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Homeschool Hula: Space for Learning

When you imagine a homeschooling family, what kind of space do you think of? Do you picture kids all working at desks in their rooms, or at the kitchen table? Maybe spending all day in a well-equipped basement school room, upstairs atelier or bright, sunny library?

While I can think of many reasons why it would be delightful to have a dedicated room for books, art supplies and projects, the reality is that we don’t have an entire room to use for that purpose. But you know, in some ways I like having our homeschool supplies mixed in with our living space. We are very much “learning all the time” homeschoolers, and having our supplies in our everyday space reflects that.

Organizing a Homeschooling Space

So, if you’re a family that homeschools in your dining or living room, like mine, what’s the best way to organize supplies so that the kids can access what they need and everything is easy to put away at the end of the day? I will admit up front that I am no expert at keeping things clean and tidy. See exhibit 1a:

messy living room

messy craft table

I enjoy setting up new spaces and rearranging the furniture, it’s keeping it clean and tidied away that is the big challenge for us. But when it’s clean, the space works quite well. I present exhibit 1b:

tidy learning space

little girl colouring in a princess dress

What are the key components of our homeschooling space?

  • a writing station, with everything the girls need to write, draw, cut, glue or colour easily accessible
  • bookshelves
  • book baskets, one for library books and one for our books that need to be put away
  • an easel
  • a cupboard with shelves and doors that close, to store art supplies, games, puzzles and anything that needs close supervision
  • empty floor space for pretend play, dress-up and impromptu dance performances
  • a comfortable couch where we read together every day
  • a large dining room table in an adjacent room where we eat meals, do large art projects and science experiments. In general, the more supervision something requires, the more likely it will be done at the dining table instead of the writing station.

Last year at this time I read the book Playful Learning by Mariah Bruehl, and I was very inspired by what she says about setting up spaces for children to play and learn in. I continue to be very inspired by her book, and go back to it regularly for more ideas for projects, books and resources to bring into our homeschooling day. I am gradually implementing more and more of her ideas, and find that it is true that children are more likely to put things away when they know exactly where everything is supposed to go. Heck, even I find it easier to put things away when I know where they’re supposed to go!

Strengths and Challenges

What do I like best about our homeschooling space? I like the big windows and spaciousness of the room, the kid-accessible writing station, comfy couch and big dining table. I like that the girls are always nearby when they’re working on a project, even if I’m in the kitchen doing the dishes.

The challenge is in keeping it clean and relatively presentable through the waves of creative inspiration and activity that go along with learning. When people come over, I don’t have a door to close off the homeschool room – guests get to see it all, or I scramble to clean everything away. This will hopefully get easier as the girls get older and better at keeping their own spaces tidy.

I still fantasize sometimes about having a study (or studio) that can contain all the paraphernalia that goes along with our creative work and learning. For right now we’re learning and creating and living at home in the same few rooms, and spending a good deal of time exploring and playing and living in the great outdoors too.

If you homeschool, what is your homeschooling space like? And if you don’t homeschool, does our space look like what you imagined a homeschool to look like?

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Aimee September 10, 2012, 11:17 pm

    Loved this post Michelle! We have very similar spaces in which we homeschool. Lately I have been longing for a bit more room to organize things and have them accessible and functional — but more room isn’t an option, so I guess more creativity will have to suffice! Also more tidiness on my part and growing tidiness on the kids’ part will help too.

    • michelle September 11, 2012, 8:21 am

      Hi Aimee! I’ve found that organizing things vertically helps a lot – Tom brought home a plastic “drawers on wheels” storage thing which has turned out to be very useful. I’d rather have beautiful baskets made of natural materials, but we just don’t have the space for those. The other good thing about the plastic drawer unit is that it’s all transparent, so the girls can see what is in each drawer to find what they want and put it away afterwards.

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