I originally posted this back in 2019, just before starting the school year with a kindergartner and a third-grader. Of course, in the two years since (and now that I’m beginning a year with a fifth-grader and a second-grader), I have made more changes, so I thought it was time to update this post. I’m sure there will be more updates in the future!
Something I appreciate about the online homeschooling community is being able to take a peek at how others set up their homeschooling 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 and bookshelves and cabinets specifically for their lessons, 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 that I may not have otherwise considered.
For that reason, I thought I might share our homeschool space, which also happens to be our family room. Before we began homeschooling, I had visions of a place 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 our current home about six months before beginning my son’s kindergarten year, I determined that a corner of our basement would be used only for homeschooling. Ikea supplied the cubby shelves, and I got enormous wall maps from Costco and a few Smokey Bear posters from the National Forest Service free from a local NFS office. It worked well that first year as I also had a shelf full of toys in that space, so my younger daughter was occupied (mostly) while my son and I did his lessons.
The following 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, my husband’s office space, a small craft area for me, and a school/play area competing for room in a 500 square-foot space. I was tired of trying to keep it all 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 icy down there in the winter) and a TV for our school time. But even though the move upstairs was 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 rarely use this room for anything aside from school though we do sometimes watch movies together as a family and occasionally have company, so I wanted this to be a comfortable space as well. Also, we do HOMEschool, which means I didn’t want 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. 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 often move 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.
I keep a letter board on the wall where you first enter our school space which I change out often with birthday or holiday greetings or announcing the new school year. When we were still using Laying Down the Rails, I’d pick out a quote about our current habit to display on the board, and I think I’ll keep doing this even though I don’t currently have plans to go through the book.
To the left are our school table, chairs, and carts for each of the kids. This table has been one of the very best purchases I have 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 my son’s kindergarten year in 2016, but my husband 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. I have it set with only one of the leaves out so we can fold it down whenever we needed more space, and the chairs can go on either side of it so we have additional seating in our family room. Each kid also gets their own set of drawers for pencils, etc., on either side of the table.
On top of the table, I have a tabletop easel with our drawing book (bookmarked where each child left off last) and my daughter’s personal timeline sheets (as well as a manuscript letters sheet I made for her that she uses for reference when she’s writing). We also have a glass dome full of feathers we’ve collected over the years, another smaller glass dome of miscellaneous nature study treasures (a dead wasp, a grasshopper wing, a snakeskin, a moth carapace, etc.). We also have a rock my son found years ago that he thought looked like a giant sunflower seed and a pencil sharpener (my son prefers mechanical pencils, but my daughter prefers Ticonderogas because we have to complicate things). Also, 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 both kids 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 the books for both of their math programs (RightStart Level E for my son and Level B for my daughter) and containers for any math manipulatives we’re currently using. On the bottom shelf, I have a bin for handicrafts and then extra space for their nature notebooks and flower presses.
To the left of the table is an extra chair with a basket of books related to whatever we’re currently learning about beneath it. Beside that is a small bookshelf built into the mantle (formerly a TV cavity). In the shelf, to the left, are random books not necessarily related to school but still suitable for reference, and on the right is our collection of games.
Above that on the mantle is the TV, which we use for watching performances of the music of whatever composer we’re studying and playing our folksongs, hymns, and Spanish songs. We also use it to watch videos related to our other subjects like nature study, science, and geography.
To the right of that, I keep a little bit more of the “home” part of homeschool with a collage of family photos on the wall. Below that is an internet radio which is so old that it really only works as a speaker right now (I have it hooked up to an old iPhone). I use it to play our favorite Pandora stations (including one for our current composer) when we do not have lesson time. I could also use the TV for this, but I prefer not to have the screen on if I can help it. A few other personal items are displayed there, including a rock my son found last year during our geology study that he identified as quartz.
To the left of the TV are some other decorative items and random books not necessarily related to our current school year (but I thought they were pretty), a prayer plant that has taken over the corner, and our globe.
To the left of the mantle is our school cabinet. On top of it is our encyclopedia set (which I got at a library book sale for a great price), the Handbook of Nature Study, a lamp, and a mug warmer because my tea always gets cold during our lesson time. On the top shelf and drawer inside the cabinet are miscellaneous items related to school (e.g., notepads, extra whiteboard markers, clips for our wall grid, old maps for specific subjects, etc.). On the shelves below are movies (on DVD AND video cassette because we are children of the 80s), puzzles, and other random things the kids have stuffed in there. On the wall above the cabinet is another Cavallini poster that I got when we were learning about geology last year.
To the left of the shelf are our couch and coffee table. I sit in the corner closest to the black cabinet, and this is where I stay most of the morning. During math, I wheel each kid’s cart over to the side of the table, and they sit on the floor or on a stool while we go through the lesson together. When I read and they narrate, they sit on the couch as well. When they have things like copywork or drawing that they do while I’m reading to or working with the other kid, they’ll sit at the school table to do that.
In the coffee table, I have a basket for my planner and school year binder (currently containing our umbrella school papers, Charlotte Mason printables, each of their poetry readings for the term, and the notes and text for our current Plutarch life) and other books that I use for reference when teaching one or both of them. I also keep a jar of bookmarks, our timer, and a crate full of random supplies I need like whiteboard markers and eraser, calculator, hand lotion, kitchen sink, etc. There is also a basket of RightStart geometric shapes and other math manipulatives like rulers, a goniometer, triangles, an abacus, etc.
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 as well as pictures of our current artist and composer, 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 a calendar, whiteboards, and maps. The surface of the coffee table is large enough that we can use it for puzzles and games (and snacks during movies and football!).
I store all of the school books we’re not using on a cubby shelf in the basement with a cubby assigned to each year. I keep the AmblesideOnline 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. The cats join us often during our school time, sometimes laying on the table (always during math time), sometimes cuddling with us on the couch. 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 and sliding door 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.