Homeschooling Your Way: Flexibility and Expecting the Unexpected

source: Jessica Fisher
source: Jessica Fisher

This week we’ll be talk about organization for homeschoolers. One of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility it affords families to tailor school to fit their lifestyle. Because I’m just starting out on this journey, I’ve asked several people to share their experiences and systems with us. And of course we’d love to hear from you in the comments with your experiences as well!

The following is a guest post from Jessica Fisher, aka FishMama, from Life as Mom:

Where in your home do you homeschool? Do you have different areas for read-alouds, workbooks and/or independent work? Is there anywhere that’s off limits?

We have always had an area dedicated to the formal aspects of schooling, such as writing, math, etc. For read-alouds, literature, and history, we tend to float wherever it is most comfortable. Our “school room” has sometimes taken over the traditional dining room, though currently our home has an office space (large room with no closet). That is where we have several tables, the book shelves, the computer shelves, and school cupboards. All the computers (we have two desktops and two laptops) tend to congregate in the school room as well as the printers and scanner.

Do you have a set schedule for your school days? Do you have a set start time? A set end time?

I *try* to start school by 8 each morning and finish by 3. The *plan* is to clean up between 3 and 3:45 when my husband gets home from work. After much trial and error, I have found that we all do better if we know there’s an end. For some years, I just made them work until all school work was complete. But, doing math until dark wasn’t too much fun — for anyone. I thought back to my teaching days and realized it was a unrealistic goal for our family to approach it that way. So, I try to just inspire them to work hard during “school hours”.

Every year seems to take on a personality of its own based on the ages of our children and what’s going on in our life as a family. Last year, we had a sixth child, moved cross country, and suffered the loss of my mother-in-law who died of cancer in December. Couple that with hormonal issues after the baby came, and it was not the school year I had originally envisioned. This year, I am working in a fourth formal student as my youngest boy now starts kindergarten work. (We have four boys, now 7th, 4th, 2nd, and kindergarten as well as two daughters who will turn 3 and 1 in the coming months.) I’m trying to expect the unexpected.

How are your school supplies organized? Do you stock up on extra supplies? How do you organize the extras?

I buy school supplies in the summer when they are really cheap. I have two large melamine cupboards that are filed with clear Sterilite boxes. The supplies are divided into categories (paper, crayons, measuring tools, etc.) I have found that we go through pencils really fast, notebook paper not so much.

What do you use for recordkeeping? Do you store completed work? Do you go above and beyond the recordkeeping requirements of your state?

Years ago, I made up a grid (6 columns x # of subjects) for each week of work for each child. I make up an attendance sheet for the year for each child. I originally made these very detailed 3-in binder portfolios at the end of each year, despite the fact that no one required it. That lasted maybe 2-3 years. Then life with many children prompted me to reassess. Now, I keep an accordion pocket to store selections throughout the year for each student. I also save the weekly records for each kid as well as tests and attendance sheet. We’ve schooled in Kansas and California and have always kept more records than required.

What is one area that you wish was more organized about your homeschooling? My time! I try to do way more than is humanly possible. I’d love to grow in my self-discipline and time management.

Jessica Fisher, also known as FishMama is a joyful wife and happy mom of six children, aged 1 to 12. She regularly writes about fun, frugality, and the pursuit of a clean house at and posts delicious ways to act your wage at