Sunday, August 12, 2012

Our House and Where We Do School

School Rooms
Damien - 14 months - in his bedroom, with his bookshelf and desk (where he colors and we do journaling)

We are a homeschooling and home-learning family and, in the last three years, I have tried setting up many different versions of a "school space". But in the end we always end up doing our learning all over the house and the school space just ends up being a clutter-collecting mess.

I have two sons: Hunter, who is in "2nd" grade (age 7, but doing above age level work) and Damien, who is in "baby school" (age 14 months, we call this grade level "K1").

Where We Do School

School Rooms

Hunter (7) playing with a tray of baking soda and colored vinegar at the kitchen table

We honestly do school all over our house. Often on the couch. Sometimes in bed. A lot of times on the floor. Frequently at the dining room table, in the kitchen, on the patio, at the park, or in the car.

I have many, many times tried setting up specific "school centers" but in the end I guess we are a restless bunch and end up moving all over every corner of the house, anyway, so I've really given up on the idea.

But I'll spare you with posting pictures of all of that because, I assure you, it's not all that interesting.

School Rooms
Hunter's Desk

Earlier this spring I bought Hunter a very small computer desk from wal-mart. It is small enough that we do not store anything on it (pencil cans, books, etc) and therefore it does not collect (that much) clutter. Or at least when it does collect some clutter, we have to put the clutter away before he can use his desk, so it stays pretty tidy.

I know I just got done explaining how we do school all over the house, but now I am telling you that we have a school desk. Let me explain.

The thing is, he doesn't use it for everything, or even every day. Really it is just a tool to help him focus during certain times, mostly when I need him to be working on something by himself. He does a lot of his school on the computer (see his curriculum here) and so it also serves as a charging station for the computer that does not move. I cannot tell you how many times I have told him to go do some school on his computer, and he recoils with "But the computer's dead and I don't know where the charger is!"

Some other reasons this little desk works great for us:
  • It's very small so no distracting clutter (or toys) get stored on it. This really helps him focus.
  • We've been keeping it in the dining room where his little brother generally doesn't play. This really helps him pay attention to his work.
  • I usually have him do his independent work on there, and I can watch him from the kitchen.
  • He has a coaster on it where he keeps his water bottle, avoiding the constant water breaks (the coaster is attached with poster putty to prevent it from slipping and getting lost).
  • The pull-out keyboard tray is a great extra workspace if he needs some more room.
  • His stool fits perfectly underneath for storage and the whole set-up takes up very little room.
  • He keeps his "workbox" next to it, which holds his pencil/supply box, reading books, binder full of weekly assignments, timer, scratch paper for math, journal, and so on. This box does move all around the house with us, but being able to "put it away" here prevents the "I don't know where it is" issue.
So that is what is working for us right now, at this stage of our life and his development.
Now onto the living room, where Damien (14 months) spends most of his time...

School Rooms

Living room, with some shelves for Damien (14 months) and the keyboard

In the living room is where we all actually spend most of our time. We have a big old couch, TV, and piano keyboard in there, but the rest of the furniture is centered around Damien.

The baby-centric nature of the room evolved out of the fact that this used to be my daycare room so it in turn was the toy room. Right now the only toys I have out are ones that Damien is currently developmentally interested in. In theory I rotate these weekly but in practice they stay out for longer than that, but the toy selection does nonetheless change on a semi-regular basis.

The above picture shows some of the shelves with lots of small motor development toys, some fine art prints on the top shelf, as well as Damien's bit bag (the blue monkey bag) where I keep all of his flash cards, poetry and music copies, checklists, and journal. To the left is our piano keyboard with a basket of alphabet letters resting on top of it.

School Rooms

Across the room is another toy shelf for Damien. Next to it is a big open space where another shelf used to be. That shelf is now in Damien's room harboring books (see first picture in this post). The open space makes a great place to keep his ball popper and slide.

School Rooms

Next to our little TV stand is Damien's potty. We keep some books down here and to be honest he spends more time looking at those books than he does all the other toys in the room. That little patterned box you see next to him is something I made for him when he was learning how to pull to standing and push things around the room. It's just a cardboard box that has some extra cardboard pieces inside (for strength), a few jingle bells tossed in, then sealed up and covered with patterned contact paper.

He is way past that stage now, but it is now serving as a perfectly-sized "table" to him to set his books on while he goes potty.

School Rooms

See tutorial and pictures of uses here

The last little thing in the living room is Damien's jungle gym. We built this out of PVC pipes (cut with a saw and secured with a hot glue gun) when he was still very tiny. Back then we used it as a mobile bar and hung things from it for him to look at and hit or kick at. Later he used the sides to pull up on or crawl through. Now he uses it to hang from the "monkey bars" and still climbs through it and around it.

The big kids throw a blanket over the top and use it as a fort, or get a ball out and use it as a soccer goal (the front side is open). We covered it in colored duct tape because all the plastic paints we could find were toxic. (See tutorial and pictures of all its uses here)

Other parts of the house...

School Rooms
Stair landing bookshelves

We have a lot of books in our home. Since I am a firm believer in the idea that books belong in shelves, not stored up in boxes, that equates to a lot of book shelves in our home, too.

The above picture shows the bookshelves that are conveniently located on the landing area of our stairs. They contain all sorts of books but they're mostly educational. We also currently keep a lot of kid games on the top of the shelf, as well as that little plastic colored shelf full of other kid games, such as card games, puzzles, and so on.

Some other book storage areas from around the house:
  • Tall bookshelf in my room
  • Medium bookshelf in Damien's room (see top picture in this post)
  • Book area next to potty station (see above photo in living room)
  • Small book station next to Hunter's bed
  • Two long shelves in laundry room above my desk
  • Shelf of school books in a downstairs closet
We also store other kinds of school supplies in other places:
  • Art and office/school supplies fill part of a closet downstairs
  • Toys and learning materials we're not currently using go in a section of an upstairs closet
  • Flash cards and paper learning materials we're not currently using go in a two-drawer filing cabinet in my room
  • Flashcards, worksheets, and other paper learning materials that are scheduled to be used in the future go in two drawers of a filing cabinet in the laundry room
Our storage areas aren't currently all that pretty or organized so I will spare you of posting pictures.

But this is basically what is working for us right now. Rather than having everything all in one room it is just spread throughout little convenient areas of the house where it fits and makes sense. Some of it is up and out of the way since we don't use it that much. Some of it is accessible and open because we do use it on a fairly regular basis, but not daily, so it's nice to have it out of the "daily" living areas (living room and kitchen/dining room).

I also really enjoy having everything out of the way so that I can focus on what we are working on.

School Rooms

Right outside our back door to our "very own" gym

Besides the inside of our house, "school" happens other places, too. We do a lot of school outside on our patio and a lot of physical education at the basketball court and park behind our house. It's nice to have our "own", free gym!

School Rooms
Some physical education equipment in our garage

We also do quite a bit of physical education in our garage. We have a treadmill, a punching bag, a pull up / dip bar, some weights, a foam mat, and a basketball hoop.

School Rooms
Picking fresh grapes at a vineyard

And last but not least, school frequently happens out and about. We go on a lot of impromptu field trips and listen to educational songs or have discussions in the car.

I hope you've enjoyed this little description of our homeschool space. I'm looking forward to seeing how much things will have changed by next year!

Previous "School Room" Posts:
I am linking this post to iHomeschool Network's "Not Back to School Blog Hop"

Not Back to School Blog Hop
"Yet he filled their houses with good things..."
Job 22:18
Hunter is 7 years, 4 months old and in "2nd" grade
Damien is 14 months, 2 weeks old (1 year & 2 months) and in grade "K1"


  1. August 12, 2012

    I LOVE the way you have the toys so neat on the shelves….most of all….love the little one outside…that is where most of the learning occurs….in true adventure!

  2. August 12, 2012

    What lovely learning areas your children have!!

  3. August 12, 2012

    I love the shelves for your little guy. I hope I can keep mine as uncluttered.

    1. August 12, 2012

      The shelves don’t always stay looking that nice, he tends to make a mess when he plays with the stuff, but having only two items per shelf and having everything labeled helps with cleanup to get them looking nice again!

  4. August 12, 2012

    Your jungle gym is a peach of an idea

  5. August 13, 2012

    Love your organization and set-up!! And the jungle gym is awesome! Definitely pinned that one. �� Have a great school year!!

  6. August 13, 2012

    This looks wonderful! LOVE the simplicity and your organization is fabulous!

  7. August 13, 2012

    Great photos! Love your little one’s shelves and play area. Right now my daughter’s toys are crammed everywhere and in everything! :

  8. August 13, 2012

    I love hearing how you have adapted to the needs of your children! Wonderful post!

  9. August 15, 2012

    I love the jungle gym. Its fantastic! I’m going to investigate one of these for my own kidderos

  10. August 16, 2012

    Your spaces look very nice! Saw that Hunter has an Acer and have heard good things about those for kids. We have contemplated getting one for our boys.
    Popped over from Sunrise Learning Lab to see your Week 2 – School Room Tour post that you linked up with the iHomeschool Network’s Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop.
    Thanks for sharing your spaces!
    Nice to see everything!

  11. August 17, 2012

    Lovely room! Beautiful set up. Thanks for sharing it!

  12. August 18, 2012

    What a fun space! I love the pencil table & chair set. ��


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