Organizing the Unorganized Learner

Is your homeschooler unorganized? Here are several great tips for helping them to be more organized and more independent in their learning.

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The Unorganized Learner

Do you have an unorganized learner?  Here are just a few hints that you might:

  • Pencils (or any necessary school supply for that matter) can never be found.
  • When pencils are found, they aren’t sharpened and it takes 15 minutes to find a pencil sharpener.
  • You’re always answering the question, “What am I supposed to do next?”
  • Once you’ve answered that question (again), there’s a 20 minute search around the house to find the book needed for the lesson.
  • Another 10 minute search locates the paper to write on and, oh, where did that pencil go now?
  • Later in the day, you find completed work under the couch cushion, by the toothbrush, and in the tree house.

I could go on with examples, but for the sake of saving your sanity, I’m moving right on to practical tips I’ve instituted in our homeschool that have helped drastically in these situations.

Most of these tips are specific to middle and high school students, but I’ve included a few goodies for younger kiddos, too.

Organization Tips

“Mom, where’s my pencil?”

Fill one small bucket or basket with just the necessary supplies.  Too many supplies can overwhelm unorganized learners, so keep it to the minimum.  This bucket keeps my 2nd grader ready with everything he typically needs: pencils, a pencil sharpener, scissors, glue, a glue stick, a ruler, two bookmarks and a set of fat and thin markers.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

My 9th grader’s basket includes: pencils, a sharpener, a big eraser, highlighters, a calculator, a ruler, a protractor, a compass, bookmarks and scissors.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

I like using small buckets or baskets so they can easily be moved from one room to another while keeping all the supplies together.  At the end of the day, the bucket/basket must be back in it’s rightful home.

“Mom, what am I supposed to do next?”

Purchase or put together a really good planner to help organize your older learner.  Each week, I take a few minutes to write Caleb’s 9th grade assignments in his planner.  As he completes each task, he simply highlights it so he has a quick visual of what’s left to do for the day.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

Extra tip:  The unorganized learner tends to do well with clear, but very concise lesson directions.  You’ll notice above that I simply write the lesson number or page numbers he is to complete, only adding additional directions when absolutely necessary.  Keeping it simple helps with information overload.

Extra tip:  Keeping the weekly grades in the planner helps me when report card time comes around, but it’s also a great tool for motivating the unorganized learner.  He is ever mindful of his progress and whether next week’s effort needs to improve, thus organizing him ahead of time as he thinks about what to improve.

“Mom, where are my books?”

All my high schooler’s books have a “home” right next to his work space so that he never has to be confused about where to find something or where to return it.  This includes current literature selections and CD’s.

One important point:  This space should only include current curriculum.  The things he’s actually using and nothing extra.

Another important point:  School work may be completed anywhere around the house, but ALL books and supplies must come back “home” every. single. day.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

A small shelf holds everything my 9th grader needs (except the computer.)  It’s important that the shelf is small so there’s less space to add extra things.  Unorganized learners tend to make piles and stacks wherever there’s extra space!

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

“Mom, where do I put my work?”

In many cases, my oldest has a three-ring binder in which he adds his completed work to the appropriate section.  A three-hole punch is located on Caleb’s shelf near his school supplies.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

If there’s work I need to grade and record for the 9th grader, he brings it to my tote where there’s a special folder for completed work.  (As an organizing tool for myself, I keep his answer keys in my tote so I can quickly grade papers.)

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

Switching gears back to my 2nd grader for a moment…the hanging folders in the tote above hold his Monday-Friday worksheets.  I’m still very much hands-on in teaching him.  As I plan his week, I pull out any worksheets we need and file them away in each day’s hanging folder.  This keeps me from keeping up with too many books/workbooks throughout the week.

Also included in the tote are my planning binder, lesson plans pages for Eli, my calendar, my thinking notebook, and some of the supplies I use all the time like my special pens, white out tape, binder clips, post-it filing tabs, and post-it flags.

“Mom, I forgot the web address for online learning.”

I always place shortcuts on my computer’s toolbar that lead directly to any online learning sign-in pages.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

“Mom, what else am I supposed to do today?”

Checklists included in the weekly planner or hung on a refrigerator are great organizers for the “school extras” – those things that don’t necessarily require lesson plans like instrument practice or exercise.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

My 9th grader has chores that tend to change daily and paid jobs that need to be completed.  We meet together weekly to write out a plan of how to accomplish all of those tasks.

Organizing the Unorganized Learner

And there you have it – some of my best tips and tricks for organizing the unorganized learner.  Most of them were very easy to implement, yet have made drastic improvement in how quickly and how well school work and other tasks are accomplished each day.  I hope you find at least one idea that really helps your unorganized learner!

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Brain training can REALLY help unorganized kids to build focus, memory, processing, comprehension, and logic thinking skills – which all help mightily to organize the brain so that it can organize the life.

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  1. Amy Cutshall says:

    Thank you! My ninth grader sounds a lot like yours. I will be trying some of these tips since what we are currently doing isn’t really working.

  2. I really like this!!! I’m encouraged because we do a lot of these things! I keep an old fashioned Coke glass in the middle of the table with nothing but PENCILS. My teen has her own bucket of supplies, and then I also have a hanging shoe organizer over a closet door downstairs (where we work) where all of the supplies LIVE. My daughter works out of a crate all day (which she takes to CC with her) — so all current books and notebooks are in that ONE spot.

    Great suggestions here Cindy!

  3. Some of them are great tips for the unorganized mom. 😉

  4. Lisa Brinkley says:

    Your posts are always a source of encouragement to me and my crew. Thank you so much! Hope to see you at another Indy homeschool convention, we enjoyed listening to you and have loved all the nature books we’ve went through so far.

  5. That’s so sweet, Lisa! Thanks for taking the time to encourage me. 🙂

  6. Where did you find a planner with prayer list, goals and chores? LOVE IT!!! 🙂

  7. Sheila, it’s called A Plan in Place Student Planner. You get to design the pages to include whatever you’d like! 🙂

  8. Really needed this! Thanks!

  9. Glad you found it useful, Patti!

  10. Thanks for the ideas! We used to implement some of these ideas, but apparently I am not good at MY follow-through. I will have to get the school room back in shape so my learner can get those materials back to their home after school. I feel like there may be a light at the end of the where-is-everything tunnel.

  11. MY follow-through is the hardest, too, Kelly!

  12. commonsensemom says:

    Mostly too late for me because my unorganized learner is going to be a senior this year. Somehow she did manage to learn–she got a 33 on the ACT. So take heart if you have an unorganized learner. Learning is still happening. You just have to try to keep your sanity. I think these are great suggestions, and Kelli P. is right…it will take follow-thru by mom every. single. day.

  13. Love your advice, Common Sense Mom!

  14. What type of tote is that and where could I get something like that? I love your ideas and as a new learning coach for my 5th grader with k12 I want to be as organized as I can so that my learning is organized too. He’s an unorganized learner as well!

  15. It’s a Thirty-One tote. I’ve never purchased any other Thirty-One products before, but this one was just perfect for my needs! 🙂

  16. Andriona Martindale says:

    MY follow-through is the hardest, too, Kelly!

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