My son’s eyes never stopped moving when he first visited his kindergarten classroom at our local public school on “Meet the Teacher” night. The classroom was bright and cheerful with posters on the walls, a large colorful rug, and shelves filled with books, games, and art supplies. He had his very own spot with a table and chair just his size. He wanted to go everywhere and touch everything. There were no tears on the first day of school because he knew that there was a fun place waiting for him. And he never got over that.
Although my husband and I had determined that homeschooling was the best option for our family, I didn’t want my kids to miss out on the joy of a bright and cheerful learning environment. And it made sense to me to have a dedicated space for learning, just as we have dedicated spaces for cooking, sleeping, eating, and working. But as I researched homeschooling, I came across the idea time and again that homeschool rooms are an unnecessary throwback to traditional classrooms, set up by newbie homeschool moms in a misguided attempt to recreate a traditional classroom. Thanks to the blog Confessions of a Homeschooler, I knew that this wasn’t a position shared by all experienced homeschoolers, but I did question my desire for a school room. Was I simply being swayed by all the pretty pictures I found on Pinterest of beautiful school rooms? Was I about to spend a lot of time and money setting up a room that would hardly be used, a room that would serve as a source of guilt, a reminder of unrealistic expectations?
This decision was especially important because we had decided to buy a house and our homeschool needs would play a big part in our house hunt. So I had to get this right. No pressure.
Like any good engineer, I came to a decision with a mini requirements analysis for a learning space.
MY BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR A LEARNING SPACE
- Proper desks: I realized during our six months of experimentation that doing school work at the dining room table simply wasn’t an option for me. Besides the inconvenience of having to put things away when it was time to eat, I could see that my kids having to stand on their knees to properly see the surface of the table was not an ideal situation for children learning to write. I tried to solve that by sitting them at their activity/play table, but it was too small for them both to spread out. And whichever table they sat at, they would either start bickering because one brother felt that the other brother was migrating too far into his space, or they would simply be distracted by what the other brother was doing. Add to that my longterm homeschool goal to teach my boys good work/learning habits, I knew that desks were the way to go for me.
- Proximity to Storage: With a first-grader, preschooler, and toddler, I knew that we would have the need to store manipulative, puzzles, games, supplies, and curricula for various ages, while maintaining easy access. It made sense to me to maintain proximity to all the learning things while we were doing our school work, but I still wanted a way to keep little hands from getting into those same things when not in use.
- Out of Sight: I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be reminded of my challenges every second of the day. And school work can be challenging. While I wanted a pleasant environment for my kids to learn new things, I thought that it might be unhealthy for them to be constantly reminded of the hard work of learning. So I didn’t want school supplies to be in their faces constantly. I also didn’t want my youngest boy’s curious hands to have constant access to our school-related items. So keeping the learning space out-of-sight is really an effort to keep us all mentally healthy.
- Play space – While my oldest would be doing 2-3 hours of first grade work every day, my middle son would be doing 3-year-old pre-k work and my youngest (who was 15-months-old when we started homeschooling) would be toddling around getting into everything. I needed my youngest two (and especially my youngest) to have a play area within my line of sight while I was working with my oldest.
A dedicated learning space / school room best fit my requirements, but there were less-perfect alternatives – a hall closet could provide storage, the boys could have desks in their rooms, I could work with my oldest on the couch while my youngest boys played. But that all felt very loosy-goosy to me. And I knew that a couple of our overall goals for homeschooling – a more peaceful home environment and a focus on diligence – would not be met with supplies scattered throughout the house or having to constantly check on the kids doing school work in another room while also keeping an eye on my toddler. So I felt more confident in my desire to have a school room.
BUT JUST IN CASE, and because I’ve made a habit out of overthinking things and often suffer from paralysis-of-analysis, I made a pros/cons list to see if there was anything I’d be missing out on by having a school room.
I’ll start with the cons, to really get to the point.
Cons to Having a School Room
- Would have a hard time cooking or doing other housework while school is going on.
Pros for Having a School Room
- To help the kids get in the learning frame of mind when we walk in.
- Can leave a mess when we need to go eat or whatever.
- Won’t be reminded of school all the time, because sometimes learning is hard work.
- Wall space for a whiteboard, calendar, posters, whatever.
- A dedicated learning space will communicate to the kids that learning is important to us.
As we’re finishing out our first homeschool year, I can confidently say that a school room was the right choice for us. It has evolved over the year as I’ve better-understood our needs, and my now-2-year-old loves nothing better than getting into all the “stuff” that he can reach, but the few times that we’ve had to forego the school room for one reason or another has proven to me that, for us in this season of our lives, a dedicated school room is infinitely better than any alternative.
What factors played into your decision to have or not have a dedicated school room?