Until this past January, we lived in a house that was too small to allow us a dedicated space for school. We had one closet where I kept school books and supplies, and everything was done around the dining room table. With six of us in the house we had to be creative in using wall and storage place to make school work without making ourselves feel like we lived in a schoolroom.
We lived in a three-bedroom house and all the bedrooms were occupied. The “playroom” was also the pantry and the laundry room and had a small (4’x5’) space for play. We also hosted a weekly supper for friends and neighbors and often had 12-20 people over so we had to be able to put school stuff out of the way in order to put out folding chairs for supper!
Organization is not my strong point, but in two years of schooling this way I learned a few things that were necessities to keep us from completely disappearing under an avalanche of papers!
• Some dedicated space for school materials, divided between materials that are used every day and materials that are used occasionally or that will be used later in the year. Whatever I wasn’t using in a particular year went into our storage unit. The materials we used daily took up two shelves of the dining room bookshelf and the rest was on shelves in a closet.
• Several workspaces that don’t belong to any particular child, but among which the children rotate depending on their needs. We had one standard desk–which I also used as my office space–that was used by whichever child didn’t need my help for their assignment and did need the little blackboard that was mounted above it. We also had a child size school desk which sat up against the bookshelf and was pushed under the dining room table during our weekly supper.
• The third workspace was the kitchen table and was were I sat with whoever I was actively teaching. It was also where we did activities that required more space or were for everyone. The little desk was close enough to this table that I could supervise, but far enough away that the student sitting there was less likely to be distracted by the activities at the big table.
• Magazine files for each child’s daily work and several additional files for schoolbooks that were used weekly but not daily. Also one magazine file for teacher manuals.
• Last fall, I bought the children zippered, three-ring binders and started having them each keep their personal school supplies–pencils, erasers, scissors, and colored pencils–in their binder, and their binder on the shelf next to their magazine file. This greatly reduced hunting for supplies and also gave me a place to put papers I wanted them to complete when I did my lesson plans for the week. I found these so useful that I’ve continued this practice since we’ve moved.
• An easy-to-use system for filing papers–like the one I describe here–with a regular monthly date for filing.
• A set of the plastic drawers, which can be bought at Walmart or a similar store, for things like flashcards, stickers, glue, etc.
• Constant (ideally, more than once a day) tidying! I rarely did tidy that often but when I did it made a huge difference in the liveability of the house and it was a constant goal of mine!
I had three children in school and found that this worked fairly well and that a lot of learning happened organically because we had maps and posters on the walls and the children looked at them while eating meals.
In our new house, we have a schoolroom, and I love the ability to do long-term projects, but I miss the atmosphere of learning that comes from living and learning in the same space!
Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones about living in a houseful of young children, special needs, discipling hearts, and abundant grace! As a homeschool graduate, she has an especial burden to encourage mothers to know and enjoy their children. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.