Organizing Your Homeschool Library

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I bet I’m not the only homeschooler who has a home overflowing with books.

Though we’ve made ample use of the public library as homeschoolers,

it’s important to keep a print rich environment on hand in our home.

But how do you store and organize all those books on your shelves so that you can use them efficiently?

Organizing your homeschool library can be a daunting task.

Here are a few tips!

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Places to Keep Books

First, let’s get to where we are going to store all these books.

What kind of bookshelves do you use and what other tricks have I found useful?

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library
Keep one bookshelf devoted to library books for easy library business.
  • Magazine Wall Rack – holds our reference materials like the atlases, subject encyclopedias, DK general books, dictionaries, thesauruses, spellers, and some Field Guides.Anything that can be considered reference is here, but we’ve outgrown the space now that our kids are older.
  • Shoebox Bins– I keep biographies, Newberry honor books, classics, and other chapter favorites in shoebox bins on the shelf so the kids can flip through them. That strategy is a favorite of mine because it turns the book covers out.
  • Converted Cereal Boxes – make great magazine holders and I labeled them with winter, summer, spring and fall. I also have a box for Five in a Row, Before Five in a Row, and Beyond Five in a Row books. On another bookcase I have boxes for alphabet books, Henry and Mudge Books and a few other series we’ve collected over the years.
  • The Library Shelf– This is a spot for library books only. When my children were younger and we used the library more often, this was a wonderful addition to our homeschool library. Having books from the library all in one place is a useful organizational tool on library day! When kids are finished with a book, they return it to the library shelf. On the display, I like to keep a book open. It’s guaranteed to stop your kids on the way by and draw them in.
  • Bookshelves– As many as you can reasonably fit! I have worked to replace mine with IKEA Expedit Shelves which hold a ton. Not living close to an IKEA, I keep my eye out on Craigslist and I’ve been able to get two. Make sure they are sturdy- solid wood means they won’t bend under the weight of the books.
  • Gutter Shelves– Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, is a van of the gutter shelf. It is just what it sounds like- a gutter fastened to the wall which holds books. We put up gutter shelves when our kids were younger and our space was small. Using the vertical space in our house was imperative. Word to the wise on the gutters- the cost is low as long as you skip the end caps and other hardware. Once you start adding that in, it gets very pricey! So you will see ours had rounded edges and they were plain. I’d prefer the end caps and braces, but it turned $15 worth of gutter into a $100 project.
  • Personal Book Storage– I try to provide space for books in our kids’ bedrooms. With three boys in one room, we don’t currently have bookshelves in there. This is when a gutter shelf would be great! Maybe it’s time to bring those back. My daughter does have a small shelf in her room which holds her project related books for her studio. All of our kids have project workspaces where they do keep books.

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Ways to Organize the Books

Now that you have places to put the books picked out, how can we organize them so you can find them?

Having books is a great start, making them accessible and attractive is the next step!

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

  • Use a service like Library Thing  – Keeps an inventory list for you and connects you with other readers.
  • Organize Using the Dewey-Decimal System – No reason not to categorize books as the public library does. I’ve always figured that if I need to shelve the books in my home using Dewey Decimals, my husband would declare us once and for all to have too many books! So, I haven’t taken that step. I do a combination of several systems at our house.
  • Arrange by Subject on the Bookshelves– I use a color coding system to organize them together on the bookshelf.  I just colored plain white sticker labels in a small size and then stuck them to the bindings of the books. Purple- math, Green- science, Red- Social Studies.
  • Reference Section– Just like a public library, you can have a reference section at home. It’s a place for dictionaries (I hope you are still using a print version!), thesauruses, atlases, topical encyclopedias, etc.
  • Shelve Teaching Resources Together– We have a lot of teaching resources- things like curriculum teacher manuals, curriculum not in use, and activity books for all kinds of topics like art, history, and science. When my kids were young these were exclusively my shelves. Now I share better and my teens see plenty of use out of those resources for their own enjoyment and research. I still shelve teaching books by subject area.
  • Keep Current Teaching Resources at the Ready– I have a small, narrow cubby shelf next to my desk where I keep the books I need to plan from now. It makes it much more convenient when I’m sitting to work with one of my students or I need to work on planning.
  • Place Chapter Books in Shoeboxes Cover Out– As mentioned above, I store some chapter books in a box so they can be indexed like a file and face front. It saves space and makes the books attractive. I like to rotate the front book so they catch my students’ eye.

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

However you choose to organize your books, make sure they are rotated and you bring attention to various types of books and content.

The time it takes to plan this and implement it pays off!

Using & Organizing eBooks

Is there a place for eBooks in your homeschool library?

Using eBooks saves me time and money.

Sometimes an eBook is cheaper than the gas and parking fee it takes to get to my library.

They are also cheaper than the fines some of us incur!

It definitely takes less time to download an eBook than it takes to make a trip to the library.

Obviously, eBooks take up less space.

That’s a bonus as well.

Having trouble with the concept of eReaders?

Here are links to a few compelling reasons to use them.

  • 5 Reasons to use a Kindle eReader– This post focuses on the Kindle eReader with 5 ways we use them in our homeschool.
  • 5 Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire–  These five ideas focus on the Kindle Fire tablet and how this little gem has enhanced our homeschool.
  • eReader Homeschooling– My Pinterest board on all things eReader for your schooling. You’ll find free books here and other information on using eReaders effectively at home.

My teens use eReaders in their school work daily.

You won’t find a better tool for the cost.

Other Reading Resources at Blog, She Wrote

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Building readers is a passion of mine.

Take a look at other helps for making readers at your house.

Our many books provide a print rich environment for our children and allow them to explore many topics and places.

The key to having lots of books is making sure they are somewhat organized.

Owning books is every bit as important as using the library.

If you have another way to organize books, please leave a comment and share it with us!


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  1. I have color coded our books before, but NEVER thought about using the plastic boxes to turn the small books covers-out! Thank you SO much for this idea! 😀 I think I'm going to tear into our book shelves soon…..

  2. I love the box idea, too! Can you post a picture (or a link) for the magazine wall thing? It seems like maybe I've seen it before, but I can't remember.

  3. Great post Heather! I am in the midst of re-organizng our bookshelves. We've been using plastic boxes for a couple of years for our chapter books more out of making use of small spaces than anything else! Just yesterday I moved all of our reference books into the kitchen to a shelf just under the island of my kitchen for easy access! I am loving it!

  4. This is great! Thank you so much for sharing with us how you have organized your homeschool library! I am excited, motivated and inspired!

  5. I like your ideas on organizing books.Currently our bigger problem is we keep buy books and are running out of shelf space. In the past we've just bought more bookshelves, but we're running out of space for bookshelves.

  6. Color-coding is a good idea. That would help my crew get them put back in the correct spots. Thanks for sharing the pics. Do you ever have troubles with the stickers getting sticky or coming off? I haven't used boxes on shelves that have the books facing out at this point, although I've seen that done at a used bookstore w/children's books and thought it could work well. I've used baskets/bins on the floor at various times, and currently have just one basket there for board books and other books for my littlest to look at.

    1. Electrical tape comes in many colors, and sticks very well to book spines. I put on more then one stripe of color if the book falls into more than one category. i.e. biography and history

  7. I keep my favourite/in use books in a modified mini box-shelf. The other books are on the shelves arranged neatly but not really organized. Maybe I can apply some of your ideas.

  8. When I taught I color coded my books by level (red was 1st, orange was 2nd, yellow was 3rd, etc.), but I also had them in groups like you and each group was numbered and had a numbered location to put them back in. Worked out great. I'll be homeschooling for the first time next year and even though my home library is pretty organized, I'm looking to change it up a bit. Thanks for this post!

  9. Too funny about the Dewey Decimals. I am a huge bookworm, but if we had enough books to make this possible, it wouldn't be my husband, but me who would decide that we had too many books. Your gutter shelves are on my "honey-do" list. Thanks for the great post.

  10. Great post! We have a zillion Kindle books, but they are poorly organized. Any suggestions for help in the area? Thanks!

    1. oops! I didn’t really say how to handle that, did I? I guess I’ll have to add that in. Kindle allows you to keep folders by genre and that is generally what I do. We don’t have a lot of random fiction, so it falls easily into genre/subject area. That’s probably the easiest thing to do to start!

      1. LOL! Maybe it’s my fault for being so far behind. I didn’t realize for a long time that the folders existed and going back now to classify them is quite a slow chore. I am wondering if there is a quicker way to do it on my desktop perhaps and have it sync with my kindles. I need to investigate this…. 🙂 Thanks again!

  11. I love the idea of organizing the books by the Dewey decimal system! We also have a house overflowing with books, and it would make it much easier to find the book we want to read. Great idea!

  12. This is the most comprehensive site I have found for what homeschooling looks like at home. Maybe I am just a visual learner, but I needed this. I love your entire blog! So helpful, as wee are just starting out!

    1. Sarah I think this is my best comment ever! I’m so glad you’ve found help here. Thanks for the encouragement.

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