One of the most recent parent panics I came across was the homeschool myth that without a classroom, homeschooling would be problematic. In a society where we have been immersed in the formal public or private school method I can certainly see how this would be a concern. The parent I spoke to recently was worried because she was trying to figure out where she had the space, much less the time and money, to convert an area in her home into a classroom. Many homeschool families do have a dedicated space where they do school – it’s called the kitchen table! If you think homeschooling needs a formal classroom setting, think again. It’s merely a myth and not having one should not prevent you from homeschooling.
Where do we study?
We do have an area in our home that is dedicated as the “classroom” area but it is more the playroom and classroom area combined. It is the place where the textbooks are stored, school supplies are kept and some of the independent work is done. But the room is also where all the kids go to watch videos, build things, play dress up and do whatever kids do with their imagination. Where we study is all over the place and typically occurs wherever it is most convenient at the time which, frankly, is rarely the school room/play room. Dad and I have our laptops in the living room and when we are doing formal lessons the living room is more often than not the place we do it. But, sometimes we go in the kitchen, a bedroom or the office. Occasionally we take a trip to the park and have school there. We are in the process of building a deck and when that is done I hope to use that more often when the weather is nice to work out there.
When the kids have independent study, projects or worksheets, they can do it wherever they feel comfortable and sometimes the “classroom” is not the place to do it. Writing a research paper or reading is nearly impossible when other kids are playing an elaborate game of superhero in the same room. So, off they go to their room, to sit on the couch, plop down on the floor or sit at the kitchen table. Whatever works. Just go with it. Don’t get caught up in trying to imitate how public or private schools do it. If you wanted that, why homeschool? You do not have a class of thirty children to manage so you don’t need to employ the tools public and private schools do which is designed mainly as classroom management tools.
Outside the home
Although we do much of the formal studies at home we learn everywhere and have educational opportunities frequently outside the home. We have some excursion at least once per week where we visit a museum, go to the zoo, take a class, participate in a co-op, attend a lecture, see a play, visit the library – the list goes on. Many of these less formal educational opportunities are where the most productive learning occurs. Even co-op classes we take are not in a formal classroom setting. Once you wrap your mind around the fact that homeschooling is not and should not be a mirror of what goes on in public or private school then you will feel less stress over trying to imitate its classroom boundaries.
If you have a home, you have a classroom area. For practical use, the reality is that you need very little dedicated space for homeschooling. Talk to those homeschool families who are lucky enough to have a dedicated classroom or have taken the time (and money) to build or convert an area. Most of them will tell you that while it sounded good in theory, in practice, the area is just not used as much as what was initially envisioned. Don’t worry about it! Have floor space? A table? Couch? Desk? Park? Backyard? Then you have a classroom area!
Organize your homeschool
Staying organized does help, though. While we try to be organized, for others it is not as much a priority. If you do, though, it does not take a lot of space to do so. At Homeschool Pool we do most of our planning online. We share files and this allows Homeschool Dad and I to create lesson plans, keep track of goals and create curriculum in one virtual space and share it as necessary with each other, the kids or others who may need it. We also keep a private blog for family and the kids as a way of keeping track of exactly what we do each day for each child. Both of these take up no space at all!
We have a bookshelf where we keep our text books; that’s about four feet of wall space. We use binders and a file box to collect all the written work which is kept on the bookshelf. We have a rolling 4-drawer chest we keep other school supplies in; there’s another three feet. We have a previously unused hall closet we recently converted into the art supply closet where all our paints, crayons, map pencils, markers, felt scraps, magazines, glue, paper, etc. are kept. Prior to doing that it was kept pretty neatly in a small, portable 4-drawer chest that we got for about $15 from Wal-Mart. The amount of physical space we have dedicated exclusively for homeschool use is actually quite small.
Think outside the box
Don’t let lack of dedicated classroom space prevent you from homeschooling if that’s the path you wish to take. The need for a classroom is a homeschool myth that should be debunked. Most homeschoolers will tell you that even if they have such a space, it is not used nearly as frequently as you might imagine. Learning takes place everywhere so should not be confined to a classroom. Lessons and reading can occur anywhere you feel like and wherever you are comfortable. Look around your home and your yard – where can you sit, have a conversation, look at a book? Think about the areas around you – coffee shop, library, museum, park, restaurant – where can you be inspired, be comfortable, talk, read, open a laptop? All those places are the places you can conduct school. Why limit yourself when you have an entire world that is your classroom?