You made the big (and wise) leap out of the public education system and are going to homeschool your children. Pat yourself on the back quickly and roll up your sleeves – there’s a LOT of work to do!
Before you can start, a classroom must be created to give you a space to cultivate their young minds and fill them with knowledge. This might sound like an intimidating task, but relax, it involves only a small amount of manual labor and a whole bunch of creativity.
First of all, do not think of a homechooling classroom in conventional terms, this is especially important for prepping families. The entire survival bug-in location or prepper retreat should be viewed as the classroom – including the outdoors.
Getting the classroom all ready for a new school year was one of my favorite parts of working in the education field – until that job made me feel like a factory worker who was sucking all the joy out of the learning process and dumbing down the curriculum while neglecting to give instruction on anything even somewhat resembling American history – and quit.
I homeschooled my daughter during her final years in high school – she graduated almost two years early and began taking college courses. I so wish I had started educating her at home far sooner, she may have always made the honor roll, but she was not really learning anything.
Now, I am helping her homeschool her children – and yes, I was gleefully placed in charge of setting up a homeschool classroom for my grandkiddos!
Before you can begin designing the perfect homeschool classroom or figure out how to create a viable learning area when limited on space, you must define your homeschooling goals and objectives.
We preppers are notorious list makers, and that is exactly the skill you will need to draw upon when figuring out HOW you are going to homeschool so you can design your classroom space.
Ask Yourself These Questions
- How many children will be learning in the homeschool classroom now and in the near future if the family grows or the SHTF?
- What are the ages of all children?
- How many below school age children will be in the home both now and in the near future? Will the room also be used as a pseudo day-care or homeschool preschool?
- Are you going to engage in at least 50 percent hands-on learning?
- What percentage of the learning will be conducted outdoors during each season of the year?
- Will you be using a skills-based approach to teaching – including the teaching of self-reliance homesteading and survival skills?
If you will be infusing skills-based learning in the homeschool classroom, which you should, the kitchen can be used as part of the learning environment.
The children can hone their math and reading skills while helping prepare meals and preserve food. They can learn about nutrition and other science lower elementary science lessons: ice, water, weight, heat, in the kitchen as well.
The garden, woodshop, tools section of the garage, and the barnyard can and should also be part of your homeschooling “classroom.”
The amount of space you need for a formal homeschool classroom will be directly related to not just how many children are in the family, but how much time you actually plan to spend sitting in a seat at desk or table. Storage of materials will likely take up most of your space.
Being a prepper, you already know the advantages of stockpiling items now that will be needed and become unavailable during a long-term disaster. When creating your homeschooling budget and classroom, keep the acquisition of learning materials and the space they will need, in mind.
Space Requirements and Storage
Having an entire room dedicated to being the homeschool classroom is ideal, but do not let a lack of space deter your from educating your children at home.
Many homeschooling parents create a combo playroom and homeschool classroom to infuse interactive play when teaching young children – that works great as well and what we did on our survival homestead.
Homeschooling is not a rigid experience like a traditional school. The children should not be spending their days sitting in a seat and completing worksheets.
You can use your kitchen table for homeschooling space, dedicate a corner of the living room for seat work and storage, or put a wood stove, wall-mounted propane heater, or space heater in your garage and make a learning space there for the children.
The homeschool classroom can be portable. Educational units can be stored in plastic totes and taken out and used as needed – let the outdoors be your classroom as well.
Instead of putting in closets or buying a lot of plastic totes with drawers that will take up floor space, build loft style storage units that hang from the ceiling to store all of the books, manipulatives, and general school supplies until they are needed.
Buy large plastic totes that can house all the educational unit materials needed for an entire month, label them, and stack accordingly so the materials remain easily accessible and can be rotated throughout the school year.
Make the Most of Wall Space
Wall space should be factored into your homeschool classroom plans. We painted the lower half of a wall in the homeschool classroom with chalkboard paint so the children could use it to practice their writing and math. This makes the learning not only more fun, but saves both money and storage space.
Stockpiling chalk from the Dollar Tree is a lot cheaper and take up less space than buying paper tablets and pencils in box so the children can do their lessons now and after the SHTF.
If you are educating multiple children that vary in age, the little ones can feel included in the lesson if they are handed a piece of chalk to draw with while the older siblings or children of other preppers in your mutual assistance group, are completing academic tasks.
There is also a magnetic white board in the homeschool classroom. The children love playing on it with their magnets for fun outside of classroom time.
Wipe off markers can be used by the children to do writing and math lessons just like the chalkboard and magnets used to teach patterns, for hands-on counting and simple math problems, to match shapes, and learn colors.
A homemade flannel board also adorns the wall and is regularly used in hands-on extension learning activities for all subjects.
It is great for story re-telling activities to bolster both vocabulary and comprehension skills. There is no need to spend a lot of money to buy commercially manufactured flannel board pieces. You can make your own from cheap craft flannel that sell for about $.33 at Walmart.
The craft flannel can be glued onto the back of graphics you print off the internet and color, to be used a companion learning materials for textbook lessons and during story time.
Wall shelves can be used to store materials that will be used on a regular basis and to store your stockpiled materials. Use a single table and not individual desks for the children.
A table will take up less space and offers greater flexibility for interactive and hands-on learning activities and learning extension activities that double as art projects.
Make a slip cover for each child’s seat that has pockets sewn onto it so they can store their own school supplies and keep them handy and the classroom neat, without using up floor space unnecessarily.
You can also sew a sling to hang between the chair legs under the seat to hold books and other supplies. Simply slide a piece of cardboard or particle board between to piece of fabric and use Velcro or nails, to attach it to the chair legs.
Create an Enticing and Inspirational Learning Environment
Select a theme for the homeschool classroom and turn it into a whimsical and magic space for the children. My husband scored me an old overhead projector at an auction and I used it to draw barnyard themed mural on the walls of the playroom and let all of the children paint it.
Prepper children should be made responsible for cleaning the classroom and helping prepare their own lunch to build and increase their practical skills and instill a sense of responsibility at even a young age.
Soon, there will be a big tree branch mounted in a bucket of concrete (with the bucket covered in brown felt to make it look more natural) with stuffed felt leaves, some birds, and owls mounted to the tree.
The tree will be placed in a corner that is also the reading area so the children can sit in a fun and comfy place and immerse themselves in the storybook. Hopefully the fun reading space will also make reading from textbooks a lot more enjoyable as well.
The flooring of the playroom is green indoor-outdoor carpet. You know, that horribly tacking looking stuff from the 1970s? It looks like grass and help complete the whole barnyard theme. It is also stain resistant and very durable. We just used some handy duct taped to secure it over the existing vinyl flooring.
The children will be engaging in self-reliance skill-based messy art-infused learning projects in the homeschool classroom, if you are going to be using a similar type of preparedness curriculum, address the flooring needs early on in the homeschool classroom planning.
The ceilings in the homeschool classroom are very tall, allowing for the future addition of a tire swing and a simple old-fashioned board and rope swing. Letting the children burn off some energy if stuck inside for an extended period of time will help them maintain their focus on learning. Some homeschoolng parents put a mini-trampoline in the classroom for the same purpose.
Classroom Learning Centers or Stations
Having separate learning stations, no matter how large or small, is extremely helpful when educating multiple children in a single space, especially if they vary greatly in age.
The learning centers also help children to learn how to transition from one activity to another when instructed to do so, clean up after themselves, and learn how to function on a schedule and the importance of adhering to rules and a routine.
The reading station does not have to contain all the books in the homeschooling library, that can be overwhelming for the children and turn into one big mess if little ones are in the space as well. Use a tote or crate to store 12 or so books so the children have a variety to choose from and rotate them in and out on a weekly or monthly basis.
Put a thick playrug, large cushions, small mattress, or bean bags in the reading area so the children can kick back and get comfortable and feel encouraged to dig into the books and read for hours.
Do not be afraid of allowing stuffed animals in the reading area, there is nothing wrong with letting the children cuddle up with a stuffed pal and reading to it when they open a book.
Workbook or File Folder Station
This learning center will be an independent learning area. Creating a space in the classroom where some children are working on their own while you devote time to actively teaching another, will be a sanity saver for you and a skill-builder for the children.
The workbook or file folder area can be a part of the single table in the room or in a seat outside of the primary homeschooling classroom, like at the kitchen table.
Use bookshelves, wall shelves, or a plastic tote with drawers to hold file folder activity packs and workbooks. This same area of part of the homeschool schedule could also be used as a technology area.
Children can sign in to an online curriculum the family has subscribed to or use a free educational app to work on a particular subject or concept.
Sensory and Exploration Station
This area should house a long but relatively shallow clear plastic tub the children can reach into while sitting on the floor or a sand and water table.
The table will be filled with a wide array of items that coordinate with the lessons being taught to further explore the concepts and to reinforce the information from textbooks and stories.
When teaching young children or for below school age siblings, the bin can be filled with sensory item for them to play with and experience, like colored rice, ice cubes, various homemade dough recipes, etc.
Simple machines the children make during science lessons can be kept here and played with to reinforce the concepts the children were taught when learning about them.
Blocks are also a must for the homeschool classroom and can be kept at this station. Lego blocks can be laid out in patterns for the children to duplicate, have letters written on them so the children can build word towers, use measuring tape to measure their towers, etc.
Weather learning and prediction materials and solar system leaning projects and materials should also go in the sensory and exploration station area.
Wood ramps that marbles, cars, or other items can race down to teach the children about gravity, to track speed and velocity, would be a great addition to the sensory and exploration station. Scale and items to weigh will keep the children so entertained they will not even notice they are engaged in an academic activity.
In addition to the learning uses for wall space noted above, they can be used to hang posters with the letters of the alphabet, a number line, graphing charts covered in clear contact paper so they can be used repeatedly, and to hang an art display clothesline.
An area where the children are growing seeds, herbs, and simple indoors plants like lettuce, should have its own space in the homechooling classroom – or house at large.
Even if you take the children to the garden for part of their skill-based hands-on science learning, give them some dirt to call their own so they can be a part of the process from start to finish and record their findings, draw or take photos of their the process, and make their own compost in small buckets.
Transplanting the seeds to their own outdoor container garden or the family garden, is a natural progression of the learning that will take place in this station.
Create a special learning center in the homeschool classroom that is shield from view by sheets that hang above it, by cardboard panels, or some similar means. The goings on inside the station can change daily or weekly and should be able to be completed independently and can vary by child.
A file folder or small plastic tub with each child’s name could be placed inside the mystery station. Making puppets that can be used for story retelling, materials to create a book report in a bag, or a shadow learning activity with a flashlight are also great ideas for mystery station activities.
The contents can be a quiet box activity, something technology oriented that headphones are used to enjoy, or anything else exciting you can dream up to go along with your curriculum that week.
Consider making portable stations out using fabric grocery bags, old feed sacks, homemade bags, or backpacks. The carriers can house tool and supplies the children are responsible for taking with them when learning in other areas of the home and outdoors.
Suggested Portable Stations
- Cooking – Put an apron the children help sew, their own measuring cups and spoons, a small journal they are making to write down recipes and cooking tips, in the carrier.
- Mechanics – Put handheld tools, safety glasses, work gloves, and a tape measure in the carrier, and a small journal to draw out plans and write down the step to their projects, etc..
- Gardening – Put gardening gloves, a gardening mat the children make out of vinyl placemats stuffed with scrap material and sewn together with yarn, gardening tools, natural pesticides the children made, seed packets, and yep – another journal to record their gardening experiences.
- Barnyard – Have the children sew an egg collection apron and put it in the carrier along with antibacterial handwash, a mini first aid kit, work gloves, and journal to take notes about the chores they do in the barn, animal husbandry research, etc.
The absolutely best thing about setting up a homeschool classroom is you can design the learning space to fit the exact needs and wants of the family. The second best thing is perhaps, that you can change it often and the children can be a part of the decision making process and help cultivate their own educational experience.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.