It has taken many months, and it’s still not a polished product, but I feel really good starting our next school year with our new basement homeschool room!
We have a large home, with four bedrooms. Because we will soon have three children and my husband frequently works from home and needs a private office, we cannot afford an upstairs room for school work. In the past, we’ve been moving around: from the kitchen to the couch, to the play room. But we need a space to store all of the supplies and resources as well as a place to do school.
I struggled last year, as my toddler constantly wanted attention in the play room (which is a small semi-finished carpeted area in the basement) and my son wanted help with school work while he sat at a desk. It did not work to have him in the same room as the playing toddler!
In January, we began the transition in to making our unfinished “storage” area of the basement into a school room. Here are some preliminaries to keep in mind if you too want to have school in an unfinished concrete-floor basement. I also share some of the ways I’ve organized the area!
Make sure it drains during storms. We did have a water issue a few years ago, but with a sump pump and a back up sump pump, we’ll likely not have such an issue again. I’d hate for school work to be damaged in a flood of any kind! We did have water almost all the way in to our playroom at that time, but timely noticing combined with quick work saved our storage items and the play room carpet! (Cost: sump pumps are not cheap, and neither are back up sump pumps. This was probably $700.)
Insulate the gaps. We did not insulate the cement walls. I will admit that this basement school room gets drafty and cold! That is what the portable heater we have is for. We did, however, add spray-foam insulation between the bottom of the next floor and the start of the concrete. This has helped make the space a little more consistent during the below-zero winter months of Chicago! (Cost: about $200. We had basement insulation added while we also had the insulation people out to reinsulate our attic.)
Paint the ceilings. Our basement ceilings in the storage side of the basement get as low as six feet from the floor due to duct work and piping. For this reason, we are not legally allowed to finish the ceilings. Obviously, this wouldn’t work as a learning space for those taller than that, but for storage of homeschool items, my elementary aged kids, and myself, this is a great learning space. To get around the unslightly look of duct work and unfinished wood, my husband spray painted the ceilings black. I was surprised that he was right: black makes the ceiling seem to disappear! We do not notice it, and I believe the finished paint helps keep spiders to a minimum. (Cost: $250 for rental of a paint sprayer, paint, and supplies. Plus, my husband did the labor.)
Paint the walls. We applied cement primer to the cement walls and painted them white. This brightened the room and eliminated a good amount of the dust from the cement! (Cost: the cost of the paint and family labor!)
Put down a large rug. We used a shag rug that had been upstairs for years. It fills in the space nicely, and it does not feel like a basement when you walk into the room because of the warm floor and familiar rug! (Cost: $250 new, many years ago!)
To do: Seal the floors. We still need to seal the cement floors. I believe this would greatly reduce the dust that we are constantly sweeping up in the uncovered areas! The need for a school area versus the days it would take to paint and seal the floors was our battle. We chose to delay for now.
To do: Add more lighting. One thing I really dislike about the school room is the two single bulbs hanging from the ceiling with strings to turn on. This reminds me a basement. There are shadows everywhere, no matter where you sit.
As for our organization, our space has many uses. Plastic storage containers and shelves (these become costly, but many of these I’ve had for years) help provide structure to the organization. Old and inexpensive bookshelves plus plastic crates provide book storage. My desk is long plastic table, and my son’s is a old used desk that has been passed around the family for decades. The tables and chairs for working are likewise repurposed furniture from elsewhere in our home. My daughter’s plastic crafts table is from a garage sale.
- Toy storage. The semi-finished play room is connected to this unfinished basement by a door. This is where we store the toys! My hope is that we keep things put away once we are finished with them.
- Books storage. I use both cheap-o old bookcases and plastic crates along the wall to organize and store all the homeschool books we love.
- White board wall. Sometimes it helps to work things out together! My son is always more eager to write on the wall than on his papers.
- My son’s desk and supplies for computer work. My son is learning to type, program in Scratch, and practice his Spanish using a computer.
- Table and chairs. This area is for both homeschooling and crafting/play-dough/painting. (In other words, it’s not on the rug!). Easy clean up of messes underneath it, plenty of space to all work together. I’m excited for this work space.
- Homeschool curricula and manipulative storage. The curricula is stored in crates in and around my desk. No photo of that, as it desperately needs a bit more organization to be satisfying.
- My own office work space. This is where I plan the week, work on new products and freebies, and so forth. I have a long table behind my desk so I can turn around and get printed items, cut them, and then laminate quickly. It’s so convenient.
See the photo gallery below!
Here are some of the items I’ve used:
- Toy storage labels from The Handmade Home. I used the blank ones she included to add graphics of my own. (I have more of these to make for the school supply area.)
- Hoy es … Spanish today center for the wall. Freebie from my own Shop (see the blog post).
- Large printable wall calendar and dates. Freebie from my own Shop.
- Weather Bear printable. Freebie from my own Shop (see the blog post)
- Spanish alphabet wall cards. Product for sale in my Shop. I printed them 4 to a page, instead of 2 to a page.
- School mailbox. See the blog post.
I won’t say our school room is perfect. I have to finish sorting and organizing my corner of the room, and I need to print off more of the labels! Perfect for me would be furniture rather than plastic crates. But we have to prioritize, and I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out for this year. I am getting excited to start up again!