In the beginning, I was faced with the daunting task of carving out a place in our small home where much of the learning would happen. I had a room in mind and began by emptying its former contents. That just left me with an empty room to look at night after night and wonder...
What do I need to put in here? Where do I even begin? How is it that putting a classroom together was so easy, but this is overwhelming?
On one of those nights, I sat down and began to first envision what I wanted our homeschool journey to look like. I imagined our days filled with books being read together on the couch, taking field trips, keeping interactive notebooks with jars of freshly sharpened pencils handy, outdoor adventures, a snug place to sit for our devotions, large rolls of art paper to pull out and cover with splashes of paint and colorful scribbles. We'd do science experiments, explore new ideas with a hands-on approach, use math manipulatives, play, and learn together. With this delightful vision in mind, I began to make a list of the things the room needed to accommodate these activities.
Do our days always look like the picturesque description above? No. Rewarding as it is, homeschooling is not an easy journey. But having an organized, happy space that fosters a love of learning has been vital. The room has continued to evolve as the year progresses, but these essentials remain...
1. Accessible Supplies--I wanted materials to be accessible to the kids, and this began with the basic need of pencils! We have a pencil station that contains jars for pencils and erasers and an amazing sharpener that Lydia Grace is able to easily use herself. We started out with just a handheld sharpener, but after cleaning up way too many messes from it popping apart, I wised up. This high-quality sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies has been a wonderful solution! My sister who teachers was familiar with the sharpener and declared, "Trust me! I know sharpeners, and that one is the best!" I hated the noise from electric sharpeners when I taught in a classroom, so the quietness of this one was ideal. It's really unique too. You pull out the front plate, insert a pencil, secure it with the clips, and begin turning the handle. The front plate draws the pencil in as it sharpens giving you a perfect point. It comes with supplies to mount it to a desk, but we prefer to leave it portable.
Classroom Friendly Supplies
2. Homey Feel--It was important to me to have a schoolroom that felt like it fit with the rest of the house. Yes, its filled to the brim with school supplies and learning materials, but I also wanted it to have a cozy feel since we are learning at home.
3. Plenty of Storage Space--A large bookcase, furniture with storage compartments, and a fabulous cart from Ikea help to accomplish this goal. (You can also buy the cart here!) Homeschooling comes with clutter. Papers, books, and materials can pile up quickly. We have a place for everything though, and the kids play a vital role in helping to keep our areas clean. A large desk with drawers sits in our dining area just beyond the homeschool room. It sits against the opposite side of the wall you see in the picture below and houses most of my books, materials, and papers.
4. Seating--Since our homeschool room is right off the dining area, we end up at the kitchen table on many days. A table with a school chair, repainted vintage school desk, couch, and ottoman give us additional places to sit inside the schoolroom.
5. Books--I want my kids to not only develop a love of learning, but also a love of books! You can never have too many books! Or at least that's my philosophy. The kids have bookcases filled with them in their rooms, but others have found a home within our schoolroom. I have to confess that we have hundreds in the garage too that are leftover from my old classroom. Tim and I are hoping to conquer that mess in the spring.
6. Chalk and Dry Erase Boards--In additional to portable dry erase boards and chalkboards for the kids, there is a large vintage chalkboard in the room that has been very useful. And I can't forget to mention the chalkboard wall in the hallway that we often migrate to during the day.
7. Letters/Word Wall--This is certainly an essential for younger students! One of the doors in the homeschool room has become the perfect place to display Lydia Grace's sight words. And letters are displayed on a vintage closet door panel that's been repainted white. A bottle of white spray paint is my go to method for making old things pretty again.
9. Student Work Displayed--The refrigerator in the kitchen holds a lot of the kids' work, but there is also display area in the schoolroom. Showcasing a child's work gives them a sense of pride in what they've accomplished.
10. Organization--Beyond just keeping things neat, we have systems in place to keep our days running smoothly. Being organized has been crucial for me since I have two extra little ones that are with us a couple days each week in addition to my own three children. We have a plan for our days and a schedule that is displayed on the kitchen command center. The schedule is flexible--one of the perks of homeschooling--but routine enough that the kids know what to expect next. They know when music time, lunch, circle time, devotions, play time, and our other daily activities take place. Pages, books, and other materials we'll need for the day are tucked inside magazine files from Target. We have co-op on Mondays, so I have a file for each of the other days.
There it is! The list of 10 things I considered essential for setting up a positive learning environment that fits our homeschool style. What would be on your list?
To see more of our homeschool room, you can visit here.