I finally have what I've always dreamed of: a homeschool room! When I say "always dreamed," I mean that this dream goes back to when I was eleven years old and my parents were looking to purchase a home in San Antonio. While looking at one house that had two living areas, my mom exclaimed, "This would be perfect for a homeschool room!" and thus, the dream began. I knew I wanted to homeschool my own kids someday (yes, at eleven, I already had plans to someday have many children and teach them at home) and I've always been someone who likes homes and spaces and finding beautiful, functional ways of doing things in those spaces. I loved viewing model homes with my parents, and to this day I rearrange my furniture just about every six months. I blame it on being a military brat.
In the back of my mind, probably in a corner labeled Dreamy, Yet Unattainable, were visions of a room full of shelves and globes and maps and old, dusty books. A table for sitting down with my morning coffee, a place to recite Bible verses and continents and math facts, to read aloud Charlotte's Web and Peter Pan and Jame's Herriot's Animal Stories, a place of my own where my children could complain about my coffee breath as I lean over their shoulder to help them with handwriting, just as I did complained to my own mother. Ah, memories. A homeschool room for a real homeshool mom, slippers and coffee breath not optional.
When we first moved into this house, I thought about turning our extra room off the dining area into a homeschool room, but we have so much music equipment and art supplies crammed in there that it became more of our home office/creative space. (That's putting "creative space" very lightly... it's a mess right now and not really conducive for creating much of anything!) Slightly disappointed but otherwise understanding, I turned the bottom of my grandma's hutch into our "school cabinet," and that's what we've been using for the past 5 months.
For those five months, we've done traditional text-book schooling. Pennsylvania has a wonderful charter school available to homeschoolers, using the Calvert curriculum, and they sent us everything we would need -- even a laptop! So for a while, we didn't need much space. It was a tight squeeze, and with my aging, almost-thirty-year-old eyeballs that have never been all that reliable in the first place, sometimes it was hard to see what I was reaching for in the recesses of the Homeschool Hutch, but it worked. Then my mom said, "Hey, I've got a ton of y'all's old picture books and school books down in the basement if you'd like to take them home!" and that led me to rethink our approach to homeschool all together... but I'll leave that for another post!
After several visits to my mom's that ended in returning with one or two or three armfuls of books each time, I realized I didn't have anywhere to store this beautiful collection. What's more, I wanted them to be accessible downstairs, where the kids spend most of the their time, not up in their rooms stuffed in their already over-flowing bookshelves, never to be enjoyed by the whole family. One afternoon, after staring at our dining room for several minutes trying to come up with a plan, I realized we had the perfect place for a long shelf, right under the window! I scoured IKEA for the perfect shelf, and found this one for just over $100.
What's In Our School Room
After lovingly filling it with all of our school books and living books, I decided to bring down some toys for Chase to occupy herself with during school hours. These puzzles and sets of toys had been up high in the kids' closets, because when I can't keep an eye on every little toy my children take out in their room throughout the day, toys with several pieces just end up being huge mess makers. But down here in our homeschool room, I can make sure she takes out one at a time and encourage her in the habit of cleaning up after herself. I love this memory game I found at a thrift store, which features adorable pictures of children from around the world. Another favorite was a gift from my sister, a word game called Very Silly Sentences. This is more for River and Austen's age, and I highly recommend it! It makes language and grammar fun and interesting. For Chase and Austen, I also have several wooden puzzles, pattern blocks, lacing beads, and in the hutch is plenty of paper, crayons, watercolors, and playdough... lots of activities to keep a toddler occupied, and we have more upstairs that I can switch out when need be.
As far as actual school supplies, I keep flimsy lesson manuals and work books in a basket so they don't fall over and clutter the shelves. All my books on childhood development, education, and teaching different subjects, and well as our informational books and story books are now easily accessible in the shelves. River is reading pretty well now and I see him pick up books he's never been interested in before, simply because they are available! That's so exciting to me. I hope to raise voracious readers.
Also kept in baskets are flashcards in individual baggies, and some math manipulatives, and in the middle basket I have replaced those things with copy paper, writing paper, construction paper, and a few notebooks. Finding out a way that works best for us is trial and error. If I think I've found the perfect storage solution for something, I won't really know until I've had it set up that way for a few days and see how it fits into the flow of our school day. For instance, I had the paper stored in the hutch with the crayons, which made logical sense to me, but I found myself having to get up several times a day and walk around the table to search for paper that hadn't already been scribbled or painted on. It wasn't easy to keep it all separate and organized in the hutch. Now that it's in the basket, I can turn in my seat and grab a page, and paper that has been turned into artwork goes into the hutch. I still have to come up with some way to sort all of the artwork my kids create! So much paper...
I love this space because everything is in one place, and that makes all the difference in the world to how our days go. It's easy to clean up after lessons and set the table for a meal, and I love how things are sort of hidden in the shelf, because I've never been a fan of having a bunch of kids' toys out in plain view. I do love beautiful spaces, and this way, it's functional for myself and for the kids!