Ideas for Schoolrooms

When we started homeschooling, we did all our work at the kitchen table. This became impractical rather quickly, especially as younger children grew and I had more kids doing school.

At that time, we didn’t have much space for a dedicated school room, but we got around the problem by putting two children in one bedroom, making the other bedroom available for a schoolroom.

In our current home, we were able to finish a large room in the basement as a schoolroom. Here are some of the things we have put in our schoolroom.

The Floor

For the floor, we used Vinyl Composition Tile. You’ve seen it before. This is the flooring found in virtually every grocery store, Walmart and public school in America. It is sturdy and durable, can be easily swept or mopped, comes in dozens of color choices and typically costs the same as a regular vinyl floor. We were able to choose 3 colors and have them laid out in a design for no extra charge.

I love this floor! We can paint, use playdough, do science experiments, have snacktime….this floor cleans up so easily!

Work surfaces
We have some desks in our schoolroom, but the children don’t like to sit at them very much. They seem to prefer doing their work at our large school table. I like the table, too, because we can sit side by side when I need to help with handwriting or math. In the past, the boys used to set up games on the school table in the afternoons. I prefer to keep it clean, as games frequently aren’t finished in time, and the next morning the table was often still covered. I put another smaller, old table in the school room that is now designated a “game table”. We never do school work there, it is reserved strictly for play.

This goes without saying, obviously! There never seem to be enough shelves. I am pretty particular about the books I use during a given school year. My current books, for example, are divided into different shelves according to age group. Each history book has a red dot on its spine, as that is a visual cue to me that it is a book about the Ancients. I have put a number on the dot to show which week the book will be used (1 to 36), and all books are placed on the shelf in order by week. This makes it easy for me to find the exact books that my 11 year old, 8 year old and 6 year old are supposed to be reading in a given week. I have a separate shelf for science books and field guides, and another two shelves for my personal books, homeschool catalogs and teacher manuals.

I try to keep all my history and literature books grouped together according to time period so that next year, when it is time to do the Middle Ages, it will be easy to find the appropriate books. If I find a book I will need in two years at a garage sale, I know just where to put it. It will be with all my other Civil War books when we get to that time period. I try to buy almost all of my books used, thinking ahead to what I will need in future years so that I can look for bargains.

I also keep an old aquarium that I bought at a garage sale on one of the bottom shelves. I don’t know if it is water-tight, but it serves our purposes. If we find a toad or a lizard and want to watch it for a few hours, it goes into the aquarium. Every year we raise caterpillars in the aquarium and watch them spin cocoons and eventually become butterflies.

Reclaiming Unused Space

We have taken some under-utilized space near our school room and repurposed it. There was a small vestibule at the bottom of the stairs, not much bigger than a walk in closet. I was able to put a small loveseat against one wall, and two bookshelves and a comfy chair against the other.

This is where we keep our books for the current year, and we call this little space our “library”. This 9′ x 8′ space is actually very cozy, and we love to curl up in there with our books!

We also have a long, narrow walk-in closet in the schoolroom (it fills the space directly under the stairs). At 3′ wide and 6′ long, it was really too narrow to put in shelves for books or games. I used to keep baby toys in there with a gate, as it was a perfect little spot for our baby to play safely for a little while.

He is a bigger boy now, at 3 years old. I have made this into a little “reading room” for him.

I painted one wall with chalkboard paint (you can buy this at Benjamin Moore). Once the wall is cured, you can write on it with chalk just like a chalkboard! There is a very small bookshelf in there with his own books, a small comfy toddler chair, a cassette player with a tape and a box of little toys that he enjoys. He will often sit and look at books or play in that cozy little spot all his own.

The School Closet

This closet looks like a mess, but I know where everything is!

I am rather fanatical about protecting my educational games. After the kids lost pieces to games I wanted to save for their siblings, I started putting all games away in a special “school” closet. No one can get a game out without permission, and before another game is brought out the first has to be put away. I have a similar system for my preschooler’s toys. There is a special shelf of toys he likes to play with during school, but each bin needs to be picked up before another can be checked out.

A high shelf in this closet keeps paint and other art supplies away from curious little hands. This is also where I keep my History and Science boxes. I also keep a snack bowl in this closet, filled with granola bars, little boxes of raisins or dried apricots, peanut butter crackers, etc. If the kids get hungry mid-morning, they can grab one item from the snack bowl.

School Supplies
I used to get each child their own package of markers, crayons, glue sticks, etc. before the beginning of the new year. I guess I felt sentimental, remembering how I felt about my own beautiful new box of crayons when I was starting back to school. This became expensive and impractical, so now we have 3 large bins (one for crayons, one for markers and one for colored pencils). Our bins are old 5 gallon Mayfield ice cream buckets. Once or twice a year we go through each bin, throwing away broken crayons and dried up markers, and sharpening every pencil in the bin. I am loving my new heavy-duty plug-in electric pencil sharpener, which is making that task much easier this year. I have another smaller bin which holds scissors and glue sticks.

A plastic 3 drawer cart holds lined paper in one drawer, specialty paper in another drawer (origami paper, cardstock, page protectors) and school-related coloring books in the bottom drawer. I have a basket on my desk full of mechanical pencils, lead and eraser refills, highlighters, and index cards in all colors.

Things we use all the time
I couldn’t do without my heavy-duty 3-hole punch. I also have a small filing system where I can keep attendance records, completed work which needs to be saved, field trip information and the like. I bought some inexpensive lap-sized white boards and dry-erase markers from Rainbow Resource, and we love these. Some of them have primary lines on them, and my 1st grader uses them for handwriting practice and writing out spelling words. My preschooler loves to use them, too, when he is “doing school”. We also have clipboards for taking schoolwork on the go. We have an inexpensive MP3 player which we use for audio books. With a radio-transmitter, it can be used in the car, as well. I finally got a photocopier for my birthday last summer and it has been such a blessing! I use it several times a week.

Making a Space for Preschoolers

Even when we had a much smaller school room, it was important to me to carve out a small corner for my preschooler. It is important that our preschoolers can be a part of our school. We are, after all, a family. In my preschooler’s space there are some of his favorite Fisher Price toys (a castle and a pirate ship). We have a train table in the school room, with bins underneath that contain some of his favorite toys. He can also get bins out of the school closet, with permission. All my preschoolers have loved their little play desk. My big boys don’t want to sit at a desk, but my preschoolers always do! He keeps paper and markers and safety scissors in his desk, and a white board and dry erase marker. He has a special binder with coloring pages and extra notebooking papers in it, and he draws in that when the other boys are doing their notebooking work.

Our preschooler’s schedule is set up so that he rotates from station to station throughout the day, so that he doesn’t get bored. We don’t spend our whole day in the schoolroom, either! We usually start our day with family devotions in the living room. Then we head down to the school room, and Cal goes off to play with one of his brothers. Later in the morning, he has a ‘school time’ when he is doing preschool work, usually at the school table with the other boys. Then he plays trains or toys in his little preschool corner. Next, he goes outside for awhile with one of his other brothers, and then comes back in to color pictures while I read aloud in the library. Sometime during the morning he may read or play in his little reading closet. By arranging his schedule, and creating various spaces for him to work and play in our presence, he is able to happily be with us all day. But I digress…

The Walls
We have not done anything to our walls, other than the chalkboard wall.

I have a good friend who bought white backer-board inexpensively at Home Depot and bolted it to the back of a bookshelf (turned sideways) to make a large, inexpensive white board. This could also be bolted to the wall. Another option would be to put cork on a wall, to make a large bulletin board (I had a cork wall when I was growing up, and I loved it!).

Our walls are mainly covered with maps. We have a large U.S. map, and several world maps. The children are encouraged to tape little pictures (which represent geographical locations we have studied) onto one of the world maps. I also purchased some art posters from Michael’s several years ago, and we have some of those on the wall. I have a long piece of barnboard with 3 heavy-duty clips attached to it for hanging the children’s artwork. At times we have also had a wall-timeline up, but at the moment we are doing our timeline in a 3-ring binder.

The Lights
I put track lighting in our school room. This has worked well for us. The lights burn halogen bulbs, which are quite bright, and they can be tilted in any direction to hit work spaces.

Keeping Track of everything
This has been a problem I hope to address successfully this year. One of my children is notorious for carrying books and schoolwork all over the house and being unable to find it when he needs it next. I am not much better, truth be told. We have a bin for all his work, but the bin has to be used in order to be useful! Now that I have 3 students who typically don’t sit at a desk to do their work, books can end up all over the place. Any suggestions??


  1. Anonymous says:

    Love your ideas….but, please post pics for us visuall learners *U*

  2. Sharon in NC says:

    Molly, love your blog. Thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions on the school room. I’m sitting here staring at my school room figuring out which ones will work well for me. I’ve been thinking my kids won’t use their desks that I dragged in much, and you’ve kind of confirmed that for me. I may just go with a table.
    We can’t wait to get started again (well at least my dd and I can’t — my ds keeps saying “we’re not starting already are we?”
    Thanks again for the great ideas!
    Love, Sharon

  3. I added some photos, as requested!!

  4. We use a 3 ring folder to hold the current weeks work in. It also has a baggie that holds pencils and a sharpener. I have a sheet of paper that has my lesson plans for that week listed (we use this for a checklist also). I serves to organize me too. I take the lesson plan paper along with the weeks work and place it in a bigger 3 ring folder. This keeps all of the work together and sorted week by week. I use this and not a file cabinet. All of the current year work goes into the folder. Then we have a giant bag that all of the school books go into. It is our schoolbag. We have a school area but the bag keeps it together. There are times we’ve done school on the go and we just grab our bag. Our school table is a big square coffee table with pillows all of the way around it that we sit on.

  5. Love it and what a neat idea for the floor! I’ve always wanted a chalkboard wall, but no room here!

  6. Love the pics!!!! What a great space for homeschooling!

  7. I love the chalkboard wall, and preschooler’s corner. What great ideas and pics, thanks for sharing!

  8. I love your learning spaces. That color green is my favorite! I love the floor and the chalkboard wall.

  9. OK I want that school room

  10. LOVE your HS room! We are still in our kitchen/dining room!

  11. Your schoolroom looks really nice and practical. Great job! And of course I live the chalkwall; what a great idea!

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