Organizing Your Home School Space

Alison, a friend of years, agreed to be a guest on the blog with some organizational tips to managing your home school space.  Her handy man hubby re-vamped an unused room to make a real school room atmosphere this year.  I was in awe of this very practical and well used space for their home school world and wanted to share it with everyone and anyone who wanted to glean ideas from them.  While not everyone has an extra living room to turn into this kind of space, you may have a basement or a bedroom, or be able to take away some space saving ideas, among so many others, from these organizational gurus.  I hope to keep the ball rolling as the year goes on with more guests posting on similar topics.  And don’t forget to tell Alison how much her post inspired you.  I’m hoping she’ll create a blog for us all to follow one day…..

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When I told my husband I’d been asked to be a guest blogger on Barb’s site, and the topic was “organization of one’s homeschool room”, he said, “Are you sure she didn’t mean to ask me to write about that?” You see, anyone who knows me well knows that I am not what you’d call spatially gifted. Even my girls chuckled when they heard. This is an area I’ve always struggled with and it has impacted our homeschool. Hunting for pencils, even though I buy them in bulk, looking for that hard-to-miss, larger-than-life Math-U-See book that we just used yesterday, searching the house for that read-aloud we left off with…somewhere, and rummaging through drawers for ink for the printer. I found that most of our Mondays to Fridays were filled with all these moments that were taking away from teaching and learning.

I’d like to say that I’m a newbie, that we’re in the dawn of our homeschooling years, but sadly this disorganization had gone on for seven years. So late last spring as I scoured the house for one of those read-alouds I vowed that this would be the last year we’d waste our time looking for what should be right under our noses. I started worrying. I mean, if I couldn’t teach my kids to find a pencil how would they ever find a job?!

We’d always done school in our little den. The size of the table grew as the children did, but the walls were bulging with books and paper. I don’t think there’s a table out there big enough to house three Math-U-See books open at once, along with the teacher’s guide (which I hate to admit I’m consulting more and more often)! We only have three children, but it sure felt like there were ten of us around that table. Because we all sat at the table there would be the daily argument about whom would sit next to Mommy. There was also the problem of distraction. If someone was doing something they shouldn’t all eyes moved to him/her and the work stopped instantly.

So, as I sat at this cramped table images of a neat, orderly school room teased my thoughts. I realized we’d have to sacrifice space and the most useless room in our house was the living room. We’d bought our living room furniture 20 years ago, but it still looked brand new because nobody ever sat in it! So one Saturday morning we dove in and started to clear out the room. My sister took our furniture, the piano moved to the family room and we were left with an empty space.

I’m more of a big picture kind of gal, so I’m so glad I’m married to a wonderfully handy, creative, do-it-yourselfer who’s so willing to help. After several days work here’s what we ended up with. I’ll walk you through some of the photos and point out what has made all the difference to us. (And, yes, we cleaned up before taking the photos!)

photo 1

Each child has their own desk with their own set of drawers. I realize this is a no-brainer for some, but the kids love having their own space. I purchased cutlery trays from the dollar store to house pencils and the like in their drawers. We painted and recovered these old hand-me-down chairs and there is an extra for me so I can take it to whomever needs help. The table tops were $19 from Ikea and the legs were only $4 each. (Can one even homeschool without Ikea?)

The kids’ water cups stay on their desks, filled each morning and aren’t taken anywhere else in the house. They have a dry-erase board beside their desk. This has saved volumes of scrap paper as they can work out math problems. They are also magnetic so they can post drawings and notes if they like.

photo 2

I wanted a bookshelf for each of them to keep track of their own readers and workbooks. We couldn’t find anything inexpensive enough so my husband built these out of melamine. The shelf at the top has been a fun place for them to display projects or keepsakes.

We use a mini storage unit from Ikea as well and it keeps all those pencils, dry-erase markers, scissors, glue, crayons, etc. in one place. It has really worked well. Everything finds its way back.

photo 3

This tv screen is not hooked up to cable, but rather my computer so the kids can watch their math lessons. Since it mimics what’s on my screen they can also view our encyclopedia, an educational dvd or an internet source.

We painted the wall at the front of the room with chalkboard paint. It’s a great place for them to draw, but also for me to instruct. Our old school room has become our “library” or reading room. It’s right next door to our new room so the kids can easily move back and forth.

photo 4

A big surprise for us was when Daddy bought these shirts and created a logo for our school. They are fun to wear on field trips and help the kids feel like they’re a part of something special. I would encourage everyone to name their homeschool. It also helps when they get the dreaded question, “And where do you go to school?”

photo 5

Since our schoolroom is right by the front door, and it doesn’t always look this neat, I wanted to be able to shut it off from the rest of the house. My husband built a false wall and installed pocket doors. They take up much less space than French doors. The glass is frosted.

photo 6

As all homeschoolers do, we read a lot, so it’s important to me to have lost of cozy places to facilitate this. I had to include this photo of our reading nook, not in our school room, but in the basement. It’s a favourite reading place and makes getting through those long novels much easier.

I can honestly say that this has been our best year yet and I know it’s because of this room. Not once have we searched for a pencil. Not once have there been any arguments over who sits next to me. Each child is taking ownership over their own things and each one is excited to start each day. (Okay, most days!) Since the start I have always heard it said, “Just because you homeschool, doesn’t mean you have to do school at home.” And while I believe wholeheartedly in that philosophy, our family desperately needed this functional schoolroom. For us, it has made all the difference. It has become the kids’ favourite place to hang out. Even when school is over I find them listening to audios and drawing or writing here. So we lost our living room, but gained a living room!

Everything has its season and our homeschool season is now. There will be a time when we will get our living room back. When the kids have gone off to higher learning I can serve tea “Downton Abbey” style in our formal parlour, but when that time comes I can’t help but think I’ll be sad that there aren’t three sweet little heads bent over their desks anymore. I’m sure I’ll miss the chalkboard drawings, pencil shavings, echoes of Oliver Twist and memories of lessons learned. Who knows, maybe we’ll forget ever turning our school room back into a living room. Books will be forever more interesting than tea!!

Thanks, Barb! This was fun!

photo 7

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