Staying organized when you homeschool is hard, especially where there are so many things needing your attention. Preparing lessons, and making sure everyone receives the care and attention they need, all while running a home, can overshadow such a task.
Organizing your homeschool library can help make homeschooling easy and finding the right resources for your lessons a breeze. No more futile searching for the book to answer your child’s questions! You don’t have to delay a lesson because you can’t find the correct book.
Here are a few tips to keep your homeschool library organized and efficient.
5 Tips for Organizing your homeschool library
Make an inventory. – It sounds like a lot of work. Trust me, you’ll appreciate the effort when it’s over. And if you’re like me, you won’t believe how many outstanding books you’d forgotten you owned. Or how many doubles you’ve somehow accumulated! Start by making a list of all the books you own. You can either use a spreadsheet or write everything down on paper. This is easy if you have newer books with barcodes. There are even apps that will allow you to catalog your collection using your phone to scan the barcode.
As you catalog your books, put aside any you no longer need. Gems that you can part with can go into a pile you can look to sell or trade at a local used bookstore, in your homeschool group, in online buy/swap/sell groups, or even donate them to a little free library! Books needing repair can go into another pile. Workbooks go to the recycling if they’re completed.
Create a catalog – Having the inventory will make this step a lot easier. Now that you know which books you have, it’s time to catalog them. This will make finding them easy when they’re on the shelf. You can create tags and separate each subject or year by color-coding. Use the same coding system for a digital catalog and spreadsheet.
Using a catalog will help you know what books you have on what subject, where to locate them, and might even prevent you from buying duplicates as you prepare for each new semester.
Sort your books – Now that you’ve categorized your books, it’s time to organize them! There are many systems, so pick the one that works best for you. There’s no wrong way unless you sort by color… you animal!
The easiest way is to adapt the system libraries have and sort alphabetically. Make a pile (or ten) of each category by the subject group. Now sort again alphabetically by the author’s last name.
Some people prefer a section sorted for the current school year, and the rest by subject/alphabetically. If you are using a few systems, I have a hint. Place a sticker on the spine and write a grade on it. Use different colored stickers for each category or subject. This way you know green stickers go together. If it also has a 3 on it, you know you’ll use it in 3rd grade.
This will make the shelving process seamless! Whatever you choose to do, make sure the system works for you and your homeschool.
Shelve your books – By now you can’t move for stacks of books surrounding you, but you’re almost done. It’s time for the fun part! Determine where each category goes and place the books on the shelves. By necessity, I shelf the piles closest to the bookcase first.
I like to put free reads and kids’ books on the lower shelf where they’re more likely to see them and browse by themselves. On the upper shelves, I put the books I’ll be reading to them or books for later grades.
As you do this part of the process, ensure that you keep track using your catalog. This will keep you from missing or skipping any books, or help you know if you added any to the wrong pile.
Take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on your back. Isn’t it nice to feel organized and able to find any book you need?
Keeping them organized – Now the real challenge begins. Without a system to replace books, your shelves will fast return to chaos. We should not waste the work we’ve done! Keeping your catalog is important. When you need to reorganize your books, you can always refer to it.
In a perfect world, we would replace the books as soon as they’re done. If you’ve mastered this, please share your secrets! If you can, it helps things stay organized. But when you’re juggling multiple children, it is hard to do, and harder to enforce. If you are like many of us and struggle to keep up with the voracious readers in your family, you may prefer a shelf, or a cart, where books go as they’re finished. The books can return to the correct shelf at the end of each week.
We have a library cart with a level for each child. That way, we can keep track of the books they read each week. I have all the books they’re using in their level lying with the spine up. If they need the book that day, I stand it up. This makes it easy to give them the books they need each day. At the end of each term, or as you finish reading them, the books return to the shelf.
Whatever you choose to do, having a catalog of books will make life easier and help you avoid buying too many duplicates at the thrift shop or library sale. Except if you find a lovely old hardcover… or a copy that’s in better condition… or even one to put aside to give your children when they’re grown…! You can easily find the copy that needs a new home.