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Whether you’re brand new to homeschooling or you have 10 years of experience under your belt, organizing your homeschool room is a perennial concern. As kids grow, their needs and interests change. This necessitates a fluid approach to homeschool space management. Here are some of our top homeschool room ideas, both for those fortunate enough to have a dedicated homeschool classroom as well as for those who get it all done at the dining room table.
SETTING UP WORKSTATIONS
In the past few years many of us have made the transition to working from home. As a result, the value of having a home office has skyrocketed. So, setting up a designated place for getting our work done and storing the materials we need makes it possible for us to get our jobs done with, hopefully, a certain degree of efficiency.
I believe kids need spaces like this too.
Now, unless you live in a very big house or have a very small family, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to provide home offices for each of your kids. Even if you could, I don’t think it would be the wisest idea.
In our experience, no matter where you set up your kids’ workstations, everyone will eventually gravitate toward the kitchen area anyway. Because that’s where the majority of the action tends to take place. Until they reach the older teen years, few homeschoolers thrive the best working in complete isolation. So, creating an environment that nurtures interaction while also providing a bit of dedicated space usually strikes the right balance here.
Homeschool Room Ideas That Have Worked Well for Our Family
Here are a few different kinds of workstations that have worked well for our family and other homeschoolers we know:
- Having one communal workstation in the kitchen, living, or dining room. This is where all of our books and school supplies live (typically on one or more rolling carts).
- Providing older kids with desks in their bedrooms for shorter periods of independent work.
- Setting up a long shelf-style desk along the wall of an underutilized den or family room and delineating separate workstations with utility carts or filing cabinets underneath. This is an efficient use of space that gives everyone their own workspace. It also keeps them in a centralized location.
- Learning together on the living room couch (or floor!). And having a kitchen table on stand-by when a sturdy surface is required for handwriting practice.
Do What’s Best for Your Family
The best configuration for your family will depend on the ages and learning styles of your kids, the layout of your home, and your budget. You can craft a homeschooling room that works well on a shoestring budget, or you can go all out and create the classroom of your dreams.
But before you go too far dreaming up your new space, spend some time talking to your kids about how and where they prefer to work. Do your best to carve out the kind of space they feel will best support their learning. This will give them a chance to be heard. It will also help them to start taking ownership of their learning outcomes. And it may save you a lot of reorganizing down the road.
HOMESCHOOLING IN THE DINING ROOM
Ultimately, where and how you set up your workstations is less important than developing a consistent routine. In our house, even though everyone has a desk in their room, we don’t really have dedicated workstations for each child.
What we do have is a specific place where we normally do each subject. For example, we try to tackle math as early in the morning as possible, when everybody’s minds are still fresh. My first daughter prefers to do her math on her bed, listening to music. However, my second daughter sets up her laptop at the kitchen island. This means her binder, laptop, and charger remain there most of the day, but that’s a small price to pay for knowing she’s getting her math done with minimal stress.
While they’re doing this, I set up a workstation with my two youngest kids (currently 4.5 and 7 years old) to do their math. They use a lot more manipulatives and hands-on resources. So we like to sit at the dining room table where we can spread everything out. We store their manipulatives in built-in drawers in our kitchen and dining room. This makes for easy access when we pull it all out at the start of each lesson.
Practical Math Resources for Younger Kids
These items include:
- Place value blocks
- Duplo, Lego, or Snap Cubes
- A set of number cards
- A time activity set
- Paper, pencils, and erasers
- Our favorite pencil sharpener
- An iPad (my youngest uses Mathseeds by Reading Eggs)
- A laminated multiplication chart
Since all these things live in the kitchen/dining room area, it takes us about two minutes to bring it all out and get started with our math. It takes a little longer to put them away though, as the blocks usually end up scattered all over the floor. If cabinet space is at a premium in your house, you can easily convert a sideboard into a homeschool cupboard, or again, use a rolling cart. They’re so versatile and can be used to store almost everything you need to homeschool.
The dining room or kitchen table is also perfect for writing, computer-based curricula, and science. Most of the supplies you’ll use for your science experiments are probably found in the kitchen anyway, making this an efficient location.
For the rest of our subjects, we typically prefer to work from the living room couch since we’re mostly reading and watching videos. All we need there is some cuddly throw blankets and a basket to store our books. A laptop or a TV with access to the Internet and YouTube complete our simple setup.
Homeschool room IDEAS FOR SMALL SPACES
If your home feels like it’s too small for homeschooling, don’t worry. A small space can actually be a blessing, as it forces you to be selective about how much stuff you accumulate.
1. Controlling Clutter
Once we began homeschooling, I found that every teacher or former homeschool parent I encountered had a box of books or supplies they thought our family could use. At first I felt bad saying no, but our space quickly became cluttered with outdated materials I didn’t want or need. When you’re working with a small space, though, you will learn not to let this happen.
Determine upfront what you do and don’t need to keep on hand. Start with the bare minimum and add to that only as space permits. For example, you may not need to have the whole year’s worth of books on display all year. You could just keep each term’s books on the shelf and store the rest in an under-the-bed storage bin until their turn comes up.
2. Storing Materials
I do keep much of my homeschooling materials from year to year as I reuse some of the same programs with younger children down the line. For those books that are not in use, I have large plastic totes for homeschool curriculum storage. These I keep in our crawl space or garage.
If you have multiple totes, I highly recommend labeling the contents on the outside. This is helpful so you don’t have to dig when inspiration strikes to suddenly pull out that flip book on Ancient Egypt during a lively breakfast debate. We adhere these packing slip pouches on each of our bins and keep a running list of contents on index cards tucked into the pouches.
3. Borrowing Resources
You may not even need to purchase all of the books you’ll use. Local libraries have many of the books you’ll need. And using borrowed books ensures you have a constant supply of fresh reading material without a constantly growing need for more shelf space. If you’re enrolled as a home learner through a distance education program, they may have a rich lending library of their own for you to access.
4. Utilize Space
For school supplies, I like to use height and hidden spaces to my advantage as much as possible. For example, we installed pegboards onto unused walls in our kitchen to keep school and art supplies in easy reach. Our kids share the supplies, eliminating the need for everyone to have their own sets. And we frequently go through and cull dried-up markers, empty glue sticks, and the like.
If you do have workstations set up for your kids, utilize the space above and below the desks for storage. Filing cabinets, plastic bins, or accordion files are good for storing papers beneath the desk. Bulletin boards, shelves, and pegboards ensure that the upper wall space doesn’t go to waste. Many families also use back-of-the-door shoe or pantry organizers to create additional storage space in a pantry or closet.
5. Go Online
Using online homeschool curricula is another great way to save space. For example, switching to an online math or writing program could eliminate the need to store several student workbooks or teacher’s guides each year.
TIPS FOR SPARKING CREATIVITY
As you’ve probably noted, many of my homeschool space organization tips have to do with tucking things out of sight while still keeping them close at hand.
However, there are some supplies that I think are best left in full view. I’ve read that one of the best ways to spark creativity in kids is to curate a creativity-sparking environment. Kids tend to be drawn to the things they see. So if we want them to explore their creativity, we need to provide the opportunities for them to do so. In addition to offering ample free time and encouragement to experiment, we should also display the tools of creativity.
Tools of Creativity
In our home, this means buying and displaying musical instruments, even before our kids are responsible enough to use them properly. We’ve gone through more than our fair share of innocent ukuleles. (Pro tip: buy used instruments until kids find one they’re keen to commit to and are mature enough to take care of).
Blank sketchbooks are always in stock at our house, along with many how-to-draw tutorial books, drawing pencils, blending stumps, and erasers. We draw together with our kids and watch YouTube videos to pick up new skills. Also, we keep watercolors, acrylics, tempera paints, and a huge jar of paintbrushes readily available. We love to frame our kids’ art and make photo books featuring the pieces we can’t frame as an encouragement to them to keep creating.
Over the years, our arts and crafts supplies have evolved with our kids’ interests. Sewing was huge for a couple of years, so we had sewing machines on the dining table and collected fabric scraps in plastic totes. Currently, my little ones love making boats and airplanes big enough to fit them, so our three large recycling baskets are a constant source of supplies for them. They also construct endlessly with Lego and Duplo, so the dresser that doubles as a TV stand now also triples as Lego storage.
THE OVERARCHING GOAL OF YOUR HOMESCHOOL ROOM
In the end, an amazing homeschool room isn’t necessarily the one that’s Instagram-worthy or that has everything organized perfectly and hidden out of sight (even though sometimes, as homeschooling mamas, we feel certain this is what would bring us the most happiness). The overarching goal of the homeschool room is to facilitate and inspire learning, so as long as you have the supplies you need to do this, then your space is probably the exact one your family needs it to be.
Have any of Sophie’s homeschool room ideas inspired you as you think about your own homeschool set up? What resources, storage tips, and workspace ideas have been helpful to you and your family as you homeschool?
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