Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Evolving Classroom

The last house in Illinois that we lived in, we had built ourselves.  It was an 1800 sq ft ranch-style with a full 1800 sq ft basement.  While we waited on the completion of the finished basement, Sally would school at the kitchen table, the back porch, or the living room floor.   She was only in Kindergarten.

The friend who was finishing the basement couldn't believe I'd stay home to homeschool.  He must have felt sorry for me because when I requested a (simple) school room to be built in the basement, he made THE CUTEST school room that ever was.  (He even built tray-ceilings in it.)

It was adorable! I had a reading corner, had 'real' school desks (sold to me by an old Catholic grade school) and a computer center.  There were bright-laminated posters on the walls of colors, shapes, numbers, and maps as well as an old-fashioned pencil sharpener.  It was perfect except for the notion that I had convinced myself of: in order for my homeschool to "work", I had to make it look like a brick and mortar classroom.

I truly believe the old teacher in me coupled with my lack of confidence in these early stages of homeschooling had me convinced of that.  

Then we moved to Texas in 2007.

Texas homes do not have basements.

To find the space to set up homeschooling shop, I was forced to think  outside the box.  Many Texas homes have an upstairs game room (second living room).  

Our game room would become our schooling area as well.  

I was schooling Sally and Ester (first and third grade) by this time, and decided to go with a community table/desk idea.  We found this table and chairs at IKEA.

We went from a school room to a schooling area.

We designated a couple of shelves in the walk-in toy closet for school supplies.

(For the past two years, only Miss Mabel's books have been stored there.)

I also threw a plastic shoe storage holder over the back of the closet door to house other school supplies.

I HIGHLY recommend them!!  They keep the never-ending mess cleared cleared away and out of sight!

This entire set up was only a temporary fix.  Mabel was doing her pre-school/ kindergarten work on the couch, floor, or kitchen table and Sally found it difficult to concentrate as her subject material grew harder.

The following year, we purchased a desk from Target and a chair from IKEA for Miss Sally's bedroom. 

(She's currently away at a week long camp and hasn't organized her desk yet in preparation for the school year.)

NOTE:  I wish I would have been thinking further ahead when we purchased a desk.  She has pretty much outgrown this one and ends up sitting on her bed to school.  

She also has a bookcase in her room that houses all of her High School textbooks and lesson plans.

Our family continued to evolve.  Stan the man started his formal lessons which meant there was more shifting needed.

We purchased a desk unit and chair from IKEA for Miss Ester and put it by her bed.  (Ester and Mabel share a bedroom.)

This gave the much needed quiet space for Ester to learn and grow.  Stan the man then moved to the shared table with Mabel.

Then along came Miss Clementine.  When we moved her upstairs from out of our bedroom into her own, we moved Stan's bedroom set down into David's office.  I know having to share Dad's office for a bedroom is not the best, but would you want to share an upstairs with 4 sisters when you are the only boy?  Ha ha ha.

So Stan now schools at David's office desk.  (Purchased at IKEA.)

I have another smaller closet in the upstairs living room.  Way up high on the top shelf I store books and binders that are currently not in use.  (Here's a glimpse.)

In addition to textbooks, I have 3-4 binders per grade for organizing the paperwork:  Attendance, quarter report forms, & tests binder, answer key binder, and 1-2 lesson plan binder (s).  

We have come a LONG way from that adorable school room in Illinois.  We are on the opposite end of the spectrum now with everyone having their own space, their own quiet learning area.  I NE-VER would have thought my homeschool would be "successful" without a real classroom setting.  Thank goodness that with growing confidence I realized that a real classroom setting is whatever is most conducive to your child's learning.  

~  Patty  ~


  1. I love the story of how it has all evolved and have a similar story. We've settled into a great workable plan for now but I do hope to convert part of the garage in to a 'lab' style area for art and other projects. School around the dining table is doable but not for long term projects and I long for a place that they can keep in a state of 'under construction' without the worry of messing it up when we need to move it in order to eat.

    1. Yes! Those long term projects. We find ourselves in a pickle over those since there really is no room for them, not even in the garage. Drat! Hope your plans work out and I would love to see the finished product!

  2. Hi Patty!

    Love your learning spaces! The desks are adorable! I think my older kids want their own learning spaces now vs. the "classroom" set up that we have. It seems our homeschool is always evolving too as the kids grow and I have to adjust constantly with the constant change of family dynamics/needs/wants. Have another great, successful school year with your beautiful family!

    1. With age comes experience and wisdom (hopefully). I'm glad I was forced to think outside of the box because I was so hell bent on having a brick and mortar "classroom"!

  3. Hi Patty! What a great use of your new space. Of course, home schooling four as opposed to just one or two would mean changes at your old house if you stayed, don't you think?
    You sure do have a lot of resources, and the idea of the shoe keeper is such a great one! And I could use that myself for "Nana Supplies"! I'm sure Stan enjoys having a dedicated space just for him. Much better than hanging around with the girls!
    Have a wonderful day :)

    1. Yes, Ceil, it would. But at the beginning, while getting my toes wet, I couldn't see that far ahead. I knew I'd take it "one year at a time", but was strangely unable to see my classroom evolve than that brick and mortar one I taught in for 8 years. With experience, I can say that my original classroom most likely would not be set up the same way these days as it was then.

  4. I love the glimpse into your school days! So glad you were able to make it all work in your Texas home!

  5. Thank you for sharing your cozy spaces! We use a combined play room/ school room for storing books and materials but we ALWAYS end up in the kitchen! Lol No matter how hard we try, everyone in my house likes to be downstairs. We are getting Grace set up to have her shared bedroom to have a "working space" for the tween years so I'm curious to see how that pans out. Funny how they all shift around with each passing year... We are definitely in the whatever-works-mode! SO fun to see all of your IKEA purchases... I just stepped into one of those stores today for the very first time! Wow. It's very overwhelming but fabulous prices! Happy new school year to all of you!

    1. One of the veteran moms I knew when I began my own homeschool journey, was in a home with a basement, but since the house was very old (yet very charming!), the basement was damp and dungeon like. She schooled at the table, and then at dinner time, they had to move everything. But that's what they had to work with, and by golly, they made do. Another veteran mom schooled at her kitchen table for years. Then they built a HUGE house and one of the things she had designed was a school room. I love to hear people's stories, what works for them. One can always learn!

  6. This post was for me, wasn't it?? :)
    Thank you. THANK YOU. Because you know that I'm still in 'schoolroom' mode and can't get moved on to the evolving and schooling wherever it works. This post helped me a lot in seeing how you do it (hello, shoe organizer for flashcards, little did I not think of that??!! Genius!) Seeing a school space that is not the perfect organized from floor to ceiling, all in one space place is exactly what I needed to see. Each work space is perfect and works for the student and makes sense. Now that's what I need to figure out and make work. I also need to find new housing for all of those fun supplies/books that the little girls think are so much fun to pull out and scatter EVERYWHERE. :)

    Again, Thank you, Patty. You made my day and just too a little stress off my chest today.

    Big {hugs}

    1. Sweet! We are so much alike ;) What kind of closet space do you have? Can your husband add more shelving to an existing space? One of the prefabricated wire shelves at a Lowe's or Home Depot store?

  7. This all looks great - and thanks to you, I am now shopping for a plastic shoe holder (for some of my own office supplies). :)

    1. Nancy, I also have one behind my closet door for things that don't fit under our bathroom vanity. These shoe holders are little treasures I tell you!

  8. This was such a fun peek in to your learning spaces!! It's great to see how the spaces evolve to meet your family's needs. I love our school room and shelves, but most learning happens anywhere but! :)


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