We moved into a fairly large house six years ago. The great thing about having lots of space is we can spread ourselves out as we learn. The bad thing about having lots of space is that we spread ourselves out – everywhere!
Every now and then I need to pull open the cupboards, clear the surfaces and figure out how to make the most of our space.
1. Make a plan
Needs change as the children get older and our homeschooling style evolves. So I start out brainstorming what we want from our homeschool learning space this year. (This is partly a delaying tactic to postpone the actual tidying, but the five minutes it takes serve me well.)
2. Sort supplies by how often you use them
Homeschool supplies fall into broad categories – books, art supplies, science supplies etc. In the past I’ve stored everything according to these categories.
But in the face of our overflowing supplies, I realised I don’t need to store a volt meter and a kilo of rock salt in our schoolroom just because we use them for science. Nor do we need a hundred polystyrene plates permanently in our art area.
So I took out the items we use less often, put smaller items into boxes, and moved them to an upstairs cupboard.
I used my phone to dictate a note of the contents of each area into Evernote.
The result – more space for the things we use frequently, but if someone has an urgent need for the Bug Barn, they can get their hands on it within seconds. (And how thrilled my husband will be next time he opens the landing cupboard and finds a flower press nestled next to the towels. Does that count as strewing?)
3. Sort books by who uses them
Next I sub-categorised our books according to who reads them (or who I’d like to read them). Do they all need to be at child-level?
When I looked closely at our bulging bookshelves I realised that a whole shelf was being taken up with workbooks and English curriculum books that I sometimes refer to but the children never do.
Once I’d weeded out the ones my kids have outgrown, I relocated the lot. Voilà – a whole empty shelf! (And what do we do with empty shelves? I’ve been on Amazon already…)
3. Designate learning zones
The physical space we use for learning changes as the children become more independent. Here are some of our learning zones.
*Project Desks with pinboards for artwork and project-related items
* Low play table – to keep Lego, Geomag and Hamma beads out of doggie mouths
* Quiet area – for the easily distracted, or those who want some peace to help them focus.
* Messy zone – we usually do short messy activities like science experiments at our kitchen table
* Craft desk – for longer projects like papier mache that I don’t want cluttering up the table
* Computer desk
* Comfortable read-aloud area
* Sewing area
* “Gallery” – We display our most recent artwork on the window sill by our table, in the centre of our open-plan space
4. Designate storage areas
Once I’ve been through our supplies and had a fresh look at our learning zones, it’s time to decide what goes where.
Here are some examples of what made the cut in my most recent reorganisation. All the trays, tubs and clear plastic containers are from IKEA.
Books – on shelves categorised by subject, e.g. art, science, maths, English, chapter books, picture books
Science supplies – in a tub in a cupboard
Art supplies – as far as possible, in clear containers on display and within the children’s reach. Bigger things in a box in a cupboard.
Maths manipulatives – in their own tray
Paper, pastels, charcoal etc – in trays
Art journalling supplies – everything together in a deep tray
C(9)’s current work – in her own tray
Books we use every week – in a big floor crate. Includes J(8)’s current work, our read-aloud, The Story of the World, an Atlas and the children’s French folders.
We keep a stack of individual whiteboards alongside, ready to grab and go.
Board games – Adult games relocated to an upstairs cupboard. The rest in cupboards.
Educational toys – Lego, Geomag, wooden blocks and Play Doh in trays
5. Create simple systems to make the most of your organised homeschool space
There’s no point storing everything in the “perfect” place if – out of sight, out of mind – you don’t end up using any of it. (Guess how I know?)
So I’ve set up calendar alerts on my phone to remind me to browse our various storage areas regularly for strewing inspiration, and to get the kids to do so too.
Finally, in the interests of being real…
…here are some of the “before” shots!
How are you organising your learning space this year?
More from the Homeschool Help team:
Next week the Homeschool Help topic “What’s new in your teaching style for the new year?” and I’ll be talking about our step closer to unschooling.
I’m joining these great link-ups: