When we started homeschooling three years ago, my son and I took over a corner of the family room with a couple of desks and a small shelf. That cozy space served its purpose well during those first two years when it was just him and me.
We knew a bigger space would be needed when my daughter joined us at home for second grade last fall, so I turned my attention to the 400 sq. ft unfinished basement that nobody but the cats ever ventured into.
I quickly learned how to frame (thanks YouTube!), install insulation, and hang drywall. It was all rather simple and straightforward once I was familiar with the process and had the right tools at hand, such as the incredibly handy drywall lift. The taping and texturing I left to an expert, so it wouldn’t look like I did it.
For financial reasons, I decided not to put a floor in before the school year. So my next step after painting was to move all the furniture onto the bare cement floor. Desks, shelves, tables, futon, chairs, all went down the narrow stairs and into the almost-finished basement.
Only after I was done moving everything down there did I step back and notice something. That rough cement floor looked and felt horrible. An unsettling chill went up my spine as I realized how uncomfortable we all would be on that dirty gray slab.
With only a week to go before the start of school, I knew I had to act. I wasted no time, and without a word to anyone drove to Home Depot and bought 20 boxes of Dupont Real Touch Red Oak laminate flooring. For three long days I wrestled those planks into place, but when it was done the room was finally transformed into a warm, livable space.
Furniture was moved back down the stairs a second time, and we started the school year on time. Now the kids and I were able to spread out, with bigger desks, a large project table, bulletin boards, and plenty of shelving for books and supplies.
So why didn’t I write about this last fall? Because our basement classroom wasn’t perfect yet. I never completed the baseboards and door molding. And there were larger shelves to build. And you know we needed that whole first year to fiddle with just the right placement of the desks and rugs.
This past summer I finally had the time to finish it, so I can now reveal our homeschool classroom to anyone who might be interested.
My son and daughter each have their own large desks, facing away from each other to dissuade bickering and other distractions. They don’t spend much of their day sitting in one place, though, as they like to read on the futon or recliner, work at the project table, and even spread stuff out on the floor. They also have their own shelves to prevent the mixing of books and supplies. You’d be amazed at the argument that can ensue over the accidental borrowing of a pencil.
So there it is. If you’re thinking of homeschooling, you can do it anywhere. Family room, kitchen table, dining room, basement, backyard. For us, it was better to have a dedicated area for learning. I wanted my kids to have their own space, where books and papers could be left out overnight, and art projects could be worked on a little bit each day until finished.
It was clear from the first day of use that our new classroom made a big difference in how my kids focus and learn. That alone is a satisfying payoff for the time, effort, and cost we put into the project.