If you're here than that means you have made the decision to homeschool your children! I am SO happy for you and the amazing choice you have made in raising your precious little ones. Often the decision to homeschool is an agonizing one that takes months, sometimes years, to decide. And after that decision is made, there is still no relief on decision making! Questions swirl around - what curriculum should I use, what activities do I want my kids involved in, how do I fit everything into each day, where in the house will we actually do school? The list of questions is endless!
Today I want to look at that last question - where in the house will we actually do school? It is SO easy to look at the spaces of other homeschool families and quickly become discouraged because you aren't yet where they are and where you want to be. But I encourage you to put on your blinders for a few minutes (or maybe a few days!) and just look at what YOUR family needs and how to achieve that in your own environment. The first tip I want to share with you is a big DON'T! I generally wouldn't start this way, however I've experienced this personally and have seen it with other homeschoolers so I know it's super important! Here it is:
1. DON'T spend hours on Pinterest envying other peoples' homeschool spaces! I know what you're going to say - "But Pinterest is great for getting ideas!" And it is great if you are searching for something in particular like calming colours to paint a homeschool room. But if you just search homeschool rooms you are going to be overwhelmed with beautiful, well organized, pristine spaces and I guarantee after looking at a few dozen of these spaces you are going to be left feeling like you have failed before you even started. Don't do it! I can also guarantee that you aren't going to find a homeschool space that will work in your home because no one else out there has a home just like yours, with kids just like yours, and needs just like yours. Instead of wasting time browsing Pinterest and feeling bad, get a pen and paper and go onto tip #2.
2. Set realistic expectations. You're not going to be able to get everything set up exactly how you want it overnight. I say this not to discourage you but to guide you into realistic expectations. Take that pen and paper and make a list of what you actually need to set up your homeschool space. This will include things such as, a desk or table, a chair or yoga ball to sit on, storage or organization devices, and consumables such as pencils and glue. Then add the things you want. Do you NEED to paint the homeschool space? No, but you might WANT to. Do you NEED a fancy reading corner with plush pillows and string lights? No, but you might WANT it. There is nothing wrong with wanting an inviting space for your children so please do include these wants on your list!
Once you have your list of what you need and what you want to set up your homeschool space, evaluate it. What is your budget for set up? What can you actually afford to do now and what will have to wait? Obviously the needed items have to take precedence. For the wanted items you may have to choose just one or two to start with.
When I started homeschooling I dreamed of setting up a little reading nook with a bean bag chair, a canopy of some kind, and string lights. It seems simple enough but it took me two and a half years to make this want happen. My children's education did not suffer because I couldn't afford to do this right away. They didn't feel hard done by because they had to read on the couch instead! I want you to understand that your children aren't going to be damaged for life if you don't have your dream homeschool space perfectly set up for that first day of homeschool.
3. Be realistic about the space you have. Do you have an entire room to dedicate to school? Or do you need to use the living room or dining room as a multi-purpose room? If you are fortunate enough to have a room dedicated just to homeschooling, that is wonderful! I have found that many homeschool families aren't in this situation though and their homeschool space ends up being in the dining room, kitchen, or living room. This is where you have to be realistic about what space you have and how you are going to use that space. If this is your situation, invest in some nice storage solutions (baskets, bins, etc.) that will match your decor so when school is done you can put the books away and still have a comfortable, clutter free room to eat or relax in at the end of the day.
Posters or artwork from the kids can easily become lovely additions to your decor. We had a large map of the world on the wall right beside our dining room table and it became a frequent topic of conversation during family meals and even when guests came over. It became a talking piece - a launching point from which our kids would ask questions.
I've heard many homeschool moms wishing that they had a dedicated room just for school. It certainly does have it's benefits. But if this isn't your situation, don't be discouraged! With a little creativity you can definitely set up a homeschool space that will be comfortable for learning but still be presentable for your family and guests.
4. Only purchase basic materials to start with. If your brain is overwhelmed and it allows you to only remember one tip from this post, please let it be this one! Homeschool families are often living on one income and finances are tight. Please, please, hear me. Do not go to your local teacher's store and buy every neat looking poster, manipulative, educational game, and art supply that you THINK you need. I guarantee you will waste a ton of money and you will end up with a closet full of stuff that you don't end up using. Just start with the basics - pencils, erasers, markers, highlighters, glue, construction paper, scissors. And if I had to take a guess I'd say you likely already have all of that!
For subjects like math and science that will likely need more hands on materials, wait and get those materials when they are needed so you don't end up buying more or less of what you actually need. So often you will be able to find things around your house that you can use as manipulatives for math and materials for science projects.
Do you remember when you had your first baby? Remember thinking that you needed EVERYTHING? The diaper genie, the wipe warmer, the bassinet, the bouncy chair, the swing, the Jolly Jumper, the Bumbo, the crib, the play pen, and the list goes on. But then that little bundle of joy came into your life and suddenly you realized you didn't really need as much as you thought. By the time the second baby came along you knew exactly what was necessary and what was just extra based on advertising or societal expectations. Setting up your homeschool space and buying materials is the same! So resist the urge to buy everything and wait to see what you'll actually need.
Setting up a homeschool space can be overwhelming and stressful. But if you can stay away from envying rooms on Pinterest, set realistic expectations, be realistic about your space, and refrain from overspending than it can actually be a fun and exciting time! It's easy to read homeschool blogs or talk to homeschool moms and start feeling like you'll never get to where everyone else is. But please remember, there is no help in comparing where you are at with others who have been homeschooling longer than you. We all started where you are. At square one just trying to create our own homeschool space. You're going to get there too!