Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Apartment Homeschool

I often drool over blog posts featuring beautiful and spacious school rooms. But I am blessed to be able to home school so I am grateful for the learning nook that I have carved out in the dining room of our small apartment. Thanks to Ikea, our learning area is both stylish and organized. Homeschooling in an apartment means that homeschooling and all that it entails literally becomes a part of the decor.

Book Storage Area
The corner shelf holds curriculum currently in use.  The bookshelves with glass doors hold my personal book collection.

The Dining room/Classroom
The dining room table is where KingMan completes his lesson. This table gets a workout and will be a candidate for re-staining pretty soon.

The Rotating Display Area/Storage Area (for future themes)

This is the "theme" area where I rotate various themes throughout the school year. Right now it's Geometry and Montessori Geometric solids are on display. Inside the wicker baskets from Ikea I keep materials for future themes. The black and white polka dot container, courtesy of Target, stores all of our pens, pencils, erasers, scissors and glue.

Montessori-inspired Art Area

This is the art area. In the spirit of Montessori, this shelf allows free access to my youngest whenever he wants to do an art project.

This area is now used as the Montessori Math shelves. 

Update! Because we homeschool in an apartment, our shelves are constantly evolving.  Two years ago this was the art area.  Now it's the Montessori math area. Montessori utilizes lots of "works" or manipulatives that must be made easily accessible to the child.

Work Boxes - my organizational savior! Pre-Teen Years

These are KingMan's workboxes. I love them because they allow me to organize his lessons visually, as opposed to piling books high on the dining room table. It also makes for a quick and easy cleanup when it's time for meals. We simply transfer unfinished work back to the workboxes. On the windowsill we keep flash cards and manipulatives. To the left of the work boxes is a storage container for science experiment supplies organized into 3 categories/drawers:  physical science, earth science and life science.  To the right of the work boxes are homeschool lesson plans filed according to subject.  Each child has a separate container.

Updated Teen Workboxes

Update! Now that KingMan is a teenager, we use these containers as our workboxes.  I love the colors, but more importantly I love that I am able to organize his curriculum according to subject area.

Drawers Have Ample Space to Hold Text Books

The drawers allow me to place books flat without having to bend and wrinkle. (I'm type A about keeping curriculum neat).  We use a checklist to incorporate the feeling of accomplishment once work is done.  That's really important for boys who need to know when the endpoint is near.

 Jr. Workboxes (he insisted on being in the photo)

Before! This is my youngest child's work area. He has his own workboxes and his Montessori materials and other manipulatives are stored in the Ikea Trofast tower to the left of his workboxes. He loves knowing where to find all of his things.

LionHeart's Upgraded Work Area

Update - now! LionHeart outgrew his preschool work table.  His work area was upgraded, courtesy of Ikea.  The legs of the table are expandable, so as he grows, so will the height of the table.

Montessori-inspired Learning

Though not technically in the dining room, these shelves are also a part of our homeschool. I only have the space to dedicate two bookshelves in our home to Montessori materials.  Though not a Montessori classroom, the spirit of  Montessori is throughout our home and lifestyle. 

The Music Studio

Amazingly enough I made space in our apartment for a piano. We had to forgo extra seating, but it was worth the sacrifice. There's nothing more beautiful than hearing your children make music! 

Long-term storage (also known as my walk-in closet)

Here is my storage area, also known as my walk-in closet. Any curriculum, games or materials that are not in current use are stored here by category. For example, the language art games are on the language art shelves. You can't see it, but winter coats, hats and a file cabinet are stored on the other side.

The Seat of Power (just kidding)

And here's where I make it all happen (those wires are an eyesore - ugh!)  This is the place from which I keep the business of homemaking and homeschooling humming. Ikea trofast storage containers double as "in-boxes" and I have one for every area of my life: Writing/Consulting, Homeschooling and Home Management. I try to stick to the rule: everything has a place and everything in it's place. When you live in a small space, it's an absolute must.


  1. So impressed!! You've done an amazing job with what you have. I'm reminded of the scripture that admonishes us to be content with things such as they are. 

  2. What an awesome learning environment you've created for your family. Funny thing is, I have an IKea field trip planned for later today. I feel inspired. Thanks so much.

  3. LOVE your space!! We don't have a dedicated room either. I just loved seeing how you arranged your Montessori materials!

  4. Thanks for the positive feedback. If I can help or inspire just one person, I feel blessed!

  5. Wow Monica! This is GREAT! I love how you made it work! What you did is truly inspiring! I was just looking around our place this morning wondering how and where to re-arrange everything...with the ever-present dilemma about where to put EVERYthing. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures. They really help. May you continued to be blessed and guided!

  6. What a cheerful, inviting space for learning! And everything looks so organized!

    I keep saying I'm going to incorporate workboxes into our daily work, but I never get around to it! Maybe this year... :)

    Have a great year of learning together!

  7. Like you I kept on finding these awesome learning spaces and I was kind of down cause i didn't think I could create all of that in my apartment but after seeing your blog I feel confident that I can make my apartment work! Thanks =)

    1. Luuna your comment made my day as we suffer through this heatwave in DC. I would still love to have a separate homeschool space, but I wanted to inspire others to make it work. I would love to see pictures of your space too. Happy Homeschooling!

  8. Such a nice home to do school in.

  9. I love the Ikea green desk and blue chair--what a bright and energizing addition! What a wonderfully organized set up. Thanks for sharing the updates on the workbox loop.

  10. I have the same table Lionheart has, except mine is black, not green. I have two of them in my office! I've moved my office into a small space off our laundry room and will be using my old office space as my 9 year-old's school space. Your photos were so helpful in envisioning all of the things I will need to go into this space. We have been looking on Craigslist for a piano, and I want one like the one you have!

  11. I wish I can like some of these comments. :-)
    Monica, where did you get that computer desk...the seat of power? :-)

    1. It's so old. I purchased it from Ikea in 1997.

  12. This is awesome Mama! We just moved into an apartment I am organizing our space now. Yes, the Montessori flow is inspiring and functional. I have to figure out desks, we are using the countertop, that may have to do for now. Thank you for the time and effort you put into educating and loving the young kings.

  13. I would love to help you with organizing your homeschool space. Just let me know!

  14. Thank You for sharing. Especially your labeling and organization. I'm planning to homeschool for the Summer and Fall and reorganizing my twins playroom/learning room. I need to purge quite a few things. I even have old workbooks that will be hard to part with that I need to purge. This provides great guidance and a point of reference in which to glean. Thank you ;-)

  15. Wonderful learning spaces! Love the dedicated music area, too!

    Happy Homeschooling :)

  16. I need you to come to boston and tell me how much money I need to organize my space cause I need help... I am serious maybe next summer I will send for you guys I will keep you posted.

    1. I would be honored to organize the space of a fellow artist and visit Boston too!