When we started homeschooling, 17 years ago, we had three kids and a two bedroom home with very few cupboards.  We started out very much with the idea of setting up school so with that in mind, I added a tiny little school desk to our entryway, making that our school room.  It didn’t take me long though to reach burnout and reconsider how I did everything.

A few years later we added one more child and a substantial extension giving us a family room – and cupboards.

Once I had this space I realised I didn’t actually want a school room; instead we wanted our whole home to be a place of living and learning. That being said, I also knew we needed a central place to keep organised and focused.  Looking back our family room has become a hub of productivity, a place of fond memories, and the center of our learning.

Key components to making our family room a place of productivity and learning – which will also work if you don’t have a set-aside place for your learning:

  • The Table – we gathered around this table every morning. It brought us together and to focus.
  • Every person had their own learning tools. Each child had their own pencil case and other learning tools such as rulers and staplers etc.
  • Flexible storage systems. Each child had a office-tray and a file-box for their study materials.  They kept the tray on their desk, and the box under their desk.  In their tray their kept things they used all the time.  The tray went under the table, on top of the box when they were done studying, leaving the table free for creative projects.  If we had friends over the box and tray went into the kids room making space for a large dining table or games table.
  • A place for completed work. I taught the kids to file their work at an early age – they would either glue it into a lapbook, or file it in a ring-binder.  We filed their work at the end of each lesson, which meant paper didn’t build up and get lost.
  • Unfinished Project boxes. We found it frustrating that the kids would work on creative projects in the afternoon, but have nowhere to put them so we could then study the next morning.  I bought each child two boxes for their unfinished projects.  If they had more than could fit in those two boxes they had too many projects on the go.  Occasionally a project was too big for the box and we found another place for it but that was the exception more than the rule (except for Daniel’s Lego which we found another table for)
  • Make learning tools accessible. The benefit of each child having their own pencil case is that they can sit and colour/draw whenever they want and they don’t need to check with mum.  Asking mum for everything is restrictive so I taught them to use learning tools and creative resources properly, and to put them away when they were done.  When they could do this they didn’t need to ask to use it.  But for that to work I had to have storage systems that worked.  I found using boxes very helpful – each activity was in a box – be it toys, art supplies, notebooking materials and tools,  or science experiment equipment. I initially had these boxes stored in a bookcase, but then had cupboard space for them.
  • How you decorate sets the atmosphere. I didn’t want my walls to look like a school room, so I kept posters such as ABC’s and Times Table to small individual posters that the kids kept in their trays.  Instead I used my walls in my family room, as if it was any other part of my home.

The major key for creating a family hub was that this room, and everything in it – the books, the building blocks, paints, maps, science box, board games – everything, was used at any time of the day.  We had set study times and those things where used specifically at those times, but the tools and the room where used in our kids independent free time (project time) as well as their free time if they chose.  We didn’t want learning to be compartmentalised in our life, so we didn’t compartmentalise our stuff or our space.

One of my fondest memories is taking my scrapbooking down to the family room on a weekend.  I would set up my own table, and be with my kids as they did their own thing.  They may have been writing, or building, or sewing, or drawing, or making cards, or reading, or playing a board game together … but we were doing it together.  This was what this room was made for – doing things together whether that was learning, creating or relaxing.

We are at a place in our family life where we are rearranging our family room.  The purpose for this space is changing.  We no longer have four students needing study space – they now have a desk in their own room, and they use laptops anywhere in the house.  Just this week Naomi dismantled our central table.  Bit sad – so many fond memories – but bit exciting too as we rearrange our space to meet our needs.

Further Reading

Make your family room your learning room.

Not back to school blog hop

School Room week

I wrote this blog post for the ihomeschool Not Back to School Blog Hop – this week homeschoolers are talking about their school rooms.  It’s like an invitation into a long list of homeschool homes.

 

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