When we found out we were moving last year, my seven year old daughter made a wish list for our new house. On the list were two things: Own Bedroom and School Room.
I have to admit, I was kind of hoping we were going to have enough room for a school room, too. We got our wish!
At our old house, we started out doing school in our second bedroom that we used as a playroom. The walls were bright pink and there was one window. It wasn’t very large and with the table and all our supplies in there, it felt pretty tight. More often than not, we would bring out books out to the living room/dining room/family room and do our work there, where we could spread out.
I finally gave up on the idea of using of using our playroom and put a whiteboard up in our living room. Which was our only living space, it doubled as a dining room. After a while, I put up workbox racks and we gave into the fact that we are a homeschool family and school stuff was always going to be part of our daily life.
We’ve been so blessed with our new school room. It isn’t too big and isn’t too small. It’s actually a loft, and has six good-sized windows surrounding it. We get tons of natural light during the day, and the space is open on two sides, one looking down over our family room. We don’t feel walled-in at all. In fact, I never hoped to have a loft, I’d hoped to have a separate room we could close the door on, but this is so, so much better. I love the openness we have now.
Tomorrow, I’ll show you more of our new school room, but first we’re going to talk about storage solutions for those of you who might not have a separate school room. When we were doing school in our only living space, I had two goals:
Easy access to our materials. (Aka, I’m lazy and if I have to look for it, it’s not happening.)
For our house to not look like a classroom. (Aka I get enough rude comments about homeschooling without having a classroom in my living room.)
Books, Books, and More Books
While I love the look of books, any homeschooler knows you can collect enough supplies and materials to get a classroom look within the first three months of starting. If you’re saving curriculum or supplies for younger kids to use later, that’s a double whammy. If you’re using Sonlight… Hello. Triple-whammy.
If, you are completely out of your mind and you buy three, 32 gallon bins full of Sonlight cores at a used sale, even though you know you have nowhere to store them, well then your name might be Angela. Here is how I coped:
Bookcases. Besides storing books, I used covered boxes for school supplies and magazine files for workbooks and teacher guides. Because our space was so small, and our books were so many, the clutter started to overwhelm me pretty fast. I longed for a bookcase with doors, but we never had the money to buy one back then, so I rearranged some other furniture and made do with what we had around the house.
Hutch. For a while, we had a hutch in our dining space. I cleared out the bottom cabinets and drawers of the hutch and put our school books and supplies. In the top of the hutch, where we had glass doors, I kept our china, so it still looked like a dining space. The books and supplies were behind closed doors and I could breathe a little easier. The problem was we grew out of our little hutch in no time.
Armoire. After we got rid of our hutch, I moved our entertainment armoire out of our bedroom and we stuffed all of our school supplies in there. While the armoire was lovely for storage, it was enormous and a bear to get around. Bringing that into our already-crowded living space made me feel like I was living in an episode of Sanford and Sons.
Finally, we moved back to one tall bookcase and one short bookcase, and I stuffed the rest of our books and curriculum around the house.
Sneaky Storage Around the House
Covered Boxes. These were in bookcase, under chairs, on the lower shelf of our sofa table, on top of cabinets, and anywhere else I could squeeze them.
Baskets. We had one basket for library books, and one with all of our Wii supplies in our living room. Wii isn’t technically school stuff, but we do use it for PE once in a while. At times, I had another basket with current literature and read-alouds in it, too.
Stacks. Books are beautiful, and when they aren’t all stuffed, row after row in a crammed shelf, I think they make pretty décor. I had a few of our current poetry books on our entry table, and sometimes I would stack our current literature books on our mantel.
Office Armoire. We had an office armoire in our kitchen and I put some of our school supplies in there. It was easy to remember they were there because I associated that space with office type things. So when I needed our three-hole punch or a stapler, I knew it was in the office armoire.
File Drawers in garage. I’ve shared before how I stored our extra reading books. I also used these large file drawers to store curriculum I was saving. For instance, when we were done with our ancient Egypt unit and needed to make room for American History books, the ancients went into the garage.
Under the bed boxes. Not just for sweaters! Coloring books, art projects, craft supplies, those large erasable mats I got at the dollar store, and more fit in these nice-sized flat boxes.
My closet. We actually had a pretty large walk-in closet at our old house and I stashed a couple Rubbermaid bins in there with scrapbooking supplies that we used for notebooking, lapbooks, and art.
Kids Closet. Extra space on high shelves held a bin with art projects I wanted to save.
File Cabinets. I created files for catalogs, associations, field trip ideas, workshop notes, and just about anything homeschool-related. This keeps my homeschool binder less cluttered and papers easier to find.
Keeping Track of It All: Now, Where Did I Put That?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll put all your renaissance time period books very carefully into an organized, pretty covered box, and put it on top of a cabinet. Two years later, when you’re looking for that book on Rembrandt for an art project, you’ll find yourself digging through seven thousand covered boxes all over your house before you give up and do splatter paint instead.
A few extra minutes in the beginning of your storage process will save you lots of time and sanity later. I got this idea from the Messies Manual, by the way.
1. Create a Word Document.
2. List your various points of storage and what you have in them.
3. Anytime you are looking for something and can’t remember where you stashed it, you can run a Search in your document and, presto, there it is.
For instance, if I was looking for our Old Testament craft books, I would search “Old Testament Craft book” and Word would highlight where I entered it:
Garage, 3rd file drawer:
Old Testament Crafts
Ah, there it is! With my Ancient Civilization stuff. I entered this one specifically because I knew my future self wouldn’t remember if it was with craft stuff or our Ancient Israel stuff.
Of course this isn’t necessary if you don’t have things all over the house, or if your memory isn’t as poor as mine. The key is knowing how your mind works. Mine is a little fuzzy when it comes to memory, so this system worked well for me.
A simple alternative, if you don’t have a ton of stuff, would be to write out a list and keep it in your homeschool notebook.
Coming tomorrow, I’ll share how we do things now that we do have a separate space, and some pictures of our new school room, too!
Do you have a separate school room in your house?
Be sure to check out all of the great ideas for sprucing up around your house:
Sprucing Up the Laundry Room | Mama’s Laundry Talk
Sprucing Up the School Room | Homegrown Mom
Sprucing Up the Craft Room | Many Little Blessings
Sprucing Up the Bathroom | Feels Like Home
Sprucing Up the Playroom | …Life’s About a Dream
Sprucing Up the Garage/Storage Space | A Slob Comes Clean
Sprucing Up the Master Bedroom | Raising Arrows
Sprucing Up Your Homeschool | Jimmie’s Collage
Sprucing Up the Kitchen | So Happy Together
Sprucing Up the Garden | An Oregon Cottage
Sprucing Up the Backyard | Successful Homeschooling