A few years ago I read Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt. My Dad recommended it to me when I was taking Economics. It was a pretty awesome book and I highly recommend picking a copy up and also checking out their podcast. Anyway, one of the most applicable (to homeschooling) subjects lies in chapter 5. Basically, it says that if you create a learning environment for your children, statistically they are more likely to be more intelligent than their counterparts who regularly visit the library and other places of education, even if you, as the parent, are not actively engaged in their education. Ok. I am kind of paraphrasing here. I encourage you to read the book and draw your own conclusions. Whether I’ve understood the intended idea or not, I think it’s fair to say that creating a superb learning environment is a positive step toward a well educated child.
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When we moved into a new house, I really wanted to create an environment that will help the kids grow into the amazing little humans I know they are going to be.
Of course I started with my nemisis, Pinterest, for inspiration. And of course, Pinterest did not fail. I found a bounty of inspiring homeschool rooms. Rooms filled with things to inspire the kids, challenge them, spark their curiosity, and invite their creativity. Rooms that could easily cover the pages of magazines like House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens.
But ya know… these aren’t real. I mean… sure, they’re *real* but they’re not realistic. Homeschooling gets messy. There are books and maps and math manipulatives, and workbooks, and science tools that get spread everywhere. There are half finished art projects and science projects that you wonder at what point they cross from “science project” to just some moldy stuff laying around on the counters. Where is all of this in those amazing magazine-perfect homeschool rooms?
And homeschooling happens everywhere. Those beautifully decorated school rooms are dreams, but the reality of homeschooling is that it happens on the kitchen table, in the living room floor, on the back porch, in bed, hanging upside down from the favorite chair, in the car, at the park, and just about everywhere in between. I’ve had a lesson or two in the bathroom.
So, I decided to get inspired by REAL homeschool spaces: spaces that I know are being used every day for inspiring and educating children; spaces that get (or are) messy with all of the learning and living that is done in them; spaces that aren’t magazine perfect, but ARE perfect for that family. With permission, I am sharing these spaces with you to inspire (and encourage) you.
I’m going to start with my friend Jenny’s homeschool space, mostly, because she is by far the closest to magazine perfect as one can get in real life. Her homeschool space takes up two rooms that would traditionally be a dining room and formal living room.
Jenny’s space is perfect for 2 boys filled with legos and a sports themed alphabet on the wall. She has a lot of different spaces for the boys to sit together or alone and work on projects. Her walls are covered with fun and interesting learning tools like the calendar and word pockets. I love the curtain that can be tied up or let down to shut off the rooms for some privacy/quiet. I can see this space growing with the boys replacing the little chairs and tables with bigger chairs and tables. And you can be sure that however this rooms grows and changes, it will be fantastic.
The next space I want to share is the bedroom of my friend Gabby’s son.
One thing that most of us learn early on is that dedicated homeschool space can be hard to come by unless you are fortunate enough to have a home with an extra room you don’t need. A lot of homeschool spaces are in the kitchen, living room, dining room, and even the bedrooms. Gabby created this space for her son, L, when he was a little guy, and given that he is very gifted, I feel quite confident that this space inspired him quite a bit.
There is so much color! And what little boy wouldn’t be curious with a model plane hanging in his room and a trains poster? Plus, the BOOKS! Lots and lots of books! This room sparks interest in the world around him which inevitably leads to curiosity about that world.
I think this next space from my friend Kristie is quintessential homeschooler.
The reason I think this room is so quintessential is because it’s jam pack full of learning. Kristie is an admitted curriculum addict and has nearly every type of curriculum known to man. Her kitchen table serves as their primary school table. The living room is filled with educational games and books. The walls are covered with the kids’ artwork and school work. Every inch of Kristie’s house is a space for learning, creativity, inspiration. It’s not magazine perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a true working homeschool space for her 3 daughters.
The reality of a true homeschool space is a certain amount of chaos because one of the benefits of homeschooling is that we don’t just sit at a table and learn. And our spaces reflect that chaos. They reflect the comings and goings of our kids; the life that is lived in the homes; the changing from one subject to another even when we’re not finished with the first subject. Many of us homeschool more than one child and might have 2, 3, 4, or more projects and activities going on at once.
One of my favorite organized chaos homeschool rooms is my friend Sandi’s.
Sandi has more education jammed into one room than I would think is possible. And honestly, I think this reflects a lot about Sandi and her homeschool style. She crams more education into her 3 little ones’ heads than one would think possible; more into her day than is physically possible; and more into life than is humanly possible. I absolutely love all of the showcasing of the kids’ projects. The accessibility to things like the art supplies is pretty great too because it allows the kids to immediately pursue any creative inspiration that may strike.
While Sandi’s space is full to busting, Leigha’s space is more minimal.
There’s still the standard book shelves, and a few educational posters, and… a telescope! (Adding to my wish list now.) But here’s the kicker… Leigha, like so very many of us do homeschool everywhere BUT a homeschool room. She sent me these pictures, because she wanted to share that while she has this amazing space, her REAL homeschool spaces look more like:
Yep. This is where true learning happens. In fact, you can see one fuzzy student has taken so much in, he’s passed out from the intellectual exhaustion. Knowing Leigha’s 3 girls, I can imagine them piled in the bed, fuzzy butt right in the mix studying science, math, and language arts. In fact, one thing that is important in a homeschool space is our furry, scaly, or otherwise family member(s) being active parts of our learning.
Vickie sent me a picture of her dedicated school room, but clarified that, like Leigha, school usually happens at the kitchen counter, kitchen table, and on the couch…
Still, even if this space is only used minimally, it’s still pretty awesome. I’m totally drooling over that white board. This space feels the most like a classroom to me. I guess the large white board and pocket charts are screaming CLASSROOM! at me. Whatever it is that makes this feel this way, I really love that white board giving the opportunity to write lessons out, write math problems, spelling words, diagram sentences, write poems…
Now, I can’t share all of my friends’ spaces without sharing my own. That seems pretty unfair.
We have a dedicated school/play room situated over our garage. It’s a unique space. It’s very large and includes a closet where I can store arts and crafts supplies, curriculum we are not using, manipulatives, board games, etc. The ceilings are angled, however so my wall space is limited for hanging informational posters and the kids’ schoolwork, although I did pick up 2 large maps (a world map and a U.S. map) and hung them on one of my few large walls. I love, love, love my table because it fits perfectly for the little kiddos, but is not at all uncomfortable for me to sit at, plus it has these cubbies where I keep current curriculum and the chairs have storage space underneath where I keep misc. supplies like scratch paper, coloring books, and pencils.
You’ll also notice my book shelves. These aren’t even a fraction of the books I own. I am a book hoarder and have boxes upon boxes of books, but I went ahead and loaded up some of the kids’ books on this Ikea book shelf. Eventually, we will have some built in bookshelves in one of our rooms downstairs and my book collection can be put out in full.
Since this space also serves as our playroom, we have all of our toys in here. Sometimes that can be a distraction because the kids want to get in there and play, but other times it can be a good thing because the littlest can be playing quietly with Legos or trains or the kitchen set while the oldest can be writing or filling out a map.
I have a TV in the room which is very useful for putting on YouTube when I want to reinforce a lesson or turning on an educational program for the kids to watch or as background noise. The old couch we have in the room is great for snuggling up and reading which we do a lot of, but it also serves as the literal spring board for the kids to launch themselves off of. I guess our Snow Day antics taught the kids the couch is a trampoline.
We love this space, but unfortunately, it isn’t always very usable. The room lacks sufficient insulation currently and so in the winter it is freezing cold and in the summer it is burning hot. We have a space heater in the room for colder days, and will hopefully soon get quality insulation in there.
Until then, I have to confess where we really do school… Our TRUE homeschool space…
And… if I’m REALLY being honest, a large majority of our schooling is done here:
Yep. Right here in the car. I keep a travel bag with books and audio books in the car. We also have many, many discussions during our drives as the kids see and hear things in the world that passes us by. Not to mention the fact that when we are in the car, we are going somewhere, whether it’s a field trip or class or club meet up or just to the store or the doctor, and inevitably, there is much to talk about regarding those outtings.
No matter what your homeschool space looks like, I think the most important thing to remember is that those Pinterest-worthy, magazine perfect spaces aren’t always realistic. Even my spaces were cleaned up specifically for this post. A homeschool space is supposed to fit with your family, your home, and your life. It should get cluttered and messy because learning is happening there and learning is more than a nice neat book and sheet of paper. Homeschool spaces need to spark imagination, creativity, and curiosity. They need to have the tools readily available for endless possibilities.
So, what do you think? I would love to see your homeschool spaces. And definitely comment on anything you would suggest for our spaces because I’m always looking for suggestions to make our space better.