When Terry and Kelli Anderson first decided that Kelli would home school their three children, the classroom was in the unfinished, chilly basement of their small bungalow. A kid-sized table and chairs were used for studying.
When the Andersons moved to their current home, they put three small desks plus a bookcase and other storage for supplies in a room in the finished basement.
Now, the classroom has moved to the main floor. The children and their teacher/mom start the school day in the great room reading. The great room also is the music room where all three children practice playing their violins. The combination kitchen island and eating bar does double duty as a study space and “lunchroom.”
After beginning the school day with his siblings, Tate, 14, likes to study at his desk in his room because he finds it easier to concentrate there. Kia, 10, and Elliot, 12, do most of their schoolwork at the eating bar, but when the weather is nice, Elliot, 12, likes to read in the backyard.
A built-in bookcase and display cabinet, which the family refers to as “the ledge,” is adjacent to the eating bar and next to the stairs. The divider is a convenient supply space. Each child has a drawer for supplies and Anderson has a drawer for her teacher’s guides. A dictionary and other reference books are kept on the edge of the fireplace.
The former basement classroom has become an art room and library.
When the Andersons bought their home, they didn’t think about the ledge serving as a school supply space. “I think you take what you’re blessed with and make it work,” Kelli Anderson said.
Jennifer Geaghan is another home-school parent who uses her existing furnishings for her home school. Jennifer, who has five children, is in her first year of home schooling. The Geaghans have a finished basement with a kitchenette that has lots of cabinet storage, couches, a dining table and two small bookcases.
The six-seat dining table, which also provides extra dining space when entertaining family and friends, is working well for the two school-aged children who are in grades 1 and 4. The 4-year-old and 3-year-old also can join some of the activities at the table. And even their four-month-old is there, when Jennifer has him in a carrier or wrap.
Geaghan uses the wall space for a dry erase board, U.S. and world maps, and displays of the numbers 1-20 and the alphabet. She repurposed picture frames and put cardstock under the glass for memory work. Dry erase markers work well on the glass. Each child also has a small dry erase board. One side has lines for practicing penmanship; the other side is blank for drawing.
“We have some wall space left for future timeline projects,” Geaghan said. “We are currently learning about astronomy, so we are utilizing the ceiling to hang our solar system model.”
The kitchenette has a mid-sized refrigerator that can be written on with dry erase markers and also can be used to display art or visual aids using magnets.
The home school moves upstairs to the kitchen table when the younger children are napping. The computer and TV, which are on the main floor, are used to incorporate interactive lessons. Geaghan uses a tote to carry supplies up and down the stairs. The tote also has folders for filing daily and monthly work.
“I have really tried to make our home school area be free flowing and incorporated into our daily lives as much as possible,” she said. “A lot of our supplies are also what you use in the daily life of a family.”
Jessica Freeman, another home-schooling mom, says it’s not necessary to buy special furniture for a home school.
“We would never spend money on extra furnishings for home schooling when there are perfectly good kitchen tables and chairs, comfy couches and floors available for use. We need lots of storage in this house for our things and our collection of books, but we would need that anyway,” she said.
Freeman said she feels sad when she sees “the general public having such a narrow view of home schooling, when people think that the only way to learn is to import desks and dedicate a special room so that children can sit there every day and ‘do school.’
"Life is so much more interesting than that, and home schooling is wonderful because it gives a family a chance to really experience life and learning in its own style,” she said.