As soon as it became clear that remote learning was going to be the reality for this year, I decided that we needed a space designated for “school.” A basement homeschool room was immediately a priority in my mind.
Last spring I really struggled with getting buy-in from my normally-enthusiastic-about-school 6-year-old, who resisted my efforts to get him to do his online learning lessons.
I couldn’t blame him.
I didn’t really have a good plan or setup, and I wasn’t treating the work like it was officially school, so why should he? I didn’t want to make that mistake going into the new school year, especially since, barring a miracle, I anticipate that the entire school year we’re likely to be on either the hybrid plan or a fully remote plan.
The basement homeschool room
Our basement was, how to say this nicely – total crap – a few months ago. It was filled with junk. It was musty and spider-y and generally gross. It was definitely not a Montessori light-filled dream come true. Did I mention it was unfinished?
And now? Well, it’s still technically unfinished. We don’t use the Montessori method, so I can’t really say if it’s a dream come true for those guys. But what I can say is this – it’s now an adorable space for my son and a few neighborhood kids that we’re teaming up with this school year.
It looks and feels like a little classroom, and my kid is so excited about it. And so am I!
I decided that one of my primary goals for the 1st grade is for my son to retain his enthusiasm for school, and not lose his joy of learning. Of course I also want him to get some academic benefits, but at this young age I feel like his attitude is the most important thing, given the weird times we’re all living through.
Anything I can do to help keep his spark for learning is important. So, I wanted to figure out what steps I needed to take to make that happen.
In a nutshell, this was the plan for “homeschool” –
- Team up with a few neighbors, and take turns monitoring remote learning days
- Create a functional space that the kids can use to learn, and that will facilitate my goal of maintaining excitement for school
- Have a room that, post-pandemic, will still be cute and functional as a kids hangout/art room/project room, etc.
That’s it! That’s the plan. Intricate, eh?
Teaming up with the neighbors was straightforward enough – there are 3 moms and 3 remote learning days, so we each are taking one day. Our kids have been more or less in a “social bubble” for months now, so that part was also straightforward.
Next consideration – how to make the space work.
I have a strong interest (obsession?) with designing spaces, even when it seems that there’s not much to work with. Is that a shitty house on the market in a family-friendly neighborhood? Sold! (For the record, our house is no longer shitty. But it was, and I didn’t even care all that much). Oh wait, is that a rocky, sloped patch of dirt in the backyard? I’ll make it a patio!
I think almost any space can be transformed with a can-do attitude and proximity to a Home Depot. My husband doesn’t share this enthusiasm but is a good sport.
Anyway, the basement was what you would call a blank canvas, which sounds kind of appealing when I say it like that.
Mostly it just had nothing going for it. Except space – it’s a good sized room.
But now it feels comfortable, cheerful and most importantly it functions really well for the kids.
Here are the key things we did to make it work:
I knew we needed to have enough working space for 3 kids, as well as a comfortable space for an adult to get some work done. So I ordered an adorable table and chair set for kids to match one I bought for my kids years ago (it’s held up incredibly well and I think it’s very cute).
We also did the following:
- Painted the concrete walls a cheerful color (a mint green called “Honeydew Melon” by Benjamin Moore)
- Had the ceilings finished, so pink insulation wasn’t sticking out all over the place (this was the most expensive, and most “finished” thing we did)
- Mounted dry erase boards onto the walls
- Added ceiling lights
- “Installed” interlocking foam mats to make a faux wooden floor
- Painted the doors and accent pieces a warm pink/orange color (I love this color – it’s called “Tandoori Spice” by Benjamin Moore and is surprisingly versatile and warm).
- Made a built-in desk using IKEA Kallax cubes and a spare piece of particle board, secured to the wall with brackets.
- Filled the Kallax shelves with books and 3 Sprouts bins, which fit perfectly.
- Created a little “hallway” into the school room, complete with a work station for adults
- Mounted a projector on the wall for the kids to be able to see their teachers more easily. Also, for hide and seek apparently.
- Created DIY student work spaces using foam core boards so that the kids could have privacy as needed.
- Made a “cozy corner” for independent reading time
We bought my son a reading light both for school (to use when the lights are down low for the projector) and also for his bedroom, so he can read at night after his little brother goes to sleep. The light is great because it has 3 levels of brightness, and because it can sit on table as well as clip to a book:
I also decided to upgrade his headphones, since he’ll be using them quite a bit. We got this pair, which I’m really happy with:
Overall I’m really happy with the way this basement homeschool room came out. I can already tell it’s making a huge difference in the way the kids perceive “homeschool” – they have much more buy-in now, with both a space and schedule that is set up like a real school day.
If you’re struggling to get settled into a remote learning plan, I would highly suggest using any spare space that you might have (an under-used dining room, a spare bedroom, a basement) and setting up a space for a homeschool classroom.
Of course that’s not always going to be possible, and when it’s not I think you can also get a lot of benefit from the DIY student work spaces.
But if you’re able to carve out a designated area for your kids to do their school work, I would highly recommend it. If it can save you some sanity this year, it’s well worth the effort!
Want A Mothership Down delivered to your inbox? SUBSCRIBE HERE.