Organize Your Homeschooling Day: How to Start and Stay on Track

The following is a guest post by Anne Fischer.

“Mom, what do we have left?”

“Are we done yet?”

“Do we have to do spelling today?”

Field any of these questions before?

Creating a relaxed and flexible homeschooled atmosphere while allowing a child to have a sense of security and predictability about the day is a balance to achieve. Most days my little guy can handle a change with ease. But on occasion my lack of organization, or factors out of my control, bring him to a point of frustration.

If you have ever found yourself in the same situation, here are a few ideas to help your homeschool routine stay on track.

1. Know what your day looks like before you start.

This is common sense, I know, but if you are anything like me there are days you are more prepared than others. Having a system is helpful. Preparing and gathering materials, organizing worksheets, photocopying and making sure books are in order streamlines the day.

I keep five folders labeled Monday through Friday–so if I need to prepare anything in advance it will be ready to go for the week. I usually take time on Tuesdays to fill folders with materials through the following Tuesday. That way my schedule is set for the following Monday and my weekends stay more relaxed.

My son always knows where to go to find his math warm ups or various activities if I’m not immediately available. No worries if you don’t get to everything in the folder. It’s just a tool to give you and your child goals and organization for your week.

2. Create a visual for your child.

Create a visual of the agenda for your child’s day. We use a set of magnets that I made. (Simply put adhesive labels over old flat magnets, label and cut to size.)

We put them on the file cabinet in the school room with two sides: “Done” and “To Do.” When we complete a task, we move it over. I let my guy tell me what he wants to tackle next on the “to do” side.

The satisfaction that comes from moving a magnet to the “done” side is well worth the effort to make this system. You will have a visual assessment for the two of you at the end of the day. You’ll know what has been accomplished and if needed, what should be moved to tomorrow.

3. Keep it positive.

Don’t we all love a little pat on the back after a long day? Reward that hard work after a job well done!

We have a variety of ways to keep it positive. We hang pieces of work we’re especially proud of on a clothesline with colorful mini-clothes pins in the schoolroom to show off to any “visitors” (Often Daddy after work or neighbor kids who wonder what those homeschoolers really do during the day.).

My son also earns “Super Student Awards” and works toward field trips or a special night with Mom or Dad.

If you find your kiddos need a bit more focus for their days, try a few of these tricks. Soon you’ll find yourself feeling more content with the rhythm of your homeschooling day.

What “tools” do you have that help stay on track?


  1. Great post! I love the magnet idea. I usually write our schedule out for both boys to see each day but it the magnets would save time. I also heard that it is so important for kids to see what’s ahead and expected each day so they don’t feel like the work is never-ending.

  2. We have a printed schedule that also doubles as my lesson plan for each day. The kids have a copy in their general notebook so they can refer to it. We use a large dry erase board where I list assignments for our day with page numbers and specifics about each subject. As we go through the day, I fill out the lesson plan for the next day. That allows me flexibility if we needed to spend more time on something, we can without messing up a week’s worth of plans or feeling like I have to rush through something to “catch up” to my lesson plan. Works well for us. Flexible structure allows us to accomplish a great deal each day.
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: Tongue Test

  3. wow great ideas, I always start off with great intentions then half way through our school year I get so lacking in being organised, it’s terrible!

  4. I love the To Done and Done magnet idea. We actually have a magnetic board that we used in my son’s room before we moved but we have not hung up in the new house. I am going to get it out and use it in the school room. Thanks for a great idea!
    Amy’s latest post: theyre here!

  5. From about gd. three onward my kids have had their own agendas which they like. But for younger years I, like above commentors, love magnet idea! Maybe I’ll use this for my third child.

  6. I also love the magnet idea! I have a kindergartener this year and we have done something similar to the folders, but I use magazine boxes (4 for like $2 at IKEA) and label one for each day. Then I can put workbooks, reading books, even small activities (like lacing cards or counters) in the box for that day. I give my daughter the choice of which activity to do first and she seems to like having that input. I also agree about not saving planning until the weekend! We do a one day program on Wednesdays, so I plan each Wednesday night for Thursday-Tuesday.
    Paula@Motherhood Outloud’s latest post: A New Nix and a Sweet Big Sister Story

  7. Yes, the magnet idea is great. I create a flexible (printed) outline for our week. I know that my daughter really appreciates seeing what we have planned. She highlights the finished tasks. She’s so funny; when there is an empty space, she likes to highlight that too!
    Jimmie’s latest post: Jacob Lawrence Artist Study

  8. I love all of these ideas – thanks!

  9. This is fantastic! Really helpful ideas. I love the magnet idea…so clever. Thanks.
    Gina’s latest post: Home Its Complicated

  10. Great post! These are the kind of tips that I need! I think I’ll make a magnet set for myself, too! I don’t have any of those magnets so I googled magnets and found this site…
    So, now I’ll order some and make some for the boys. My husband also suggested that for their chore charts!
    Emily@Creative Disaster’s latest post: Beloved Womens Study

  11. Great idea! I am trying to be a bit more flexible and letting the kids choice what they want to do first and second 🙂

  12. Great job, Anne! And great ideas… I’ll have to get going with the magnets here soon…we’ve needed something like that.
    Jeanne’s latest post: Thug Husband

  13. As usual a totally fabulous post from Simple Homeschool!!! Each of my kids has a list of everything they need to do through the school day in a plastic sleeve in their file… Bible, History, Science, Language Arts, Math, Music Practice, Drawing Assignment, Writing Assignment… They work through their list each day and show me as a section is complete. If they consistently leave something out then we rewrite that section in finer detail… smaller steps can make a daunting task more manageable. Otherwise it is all about: refine, refine, refine… adapt, adapt, adapt… There are days when nothing gets done on the list but my kids are learning so hard that I don’t interrupt. Mostly their lists help me to see that they are keeping on track and covering their work!!!
    se7en’s latest post: Sunday Snippet- The 2010 Lausanne Congress in Cape Town and an ESV Study Bible GiveAway…

  14. Something that is helping us a lot right now is having a little routine for the start and and another for the end of each school “session.”

    My children are pretty young, and some of what we do as “school” like counting, drawing, reading picture books, etc. doesn’t seem as official as the time we spend sitting down writing or doing map activities, etc.

    So we have a little routine to start the school day and end the school day to reinforce the idea that whatever we do in between is imporant work.

    My hope is that as we transition to more structured schooling, we will have this routine to rely on.

  15. Kara,
    Music is such a powerful tool with little ones. All my years in the classroom, “William Tell Overture” was the start up song for my classroom. At home, we now start with a list of songs I run off my ipod as we get ready for our day as well. Thank you for sharing!

  16. I love how many of you have ideas for kiddos further down the road than mine to allow them more ownership of their organization and schedule. What a wonderful life skill you are instilling. I look forward to exploring those ideas as my sons mature. Thank you!

  17. Thanks for the magnet website, Emily! Happy magnet making everyone! I think it helps me as much as it helps my little men. Thank you for the wonderful feedback!

  18. Paula,
    I began a new curriculum with my preschooler this year with a lot of components. Thank you for the IKEA magazine box idea.

  19. Great ideas to help keep things going during the day. I also like the idea of starting of the day with music.

    I’ve read that what happens the first 30 minutes after we wake up sets the tone for the day. If we take matters into our own hands and get some good music going or spend some time playing the the kids it makes a big difference through out the day.

    Also the last thing kids do at the end of the day really sets the memory of the day for them. For example if they had a rough time during the day, but you can spend some fun time with them right before bed that is the memory that will be strongest for them regarding the day. This can turn a negative day into a positive day for a child. I’ve seen it both ways with my kids.

    So bookend the day with play, fun, laughter and good times.
    Trevor’s latest post: A 4th Grader Makes a Long-Time Dream Come True

  20. I need more help on organizing my homeschool stuff! Completed papers, books (mine and theirs), papers to be “graded”, pencils etc. I need a system that makes it easier for them to know where everything is and where to put everything. Any help is appreciated. I have 8 children; currently schooling 6 of them (ages 12 down to 4). Thanks for this post as well!!

  21. Chrissie Higgs says:

    We dont have a room for school, as my home is not that big, so my son has a corner of the living room. We just began the home-school journey last month and I am so wishing I would have taken the plunge long ago he is 12 and has ADHD, and I can see the gaps where public school left off and where we are back-tracking. I can see we have a lot of work to do, and as a single parent, it’s not going to be easy. He may not appreciated me taking him away from the social aspect of school but when he is in college, or has the skills to be whatever he wants in life, then he will get it. Today when my son woke up I showed him the magnets and the board I had made while he was sleeping. He was pretty excited to dig right in, get things done, and get moving magnets to the done side. Being a very visual learner this is going to be a HUGE help for him. I added in some breaks too. Two five minute and a ten minute, so he can decide when he needs to just get away for a few and rest his brain or hands. I also split the reading into three, ten minute magnets that go together. We do two timed tests a day so that magnet was spit into two halves (it’s actually one “subject”, and takes 4 mins a day). I am hoping letting him be a little more self directed will help him to manage time better. For the things he isn’t doing every day I made a space for those too. This is the best idea I have come across yet, and believe me, I am really looking for stuff to motivate him.

    • you sound like a great mom. Good for you for taking matters into your own hands regarding your son’s education- not to mention doing this as single mom? Both you and your son will be greatly blessed for your efforts 🙂

  22. I used coupons I made on the computer with colored card stock. They said things like: computer game with lunch, one free math homework, skip one typing lesson (they hated typing lol), extra tv/computer time, mom does one chore for you, this seemed to work well. They had to hand the coupon in before the start of school to use it that day and could not skip quizes, test or studying. You can make any kind of coupons depending on what your kids like and what can be skipped as a reward.

  23. LOVE this post! So practical and not filled with ideas that sound great but are just way too involved for my life!

    I do a similar thing as the folders except I’m using a binder and a basket (because some supplies just don’t fit in the binder :). I still need to iron out some wrinkles but it’s helped me stay focused SO much! And I’m totally stealing your planning on Tuesdays idea!

    danielle @ RLR’s latest post: Trevy’s fave warm weather fine motor play-tivity: write and squirt the alphabet

  24. Haleigh says:

    Anne, Just a quick question.
    What curriculum are you using with your preschooler? I am so confused as to what to use, have been kinda using Rod and Staff. Thanks for any input!

  25. Jennifer says:

    Hi there, I’m in Oregon also and just started homeschooling, what are the ages of your kids, how do you manage teaching at multiple grade levels? I would love to chat more!

  26. Love this!
    I had magnets for each subject in my old classroom and loved being able to lay out the schedule as it needed to be for each day so we could all see it–and keep the teacher on track ;)–never occurred to me to do this for homeschool.
    Where are those magnets strips….

  27. I really like the magnet idea! May use that one. We have a printed list that they mark off as they go now. I do agree VISUAL is key to a less-stressful day and less questions of “How much more is left?” 🙂
    Megan’s latest post: Lapbooks

  28. I like the magnet Idea but I’m having trouble with my youngest getting completely ready in the morning so maybe I will make one for her morning routine (i.e. brush teeth, etc).

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