We’ve been homeschooling for seven years without having a dedicated school room or separate school space, and over the years I’ve developed some favorite hacks besides simply relying on tables, shelves, and bins.
Because learning is simply a part of living, it happens all over and we don’t try to contain it. However, all the stuff does need to be contained. Everything has to have a home. A schoolroom provides a go-to home for all the stuff of homeschooling. When there is no such dedicated room, it means we have to be creative with our normal living spaces so that they can both house the stuff of our learning days while still also providing, well, living spaces – preferably ones that are peaceful and welcoming rather than cluttered and chaotic.
These are my three favorite homeschool hacks that give stuff homes and keep our work accessible and portable so that our home doesn’t feel overrun with homeschooling.
Homeschooling without a schoolroom hack: Portable Teacher’s Office
Maybe this counts as a homeschool bin, but my craft-tote turned supply-tote is prettier than most of my plastic bins. It’s a small craft tote that I bought from WalMart years ago. My intention was to use it as a craft tote, but my projects never fit neatly into it. It’s more for crafty stuff, really. My yarn projects were always too bulky for the compartments and my cross stitch project (that I’ve had in progress for 8 years) was too small. So it sat on the shelf for awhile until I was casting about, wondering how to corral some of my school day teacher supplies. I think we were going to do some of our school at the park, and I wanted something where my pens and notecard and other small things wouldn’t get lost in the bottom of a bag. I grabbed my empty craft bag and it’s been in heavy use ever since.
It’s open, so everything is handy. It has handles, so it’s easy to grab and bring along. It has compartments built in, so things stay organized.
In my teacher tote lives my dry erase markers, a small dry erase board, my pens, my clipboard, a lotion bar and lip balm, any book I want to keep handy, and there’s still room to spare to stick in whatever I need to hold onto.
Homeschooling without a schoolroom hack: Clipboards
I suppose clipboards are just as useful whether you have a schoolroom or not, but because we don’t have a specific desk space for each child (or many workbooks!), clipboards make our school days smoother.
I bought colored plastic clipboards a couple years ago, so each child has a clipboard in his own color. That means I can tell at a glance whose clipboard is sitting out on the counter after I’ve told them to put their stuff away.
Their clipboard holds their weekly assignment sheet, plus any pages they need – handwriting, blank map, etc. – plus they use it to hold anything they are currently working on. So, if they’re writing an outline, their paper goes on their clipboard as they pull books or search wikipedia. The clipboard means they have a writing surface wherever they go.
When I grade their math and mark corrections to be made, I can put it back on their clipboard and know it won’t get misplaced (well, ok, it’s much less likely to be misplaced, anyway).
It is super-handy having everyone use a color-coded clipboard.
Homeschooling without a schoolroom hack: Covered Whiteboard
I think one of the handiest things I’ve set up is a whiteboard that is visible in the room everyone spends most time in. We have a spot to clearly post reminders and chore lists and schedules. Consequences can be noted and remembered, special to-do items posted, and an outline of the day made visible to all. It cuts down on questions I’m asked, it cuts down on decision-making for me, and it keeps us all on the same page.
It’s actually a large piece of shower board my husband bought at the hardware store and mounted on the wall for me. Not only was this cheaper than a large whiteboard, but he could also cut it to exactly fit the space we had.
However, I don’t want a marked-up whiteboard as a permanent part of our decor. It rather spoils the atmosphere of an evening dinner with friends or a relaxing moment by the fire.
So, my husband also made me a cover.
It’s just fabric stretched and stapled over a wood frame. It it easy to pull off and put back on. It means I can quickly cover up the chaotic jumble of details about our days and pretend our life is serene and calm.