This post marks the 3rd article in a series that I am gearing to NEW homeschool families. In this series I'm addressing the questions I often asked myself before we began this journey, consequently it's many questions I also get repeatedly asked by others. As much as I struggled thru those early days of homeschooling, I hope I can shine a light and maybe help someone else's journey be just a little bit easier. As much as I call this series Homeschooling Countdown: How-to Make it Successful not Stressful, I could just as easily have titled it:
COUNTDOWN TO YOUR FIRST YEAR OF HOMESCHOOLING!
My goal with this series is to make a few posts geared for the NEWBIES out there. If you are a seasoned homeschool PRO then perhaps this is advice you no longer need. But MAYBE there will be things in here you think, "wow,...I wish I had known that when I started down this road." Whichever school of thought you fall into...welcome. Welcome to the wild, exhausting, and awesome road of homeschooling!
In my 1st post in the series entitled "Define Your Why" I emphasize that, "One of the first questions you should ask yourself is WHY DO I WANT TO HOMESCHOOL?" I talk at length about the importance of preparing YOURSELF to homeschool and I even give some practical tips on HOW TO DEFINE a 1 minute elevator pitch answer to that most common question.
In my 2nd post in the series entitled "Trim the Fat" I discuss the way to make ROOM for the time-investment homeschool will require. How trimming the fat from your day-to-day grind before you begin your first year of homeschooling, will help prepare you mentally as you make this lifestyle shift.
This brings me to this post and frankly this is just a FUN topic. Today I'm blogging on the importance of PLANNING YOUR SPACE! I do get a little giddy talking about homeschool space and in full truth I went way overboard my first year. Can you blame me thought? It's like the fun of decorating, and organizing, and NESTING, but with bright colors and pencils and crayons! YAY! But when I say I went overboard, ya'll, I went OVERBOARD. I agonized over the space we would school in to the point I contemplated having a handyman build a new room on the house.
Please, Dear Newbies
YOU DON'T NEED TO RENOVATE TO EDUCATE
5 Steps To Plan Your Space!
CHOOSE YOUR SPACE: Maybe you are working from a tiny one bedroom house with zero
free space. Or maybe you have a huge space, even a whole room to let the creative juices flow. Guess what, BOTH can work! I have met friends who literally lived in a tiny apartment and they homeschooled their kiddos quite well. Other families had dedicated rooms. ANY scenario works so don't stress if you feel you can't carve out a portion of your square footage to dedicate strictly to schooling. I myself started in a small 8 by 12 dedicated space, then relocated to my mom's shared dining room table at her house, and then into a "family room space" that doubles as movie-night/great-room space. They can all work. If you defined the WHY of your desire to homeschool, and you have Trimmed The Fat from your daily to-do list, then selecting a space within your home you plan to homeschool should be easy. If you are in a small home, the kitchen table can likely work double-duty as a schoolroom surface. If you have an office or bonus "loft space" at the top of the stairs, those can also double nicely. If you are lucky enough to have a spare room that's been the room of requirement in your life, well it's time to de-clutter! Whatever the space it, just choose it and if need be clear it out a little and give it some due attention at de-cluttering. The key to stress-free homeschooling isn't the amount of space, it's the level of organization within it. Hence my next item...
CHOOSE YOUR SUPPLY STORAGE: Book shelves/baskets, or over the door holders, or more. There are seriously NO limitations to the options out there for organizing school supplies. I would invite you to visit Pinterest but frankly you'll
get sucked into the void of lost time and come out with a deep need to custom craft a pencil-shaped 3-tiered tape dispensing scissor and pen organizer with deco'd pictures of your child's life that also doubles as a beer coozy with built-in hand warmers. STOP THE INSANITY! You need a place to put crayons, pens, pencils, markers, and maybe glue sticks. It's not rocket-science, don't over think it. You can find many solutions at the local dollar store but please please, dear sweet newbies, don't overthink this one. If you must shop amazon, I am a fan of this cute desk-top solution because it's basic and inexpensive and all you need. Don't' go crazy! and WHATEVER you do....do NOT decide to browse thru the Office Supply store at BACK TO SCHOOL time! This is a sure-fire way to overwhelm yourself into buying ten years worth of color-coded files and post-it notes. They are so pretty and so full of hope and purpose and surely the sale makes it worthwhile. I say all this while still trying to use up the FIRST BOX OF PENCILS I ever bought 3 years ago! (seriously, Ticonderoga pencils are a workhorse and my kids still haven't managed to break them all, go figure I'm gonna own this same box for eleventy-billion years). Remember....the first year of homeschooling is about making it fun and finding a routine....keep the supplies to a minimum!
CHOOSE YOUR CURRICULUM STORAGE: The first year you won't likely need a TON of shelf or storage space for yourself as most early years of
curriculum don't require too much by way of massive teacher guides and such. However you will have paper, OH SO MUCH paper. Laminated paper, colorful paper, writing paper, ideas printed out, plans to organize and more. EMBRACE THE PAPER people! hahahaha.. At the very least even the most limited of homeschool spaces need something for mom to store curriculum plans in and these handy Banker Boxes are CHEAP and handy! The flat top's also give you some space to set a desk organizer on and voila - insta-teacher-corner! Plus, lightweight and portable so it tucks out
of the way should you need to clear the double-duty space. NOW...if you are lucky enough to have a nice dedicated room for schooling, BE ON THE LOOKOUT for some good Saturday Shelves. Again, I love IKEA for these types of needs as they own the "clean bright and cheap" market for storage solutions. But even without IKEA, Amazon frequently has lightening deals on solutions like this one. The bins are colorful and fun and allow you to toss in craft supplies and the like, the shelves give you some space to stack up all those early reader books as well. The long top surface can double as a printer stand or (add in some fun book ends) additional storage!
CHOOSE YOUR KID DAILY SPACE NEEDS: In order to work, your kids need a SURFACE to work upon
carts with bright colorful drawers. They allow one drawer per curriculum or activity and even extra drawers for supplies or "fun" things. The top has a flat surface which allows for more storage options. They roll and can move from room to room OR - BEST IDEA EVER - Roll AWAY into a closet if you need that surface for dinner time and then BACK OUT after breakfast. These are perfect for those double-duty homeschool rooms! They can cost as much as 40 bucks but watch for sales and lightening deals and you can get them cheaper. I needed FIVE of them so I waited for a sale and managed to get mine at just 15 bucks each! SO WORTH the wait to save that cha-ching!
CHOOSE YOUR MOM PLANNER! Now this is one area I'm a bit big on splurging on. We mom's have so many things to keep track of these days. Between busy lives, busy households, sports, social things, doc appointments and more, NOW add in some homeschool time and BAM - it's a perfect storm to brew up a mess and something gets forgotten. A solid mom-planner goes a LONG way in setting your mind to the task of organizing your life and your homeschool time. I've tried a few but am a die-hard fan of the Erin Condren Life Planner. Flexible enough to fit ALL my family needs, but even have TEACHER planner versions that include space for lesson planning. They are gold - just gold - and if I buy NOTHING ELSE for the year I invest in THIS! It's crucial. It' just is! It can be a LITTLE on the spendy-side if you get the fancy versions, but the simple ones are more affordable and better they they have the option to refer a friend and get a discount. So SHARE THE LOVE with your other homeschool moms and embrace the world of PLANNERS!
BONUS TIP NUMBER 6: GET AN AMAZON PRIME ACCOUNT! In case you haven't noticed I reference Amazon alot. Their prime offers free 2 day shipping and frankly that's WELL worth the annual fee to me to avoid getting MY THREE rowdy boys out for a shopping event. Some homeschooler families are isolated and don't have access to big box stores, others just have too many kiddos to try and handle shopping on a budget. AMAZON is amazing, they deliver to your door, and they have nearly everything you could ever want ever!
So that's my basic 5 point list of ways to prepare your space for homeschooling. Above all, don't buy EVERYTHING on my list. I know, sounds counter-intuitive after I offered all these fun colorful links. I want you to SUCCEED and have less stress. Make a plan, PLAN the PLAN, Plan it in your new PLANNER even....but then take the time to shop the sales, browse the dollar stores, and even check out the online garage sales. I was able to buy our basics for me to school ALL THREE of my kids for less then 200 bucks - and all of those items are STILL WITH US after two moves and 3 years! Don't blow the budget buying fancy stuff. Breathe, plan, relax. YOU GOT THIS!
If you have't yet, check out my first two blogs on this series entitled CREATING YOUR WHY and TRIMMING THE FAT. And don't miss my NEXT post, coming soon, on CHOOSING THE CORE CURRICULUM! eeeeek ... very exciting!
Check out my other blogs on homeschooling as well and HAPPY SCHOOLING!