08 January 2009

Homeschooling without a school room

It's pretty common to find on home school lists, questions about how to best arrange the school room when you start homeschooling.

I did a lot of research myself -- until I realized that we wanted to make homeschooling and learning a part of our entire family culture and so we didn't want to segregate it into a room of its own, where, like in school, learning was something you "have to do" for a certain number of hours a day and then you can get back to having fun. We want the learning to *be* the fun!

That said, we still need to keep our materials organized, lest they take over completely.

What we have done, it to make the "school materials" a part of the decor in the main room where we socialize, eat, and live. I'll show you around, if you promise not to sneer at the mess. ;)

This is the stereo, which we use for audio books and music. Of course.
You can see here, the main cabinets. In the pair of brown, closed cabinets (leftover kitchen cabinets found on the roadside on trash day) we keep some of the materials for future years. Because it's out of sight, we don't keep anything there that we want to use soon. We tend to forget that its there.

The white cabinet (from Target) contains our materials about homeschooling on top and Jack's art and craft supplies in the middle. In the bottom cabinet are Jack's hands on materials. If it's there, it's his to use "whenever". At various times it has contained a "cutting box" lego, a pouring exercise, a "tongs and cotton balls" transfer exercise, lego, counting bead box, and stuff like that.
In the big book shelf in the corner (really inexpensive particle board) is our main shelf with current materials. They're arranged roughly by "subject".

Since history is our spine, the top two shelves contain a lot of history that might be useful this year. The next shelf is science. After that, language, music, and art. Books get pulled off this shelf at the beginning of a unit and put back on this shelf as they're completed for that unit if they will be reused for another unit or "released into the wilds", either of our house or someone else's via the kids book exchange.

Also, the table is where most of our work takes place.
This is the material for our current unit. (As you can see, we're nearing the end of a unit.) On the round table (KMart) is all of the read-aloud material. In the basket shelf (25 cents at a resale shop) is the material for Jack to read for himself.
And, of course, the time line, above the current materials.
We also have a lot of craft materials upstairs in the craft room, but that I won't be photographing until after I clean up there. ;)

It works well for us, and I thought it might reassure people who are afraid they can't homeschool because they live in a small house or don't have a lot of money to set up a classroom. Most of this was furniture we already had and pressed into service. A few things we bought (or found) especially for the purpose. But we didn't spend a lot. It doesn't resemble a "school" -- but it does the job of keeping us organized.


  1. I love that you don't have a separate schoolroom! We have the same "education as life" philosophy at our house. We tried a schoolroom but it never got used as it was too far from the action of the household. It became more of a giant closet. This year I have been working on transforming our main living room into a library/office since that is where we do most of our schooling/reading/computer stuff and it's location is central to everything going on in the house. I always wanted a library so this works well for us. Our family room was recently converted into a music/family room since my hubby's dream has always been to have a music room. Who needs a formal living room lol?! I love the colors of your home by the way. It is so warm and inviting.

  2. We use our whole house, too. (as you probably already know.)

    When I first saw the title of this post, I thought, I need a picture of the Earth - no wait, the solar system!... no, wait - the Milky Way!! to show our learning room. :) (Too much about the Universe in its entirety that we cannot claim to be on an intimate level with. But we're trying.)

    Yours is a great setup.

    We have a rumpus room downstairs that hosts most of our games and supplies, though it is a room that isn't often visited. Only when we venture down for something. A game. The microscope. Art supplies that we don't have room for upstairs. Etc.

    Absolutely we use (and should!) what space and resources we have.

  3. Unfortunately in the Netherlands a home-schooling system is impossible, basically because of the fact that you are obliged to be registered at a school between your 4th and 18th birthday and you are obliged to get a high school diploma.

    Further in both primary (4-12yo) and high school (12-18yo) (we don't have middle) there are national regulated exams the first one in primary school is to track the development of the child whereas it ends with a test to determine the level of high school (we have 3) you could go to (a 500 point based test).

    In high school there are exams every semester to determine if you are at the level of keeping up the classes, if not they advise you to step down a level, to avoid you failing the year, or they advise you to move up a level if your results are well above average. At the end of high school for all classes we take (classes are arranged in packages, f.e. science, languages or economy and history) a national exam.
    All exams results that are taken by students during their scholar period are saved in a database for an amount of time. The end of primary school is simple and you just move on to the appropriate level of high school, but after high school, the national ministry of education has to approve (now done by a computer probably) that every student has fulfilled the specific requirements to graduate.

    The government therefore claims that homeschooling cannot be possible because of the obligation to be registered and present at a school between 4 and 18 yo and the fact that if parents home school their children there are no objective correctors of tests.

    I do believe home schooling has it's benefits, the child is in a familiar environment, would feel more at ease and could thus focus better. On the other hand, the possibly lower amount of interaction of a home schooled child with kids from their age could be a minor of this system.


  4. Thank you for your very interesting description of the school system in the Netherlands, Michel. I think it's most unfortunate that homeschooling isn't possible in the Netherlands, and Sweden, and Germany, because there are so many more advantages than you can imagine. Here in the US we consider it a part of the parents' responsibility to educate the child. Most people choose to turn over that responsibility to the state, but it's not required. The same is true in Australia.

    Isn't it interesting how differently our different cultures see things?

  5. Even though there are great differences in the political system and culture between the US and Europe, still all people are equal and in the end evenly important for society. For example, it might sound strange, but without drop-outs and criminals there would be a much lesser need for police officers and other members of the law enforcement system. And if we look at the globalization, most University degrees are internationally accepted, which makes it possible to work anywhere. So in the end most, if not all, educational systems (including home schooling) are probably preparing the new generation which includes Jack for this globalization, training in multiple languages and the major/minor principle in college/grad school.


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