Saturday, April 23, 2011

Home Sweet School

Our school room
I am always curious about how other homeschooling families organize their school rooms. Organization is one of the things I am passionate about. I tend to feel a lot of anxiety and tension when my environment is out of order. I try not to be super-anal about it, and with four kids, it's pretty much a given that our home will be quite chaotic at times (just this weekend my dad told me I needed a maid! I agree!!!). But in order for our school day to run relatively smoothly I have to have a system of organization in place. Nothing can throw off a day like having to spend half an hour looking for paper and a pencil. So, without further ado, here is a peek into our homeschool "classroom". (Please, accept my apologies for the quality of the photos-I am not much of a photographer).

The above picture is what our whole school room looks like. I think the room is about an 8 by 10 foot space. Technically, it is supposed to be a living room or formal dining space, but for us it is perfect as our schoolroom. We are close to our kitchen where we do a lot of experiments and where I spend a better part of my day preparing meals for my family, but it also has the feel of a separate space. If you were to look directly to the right of the school room, you would see my front door, and directly left, conveniently, is a half bath. The rest of the pictures work their way around the room clockwise.

The Reading Nook
This is where the kids can sit for some silent reading time. Brady likes to look at his picture books while big sister and brother are working on their school. Sometimes they sit together and Madison reads to her brothers. More often than not, these chairs migrate around the room as the kids find their most comfortable spot to do their work in. I'm not a stickler for making them sit still or stay in one spot. I figure as long as they can be focused and get their work done, they are free to do that in the place that is most conducive for them. They will even do their work walking around the room sometimes. If the boys are at a break time and being especially rowdy, sometimes Madison will choose to work quietly in her room. For the most part though, we all spend the better part of our day together, in this room.

Madison's desk
This is Madison's desk, which is an antique and the first piece of furniture my grandfather and grandmother ever bought after they were married nearly 70 years ago. However, it is used more for storage than actual sitting. Like I said, the kids are free to do their work where they please, as long as they aren't too distracted. Madison rarely chooses to actually sit at her desk. But her desk is invaluable to our organization as it holds wipe-off boards, extra paper and craft supplies and other miscellaneous items we need to have close at hand.

Noah's desk
This is Noah's desk, and believe it or not he actually does love to sit here and do his schoolwork-especially his writing work.  Brady also likes to sit at this desk to color and draw. A lot of Noah's school day is spent on my lap in reading and math instruction, but anything he does independently, he tends to do at his desk. The top of it also comes off and flips over and is a chalkboard on the other side, and there is storage under there as well.

The bookshelf
I know this probably pales in comparison to a lot of bookshelves in most homeschoolers' homes, but I am scrupulous about getting rid of curriculum and books we don't need or aren't using. I have other hiding places for future curriculum or stuff we are storing for the younger kids, but this shelf mainly contains stuff that is used on a daily basis for easy access. You can't really see it in the picture but on the top of this shelf sits a microscope, a globe and one of those huge roll-out thingys with the huge paper roll on it.

Madison's shelf
Madison gets the top shelf. This is where we keep her books that she works in every day. Included here is math, language arts, Bible Study, and reading. The boxed-set of books is the collection of the Anne of Green Gables novels which we are working our way through as a read-aloud. This was an awesome and welcome Christmas gift from my in-laws.

Math Manipulatives
The basket and tote below it hold our math manipulatives. These include items such as play money, clocks, flash cards, geoboards, teddy bear counters, a balance, rulers, plastic shape pieces, dominoes, decks of cards-basically just about anything you can think of that we could use to make math real and tangible. These are so helpful in the early elementary years before children have developed the more advanced skill of thinking abstractly. They are also very important for the tactile/kinesthetic learner.

Noah's shelf
Noah doesn't have a whole lot on his shelf yet. In pre-school and kindergarten, I like to focus on building a strong foundation. primarily in reading and phonics instruction. We also work on Math, handwriting and thinking skills. The box to the right of his books holds cards for sight words, sentence/word games etc... The shelf just below it is for books that we read together as a family or that Madison can read (longer chapter books that don't hold the boys' attention too well just yet). That big gold one there is The Chronicles of Narnia which we are working through as a family in our before-bed reading time.  The blue and yellow book beside it is one of my favorite homeschooling books of all time, The Well-Trained Mind. Next to that are lots of classical literature and poetry books.

Toys/Board books
Next we have some items for Brady that he like to play with. In the box is a LeapPad-we've had this since Madison was young and all the kids love it. There is also a play computer in there that Brady uses to work on letter sounds and early math concepts. The books on this shelf are story books that Brady and Noah love to read. The last shelf holds a basket of toys for Ethan and our board books.
The most comfortable chair in the world
This is the chair I gravitate towards when I am in the school room working with one of the kids. It is SO comfortable and makes for a nice cozy area for us to work together. Bonus, I get lots of snuggle time in the middle of the school day! To the right of that chair you will notice I have a decent-sized wipe-off board. That seriously needs hung on one of the walls. I also want to find some really good maps-hopefully a United States map and a world map-to hang on the walls.

Supply/Extra books cabinet
This is my cabinet from IKEA. The front can be used as a chalkboard.

Library books
The containers aren't very pretty, but these sturdy paper boxes are where we keep our library books. I am VERY strict about this rule as we have learned the hard way what happens when we lose a library book. As soon as we get home from the library the kids know that they unload their bags and put the books away in the boxes right away. They also know that when they are not in use the books go right back in the boxes. I would eventually like to get some prettier containers for this purpose, but this works just fine for now.

Inside the cabinet
Inside this cabinet is where we keep all of our extra books that we use frequently, but not daily. On the bottom shelf are all manner of reference books. The middle shelf holds our school supplies, some books we aren't currently using but will in the future, a bag of activities for Brady and some readers for Noah. The top shelf is where we keep Madison's other school books. Included here are history, science and other electives. Currently we have Art, Manners, Fitness and Money Management.

A closer look at our supplies
Pardon the baby head! I have several plastic boxes filled with extra supplies. We have one each for crayons, markers, pens, pencils, glue, dry erase markers, and colored pencils. This is all easily accessible for the kids so they can get what they need, when they need it. And as long as the door is shut, Ethan can't get to the contraband!

So there you have it, that's our school room. It's pretty simple but it's constantly evolving. I find that my systems only work well for so long. Then the kids get bored with them, or we run out of room somewhere and have to re-think things. I have yet to come up with something completely fool-proof. Once every few weeks we have pretty-much a complete overhaul of the whole room where we toss old papers and broken crayons, purge drawers and shelves and just generally try to streamline everything again. In the very near future, I plan on getting set-up with a workbox system. I can't wait to try that out and see how it works.

What about you? If you are a homeschooler, how do you organize all of those papers and supplies and books that we seem to accumulate exponentially year after year? Anyone have any great tips of organizing to share?


Anonymous said...


Lisa you continue to amaze me, you are so together and organized with your teaching and classroom. May God bless you during these school years. I am here with books if you need any health related items.

Amber said...

We've got to talk soon. We use workboxes and I LOVE them. I'll try to remember to email pics of our classroom. I love seeing how other moms do it--thanks for sharing!

Lisa said...

Amber-we do have to catch up! Would love to hear about your system. What do you use for your "boxes"? I have had a few different ideas for it but not sure which way to go-plus I hate to invest the $ in it and then not like it after all. But I have seen a lot of neat ideas and it just seems like it would be so easy. I am sure the set-up would add some time, but I think it would help our day go much more smoothly.

So what kind of curriculum do you use?

Hi to Andy for me-hope you all are well!!!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, thanks for sharing pictures. You have everything so well organized! It is neat to see how other people handle all the "stuff".


GyrlPower said...

Your school room is so clean! Ack! I need to go straighten mine :-) Thanks for sharing.

Sadie said...

I love seeing other homeschoolers school rooms! I've posted mine a couple times in the past couple years. No organization tips here, I tend to let the school clutter grow!

Lisa said...

Sadie-thanks for visiting my blog! I enjoyed looking at yours-oh my goodness you are so talented with those cakes!

Alex said...

I love looking at other people's homeschool spaces too! You can come and visit our space if you like: