My dream house would have a huge extra room that I could use as a schoolroom. I don’t really care what the rest of the house looks like. Oh, the hopes and dreams of a homeschool mama! In reality, we are six people who live in a pretty small house. Instead of a schoolroom, we have a schoolroom/dining room/pantry/playroom. My walls are papered with school posters and kid art. And I’ve learned to get very creative with fitting as much as possible into a small space. Here are five ways I’ve learned to make the most of a small homeschooling space.
Store in plastic bins.
It is not an overstatement to say that we are hugely dependent on plastic bins for our homeschool supplies. Plastic bins not only keep like materials together, they make it easy to shuffle around materials as needed. So my younger girls, who still do most of their work in the actual schoolroom can keep their books in bins that are pulled out as they use them and then stored away by being pushed under the table out of the way. Plastic bins also make it easier to carry supplies around to be used in other rooms. And- not that I’m admitting to this- you can easily gather up plastic bins, sit them on your bed and shut the door if people are coming over.
Shelves have made it possible to fit more than I ever thought possible in our little bitty room. I use tall shelves, and I fill them up. I even have things stored on top of most of the shelves. By using shelves, I can create vertical space since I don’t have much floor space. Now, I’m a fairly short person. So I do try to choose wisely what I’ll put on the tops of my shelves. If I have homeschool material that I know it’s possible to use again but I’m not going to be currently using it, I can put it higher up. But if it’s something I’ll need more often, I need to keep it lower.
There is one important thing I’ve learned about using shelves. It doesn’t matter if you have the best books and materials stored ready to pull out for later use if you don’t know where it is when you need it. When you have many shelves, it is very important to organize and label your shelves. You don’t have to be obsessive in your organizing- as some may have accused me. But you do need to have a system that works.
Hang things up.
As a classroom teacher in the days before my own children, I had often hung kids art work from the ceiling tiles or from a clothesline like string hung along a wall. At the time I did it because it was cute. But when I found myself not wanting to get rid of the great artwork the kids were creating with our art curriculum one year, I realized that the idea of hanging work on a clothesline would make it possible to save their work even though our wall space was limited. I strung a yarn line across a wide doorway and -voila!- an art exhibition place was born. Now I’m frequently hanging any kind of art work or school work that we want to display. The string doesn’t take up much room at all, and I’m able to display things without taking up wall space- most of which is covered by my shelves.
Partition off areas.
Another idea that has helped to maximize the space we have in our multi use room is that of partitioning off areas that we need for different tasks. I like to arrange furniture so that it creates a visual partition. For instance, we don’t have a pantry. So some of the area in the room that serves as our central school area is designated as a pantry. I have three sets of shelves there for food. Instead of spreading the shelves along the wall, taking up so much wall space, I have the shelves arranged in a L shape. Now the “pantry” area is partitioned off, and I didn’t have to sacrifice the wall space. I have another area partitioned off with the computer desk and some shelves.
Here’s a note about partitioning. Arranging the furniture this way frees up lots of wall space and definitely makes room for more furniture in the room. But it does give things a more cluttered feel. It makes for less open space. For our purposes, it works. But if you like the feel of an open, uncluttered room, it may not work as well for you.
One of my favorite space savers in my schoolroom is an old wardrobe. We inherited this piece of furniture from some friends who wanted to get rid of it. Someone who had this wardrobe in the past had a brilliantly awesome idea. They divided up the inside of the wardrobe into these little cubby holes. I’m not sure what it was originally intended for, but for our family, it makes an excellent craft closet. The little boxes inside are perfect for organizing bits of craft supply materials. This little wardrobe reminds me to think outside the box when it comes to looking for a way to make the most possible space.
The truth is, I love my little house. It’s a wonderful place for our family. It keeps us close. Literally. And I’ve learned over our years of homeschooling that I can stretch our small space out and make it work just fine. I don’t even need a bigger house. But… I probably wouldn’t turn one down.