. The painting basket lives in the kitchen ready for getting water, the tape, glue sticks scissors pencils pencil crayons and sharpeners etc are in a tin bucket that has dividers in it for cutlery.

  12. I love our IKEA Expedit Shelf to hold our books and supplies. I also have Mason Jars on top of the shelf holding some manipulatives and craft supplies. The jars make a great decoration for our school room and put the learning tools out so I can see them and remember to use them.
    Paula’s latest post: The Ultimate Guide to Spelling Practice

  13. We use our one-car garage as the family/school room…now it is time to tidy up and get revved up for the new ‘year’
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s latest post: Lupus & Sjogren’s: 7 Quick Takes

  14. Where do I store homeschool supplies? Everywhere! We have shelves and drawers and a caddy in the family room, small book shelves in the kids’ rooms, and of course my hard drive has at least 200Gb of printables and ebooks stored on it too! Our supplies are literally everywhere, but not in sight usually as my husband doesn’t like the house to look like a school. :)
    Dawn @ The Momma Knows’s latest post: Psst! Look What’s Coming Soon!

  15. This year I gave each of our children a magazine holder to keep their currently being used school books in. This has been nice for all of us, because we have been easily able to find the books we need and they know exactly where they are supposed to go when they are done.

    Another thing I do is have a drop basket. This is where the kids put their work when it is complete. Then when I am ready to correct it I know where to find it. We also keep most papers that will go in their binders in the drop box and about once a week they all get filed at the same time.
    Suanna’s latest post: Revised 2012-2013 School Schedule

  16. We had an awkwardly placed coat closet in our house (it was across the living room from the front door) which never got used as a coat closet because it was so, well, awkwardly placed. So one Saturday afternoon my sweet hubby built in 6 wooden shelves, from top to bottom, in the closet, leaving enough space below the bottom shelf for a 50 gallon rubbermaid container filled with my photographs. Now all of our curriculum, arts & crafts, pens, pencils, paper, & holiday decor (save for Christmas – that lives in the attic!) is housed behind a closed door in our living room, and no one would suspect a thing – unless, of course, we forget to close the door or leave our books spread all over the kitchen table, which we are prone to do. :-)

    We have also taken over the bottom half of a hutch in the living room for games & overflow art supplies (my daughter is an artist)… and a few milk crates scattered through the living room for library books. But at least there’s a place for everything, and everything occasionally is in its proper place.

  17. Jennifer Keime says:

    We currently live in a 2 bedroom apartment, but we are getting ready to downsize to a smaller 1 bedroom house with much more affordable rent. Not easy for a homeschooling family of 4!
    Right now in our dining room, in addition to the table we have: the computer desk and printer shelf, a bookshelf overflowing with our school, Christian and assorted non-fiction books, 2 filing cabinets and assorted plastic totes and plastic drawer units. On the walls we have a large World Map and a US map, a large dry-erase poster and dry-erase wall calendar and assorted funny or motivational school posters. In addition each girl has their own bookshelf in their room for their personal books, coloring books and non-school art supplies.
    When we move this will all go on one side of our living room as the dining room will be converted to a bedroom. I am thinking about getting some of the foldable TV trays to use for school time, since there won’t be room for our table.
    I know it sounds cluttered, but what homeschool room isn’t a little. I have to say, though, I have always been a little proud that it is obvious when you walk into our house that learning happens here!

  18. That’s great! I’ve found though that I need to hide all the supplies…like pencils, glue etc….beause my kids (4 kids aged 0 – 6 ) are just so creative that they end up all over the house (and outside) so when it comes to sit down work – we can’t find anything! This also goes for whiteboard markers. We’ve just started putting away (in a storage tub) our essential supplies like pencils, glue, whiteboard markers and I get them out for ‘school time’ and they go back at the end. The kids have access to other art supplies all day but I was tired of things getting lost and not being there when I needed them!
    Tara’s latest post: Answering Questions With The Wonderwall

  19. Theresa O'Bryant says:

    Well at least you can still eat in your dinning room too… I took everything out of the breakfast nook in our home including the breakfast table and turned the whole think into a classroom, complete with a classroom table, classroom chairs, cubbies, and a large dry erase board with large world map. So yes there is no denying the fact that we are home school, just look in the kitchen!!!

  20. I just asked for help in this area on my blog……lol. Love your ideas, I need help with my bookshelves that we had built in when we did an addition on the house 2 years ago.
    Thanks,
    Moe
    http://adoptivemomhomeschoolinganonlychild.blogspot.com/2012/07/organized-bookshelfs-clutter-help-me.html

  21. love the simple organizing tips..I’m a first year homeschool..I taught first grade in public for twelve years..I very excited ..joined your site and would love for you to visit me at Blessings Beyond the Barnyard
    http://keosmith7.blogspot.com/

  22. I do the china hutch / bookcase method – except I use one of our two pantries in the kitchen. I love having everything close and being able to hide it away quickly!
    http://runciblelife.blogspot.com/2011/10/organization-for-homeschooling.html

  23. People don’t keep books in their dining room? What do they keep there then?! Our long term goal is to have wall to wall bookcases and an art bench in our dining room/school room, until then it’s ikea and home made shelving : )
    Emmalina’s latest post: Little Big Boy But Not A Daddy Yet

  24. I have taken over our old tv armoire for supplies. My challenge is to not have stuff I don’t even need in there. I am trying to only keep what we are using in our schoolroom. And what we use most frequently, the most accessible. Why is this so hard? lol
    sheila’s latest post: Grade 5 Layout

  25. I love the art caddy idea. Switching them out for different holidays is a cute touch.
    Becky’s latest post: UNREAL Candy Review

  26. Love the ideas, especially the presentation board and milk crate. My husbsand, too, has come to terms with the fact that our dining room looks like a preschool. I love that the presentation board gives you the option to tuck it away somewhere, though.
    We moved in to a home with the blessing of having too much kitchen cabinet space and have been able to take over an entire cabinet for homeschool.
    Cindy’s latest post: Day 3 of Turning Your Kitchen Upside Down: None of This! Part 1

  27. We are starting to homeschool for preschool in our home. We stash items around the house in center-like areas. We have a books on tapes plastic bin in the living room. My daughter and I painted a box to hold the books that accompany her sensory bins and both are placed in a little nook near a corner of the living room she uses for quiet play and reading. We have two bookshelves in our dining room to store materials and a coffee table (Ikea) that holds cloth bins with labeled storage drawers. We also have a cabinet in the kitchen where she has access to materials (stamps, playdoh, markers, scissors, construction paper, paints, etc.). We have a weather chart hanging in our kitchen by the sliding door where she can easily check the weather. We have a basket filled with plastic busy bags in our living room. She pulls out a bag at a time for a particular learning project. It allows her to direct her learning based on interest by having so many options at her level.
    Pamela’s latest post: Stepping out of the Want Pit

  28. Genius! Here I am trying to figure out how to put up papers, letters for the kindergartner, etc. and never thought of one of those tri-fold boards! Love, love, love that idea!

  29. This will be our third year homeschooling and I am continually thinking I need to come up with some ingenius method of sotring and displaying homeschool materials. Thank you for letting me see that we are actually doing pretty well. We have about the same methods and locations for our supplies:bookcase for the big kids behind the family room couch, preschool bookcase in the front room, some of my own resources in the bottom left of the hutch. Some other areas are the kitchen coat closet for in plastic drawers for art supplies and the far side of the kitchen island for sensory bins, manipulatives and other supplies mostly for the preschooler. It always seems to be a shuffling process. Where do you store things no longer in use? How much do you keep and how much do you sell or pass on to others?
    April’s latest post: Keeping Track: reading lists

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