Homeschool 101: Place and Space

Need Space

To homeschool, you do need some kind of space, obviously. Does that mean it has to be a “classroom” or school room? Not necessarily. Homeschooling can happen anywhere. Where and how it happens will depend on what kind of homeschooling you are doing, and how it works best for your family.

School Room?

You don’t need a dedicated “school room” to homeschool. It’s a common newbie idea to try to recreate a public school classroom in their home, complete with desks, chalkboard, bulletin boards and all the decorations of a traditional classroom. And then they find that they never use it!!

My homeschool organization has changed a lot over the years. I’ve had dedicated spaces and done school at the kitchen table. I’ve had whiteboards and chalkboards, and given them away. There’s shelves and shelves of books and supplies of course. How they are all organized has definitely depended on the space we had available.

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We have a semi-dedicated space. We’ve experiemented with school crates, with desks and no desks, with shelves or “workboxes”, and doing it at the kitchen table.  “School crates” were these plastic milk crates, or storage crates, that are the perfect size for books.  The sturdy plastic crates helped contain and separate each child’s books, and still allowed for a certain amount of mobility. Plus, they were rearranged as necessary. They stacked well, lined up well, or could be left all over the room (or all over the house for that matter!).

I love the idea of workboxes, but space and budget for buying the drawers never lined up for me. 5 units for workboxes takes up a lot of space! But for smaller families, this may be idea, especially for those who love hands-on projects.

Our Current Setup

As of this writing (2017), I use one crate for all their duotangs and workbooks, and I hand them out to each child as I work with each one. We all work around our living room coffee table, where I keep stools that are just the right height to sit and work.  It also allows for kneeling on pillows, or curling up on the couch together for reading. The crate tucks out of sight when we’re all done too.

Equipment Needed or Nice to Have

As far as equipment is concerned, all you really need to homeschool is a place to write, a place to read and a place to store the books, treasures, pencils and supplies when you aren’t using them. It’s nice to have a desk for school, but you can just as easy write at the kitchen table. I would say some kind of shelf or cabinet is essential. Whether that’s a kitchen cupboard set aside for craft supplies, a bookshelf in the living room, or an elaborate wall unit that is neatly labeled and organized, will entirely depend on how much space you have available .. and how organized you are as a homeschool parent!

For me, I have a craft cupboard for all our craft supplies and drawing pads. I have a few bookshelves — one for future/past used books and curriculum, one for current books that will be used in science or history, and one for extra workbooks/duotangs that we haven’t gotten to yet, separated by student. This is what’s working for us right now, given 5 students, at 5 different levels.

Chalkboard? Maybe

It will also depend on your homeschooling style whether or not you have some kind of external writing spot, like a chalkboard or whiteboard. If you are a follower of the Charlotte Mason method, then you may want something you can write out copywork or dictation on. You may want small whiteboards to help practice letter formation with young children.  Or you could have a larger one to show math problems and solutions to older kids.

Some curriculum choices may also require you to have these available, either in large format or smaller individual sizes. For example, Handwriting Without Tears, a popular penmanship curriculum, uses individual chalkboards for the kids to practice making letters and numbers with, among other tools.

Electronics in Homeschool

Another nice piece of equipment to have available for homeschooling is a dedicated computer or tablet, though obviously not essential. It is essential to have a computer of some sorts available, especially if you want your child to be able to learn typing skills, or have knowledge of how to use popular software, such as word processors and spreadsheets, or even to be able to research and find information online. Of course, you can do that at a public library too, so you don’t need to have one at home.

But it’s nice to have a dedicated system for the students, both for safety reasons (you can better control access to the internet, or if the computer will even have access) and for screen time reasons.

In my house, I have a personal laptop, for work and my blog (and, yes, I’ll admit, my video games and movie watching), but I also have a dedicated laptop for my kids to do school on. My oldest listens to French on CD, and watches her Art lessons on DVD. My special needs second oldest has her own tablet, with specialized apps and software designed to help support her weak areas and develop her strengths. With the separate computers, I can control screen time, and I don’t have to fight with my kids over using the computer. (I do have to referee a few fights between them, however).

Specialty tools

There are some special tools that may or may not be necessary, depending on your homeschool. We have a globe, but you could have an atlas, or just use some maps printed off the internet. Or none at all, if you aren’t currently studying geography.  When my girls were younger, we had a special calendar chart, with cards for the weather, seasons, the date -including the month and year and days of the week- and we currently use some weather tools, such as a thermometer and barometer, while my 6 year old is studying the weather.

Because we are Christian family, we have several Bibles around our house, and each of my older girls has their own to use for school. We don’t currently use a flag or practice our national anthem, though maybe we should more often. If you want a flag, you can probably get one from your local government representative, or just wait until the next national holiday and you’ll find tons of affordable options in the store.

Special Science Equipment

Other specialty equipment options may include more expensive tools such as a telescope or microscope. Again, these will depend both on your curriculum and study topic choices, and your interest level in those choices. Having a telescope is an awesome tool to have when studying astronomy, but, speaking from experience, it’s absolutely not necessary either. We may consider getting a microscope in the future, though, since biology is a high school requirement here.

Other science tools, such as prisms, magnifying glasses, binoculars, dissection tools, electrical kits, scales and measuring tools, chemistry sets, or anything else you may find useful are easily obtained as kits, from small-child-friendly to extensive and expensive options. I love Magic School Bus kits as an affordable option, and you can find them available on Amazon for cheap.

Where to find

One of the best places I’ve found for the decor and informational items are the dollar stores and thrift stores. I’ve found great posters for the water cycle, the rock cycle, factors of weather, charts of animal kingdoms, plant diagrams, the solar system, or any other commonly studied topic there. I’ve also found amazing topical books and fun activity books there, along with dictionaries, thesauruses, and all the craft and school supplies I could need.

Don’t need a lot

You don’t need a lot of things to homeschool. But you may want a few things, depending on your space, lifestyle, philosophy and curriculum choices.  And be prepared! Homeschooling can be a messy business. Just check out our room after a busy day of homeschool!2aa81-20160419_174424

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