Multi-level Homeschooling: The Homeschool Room

As we talk about multi-level homeschooling (we homeschool 10 children ages 1-14), I thought that I’d address the very practical aspect of where we educate our children.   Our educational choices will affect the area where we choose to homeschool and vice versa.  If we run our homeschool like a classroom then chances are we will set it up like one and on the other hand if our “school room” is set up like a classroom it is more likely to be run that way.  So think about your school area and ask yourself if it reflects your goals for your homeschool.

One thing that I learned from being homeschooled is that for our style of home education, most learning will take place where our family lives.  Even though my mom and dad had a “school room”set up where we stored most of our curriculum, we usually studied, learned and discussed around the dining table or in our family room where the rest of the family spent their time.

We have continued that in our family (our school room has always been in or adjacent to our kitchen) and I think that communicates some of our educational goals to our children.  By educating our children in the “heart of our home”, we are telling them that education is a part of everyday life and it isn’t divorced from it.  (Also one of the reasons that we school year round.)  We are also saying that you learn through living, you don’t have to go off to a special place to learn from “experts”.  We are also encouraging our children to learn together with the rest of the family and encouraging discussion within our family.  Discussion grows relationships as well as logic and reasoning.

I realize that having a full blown school room in your dining room, kitchen or living room is not possible for everyone, but if you are reevaluating or trying to figure out where to have your school room, I think it may be a good idea to consider having one of those areas available for school work.  This allows mom to continue to get household work done during and in between teaching as most of us don’t have the luxury of 3-4 uninterrupted hours each day.  I usually continue to read aloud while one of the children starts fixing lunch and dinner preparation is usually in the midst of looking over assignments and answering questions.

Also, having a school area that is conducive to entertaining little ones can mean the difference between easy multi-level learning and finding messes and trouble all about the house from little ones wandering about unsupervised.

Our current set up is ideal for our family.  Some of these ideas will work in your home, others can be adapted to work and still others will not fit with your family preferences.  Our school room is a large family room that opens off of our kitchen.  We don’t have room to store all of our school books in this area, but we do have all of the books that we are currently using in room toward kitchen

In the area labeled “school books” we also have all of our maps and geography things.

School room toward couch

school room toward deckschool room toward deskDid I mention IDEAL?  Even to the detail of having our laundry closet where I can start and switch loads all day long.  I only wish those doors were sound proof.

We have comfortable seating for read alouds as well as seating for all of the children to work at a table. This is the inside of our art closet and the children usually have two chairs up to this desk when they all have desk work to do.after-art-closet-labeledplay kitchenThis kids play area doubles as desk space for our two little girls and or our two little boys. 🙂

On the other side of our kitchen is our dining room with the chalkboard wall and magnetic wall.  We do a few subjects that make use of that chalkboard in the dining room, but the vast majority of time we are in the family room.

We have several options in this room for our little ones:

  • Art, art, art.  Many of our art supplies are accessible to our little ones so long as they ask permission.  (This is simply so I can make sure that they have picked up their previous mess before moving on to make another one.   As long as they have I always say yes and they are able to reach everything themselves.)
  • Pretend play.  The little kitchen above has led to hours of pretend play, they pull the cushions off the couch and chair to enclose their area and make beds and… you get the idea.
  • Blocks.  We have several baskets that hold an assortment of blocks for terrific open ended play.  Jenga blocks are some of our favorites.
  • Wooden train and track.  You do remember my train-crazy 3 year old, right?
  • Outside play.  Since our deck is completely gated AND we can see them through the glass door, our little ones may play with play dough, riding toys or just run around outside on our deck.
  • Quiet learning games and puzzles.  We have collected a wide assortment of these and get them out only during school time.

We also have activities for the bigger kids during read alouds and discussions.  Each child has an art bag in the art closet where they keep their projects.  Alyssa (9) is currently knitting a scarf with a pair of pencils, Matthew (10)  has a wood carving project going and Amber (12)  and Kaitlin (11) are both working on needle work.

All of these activities take place in this room and by the end of the day it looks like a tornado has gone through, which is why we have a half hour of clean up time before daddy comes home. 🙂

Updated pictures of our school room.

I’d love to hear your ideas about what is important for a homeschool room.

You may also be interested in my series on why we homeschool or the rest of our how we homeschool series.

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33 Responses to Multi-level Homeschooling: The Homeschool Room
  1. Cardamom
    August 25, 2009 | 9:19 am

    Looks great, Kimberly – you’ve made some more changes! 😉 As we wrap up our Core I’m going to be working on making the house work better for us. Still have too much stuff in too many different places…

    Hope you all are getting better!


  2. momtofivekids
    August 25, 2009 | 9:37 am

    I love this post! Everything looks so neat and organized for having such a large family. I am going to be spending this week before school starts to organize our school area. We have too much stuff! I need to weed out what we don’t use. We school mostly in the kitchen/dining room and living room area, too.


  3. Morgan
    August 25, 2009 | 10:41 am

    Your school room looks so warm and inviting! I’m very impressed with the cleanliness and organization! 😀


  4. bunny
    August 25, 2009 | 10:59 am

    I know your house always looks like that!


  5. Shannon
    August 25, 2009 | 12:27 pm

    I’m curious Kimberly, you say you school year round, how often do you take breaks? This is our first year with my dd in first grade and she “forgot” soooo much from kindergarten, so I was thinking year round might be a good option. Thanks


    Raising Olives Reply:

    The school room is not always this neat, but I don’t like clutter, so morning and evening we try to get it all picked up and that makes mommy happy. Maybe I should post a photo of what it looks like when school and crafting is in full swing! 🙂

    I’ve had a couple questions about year round schooling and am hoping to write a post on this soon.

    We take breaks very often, but what I mean by a break may be different than what other people consider a break. Sometimes we have one day off of school during a week and other times we cut back on the subjects that we are covering. (We may only do reading, math, Greek, music and art.)

    We read everyday, including Saturday and Sunday and once the children begin math they rarely take breaks. When you look at an average school year for us, you would probably see that we “do school” way more than the required 180 days, but we are always fairly laid back and rotate several of our subjects in and out. The children all enjoy school and are often disappointed when we don’t do everything, so I think year round school works well for us.

    Hopefully more later on year round school later.

    Mama Bird,
    I think that your approach to homeschooling will make or break you. If you are willing to educate at home, rather than try to create “school” at home, if you are willing to allow your child to love learning and not try to force it, it is an amazing a beautiful experience. I’ve never experienced “homeschool burnout” and also not had much frustration with homeschooling. I think a lot of that is because we try to be very consistent in training our children and they are generally reliable with their school assignments. The other thing is that we have never tried to make this school at home. We learn together and I’m very involved in teaching and learning WITH the children, not just handing out and checking assignments.


  6. Mama Mirage (Jessica)
    August 25, 2009 | 1:44 pm

    I love the year round idea and just taking shorter breaks more frequently. I forgot lots of stuff over summers as well. It would seem that going year round might make it easier to truly go at the child’s own pace. When you want a big long summer break the child would HAVE to finish that grade by summer or would eventually be so very far behind! If they had a whole year to finish a grade there wouldn’t be so much pressure and stress taking up the mind-power needed to learn.


  7. Bekki
    August 25, 2009 | 2:30 pm

    It is amazing how homeschooling even for just a little while(so far) makes me want to move or remodel the house. While the way it is set up works, it is not ideal. Our school room is on the second floor away from the kitchen and laundry. and the room is just a tad to small. I would love to have some comfortable seating. Having such a big space off the kitchen would be lovely! We school year tround here also, so much easier and the children don’t forget what they are learning.


  8. Twisted Cinderella
    August 25, 2009 | 7:31 pm

    I love the way you have things organized. We have only just started homeschooling, and I am still organizing. We are temporarily at our kitchen table, until we can get our playroom/classroom finished.


  9. Mama Bird
    August 26, 2009 | 1:39 am

    I’m impressed by how neat and clean you’re able to keep things! You’re an inspiration to someone like me, with only 1 child who is wondering if home-schooling is for me.

    Left you an award on my blog. Play along if you like.


  10. Nicki
    August 26, 2009 | 9:22 am

    Your school room looks very pretty! I like it right off the kitchen. I’ll keep that in mind when we move again. And I have a daughter who was knitting with pencils, too! Her big sister was ready to teach her, and we didn’t have a spare set of needles. Thanks for sharing!


  11. Michelle
    August 26, 2009 | 10:35 pm

    I think your homeschooling area looks great! Neat, orderly, uncluttered, with lots of natural sunlight, and comfortable furniture for read-alouds. Our own homeschooling area tends to be much more cluttered! 😉


  12. Whitney
    August 27, 2009 | 12:56 am

    Thanks Kimberly for the time spent on this post. Its an example that inspires me to evaluate our homeschool situation. We don’t have a “schoolroom” either and use the kitchen table and family room couches also. Great room! God bless you!


  13. Tracy
    August 27, 2009 | 7:33 am

    Very nice! Thank you for sharing your schoolroom with us! So many great ideas…inspires me to rethink my schoolroom!


  14. tara
    August 27, 2009 | 9:39 am

    Thanks Kimberly!!! What an intriguing post!!! I honestly NEVER thought about the message of schooling in the heart of your home!!! We have a school room and I can say that our first year it “looked” like a classroom! And now this year, it looks nothing like that! I feel like it better suites the goals for our children now! But what you say stirs my heart! It is even causing me to re-evaluate if we should even devote a whole room to homeschooling! WOW!!!!! LOts to think about today!!!!!!!!!!


  15. Mom of Four
    August 27, 2009 | 9:32 pm

    Very nice school room! We are in our second year and looking at new ideas for ours.


  16. Young Wife
    August 29, 2009 | 12:31 pm

    What a great set up for you and the kids! I love how there all the different sections and stations. And having the laundry room right there! What a blessing. Thanks for sharing your setup.


  17. Melissa Murdoch
    September 2, 2009 | 7:39 am

    What an inspiration to see you managing so well with such a large family – yet so organised! I also like how your study area has lots of natural light – something that I think is necessary for the right energy for concentrating a alertness. Homeschoolers the world round can learn a lot from you and your brood. I find that Getting Started in Homeschooling is often the trickiest bit for many.


  18. Sheri
    September 9, 2009 | 9:05 pm

    Oh, I love that color of green on your walls. Very pretty. My, what a lovely area to do your educating! I have a room designated for all the shelves, books, well-all the stuff. We spread out from there…but I needed one area for all that schoolish stuff so I would not go crazy with it all over the place (which is what has happened in the past for many, many years)…luckily, the main floor has all the area we need the most-kitchen, bath, family room (with comfy couches) and the laundry nearby to keep that going.

    Love your layout! Thanks for sharing!


  19. Rachel
    October 7, 2009 | 1:38 am

    We are moving to a new house soon and I’m dreaming about how to set up our homeschool in our new home. Our living room will be just around the corner from the kitchen also, and this is where I plan to read with my boys. There will be no t.v. upstairs. I will have a room to store homeschooling supplies in, but I think we will be doing our work at the kitchen table, and probably at a table in the downstairs family room.


  20. Cathy aka The Attached Mama
    January 7, 2010 | 7:59 pm

    I just want to say how wonderful your school room is!

    I can’t believe how clean and organized it is. My plan was also to have a scheduled clean up time 30 minutes before Daddy came home. But, the problem is that is my littlest one’s fussiest time. (I am also usually trying to get dinner finished.) So I am still trying to find my groove. I usually end up doing the clean up by myself after they go to bed….or leave it for the next day (YIKES!). I know both of those are not good.

    Thanks for the post!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    We do the clean up time before Daddy gets home, but we couldn’t manage it when our kids were young like yours are.

    Here are some things I’ve learned that may help you or not. I have dinner in the crock pot and set the table after lunch, so the dinner time crunch is eased. I wear the baby while picking up. (It took me a long time to find a carrier that really allowed me to work and not end up with tired back or shoulders.)

    But like I said, I didn’t have it all together when my kids were all little. 🙂


  21. Jasmine
    January 31, 2010 | 1:28 pm

    Ok, where do you hide the rest of the toys 🙂


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    We don’t have a lot of toys because I don’t like clutter, but we do have an area downstairs where we keep the rest of them. 🙂


  22. Robin E.
    August 10, 2010 | 9:42 am

    The only time a dedicated school room worked for us was the time it was a room right between the kitchen and the laundry room. The other couple times we tried a dedicated school room (in the past we moved a lot), we always ended up in the living room or dining room anyway.

    Now we have finally settled down, bought a home, and Lord willing will never move again. Our school area is the family room, which is also the dining room, which is open to the kitchen, out back, and the living room. So, like you, school is where we live. The only drawback is that the laundry closet is further away, but we have plans to build a laundry room off the kitchen some time down the road.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing on the NOT Back-to-School blog hop. I found this a fascinating read.


  23. Eclectic Education
    August 10, 2010 | 3:42 pm

    Looks like you have a wonderful set up! Hope you have a great year.



  24. Katy~TheCountryBlossom
    August 10, 2010 | 7:47 pm

    You have a beautiful, as well as wonderfully functional, school/learning room! 🙂 I am curious about the schooling year-round. Does the state you live in require portfolios at the end of the public school year, that you must turn in? I was curious how you do that. I *do* love how you expressed that learning isn’t just about books…but about life. So true that is! :o)

    I wish you an absolutely wonderful school year! 🙂


  25. missmoe
    August 10, 2010 | 8:38 pm

    How enjoyable to find a second-generation homeschooler. Excellent article on how your style of schooling affects your space. I can relate to your tornado comment! My home is also well used by the end of the day. Thanks for sharing.


  26. L2L
    August 12, 2010 | 7:49 am

    I am so working on getting a chalk/magnetic wall for our family room, I love that idea!!! I think I’m going to show my husband that table I love it and it is something he could make and it would solve our “desk” issue. I can so see us playing with trains and lego and having so much space to store stuff, oh my!!! I am a very practice homemaker myself thanks for sharing, gleeing alot of ideas as we are still setting up our house!!!


  27. Jessica
    August 17, 2010 | 6:04 am

    Great “school” area. I am so glad I found your blog! You’re my mommy role model. I want to be like you when I grow up! 😉


  28. Anna
    August 19, 2010 | 7:11 am

    What a great space! I too DESPISE clutter, and we have lots of it! I only have one toddler two (2yrs old, our youngest and only boy) so there is probably alot I can get rid of and you have inspired me to try it! I love that big thick table too, looks well made. Thanks for sharing your space!


  29. Lisa
    July 30, 2011 | 6:40 pm

    Please show us a pic of when your room is in use! It would be so inspiring to this mom of only 6 kids and feels like our house always looks like a bomb just went off!:-)


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Lisa,

    Here is some of the abuse that this room regularly receives. Almost all of my indoor pictures of the kids are taken in this room. Here is some rough housing in the family/school room. 😉

    And to really make your home seem normal, you may want to read my live-blogging post of a ‘normal’ school day or the live-blog of Day 1 of potty training. 🙂


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