We all loooove to see other moms’ school areas, don’t we? We ooh and ahh over a perfectly organized school room with colorful posters adorning the walls, drawers and rolling carts for holding all our junk, and cute sets of tables and chairs or even old school desks. But is this the reality for most homeschool moms, and is this classroom-like environment what’s best for the kids anyway?
For us, we homeschool to AVOID our schooling looking like it would in a classroom setting. That means we often use the whole house for homeschooling. The couch, the dining room – those get the most use, but anywhere is really a potential school spot. A school room just doesn’t fit our style.
This article originally appeared on my old blog, Townsley Times. If you came here looking for this particular article but thought you were going to a different site, never fear, you’re actually in the right place. 🙂
I’m not a total minimalist since I have packrat tendencies on some things, however, I do strive to keep our house free of clutter, plastic, and useless toys they’ll forget in no time. This carries over into my homeschool stash as well. And since we are schooling all over the house or even in the car, a good system of organization is really a necessity if we’re going to get anything done. There can’t be any leaving a workbook upstairs or hunting down that biography we’ve been reading. I need our core materials in one central place.
As to the bright posters and decor, it’s really not conducive to learning so I’ve avoided them. Studies have shown it can impede the brain processing information since it is also processing an extreme amount of visual stimuli. We recently purchased white furniture and we don’t really have a lot of brightly colored stuff up on the walls. We do not have posters up but I’m not opposed to some old maps for the bathroom walls or something educational that could still fall into the realm of “normal” household decor. If your kids have sensory processing issues, this is really the way to go.
Here’s our new BILLY bookcase from IKEA. Each of the four kids has their own shelf starting from the bottom. They are free to put toys and trinkets of their own on their shelves and in their fabric boxes. I don’t prefer that papers and important school items go on those since toddlers can still reach and they don’t keep their hands to themselves.
The top two shelves and the top of the bookcase are mine and I use them for our homeschool stuff and baby items. I keep wipes, diapers, extra bibs, and flour sack towels in the green bins so they are hidden away. Then I have our books lined up based on what we are using and when. I have some reading books up there also and anything currently under review for the Crew so I am sure it won’t get misplaced or damaged.
I use the magazine holders, also from IKEA, for folders, small notebooks, and sets like the spelling curriculum we recently reviewed for Memoria Press, and the Apologia A&P textbook, notebooks, and CD. That way I can be sure sets are staying together even if they have a lot of components. The big holders are called FLYT, as pictured on the top shelf. The smaller ones are called FLUNS, pictured on the third shelf down.
Since we are moving (again), my teacher supplies are currently in the basement but I have a shallow blue shelf (pictured above) that I use for my 3-hole punch, stapler, stamps and stickers for when they do a good job, extra pencils and pens, sharpeners, etc. I picked it up from a Facebook yard sale group and painted it how I wanted it. It’s been a handy way to keep things readily accessible and easier on the eyes than a bin filled with random junk. Updated 6/27/18: The picture is now of my current shelf as we have moved already but I’m still not totally set up yet. 😉 But you get the point.
For reading books, I bought two of these smaller shelf units (AVDALA from IKEA). One holds toys and toddler books in the living room, and the other is in the master with the books for older kids and my books I’m not currently reading. Library books will have to go up high on a shelf in the BILLY bookcase. Once all the kids are older, I am looking forward to having more bookcases and having a small library of our own!
In the meantime, my aunt, who is a school teacher, recommended getting a bin for toddler appropriate books (i.e., board books) and printing out a picture of my son so he knows those books are for him and he won’t destroy the paper books. He seems to like it so far and has a vested interest in making sure his stuff doesn’t get messed up…let’s just hope he starts to develop a tad of empathy out of it!
Now I want to talk about arts and crafts stuff because for my kids, those items are just as important as the books and worksheets we use. We bought our girls (our two oldest who are 6 and 4) an IKEA desk with shelves (pictured below, and we added a second shelf unit) so they can store and organize their supplies. Again, since we are moving, it’s in a disarray but I’ll update this with a personal picture in May or June after we are settled again. They have their Magic Stix markers in the case they came in, my oldest has a case of art supplies we got her for Christmas, and our second-born has this nifty zippered pencil case. They also have glitter glue, glue sticks, construction paper, drawing pads, and decorative scissors.
I keep paints and brushes and the Zirrly Super Beads and anything else that has the potential to be a giant mess or safety hazard if the little ones got ahold of them. Plus, in the basement, I have my own giant bins of craft supplies that we use as a family if there’s a certain project we want to do together. I try to go through my stuff every now and then so I know what all I have. This is one area where I am sort of a packrat! It’s at least not spread all over the house, though. In with my stuff, we also have file folders, washi tape (thanks, Maria!), colored pens, cardstock, and that kind of stuff for making lapbooks.
Three items that are valuable to me that don’t have an ideal setup are my huge all-in-one color laser printer that I just got, my new coil binder, and my laminator. I ended up putting the printer on my dresser and the other items on my bookcase. I don’t use the latter two that much, but I need them easily accessible for when I do, and they have accessories that go with them also so keeping it all in one spot is necessary.
Lastly, I use a clear file bin with hanging folders for storing samples for their portfolio. These temporarily go into one folder for each child that is on the BILLY bookshelf in the magazine holders, and then I go through that and file or purge as I see fit. In the clear file bin, I also keep curriculum we are done with. I can use the textbooks again with another child or maybe I’ll decide to sell them and go a different route (like with Life of Fred – it wasn’t a good fit for us).
PIN IT FOR LATER! Continued below….
I can then keep one year for each child in a hanging folder. Next year in Florida, we will be doing the portfolio review option, so we will keep a copy of the teacher’s assessment in there as well. If you do end of the year projects, tests, or evaluations of any kind, you can add those in there right at the front of each year for easy access.
One thing I do struggle with is how to display their art. I take pictures of the ones I think are best (and those also go into the portfolio if they will fit) and we will keep others on the fridge for one week (I’ve been explicit about that with them – one week only). Right now we only have two kids making art so once we have more, I’m not sure what we will do! I’m thinking of some kind of system to hang them with tiny clothes pins so I can switch them out. I know they would love to see their work on display other than in the kitchen. What do you do in your home?
A note about IKEA: I used to get so sad when I would see a post filled with all these organization ideas using IKEA furniture! We are less than two hours from one but shopping with four kids, plus the car ride, plus not having a lot of space due to carseats = never going down there! I discovered that they will ship it all to you for $29 and if you just want smaller stuff, they send it USPS for $9 flat. Yay! It can take awhile if you order furniture because they bring it up on a truck and then a local company brings it to you on a box truck. But is the $29 worth it to not go through a full day’s ordeal of driving and shopping and changing diapers and feeding kids? Absolutely! So if you previously ruled out IKEA items due to lack of accessibility or exorbitant shipping costs, I’d encourage you to give them another look.