A Tour of Our Homeschool: Desks and Tables

Over the years, I’ve spoken to many people who are considering homeschooling or just starting out. At some point, almost all of them have asked some variation of the following question:

What does homeschooling actually look like?

And they don’t mean it in some vague, theoretical way. They mean: What does it literally look like? 

They want to know things like… How is my school-room setup? Do I even have a dedicated school space? What shelves do I use? How and where do I store my homeschool curricula? Do my kids have binders or cubbies or how do they keep their work organized? Do they each have their own desk?

So, in this series of posts, I’ll be giving you a detailed look into the physical set-up of our homeschool. 

But remember, your homeschool won’t look exactly like mine. My own doesn’t even look the same as it did in the past! Our homeschool space and organization has changed over the years as we’ve moved, renovated and figured out what works best for us in each stage of life.

My hope is that by sharing these practical examples of our every-day, real-life homeschool organization with you, it might help you hone in on the best homeschool space solutions for your own family.

Let’s begin with…

Homeschool Desks & Tables

Homeschool spaces come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all have in common is some kind of flat surface for doing work. Even homeschools with no separate school room still use desks, tables or workspaces for seated work, crafts and other projects. 

Here’s what this has looked like for us:

As preschoolers, my kids definitely all preferred the floor or low tables as their workspace. 

Homeschool preschooler working on Tanagram Shape book
Floor = Desk
Homeschool preschooler working with stickers at living room coffee table
Coffee tables are the perfect height for little homeschoolers.
Homeschool preschooler with finished Paw Patrol puzzle on piano bench.
The piano bench works well, too.
Preschool homeschool girl working on math at child's folding table.
This Pre-K-sized folding table was her favorite spot for a long time!

I’ve found it counterproductive to try and herd my preschoolers to a desk or make them work in a certain location. If they’re engrossed in an activity and learning, it doesn’t matter to me where they are (within reason, that is – I DO draw the line at the bathroom floor).

The freedom to move around and work in different spaces promotes ownership of their work, comfort and a relaxed and focused attitude that has been very conducive to learning for my kids.

With that said, I’ve always made sure we use our dining table for messier things like Play-Doh, art projects, crafts and especially painting. Fortunately (I guess), we’ve only ever had… how do I say this nicely… well-loved second-hand dining tables, so I’ve never been too worried about the messes. 

Preschool homeschool boy (with hands covered in red paint) painting at dining table.
I caught him red-handed…
Kindergarten homeschool boy playing with messy slime at dining table.
New house, same messes.

These days, my 5th and 2nd grader now do about half of their seated work at our “school table”. It’s an old, repurposed, wooden IKEA table my husband used as his desk in college. After a little elbow grease and a couple coats of stain it was ready for its new role.  

It’s serving us well and I think we’ll keep this setup for the foreseeable future. My only complaint is that the legs are a little wobbly so when one person erases it shakes the whole table. I tell my kids it’s good practice for dealing with life’s little annoyances. They roll their eyes. 

During the day our school table looks like this…

Messy homeschool table with three homeschool kids working
Believe me – there IS a table under there somewhere.

And, if I’m having a good day, it looks like this before I go to bed…

Clean homeschooling table with checklists
That’s better!

We still do our messy art stuff at the kitchen table. 

2nd grade homeschooler building a birdhouse at the dining table
2nd grader building a birdhouse at the dining table.

But, now that the kids are a little older, we’ve also been doing more science experiments and we usually do those at the kitchen island. Conveniently, we have 3 stools and 3 kids so everyone has their own space for note taking, observing or experimenting. The area is big enough that I can keep the preschooler away from the glass test tubes while still making everything accessible to the older kids. 

The island has also been great as an alternative desk when the school table just isn’t big enough for the three of them.

Homeschool preschooler working on Hidden Pictures book at kitchen island
My preschooler’s island getaway. She gets away from her brothers by working at the kitchen island!

Someday, I hope to have desks in the kids’ rooms so they have another option where they can work when they need some quiet. For now, they’ve used portable lap desks or brought their clipboards to a less-noisy corner of the house when they need a break from siblings.

Overall, it’s worked really well for us to use a combination of a dedicated school table plus any and every other horizontal surface of the house as our homeschool desks. 

Homeschool Desk & Table Bonus Tips

  • Give some thought to the tables and surfaces in your home that can be used by the kids. Make sure to communicate any rules to your kids (like “messy projects are only allowed at the dining table if it’s covered” or “no glitter allowed except at grandma’s house” 😉). 
  • Save the mostly-still-clean, cheap plastic tablecloths from your next party to use as dining table protection during art projects and science experiments. 
  • Don’t feel limited by the idea of “traditional school desks”! You don’t have to buy matching elementary school desks for each kid in order to start homeschooling!
  • If your kids are sharing a table, observe how they work to minimize any easy-to-fix annoyances. For example, if you’ve got righties and lefties bumping elbows, have them switch seats. Problem solved. 
  • Remind your kids they have options in where they work. “If your brother’s hiccups are bothering you, where else could you work that’s quieter?” For other ideas to help kids concentrate on their own work, check out this post.

Next time I’ll continue the Tour of Our Homeschool series with a detailed peek into our school room! (Eek… I’d better go clean it up!)

Stay tuned!

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A Tour of Our Homeschool - Desks & Tables