How to Homeschool (Well) as a Disorganized Mess

a very messy table with computer and dozens of notes

Have you ever heard the myth that homeschool parents need to be extremely organized to successfully homeschool? Maybe you tell someone you homeschool and their reaction is, "Oh! You must be so organized!" Or you attend a homeschool convention and hear speaker after speaker talking about planners, schedules, calendars, and organizational systems as if those are more important that reading aloud and doing science experiments.

Well, I strongly disagree with the assumption that you must be organized to be an effective homeschooler, and here's why. I am a disorganized mess, and we have a very successful homeschool nevertheless!

What do I mean by a disorganized mess? Here are a few examples:

  • I’ve never successfully maintained a planner.
  • We don’t have a single file folder holding school papers.
  • We use an open and go curriculum because preparing ahead of time never happens.
  • If we can find enough pencils for everyone to write at the same time, it’s a good day.

Now you may be wondering, "If you are so disorganized, how do you ever get your homeschool work done?”

First, I think it’s important to point out that kids do not need constant academic instruction. Most homeschooled kids can accomplish a lot of the more academic needs in a much smaller amount of time thanks to the small teacher/student ratio and the ability to move at the student's pace.

Second, kids learn a lot through everyday life. We don’t need to have a plan for every moment of the day for them to learn.

Third, while many parents are organized, there are plenty of parents who are not at all organized. And you never know the whole story of someone else's life. That super mom you are comparing yourself to may not be quite as organized as she seems from the outside looking in.

Benefits of Being a Disorganized Mess

Not many people see benefits to being disorganized. And truthfully, there aren’t many. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve bought two of the same item simply because I forgot I had bought it in the first place. That's not an advantage of being disorganized.

But being disorganized has allowed us to be a bit more spontaneous. Since we don’t usually have a set plan, it’s easy to take time off to explore a newfound interest. When we are in the middle of a lesson and my sons want to expand on it, we can. We can drop whatever we are doing and not worry about ruining our schedule (because we don't follow one).

How to Get Stuff Done in Your Homeschool

How to Homeschool (Well) as a Disorganized Mess

When your mind opens to the reality of homeschooling, it can be overwhelming to think about all the possibilities that you could cover with your children. There are so many academic subjects plus extracurriculars, field trips, and supplements. I have two steps to combat the overwhelming feeling of trying to get it all done.

  • Simplifying. I write down all the subjects i want to cover in a year (or even semester). Then I rank them in order of importance. For instance, we would put math ahead of science and science ahead of coding, etc. Once I have my list, I consider what I can eliminate. Do I really need to do grammar lessons this year or is it something that could wait until my boys are older?
    I write everything that is left in order of importance and determine a basic routine to get it done. We do math twice a week, reading twice a week, and rotate history and science on a weekly basis. This very simple structure means we get things done without feeling hemmed into a strict regime.

  • Writing down my goals. What are my goals in homeschooling? Do I want my kids to gather all the possible knowledge they can? Or are my goals more about making learning fun? Knowing and understanding my ultimate goal helps me realize what matters and what doesn’t matter. Our main goal is to teach our kids how to learn. When we focus on only that, the overwhelming feeling of getting it all done is simplified to just one task.

Choose the Right Curriculum

A lot of successful homeschooling in general is choosing the right curriculum. Homeschooling as a disorganized mess is no different. For me, an open and go curriculum works best. When I can just sit down and start the lesson without prep work, it eases the effect of my disorganization. We are able to start any time we please without organizing the lesson first. I don’t need to have a planner or spend hours a week figuring out what we need to do. I just open the Instructor's Guide and do the next thing.

Not all curriculum can be open and go though. Any hands-on curricula will need at least a bit of preparation. I prefer programs either offer a concise material lists of items normally found in a household or a program like BookShark's science that comes with a kit of required materials. That kit is a lifesaver for a mom who isn't great at planning ahead.

So when you’re searching for curriculum, consider how much prep time is required. If you’re a disorganized mess, you might want to stay away from ones that require more planning and stick with something that lets you open up a guide and do the next thing.

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Erin BrownAbout the Author

Erin blogs at where she inspires people to make learning fun!  Through printables, games, activities, and unit studies, learning becomes an adventure worth having.