Homeschool Organization: Structure and Orderliness
How to Organize Your Homeschool From the Student’s Perspective
Structure and organization play an important role in education. But what is the right amount of structure? Is one type of organization preferable to another?
Recently, I asked a group of Homeschool Connections students to share with me their thoughts on the role that organization and orderliness in their studies, both in terms of an overall structure to their overall day or weeks, as well as the orderliness of their work area.
How important are structure and organization to your homeschooling day?
Annemarie, 17 years old, is about to start her senior year. She said that organization was of supreme importance in her homeschool experience. “Having a structure is super helpful for me to stay on track and get all the work that I need to be done finished in an acceptable amount of time,” she said. “Also, I find that when my desk is tidy, I can be way more productive than when it’s not.”
Marley, 14, agrees. Marley said, “Structure is very important. Without structure and organization, I would probably just walk around the house and not do anything… I’m also a planner, so it helps to minimize stress to have a plan for the day and what needs to be done.”
Rain, 17, homeschools and attends public school simultaneously and also participates in extracurricular activities. She finds a fixed schedule absolutely essential: “For me, it is very important that I have a structure and a routine/plan every day. For homeschooling (which includes online classes that I take), this includes knowing my daily class times, independent study hours (so homework, readings, etc.), and my extracurriculars (so piano lessons or youth group and the like). I make it a priority to have a planner where I write out my weekly schedule, so I know my week’s goals and can check off what I’ve accomplished during the day. I’ve noticed that I’m more productive when I follow my planner and have a goal in mind that I am aiming towards. Without a structured “school day” I find myself without motivation and with a lack of attentiveness to what I am supposed to work on.”
Other students said that structure is helpful but not absolutely necessary. Olivia, 16, says, “Having a structured and organized schedule can be helpful. Having routines makes it easier to stay on top of all of my work. However, I don’t think it’s necessary for a good school day. Sometimes there are events I have to work around, and those are more important than rigorously keeping up my daily routine.”
Caecilia, 17, wrote, “I find structure and organization (in the form of a schedule) helpful. I will get work done without a plan, but, being something of a perfectionist, I need a time limit to complete my work, or I’ll be working on it all day for not much gain. Having a to-do list and thus being able to see my progress also helps me stay motivated.
Mary, 13, creates a plan for herself. “I try to have a plan for how I’ll complete my schoolwork each day,” she says, “often a list of subjects and an amount of time dedicated to each one. I sometimes vary from my schedule, but it tends to stress me out and result in my work taking longer. On a scale of one to ten, I’d say the importance of an organized school day to me is a eight.”
Aubrey, 16, says that a structure helps her to keep herself on task and not let things get too disordered. “While I do not keep my desk in an orderly fashion, I do like to have some sort of structure to my day,” she said. “It helps me mentally plan by going, ‘Okay, I have classes A and B today, so I should work around that. And also saying, “Oh, I also have this extracurricular at this time today. I should keep that in mind.”
Josh, 14, prefers a more unstructured schedule, allowing him to work independently: “I would say it is semi-important. I have almost no structure for my homeschooling day. But I am still able to complete the necessary work. I find that any time I try to have a schedule, I always will fail, which makes me disappointed and results in me not doing any school. Some people might benefit from a perfect schedule, but I know that I do not.” Miriam, age 15, agrees. She says that she utilizes a schedule “as minimally so as possible… At the beginning of the week, I write down what I need to get done for any particular day then check it off as I go. When planning, I will factor in any activities (e.g., 4-H meetings) for that day. During any normal (not super busy) day, I generally don’t have any plan on when I do a certain task; I just plan to get it done before bedtime.”
How important to you is it that the place you are working be quiet, calm, and orderly?
Olivia, 16, says a calm, quiet environment is very important. “I can’t focus on a written text if I’m also hearing people speak,” she said. “I try to work in silence when I can because even music is too much sensory input when I’m trying to grasp a concept.”
Josh, 14, described a messy environment as a distraction to study. “I cannot do school in a messy room,” he said. “If my bedroom is even a little bit out of order, I will not be able to focus. I also find it hard to work in a place with a lot of chaos. A little noise is fine, but if kids are running around screaming, I will not be able to focus.”
Aubrey, 16, prefers studying away from the noise of her pesky siblings: “I do prefer having a quiet place to work. I do not like the feeling of my siblings constantly making noise or looking over my shoulder. I have found that when I’m home alone, I tend to get a lot of work done that I normally wouldn’t get done otherwise. Now this isn’t the case every day, but if I’m alone in a room, I get a ton more work done than if there was someone in the room with me.” Annemarie agreed: “It’s super important for my work area to be quiet. Otherwise, I’m continually getting off track by thinking about what’s happening around me.”
Some students said the opposite. Marley, 14, responded that she works better when there is some noise going on around her. “I like to have my workspace orderly (my desk), but I work almost better when things aren’t quiet. When things are quiet, my mind tends to wander more, but if there is noise or something happening, I can focus better.”
Caecilia, 17, said that a quiet environment was nice but not necessary. “I appreciate the environment being quiet and calm, but I wouldn’t say it’s very important to me. Insofar as no one is having an interesting conversation or playing loud music, I can concentrate on my schoolwork. A clean (orderly) workspace puts me in a finer mood, so in that, it helps me work, I suppose.” Mary, age 13, said the same: “I work best in a quiet and organized space, probably due to the fact I’m a perfectionist by nature. However, growing up with siblings around has helped me be able to do school with a bit of background noise.” Luis, age 15, said he prefers quiet but doesn’t often get it: “I like it being quiet and fairly sibling-free, but everything is usually quite cluttered, lol.”
Miriam, 15, said, “I prefer a quiet space. However, the messiness level matters less. I merely need enough space to put my computer and a notebook (and of course a path to the desk) to be functional. As far as orderly goes, I often pile my notebooks/textbooks in “Done” and “To do” piles. This helps me keep track of what I have done and what I haven’t. Other than that, I’m relatively unorganized.”
Finally, Rain, 17, said she likes it relatively quiet and calm but sometimes blasts out some jams to get her mind in the right spot: “I can work with a clearer mind when my work/school space is quiet and calm, and… I try to be organized, but at the end of the day, I do have pens and notes lying here and there, but when I find that the messiness of my desk is affecting me, I do make sure to tidy up a bit and have an at least acceptably-organized space. I like listening to Lofi or acoustic-chill music while actively studying or working (so that’s my “quiet”), but if it’s something I’m more at ease with (like a more relaxing assignment and not very complicated tasks), I’ll blast some upbeat jams or even musicals/Broadway.”
In conclusion, there are any number of organizational arrangements that can work, from library-level quietude to a rowdy house full of chattering siblings. To some degree, this is going to be dependent on your child’s personality, study habits, and unique traits. The important thing is that you establish a structure and work environment that your child feels enables their ability to focus.
If your student needs help with organization and planning skills, Homeschool Connections offers a series of excellent online courses for both middle and high school students;
- Organized for Success for Middle School
- Organized for Success for High School
- How to Be an Excellent Student
You can find course description on our Course Finder page: Life Skills.