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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Small Space Homeschooling

Small Space Homeschooling-ideas for organizing learning spaces when space is limited

Written by Jessica.

Small house, big purpose

When my husband and I first bought our small house twelve years ago, it was only going to be our starter home. It was a fixer-upper extraordinaire, and we bought it intentionally because it was one of the cheapest houses we could find. We dreamed of children someday and knew that we had to purchase something that we could afford later, on just one income. With help from family and lots of sweat equity in the early years, our fixer-upper was transformed into a very livable, if still small, house. 

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Getting smaller

When our firstborn came along and I left my job as a teacher, I was grateful that we had chosen our house because it meant I could stay home as a full-time mama. And before I knew it, I had three blessings and our hearts were full – but so was the house! That already small house felt downright tiny, and we longed for more space. But every time we crunched the numbers and looked at the current housing market, it was clear: we had to stay put. As the years went on and we began homeschooling, there were new challenges with our small space.

Where could we store all of the curriculum and hands-on learning supplies we were accumulating? 

What part of the house could we use as our main learning area without overtaking it with homeschooling things? 

How could I organize each child’s daily materials so that it all stayed tidy and easily accessible?  

At times I longed for a designated homeschool room - you know, the kind of room with built-in cabinetry, engaging time-lines and posters on the walls, a cozy reading nook, and kid-sized tables and chairs. A room where everything I needed would be all in one spot. Who wouldn’t love that?! 

But now instead of pining for what isn’t possible in our small space, I choose to focus on gratitude for all that we do have and on practical ways to make our small homeschooling space work - and work well. If you are trying to homeschool with limited space and a limited budget, here are some ideas that have worked for me.


Have a place for everything, and have everything in its place


This old adage always sounded too saccharine and goody-goody to me, until I realized the truth in it. What makes a small space seem too small isn’t the size as much as how well that small space is organized. A small space can feel homey and cozy…or it can feel cramped and cluttered. Even if the whole house needs a good de-cluttering, first focus on the main room or rooms that you do most of your homeschooling in. Take out everything that isn’t essential and then eliminate visual clutter by organizing what remains into cabinets, bookshelves, bins, and baskets - and commit to keeping it that way. 


Get your existing furniture to multitask


The top half of our dining room hutch holds our dishes, but the bottom half stores all of the kids’ drawing and coloring materials. Another cabinet in the dining room solely holds all of the kids’ daily school books and supplies. Several other pieces of furniture in the living room have similar purposes. To do this, I first had to prioritize and clear out what I was previously storing in those places - but it freed up much needed space for homeschooling materials.


Small Space Homeschooling-ideas for organizing learning spaces when space is limited


Buy unfinished or used furniture specifically for storage 


The most useful pieces of furniture in our living room and dining room are three bookshelves and a cabinet that we bought unfinished. They were purchased locally and made of cheap but solid pine, and my husband stained and painted them. After spending hours upon hours doing so, he can attest as to why unfinished furniture costs only a fraction of what finished furniture does. But these relatively inexpensive pieces of furniture are worth their weight in gold for the organizing that they make possible.  


Small Space Homeschooling-ideas for organizing learning spaces when space is limited

Prioritize function over form


“Cheap and functional” isn’t designer decor, but sometimes it’s the way it is in real life. Oftentimes there just isn’t any room in the budget, but you need a place to put stuff away. Creating a designated place for things to go in is sometimes more important than having the Pinterest-perfect place. Plastic, solid-colored storage bins and plastic storage-drawer units are inexpensive and go a long way in getting things organized. Solid-colored bins conceal what is inside, minimizing visual clutter; they can be brought in and out of a closet or other room as needed or could be stacked up along a wall when not in use. 

Storage-drawer units can be lined up together, creating a useable surface on top. One of my favorite ways to store our kids’ daily school books and supplies last year was using a row of these storage-drawer units. Each child had his/her own unit. I used them just for core subjects and grouped certain subjects together in each of the three drawers. The large size of the drawers left plenty of room for manipulatives and made it super-easy for little hands to independently take in and out what they needed.   


Small Space Homeschooling-ideas for organizing learning spaces when space is limited

Don't put out all of your homeschooling materials at once


The way that I keep the clutter of homeschooling to a minimum in our living room and dining room is by having a designated space elsewhere in the house for the majority of my materials. The closet that we built in our master bedroom is really large, but that’s because it’s the only true closet in the house. We choose to keep almost all of our clothes in two dressers in our room so that we can store a lot of other things in that closet. An area behind the door has coated-wire shelving and storage-drawer units underneath; that’s where the arts and crafts supplies are kept. Almost directly in front of the doorway is where I keep all of my other homeschool supplies: curriculum for our non-core subjects, curriculum for off-years that we’re not currently using, games/manipulatives/flashcards, the laminator, homeschooling books, etc. 


Small Space Homeschooling-ideas for organizing learning spaces when space is limited

I maximize the space as best I can by de-cluttering/clearing out often and using a variety of storage options to control the sprawl. A large, heavy-duty conference table creates storage above and below, bins and storage-drawer units under the table contain smaller things, and large file-folder storage boxes divide and organize our curriculum by grade level. I can easily go in and out throughout the day to get things when I need them, and it all stays out-of-sight when I don’t. 


Small Space Homeschooling-ideas for organizing learning spaces when space is limited

Choose gratitude


If you are living in a home that is too small for your family’s needs or waiting a long time to be able to move, it’s very easy to become discouraged and disheartened. I could quickly fill several blog posts describing our family’s struggles to be able to move to a different house. I know there are many other homeschoolers who can relate. At times, I have not received these challenges well, but over this past summer, I intentionally adjusted my attitude. It’s no accident that I now have this piece of printable artwork and this one hanging above one of the bookshelves in our living room.  

Our house may not be the size that we’d like it to be, but it is the backdrop for this very special season in our lives and the place where many of our most precious family memories have been made. And that’s certainly something to be grateful for!





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4 comments:

  1. Jessica do you have your own blog? We have very similar backgrounds. I would love to follow your story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No, I don't right now, but I'm considering doing one. Thank you for your interest! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved this post! We have four children in a tiny space as well. I suppose it's all relative, but I love how clean and neat your spaces are. It looks lovely. I'm inspired to get reorganizing and freshening things up a bit. Plus I love your Grateful quotes.:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, I'm glad it inspired you! Bear in mind that everything was made 'extra' tidy for the photos! :)But, I do find that having systems in place really does help in managing the clutter and keeps the rooms feeling more spacious. Glad you enjoyed the quotes, too. They help me to keep my perspective where it should be!

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