One of my favorite things about being part of the homeschooling community in various ways online is being able to take a peek at how others set up their space. Sometimes they have a room dedicated just to that purpose and sometimes they have to commandeer another room in their home, like a dining room or family room, for their homeschool. Sometimes they have desks for each student as well as bookshelves and cabinets specifically for their homeschool, and sometimes a dining room table and a rolling cart that can be put away are the tools of the trade. Either way, from these little glimpses I’ve found some of my favorite ideas for not only how to organize and decorate our space, but also things to include in our lesson time which I may not have otherwise considered.
For that reason, I thought I might also share our homeschool space, which happens to also be our family room. Prior to starting homeschooling, I had visions of a space in our home dedicated to just that purpose. I had of course seen ideas posted on Pinterest and elsewhere with cubby shelves and Cavallini posters that I wanted to duplicate, so when we moved into this house about six months before beginning B’s kindergarten year, I determined that a corner of our basement would be only used for homeschooling. Ikea supplied the cubby shelves and I got ENORMOUS wall maps from Costco as well as a few Smokey Bear posters from the National Forest Service free from a local NFS office. It actually worked well that first year as I also had a shelf full of toys down there so C was occupied (mostly) while B and I did his lessons.
The next year, however, due to a few different things, I chose to start the school year in the family room. The basement was a bit cramped with a guest bed, E’s office space, a small craft area for me, and a school/play area all competing for room in a 500 square-foot space. I was tired of trying to keep the space clean and organized with at least a little less chaos during our lesson time, so on a whim one afternoon, I decided to drag our school table, books, and rolling cart up to the family room to see how I liked it. My intention for the basement school space was to eventually get a small heater (it gets very cold down there in the winter) and a TV for our school time. But even though it was really only supposed to be temporary until I made the basement space better, the family room ended up working so well for us that I decided to keep it there. I also saved us money by moving upstairs as our family room is warmer (and equipped with a gas fireplace) and already has a TV.
We actually rarely use this room for anything aside from school as E and I have a TV in our room and usually don’t move down to the family room in the evenings. Still, we sometimes watch movies together as a family and we occasionally have company, so I wanted this to be a comfortable space as well. And also, we do HOMEschool, which means I didn’t want to try to recreate a classroom in my house. I wanted an area where we could learn and grow together, but that was also cozy and, well, homey. 🙂
So this is where we spend our school time. Parts of it are a little rough around the edges, like the pillows and blankets on the couch that I haven’t gotten around to replacing. The carpet and wall color are not my first choice (leftovers from the previous owners), and eventually I’d like to get a new light fixture. Really, all of our house is an ever-evolving, constantly-changing work in progress as I am always moving things around on walls or shelves to see what I like (probably much to the annoyance of my husband and children). But this is what it looks like right now and it works well for us.
To the right are our school table, chairs (Ikea no longer sells the white version), and carts (Ikea no longer sells the blue version). This table has been one of the very best purchases I made for our homeschool. Ironically, I was just going to try to save money and make do with a few chairs or sit on the floor when we started B’s kindergarten year, but E suggested we at least get a table, so we did the day before starting our lessons. It’s very versatile as the sides can drop down, allowing it to take up very little space. Up to this year, I actually had it turned the other way with only one of the leaves out so we could fold it down whenever we needed more space, but now that C is starting kindergarten, I decided to open it all the way so they both have plenty of room. I can still drop both sides down, though, and turn the chairs around for additional seating in our family room.
On top of the table I have B’s timeline on one tabletop easel and a calendar on the one on C’s side since she hasn’t started timeline yet. I also have small dry-erase boards on each easel (the larger RightStart dry-erase board is on B’s side), which work well in place of a large chalkboard. We also have a rock B found years ago that he thought looked like a giant sunflower seed, a RightStart abacus, a jar for pencils and then two more with colored pencils (and various pens they like) for each kid, a pencil sharpener, extra cap erasers, a lamp, and a succulent because I like a little nature on the table.
On either side of the table I have a cart for B and a cart for C with all of the books for their current school year and term as well as copywork sheets in folders on the top shelf. On the second shelf I have three-ring binders with extra papers for each of them like term overviews, weekly lesson plans, umbrella school enrollment documents, and other loose papers, as well as the books for both of their math programs (RightStart Level D for B and MEP Reception for C) and their binders for co-op. On the bottom shelf I have a bin for handicrafts and then extra space for whatever else needs to go down there throughout the year such as their nature notebooks and paints and extra math manipulative jars for C at this point.
Behind the table, I store a parts organizer for most of our RightStart manipulatives. I pull them out as needed and use the containers in the drawer to keep them from rolling or wandering around the table while we’re using them.
To the left of the table is my chair which I can move to either side of the school table depending on which kid I’m working with. Beside that is a small bookshelf built into the mantle (formerly a TV cavity) with random books not necessarily related to school, but still good for reference and for C to look at while mama is working with B.
Above that on the mantle is the TV, which we use for watching performances of the music of whatever composer we’re studying as well as playing our folksongs, hymns, and Spanish songs (I use Plex and our Roku to play music files from my computer). We also sometimes watch videos for nature study on YouTube.
To the left of that is an internet radio which I use with the free version of Pandora to create stations for our current composer as well as other artists that we listen to outside of school time. I could also use the TV for this, but I prefer not to have the screen on if I can help it. We also have a glass dome with all of the feathers we’ve found in our yard and on nature walks, an artist’s figure, some clay creations from B (including the little figuring on the radio that he made with mud and items from our yard), our wedding photo albums, two mason jars containing moth cocoons, and our nixie tube clock (not pictured here). On the wall is a letter board with my favorite quote and a Cavallini poster (had to get it in there somewhere!) of whatever we’re currently learning about in nature study (this term is cultivated crops).
On the other side, I keep a little bit more of the “home” part of homeschool with a collage of family photos on the wall and then our globe, more clay creations from B, miscellaneous books (some related to our school year and some there because they’re pretty and did you know you could decorate with books? 🙂 ), a glass container with a snake skin from our yard, and a picture of my grandmother when she was 16. (Beside it is an Edison bulb lamp, but that’s also not pictured here.)
To the left of the mantle is a cabinet (which Ikea no longer sells). On the top of it is our encyclopedia (which I got at a library book sale for a great price), a reference book containing the constitution and other documents related to the founding of our nation, a dictionary, and a lamp. On the top shelf and drawer inside the cabinet are miscellaneous items related to school, including larger math manipulatives that don’t fit in the parts organizer, extra books and papers, and laminated maps (excellent for using while we’re reading). On the shelves below are games and other things to keep C occupied while I’m working with B. On the wall above the cabinet is another Cavallini poster that I got when we were learning about the night sky last year.
To the left of the shelf is our couch and coffee table. We do writing and other hands-on activities at the school table, but most of our reading and narrating, as well as Morning Time, is done at the couch which is far more comfortable. On the wall above the couch hang our picture study prints (I switch them out as we study new pieces), a map, a wall grid with different ephemera, and a shelf with a clock and Edith Holden’s Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady open to whatever month it happens to be.
On the coffee table are a few larger picture books as well as a tabletop easel with our current picture study print. The surface is large enough that we can use it for puzzles (stored on the bottom) and games (and snacks during movies!). It also serves as a second surface on which to do schoolwork when, for whatever reason, a kid can’t work at the school table.
I do still store all of the school books we’re not using on the cubby shelf in the basement with a cubby assigned to each year. I keep the Ambleside Online master booklist on my phone, so as I find books at library book sales and other places, I can put them on the appropriate shelf. This has worked extremely well as I’ve been able to get several books for upcoming years for $.50 to $3 each.
So this is our space for now. In colder weather, we turn on the gas fireplace for a very warm and cozy atmosphere and in warmer weather, we can open the window wide to let in fresh breezes and the sound of birds. I think it’s not a bad space in which to learn at all. 🙂