How We Homeschool in Our Dining Room
Are you wondering how to homeschool in a small space? Homeschooling in a small space can be challenging, but it’s totally doable.
As much as I’d love one of those drool-worthy, dedicated homeschool rooms (like this or this), it’s just not in the cards right now.
If you’d like to learn more about homeschooling in a small space, then check out how we’ve made it work in two different houses on two different continents.
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Homeschooling in A Small Space Means Repurposing Rooms in New Ways
I first learned how to use rooms in new ways when we started homeschooling back in Boston.
After we spent a year and a half ignoring our huge basement playroom in Boston, I finally wised up and converted our dining room into a playroom instead.
During these early years when I need to keep a close eye on my kids (and they like being close to me), having their play area near the kitchen is so helpful.
Create a Homeschool Nook in Your Kitchen
We started homeschooling for preschool while living in Boston, and we were lucky enough to have an eat-in kitchen.
We tucked away a little art table and repurposed a shelf or two in our “pantry” for homeschool supplies.
This space worked beautifully when we were just homeschooling one child and it was only preschool. We really just needed enough room for art supplies and a few books.
I loved this set-up, as it allowed me to cook and do dishes while my daughter did art projects.
Using a Dining Room as a Homeschool Room
We adore our house here in Guatemala, but I struggled to set up our homeschool space without an extra bedroom or an eat-in kitchen.
Our kitchen in Guatemala is quite small, and there’s not even enough room for a table in there. While we have a lovely bright space upstairs, I knew that we needed to keep our learning supplies near the main living area.
I’ve slowly realized that if we keep the toys and books in a separate playroom, inevitably the toys just migrate into the main living spaces regardless (except now they’re clutter, instead of having a specific place to go).
Worse, we often don’t use our learning tools if they’re not easy to grab.
When we decided to continue homeschooling here in Guatemala, I didn’t hesitate to turn our dining room into a homeschool room.
First, I took a leaf out of the dining table and stuffed the extra chairs into a closet to make room for a bookshelf.
Then, I swapped our fancy linen tablecloth for this lovely plastic monstrosity instead (it’s waterproof!).
It may not be as pretty as the formal dining room I had before, but it’s been so worth it to have our learning materials close at hand.
I love being able to grab our read-alouds during lunch or to pull out a Tray Play on a quiet morning.
I also noticed that my girls were much more likely to engage in spontaneous art projects or to request a science experiment when the materials were right in front of them.
That right there makes the loss of our formal dining room completely worth it.
Homeschool Art Center
After a few weeks of homeschooling in our dining room, I realized we were having trouble incorporating art into our homeschool routine.
Our art supplies were stuffed into a spare closet behind the laundry room, and it was a pain to riffle through the shelves whenever we wanted to find the googly eyes.
In order to homeschool effectively in our small space, I knew I needed a “messy zone” in our homeschool area.
The first change we made was to remove the door separating the dining room and the kitchen. That opened up this little nook in our dining room.
We moved our now-battered art table (Ikea) into the corner, as well as this pegboard (also from Ikea). We stocked the pegboard with our most-used art supplies.
Next, I splurged on this lovely calendar from Treasures From Jennifer. It is even more beautiful in person, and changing the date each day has become a beloved part of our homeschool morning routine.
Finally, I placed one of those plastic floor covers (like you use under office chairs) to protect the hardwood.
We have a small shelf tucked into the other corner of our homeschool space, and we use the flat surface on top as a Nature Table.
We love to display finds from our nature walks and local hikes, as well as flowers from our garden.
Having these materials displayed at eye level really draws my kids in — which is great for my pre-k kiddo, but less helpful with a toddler!
As I discuss in my post about encouraging music appreciation during the preschool years, it’s important that musical instruments are easily accessible.
I moved our keyboard into the dining room and propped up the pedal on an old cardboard box so the kids could reach it while sitting.
We hadn’t used our keyboard for months, but after I moved it into the main living area, the girls started experimenting with it almost immediately.
Not only that, but it has also encouraged the adults in the house to practice more often. Win!
We keep our morning basket in our kitchen. This basket holds our read-alouds as well as any specific papers that we’ll use that day.
This is the only bit of our homeschool room that has drifted into another space (besides some overflow art supplies that are still hidden in the laundry room).
I’m okay with the drift, as it makes it easier to grab a read-aloud during breakfast time.
Homeschool Book Shelf
Next, we needed an area to store all our read-alouds, math manipulatives, workbooks, and science materials when we’re not using them.
It may not be neat, but I love the overflowing bookshelf in our homeschool dining room.
I particularly love that if my big kid has a question about how fish breath underwater or what type of bird is fluttering in our garden, I can easily reach for the appropriate reference.
To facilitate lesson planning, I labeled my shelves by topic. There’s a shelf for math books and math manipulatives, a shelf for phonics and reading, a shelf for science reference, and a shelf with extra art supplies.
I designated two cubbies for the materials I plan to use that week.
On Sunday, when I do my lesson planning, I put all the books I plan to use in the first cubby.
Each night throughout the week, I fill up our morning basket with whatever we’ll be using the next day. When we’re done with the item, it goes into the second cubby.
It’s a great visual reminder of what we’ve worked on that week.
Homeschooling in a Small Space — It’s Possible!
What does your homeschool space look like? Share in the Facebook group or on Instagram and be sure to tag me @Simple_Tender_Joyful.
Related Posts About Homeschooling in a Small Space
- Organizing Children’s Artwork
- Homeschool Music Education for the Early Years
- First Day of Homeschool Pre-K: Worldschooling in Guatemala
- Pre-K Learning Objectives
- Pre-K Homeschool Curriculum: 2019-2020