The Organized Homeschool

The Organized Homeschool

I thought I’d show you the nitty gritty of how I keep my school area organized and looking halfway like a normal space and not an explosion.

I don’t have the luxury of a separate room for school.  So we, like many homeschoolers, use the dining room.  What I do have though is a dining room large enough for 2 tables, so I have dubbed one of them “The School Table.”

I tell ya, you need a lot of STUFF when you homeschool.  And the books aren’t those pretty books with leather covers and fancy pages.  No sir.  They are huge and have spiral binding and they kind of slump down on a shelf.  There are papers and supplies and little clocks with movable hands, teddy bear counters, maps, notebooks, erasers, oh it is all too much!

A few years ago I crossed over to the dark side and even added a huge white board.  Can you say U-G-L-Y?  But we needed it and I will say that it has made a world of difference in our life.  We use it not only for school, but we leave each other notes, we make lists, we write Bible verses, we play games….it really is a family favorite.  Sometimes the little boys just draw pictures on it for hours.

I got the board at the office supply and we framed it with some trim from the hardware store.  Then I took myself to IKEA to get a shelf to fit under it.  It’s the shelf that pulls everything together.

The lower shelves keep those horrible, huge books organized and the baskets store all of the little, annoying things you have to have right at your fingertips.  I did splurge on the baskets from Pottery Barn.  I could have gotten cheaper ones but I needed them to be really sturdy since the kids would be using them every day. It was worth the cost since we’ve had them for several years and they still look like new.

I labeled each basket with Chalkboard Tags from my shop so we can easily change the contents in the baskets.  The needs change hourly around here!  I also jazzed them up with graphics from The Graphics Fairy (more on that later).

On the top of this shelf I keep a bucket of dry erase markers, the teacher books that I use every day, a microscope that the kids like to use often and some decorative things.

The tall shelf to the left holds our favorite (and most attractive) books.

If you are wondering about the candy machine, I use it for rewards.  The kids get a quarter for the machine when they have done all of their work to my satisfaction.  They love not only the little handful of candy, but getting to put the quarter in and turning the dial.  By the way, you can’t use your own quarters for the machine.  I painted a bunch of quarters white and I use those for the rewards, so if there’s an unpainted quarter in the machine at the end of the week when I pull them out of the back…I know there’s a sneak around here and we shut down the whole operation.

I can see that the machine needs to be refilled.  Note to self: buy candy.

I let the girls write Bible verses on the chalkboard above the candy machine.  It gives them an opportunity to be creative.  We change it about once a month.

Lastly, I like to use school-related things as a centerpiece for the table.  When we have guests over we use this table for eating and it still looks cute.  This week I am using a variety of sand timers with a jar of pattern blocks.

I change it all of the time though.  Tomorrow there may be a pile of clocks or some pencil bouquets lined up in old cans.  Whatever whim strikes me I go with it.

As for the kids own books and supplies, we keep those in individual lockers in the living room.  It’s dreamy.  Looks cute AND keeps their things separated and organized.  I wish everything were so easy.

We still have thousands of books and supplies we aren’t using right now but I need to keep….I store those away somewhere else.  The only things I keep out are what we are currently using.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of our homeschool area.  It works for us!

Follow up: Sadly IKEA no longer sells the shelf I used below my white board.  Their HEMNES sofa table is very similar and it is a part of the same collection that my tall bookcase in the photo is from, the HEMNES bookcase.

31 Days of Organizing Fun


  1. Oh, how I wish you lived next door – or at least down the block! I try with our tiny area, but still have a long way to go. I have a feeling you’d have lots of great ideas for me. 😉 It’s a learning process to be sure! And, it’s gotten better over the last year or so. Sure would be nice if it looked a bit “cuter” than it does! Love the idea of a candy machine and painted quarters. 🙂

    A bit off topic, but related for me because of my limited resources and desire to decorate the necessary… have you ever painted cardboard, and do you have any paint recommendations for it? (This post – – shows the pasta boxes I’m currently using… last picture, you can see a peek. I’d like to cover the fronts with scrapbook paper, but the boxes are slightly larger than 12×12, so I’d like to paint the backgrounds all the same color.)

    • Hi Kristin! First of all….that little top you made in your post is adorable. I love it! OK, if I were covering those pasta boxes I would get a roll of brown paper from the hardware store (it’s in the paint section and it’s super thick) and use that. It is very cheap and easy to work with plus you can wrap gifts with it, cover books, embellish it…even use it to catch paint splatters. LOL!

      And I am kind of glad we don’t live right down the street from each other. We’d never get anything done! Lisa~

  2. Once again, we bow to your greatness! 🙂 Seriously, it is adorable. And since I am so visual, I understand the life-and-death importance of reducing visual clutter. We have gone through so many different organizational seasons in our homeschool because we don’t have a designated place, either. As Mackenzy prepares to marry and leave home, I really have been thinking about completely rearranging our home so that it might be possible to have a school room again. I may have to pick your brain if I actually get to do it, because the pickin’s left in my brain are all singed from my hair always being on fire, and there’s not much good stuff left in there.

  3. We will be putting together our homeschool area this Summer. Thanks for sharing and giving me some great ideas! 🙂

    • Amanda, it’s a process. It took me years to get it the way I like it and it is still always changing. Good luck with your summer project. Keep us updated! Lisa~

  4. Beautifully organized! I expect nothing but the best from you, you know! Everything in it’s place and so pretty to boot 🙂 Nicely done!!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  5. Oh how I love the combination of pretty and functional!

  6. WOW!!! Gorgeous! Love your blog & your ideas. And I totally love those lockers! Totally going to do that someday. Where on earth did you get lockers though!?

  7. love seeing how other people organise their homeschool, I am in the process of cleaning, sorting and decluttering all our stuff!

  8. Your homeschool area is gorgeous, Lisa! You have made it organized and beautiful, which is quite a feat when you’re dealing with homeschool supplies. And it all fits in beautifully with your overall decorating style, which is another feat. Hats off to you!

    We have never had a separate room for a school room either. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a separate room…but most of the time I like the fact that we “school” at the kitchen table or hunkered on the sofa in the kitchen, in the ebb and flow of home life.

    Each student has a milk crate to hold their current books, pencils, and notebooks. These are stored in the laundry room. We have a pie safe (which fits in with our own decorating style ~smile~) in the kitchen which holds my planning materials, dictionaries, and various and sundry other books and supplies. It works for us…and has for years! (We are in our 21st year of homeschooling. Actually we’re down to one student now…a daughter who’s finishing 5th grade…so we still have some years to go!)

    Thanks for sharing this peek into your homeschool/home life. 😀

    • Cheryl, I love the milk crate idea. You’ve got to be resourceful to keep this stuff looking nice, huh? 21 years is amazing! I’m right behind you. 🙂 Lisa~

  9. Thanks friends! I love hearing how you organize your homeschool.

    Cheryl, the milk crate idea is great! That’s just like the lockers…each with their own box and tucked away. It sounds like you have a good system there too. Hooray! Lisa~

  10. Lisa, I love your blog! I found you over at Oeganizing Made Fun and now I check your blog daily! I was wondering where you got the lockers in the living room?


  11. Love seeing into your world, up till 2 years ago I Homeschooled in our Dining Room too, but yours is dreamy compared to mine……….what I did miss in the Dining Room was sticking work on the wall, I am a bit arty so when we moved and I did get a room, our Art and Project Work stars!

    I have also just set up my desk in the school room, that is my Bill paying, Blog writing and general place of routine whilst they are schooling… is big and roomy……..

    Since the time I blogged about it I have used repurposed Dish Racks for filing and have repurposed an old filing cabinet……I have added a gorgeous blue Lang desk calendar which I use for bills and general notes.

    I added an Ikea Towel Rack on the side of my desk to hang my Country Portable Blackboard and hang scissors etc…….it has taken 14 years to find my place, I am continually adapting and purging……books are my weakness, we have SOOOOOOO many I now have a library…….

    Thanks for your ideas, your neatness, simplicity and order inspires me!
    Love Cathy (The Aussie Chick!)

    PS Here is the link to my school room journey, it was hard work!

    • Hi Cathy! I love hearing how you order your home. I wish I could come see it for myself! Lisa~

  12. I’m curious. . . Where did you get the candy machine and the lockers?

  13. simply beautiful. do you ever have a messy house? ever?

    • Ha! It gets messy, but we make sure it’s clean every night before we go to bed so it doesn’t get out of control. Lisa~

  14. I love peeking into your classroom – so pretty and functional! Are your bookcases the HEMNES line from Ikea? They look like they have held up well. We had a low bookshelf custom built very reasonably for under the window our tiny kitchen eating area and it has been a blessing – everything is just handy and tidy (most of the time) though not really beautiful! I need to work on beautiful – your classroom is inspiring! I love the hour glasses – I think my children would too. Where have you found yours? I have seen them in the past at Hobby Lobby … and I know you shop there!

    • Heather, I found the hour glasses in various places. Some are from the flea market, one is from Anthropologie and I think one may be from Hobby Lobby. Good luck! Lisa~

  15. Oh, if only we could homeschool in that room! I’m convinced that my kids would be smarter, I’d be more organized and our family much more peaceful. Wait, that’s not right you say? Hmmm, I guess that means I’ve gotta rock what I got. Oh dear. I must start brain-storming. Hubby won’t be happy about this…

    As usual, Lisa, just beautiful. You’re always so inspiring!

  16. Nice Job!

  17. Those pictures look like they came out of a magazine. I love the lockers. You are so way cooler than me.

    • Sprittibee….on the scale of coolness I can’t even touch you. You are WAAAY cooler than me! Lisa~

      • Shaw. Not even. And P.S. I want to move in to your house. I’ll be your extra kid and help with dishes. Just don’t send me to do barn chores, mkay?

        • You can move in, but I must make it clear that all residents are required to participate in barn chores. 🙂 Lisa~

  18. I love these ideas and will be using some soon! Thanks for sharing!

  19. I love that I have been blessed with a homeschool area that is out of sight. Not that it is a huge mess but it isn’t super pretty and organized like yours. We’ll soon be homeschooling in the dining room when we move and I know that will be a difficult transition.

    • Autumn, you can do it! You might like being all in the same room again. Family togetherness. Lisa~

  20. I truly did enjoy the tour of your homeschool area. Organizational tips are always helpful. I really love that you change the tablescape regularly. This is something simple but creative that I am sure inspires your lucky kiddos.

  21. Hi! I found you on Pinterest (came in from another link and decided to browse around) and thought I’d say “Hi”.
    Your homeschool (dining)room is so pretty! We have a huge dry erase board too… only we haven’t hung ours since moving into our new house (I won’t tell you how long ago that was). It is currently sitting on two chairs at the end of my dining room. So pretty. *rolling my eyes* Does that little shelf in front of your board make it difficult to get to and write on? I would assume not by how much it sounds like you use it, but it seems like it would be in the way. I just might have room in my dining room for something like that. I’ll be showing my husband this post – for sure!

    I’m enjoying your blog… off to

    • Thanks Valerie! The shelf only affects being able to write at the very top. The rest of the board is easy to reach. Lisa~

  22. Simply beautiful! I always LOVE to see photos if your home. Your decorating style is breathtaking, and very much like what I love. I love organization, so seeing how you organize is wonderful. I have been cleaning out our homeschool classroom, trying to let some non-essentials go in order to keep things tidy and organized. So far I have 3 boxes full to sell at the next local homeschool book sale, and still have more cleaning to do!

    Thank you for more inspiration!

    PS – I stopped by the booth at the Arlington Book Fair and we chatted for a bit. Thank you so much for book recommendations for my daughter Natalie. We cannot wait to get to the library and check them out! Blessings!

    • Hi Anne! Of course I remember you! It was so much fun to meet you in person. I hope you get that board off of the chairs soon. It’s a quick project and you’ll be glad you did! Lisa~

  23. Love it!Our living room houses most of our school…but don’t worry, it’s all neatly behind closed doors or tucked away on the book shelf. I’d love a “real” school room, but I’ve learned how to work with what we’ve got. I have a nice size laundry room, and all our off season school books and reading books are kept in there.

    • Charity, how interesting that so many of y’all have mentioned keeping their school books in the laundry room. I love that idea. You’re so right….work with what you’ve got. Lisa~

  24. This is lovely, thank you for sharing! I am preparing to homeschool for the first time this fall and your post is a big help. 🙂

  25. I love your self! What series is it? I’ve seen something similar but it only has eight cubbies.

  26. I’m hoping to find some lockers somewhere for our schoolroom too, but I have no idea where… I love that you incorporated that into your home! This is fantastic!

    • Alicia, I scoured flea markets for a couple of years until I found them. Thanks so much, Lisa~

  27. I LOVE your space! You definitely made the most of it and it’s so well organized. I’m in the process of organizing our space now. I really like your “UGLY” whiteboard. 🙂 We bought a board at Lowe’s and haven’t ever framed it to hang. We really need to do that. Our set up is similar to yours, with the IKEA bookcase under the whiteboard. Using labeled baskets definitely helps keep things organized and controlled. I need to do what you did and remove what we don’t use. That’s a challenge. Where do you store the books you’re not currently using?

    • Thanks Lisa! We keep our unused things in a storage building we have in the back yard. It’s nice to have them out of the way while we’re not using them. Lisa~

  28. Lisa, I LOVE this homeschool space! I’m going into my second year of homeschool, and the biggest frustration I had toward the end of last year was all of the clutter and disorganization!!! I like how you framed the space with the horizontal and vertical shelves! I looked on IKEA’s website, but couldn’t find the horizontal shelf. I’ll keep looking:)

    • Thanks Cassy! There is so much clutter I sometimes wonder how the public schools keep up with it all. Can you imagine their trash load?

      IKEA doesn’t sell those horizontal shelves anymore, but I am sure they have something else that will work. There’s always something good at IKEA. 🙂

      Have fun looking! Lisa~

  29. Love all the great ideas! Have you maybe thought about putting some folding shutters over the white board? We were thinking about doing something similar since we have our home office in our living room and adore our white board. But they are pretty ugly 🙂

    Brilliant idea with the painted quarters and the candy machine. Pure genius! Will have to use that if I happen to find one of those awesome machines. And I love the way the lockers look in your space!

  30. Hi Lisa! I am a professional organizer and have just recently started a weekly Sunday segment called “Sunday (Home) School Helps” on my Facebook page. Would you mind if I put a link to this page this coming Sunday? I LOVE IT!!! It will definitely be a HUGE inspiration to my FB followers and also on a Yahoo Group that I run.

  31. Love the idea of painted quarters to control the use of the candy machine–you are one clever mama!! And your schoolroom is gorgeous. Am quite jealous of those lockers :o)

  32. Kristin Del Mul :

    I just discovered your blog recently and am loving it! We are fellow Texans!

    I love how you have maintained your functional school space to look visually appealing! We are venturing into homeschooling next year (first child is entering kindergarten) and only have our dining room to use for schooling as well. There is no real division between our dining room and living room either so however our dining room looks effects our living room. I really need to find a way to convert our dining room into a combo dining room/homeschool room without me hating it (I fear primary colors and cartoon alphabet images all over the place). Are there other home schooling moms out there who’s dining rooms serve a dual role and yet still look visually appealing and organized? Does this make sense? I am in serious need of ideas and someone to tell me I don’t have to put all my pretty things away and just be practical. 🙂

  33. Hi! 🙂 I’ve been drooling over this setup for a few days now. This will be my first year homeschooling and I LOOOOOOOOOVE the giant whiteboard…come from public school teaching. Thanks for sharing your room with me. Question: Where did you find the candy machine?! I’ve been looking on ebay etc and they are expensive and don’t have quite the character that yours has.

  34. I love the shelf from Ikea. Do you remember what it was called?


  1. […] discusses “The Organized Homeschool” – and with all her kids and her gorgeous clean house, I’m making sure to read […]

  2. […] got this idea from Lisa at The Pennington Point, although hers is a lot prettier than mine. Our shelf is a lot smaller than hers, and I […]