Whether you send your kids to school or homeschool them, they’ll need a space to do their schoolwork at home.
Maybe you feel there’s no good place for them to work. I’ve been there. I spent my first few years homeschooling my kids in a tiny Chicago bungalow on a shoestring budget.
Every fall I faced a creative challenge, trying to figure out how on earth I would fit four little kids and their homeschool books and supplies into our little home, not to mention tracking down everything we needed in the first place!
We’ve moved since then and now we are lucky enough to have a dedicated homeschool room, but I remember those days well. If you’re struggling to figure out how you’re going to afford all the school supplies and books this year and fit it all into a small space where your child can work, these tips are for you.
Tip #1 – Cheap is good, free is better
My number one tip for homeschooling (and thrift in general) is this rule: “Find it for free, and if you can’t find it free, find it secondhand.” I exhaust those options before buying something new.
Of course, use your judgment; sometimes items are cheaper new than used. But it’s a good general guideline to check your local Buy Nothing groups, thrift stores, Buy/Sell/Trade groups, garage sales, and libraries before buying new books and materials.
Tip #2 – Library = friend
My greatest hack to save both space and money is to get as many books as you can from the library. This school year, I found at least 75% of the books my kids need through my local interlibrary loan system. You may be pleasantly surprised at the homeschool curriculum and living books available from the library.
Besides saving you cash, getting schoolbooks from the library is also a huge space saver because you can return the books when you’re finished with them and don’t have to store them indefinitely.
You can find a number of excellent school curricula online for free, including Mater Amabilis, Ambleside Online, Easy Peasy Homeschool, and The Good and the Beautiful.
Tip #3 – Make sure there’s a door
Once you have a plan for books and supplies, it’s time to face the biggest challenge: finding a space in your home for doing schoolwork.
If you have a guest room, formal dining room, or finished basement, these rooms might be repurposed as a schoolroom or study space. Some families have their kids share a bedroom so that another bedroom can be used as a schoolroom.
Consider whether the room has good natural light and shelving or storage. I would prioritize a room with a door that can close, both to separate the school space from the rest of the house and to hide the chaos on a particularly … educational … day. Closing the door is also key for keeping babies and toddler from getting into the space and destroying school supplies when your back is turned.
When space was tight in our home, I homeschooled in these two spaces:
- The kitchen table, with two kitchen cabinets cleared out for school supplies (we moved their former contents, lesser-used dishes, to a basement closet) and a section of the counter cleared off for school books
- The living room, with flat cushions for sitting on the floor around the coffee table, and high bookshelves to hold school supplies
Tip #4 – Crates are great
When space is at a premium, you want to organize the area as efficiently as possible. Put away anything you won’t be using for the next term, to be stored until it’s needed (and if you won’t be using it again, sell or donate it).
I like to use a sturdy plastic crate to hold each child’s daily work, so they know where it is and what they need to do. Every morning, they can go pull out their work and get started with minimal supervision from me.
Kids often like to move around to work in different spaces, so consider getting clipboards so they can work on the floor, the couch, or even outside.
I hope these suggestions can be helpful for you! Check out the book 3 Weeks to an Organized Homeschool for a wealth of other great tips.
Best of luck and I wish you a wonderful school year!