In this episode, host Pam Barnhill explains why homeschooling parents should not try to recreate a classroom environment in their homes. Drawing from her experience as a homeschooling mom and former public school teacher, Pam discusses the limitations and unnecessary structures often associated with traditional classrooms.

She explores the freedom and flexibility inherent in homeschooling and encourages listeners to develop unique structures and approaches that align with their family’s needs. Pam also introduces the concept of a morning basket or morning time as an alternative to traditional classroom structures, highlighting its benefits for bringing families together to learn and grow.

Are you ready for homeschooling to feel joyful again? Do you want to build closer relationships, remove some of the stress around planning, and enjoy learning with your children? Welcome to your morning basket. I’m Pam Barnhill, a homeschool mom just like you, and I’m going to show you the magic and fulfillment that Morning Basket or morning time can bring to your home school. Grab your coffee or tea and let’s get started. Hi everyone, and welcome to episode 139 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. It’s pam here, and we’re going to be talking today about why your home is not a classroom and why you don’t want to try to make it a classroom when you are know I was a public school teacher for seven years before I came home to homeschool my kids. And it was what I expected our home school to look like. I expected it to look very much like public school. Now, we didn’t get all the little desk.
Pam Barnhill [00:01:08]:

We did have one little student desk that we did have for a while. It was a little antique. It was kind of cute. It was also a great place for the kids to sit, and they could put their feet flat on the floor when they were doing their handwriting. But I did kind of had this idea in my mind that we were going to have this space in our home that was very much like a school classroom. And when we first started, I went to the teacher store and hung the little calendar on the wall and made the bulletin boards and got us a little flag and put vocabulary words up and a map and all of those things. Now, honestly, there is nothing wrong with decorating in that way if you want to. I will say over the years, our decorating style in our homeschool room has changed, and our homeschool room really integrates more into our life.

Pam Barnhill [00:02:01]:

Right now, we have some big floor to ceiling bookshelves, and they’re just full of books and games and microscopes and learning devices, and we can pull the things out and make a mess. We are blessed to have an extra table so that we can use that to do our homeschooling on and kind of leave things out for a few days before we have to tidy up. But I often say these days that we really don’t need a home school space so much as we need a home school closet, someplace to store things. But this was really what I had in my mind when we first started homeschooling was that I was going to be recreating this classroom idea in my home and that we were going to go into this one particular location in our home each and every day, and we were going to sit in little chairs and get our schoolwork done. And I’ve loosened up over the years, and I just want to talk about why that expectation is one that may not serve you as a homeschooling parent. Why? The expectation of trying to recreate a classroom is one that won’t really help you a lot as a homeschooling parent. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. So let’s think about the purpose of the traditional classroom.

Pam Barnhill [00:03:18]:

So, traditional classrooms, you have multiple desks for a while. It got really trendy to put all of the kids around tables so that they could do cooperative learning. So either you’ll have desk or you’ll have tables where the kids are sitting in these chairs for a large part of the day. Now, if the kids are younger, there’s usually an area they can go to where they can sit on the floor for a while or maybe roll around, which is always a good thing. And I love this meme that’s developed in the home school community where there’s a guy standing there. I don’t get the pop culture reference. My kids would laugh at me for not getting whatever pop culture thing is going on in this meme. But the guy standing there saying, when another homeschool mom asks me, how do I get the kids to sit still for 4 hours a day? And I’m like, we don’t do that here.

Pam Barnhill [00:04:08]:

No truer meme was ever made because we really, really don’t do that here. And so when you think about that classroom and kids having to go and sit in those desks for four, five, six, 7 hours out of the day, this is one of the beautiful freedoms that comes from homeschooling, is that nobody has to sit still for that long. Nobody has to sit in a desk for that long, nobody has to have a spot for that long. That is not what we’re trying to do in our home schools. And I think one of the things that came out of 2020, actually there were a couple of different kinds of people that came out of it. The people who never came to the realization that they didn’t have to sit there for hours and hours a day doing the worksheets. And those people were all very happy to send their children back to school. But then you had the other group of people who were like, wow, we could totally do something different here.

Pam Barnhill [00:05:10]:

And they really embraced the homeschooling idea and decided not to send their kids back to school after all that, they really wanted to keep them home. And so there are some reasons why kids have to sit in chairs in schools. And one of the main reason is it’s a way to maintain order. I remember way back when I was teaching, all of the teachers went through what we called it Harry Wong training. Harry Wong was this guy who taught classroom management and how to keep control of your classroom. And it was very important to have these specific structures in place, especially when you’re trying to deal with a classroom of 30 to 33 different children. And so when we think about the traditional classroom and we think in our minds this is the way school is supposed to be done, therefore I have to do this in my home. If not, I’m not doing school properly.

Pam Barnhill [00:06:07]:

That’s really not the case at all. That’s the way that school with a large group of children has to be done so that you can maintain order with that large group of children. But when you have a very small group of children and they are your own children and you are in your own home, in no way is it necessary for you to have desks and you to have people in the desk all day long. And this kind of structure now, does that mean you shouldn’t have any structure at all in your home? No, not at all. Structure comes in really handy and it’s very helpful. But I think the biggest mindset shift is to realize that we need different kinds of structure in our home. We can take one or two things from the traditional classroom if we want to and use that in our home. But for the most part, those methods, those structures do not serve us as homeschoolers.

Pam Barnhill [00:07:11]:

And so that’s the first big point that I want to make today. Those structures are in place for very good and particular reasons, but those structures really do not serve us as homeschoolers. And so we want to develop different structures, we want to develop our own structures. And there are some really great homeschooling structures out there that you can kind of look at and learn about. I mean, one of those is doing a morning basket or a morning time, which is what this podcast is all about. And that structure is completely different than the structure of the public school down the street. The public school down the street is structured into age segregated grades, whereas with a morning basket everyone is coming together and learning together. And I think one of the things that begins to make a morning basket work for families is when they realize that there are some structures that they need to let go of.

Pam Barnhill [00:08:10]:

They need to let go of the age segregated structures, they need to let go of the idea that kids can’t learn the same material at different levels, taking what they can from that material and leaving the rest. One of the other things that is so important to learn is the idea that certain age children have to read these specific books and that some books are too babyish and that you shouldn’t read those books anymore, you shouldn’t be read allowed to as you get older. That’s a structure that we have to let go of. Another one is that we actually have to be sitting at a desk or a table for morning time. You could certainly move to a living room, you could move to a couch or you could even sit on the floor while you’re doing morning time. And hey, I’m an older mom, I don’t like to sit on the floor, but my kids certainly can sit on the floor while I sit at the table and I read to them or I sit on the couch and I read to them. Kids can be moving around while they are learning. Now, there are always limits to this.

Pam Barnhill [00:09:16]:

You can’t have kids who are jumping up and down and hooping and hollering while you’re trying to read aloud to them, but there certainly are a lot of things that they can be doing while you’re reading aloud to them that do not involve sitting still in a chair with nothing in front of them. So there are just so many different new structures that we can start to look at using in our homeschool because our homeschool is not a school. So let’s talk about the power of the idea of home in homeschooling. And Tod Wilson has this great quote that says, they fooled us into believing that the school is the most important part of homeschooling, but really home is the most important part of homeschooling. And I really couldn’t agree more. And look, kids learn better when they are comfortable, they are secure, and that they know that they are loved. And I think this is one of the things that really gets in the way of learning in public school a lot of the time. And it’s because kids do not feel safe there for whatever reason.

Pam Barnhill [00:10:27]:

There are so many reasons why kids wouldn’t feel safe because of bullying, simply just because of isolation from their parents and their siblings and the people that they love and they feel most comfortable with. And then there are, of course, many dangers that have come up in the school system. And so by having our kids at home, they’re very comfortable, they’re very secure, and they’re able to learn a lot easier. And so that is just one of the benefits. Another benefit of home for homeschooling is the idea of life lessons beyond just the books. So there is such a great real world application of knowledge that you can take the time to experience when it comes to homeschooling. And you can also spend your time reading real books as opposed to having to read a textbook. And so this was one of the things that we really leaned into in our morning time, was that we don’t have to teach history from a text, we don’t have to learn science from a text.

Pam Barnhill [00:11:29]:

Instead, we can just read some really great books all the way up through high school. I really want to stress this because so often we feel like when our kids get to these high school ages, we’ve got to stop the great living books and move into textbooks in order to give them high school credits. And honestly, there are some fabulous curriculum out there where you can continue to read living books through high school and give your child a high school credit for that. And I did that with a number of different subjects for my daughter who’s already graduated and then my son who is going to be a high school junior next year. And we did it together in morning time as well. And so you can continue to do those things and all it takes is just a little bit of bravery on your part to step out of the paradigm that you’ve always known and embrace a new paradigm to start thinking about these new structures that we can explore as homeschoolers. Now, we know now that the power of home is that we feel safe and secure and that we can go beyond the textbook for learning. Let’s talk about learning spaces within our homes.

Pam Barnhill [00:12:49]:

And so if we’re not setting up little desks, where do we actually learn? And while a schoolroom is handy, once again, I’ll go back to that idea of I think I would be really happy with just a school closet at this point in time because we really do. We learn all around the downstairs area of our home. So we are blessed to have this big open downstairs area where the sunroom kind of flows into the kitchen, which flows into the living room and then there’s a dining area right there. And then kind of behind that area is the area that we call the schoolroom. And it’s really almost like a little library office. It’s way too open to the rest of the house to use as a traditional office because it’s open. That’s the beauty of it. Like I can be right there with the kids and we’re all in this open space together.

Pam Barnhill [00:13:45]:

So at any given time, someone is sitting in that schoolroom office area at the computer doing a computer class. Someone might be sitting at the dining room table or someone might be sitting over in the recliner reading a book or working with mom and somebody else might be tucked around the corner in the sunroom on a different laptop doing math tutoring with the math tutor. But we’re all still right there in that big open space together. And so within that space there are actually three different tables and a bar with bar stools that you could sit at and a couple of big comfy chairs and a couch. And at any point we are spread out all over those spaces. And honestly, when we’re doing morning time, my 13 year old is still young enough that he rolls on the floor quite a bit while I’m reading aloud to them. So we are everywhere in those spaces and all the materials end up spread out across all of those spaces. And then at the end of the day, I just call all of those things back to the schoolroom by having them come put their things back on the table.

Pam Barnhill [00:14:50]:

They’re not really great at putting them away, but they will bring them back and put them on the table until I kind of crack the whip and get them to stick things in their cubbies. So we’re really learning all over the first floor of the house. So also when we think about structures of learning at home versus structures of learning at school, not only do we need to think about physical space, but we also need to think about time as well. And so one of the things that we can do because we are not a school is we can actually lean into the natural rhythms of some of our children in particular and also the family as a whole. So if your family really enjoys staying up late, maybe your night owls, there’s no reason in the world why you have to get up super early in order to do your homeschooling. You can actually embrace the fact that you enjoy staying up later and you can start your home school day just a little bit later. Now the thing that you tend to run into with this is do you have outside activities in the afternoon? If you do, do you come back and finish that school in the evening after those activities? If you do, that’s great. Where you’re going to run into trouble is if you kind of get a short schedule because you’re not starting earlier.

Pam Barnhill [00:16:07]:

So our afternoon activities and when we had to be out of the house always kind of dictated when we had to start our school day because I knew myself I was not going to go back to doing school once we got back from those activities in the afternoon. So all the school had to be done ahead of time. On the flip side of this, if your family really, really enjoys getting up early, get up early and get started, be done early in the day and have the entire rest of the day to yourself to do whatever it is you want to. And then even if you are doing family learning, there are some things you can put into play to listen to the natural rhythms of each individual child. So if you do have some who like to get up early, they can start some of their own independent work before the family meets together to do morning time. While children who like to sleep late, they do their independent work after morning time. And so this is certainly something that you can do and tap into those natural rhythms of the child and basically how they want to structure their day and how they want to do things, the older they get, the more they’re going to want to have input into that. So I just want to encourage you if you are new to homeschooling or even if you’ve been homeschooling for quite a while and maybe you want to rethink some of the ways that you’ve been doing things in your home.

Pam Barnhill [00:17:33]:

The idea is not that there is a school structure and if you are not following that structure, you are not doing it right. The idea is there is a school structure that serves the needs of the school and then there is a homeschooling structure that serves the needs of homeschoolers. And as a homeschooler, you are doing things so totally different than what the schools are doing that it would behoove you to embrace that homeschooling structure. It’s not wrong to askew the structure of the school, it’s simply that you are embracing something different and doing something different. And this mindset shift is something that’s going to really serve you and serve your children as you continue on your homeschooling journey. And I do think that a morning basket as part of that new homeschooling structure can be a way that you can break free of some of those old paradigms of thinking about what school looks like and start to embrace something that’s going to be way more efficient for you. It’s going to save you time, it’s going to save you energy, and it’s also going to draw you closer together as a family. So I just want to encourage you this week to start thinking about those things.

Pam Barnhill [00:18:50]:

How can I set up the structure of my home so that it’s less like a school and more like a home school? Okay, I will be back again on the next episode to talk to you a little bit about a new project that I’ve been working on that I think as a podcast listener you are going to enjoy because it’s another podcast, so we’re going to share all about that with you next week. In the meantime, if you would like links to any of the resources that we chatted about today, you can find them on the show notes for this episode of the podcast. Those YMB one three nine. Thanks so much for listening to your morning basket. If you are ready to spend less time planning and more time engaged in learning with your children, join your Morning Basket plus a monthly membership with everything you need to start a morning time practice in your homeschool to join. Head on over to and I’ll see you there.

Links and Resources from Today’s Show

Key ideas about home centered structures

  1. Homeschooling allows for freedom and flexibility that traditional classrooms often lack.
  2. Traditional classroom structures do not necessarily serve homeschooling families well.
  3. Developing unique structures and approaches that work for your family is key in homeschooling.
  4. Morning baskets or morning time can be a valuable alternative to traditional classroom structures, promoting family togetherness and shared learning experiences.
  5. Letting go of age-segregated structures and preconceived notions about certain books and materials can enhance the homeschooling experience.

Find what you want to hear:

  • [0:58] Should your homeschool look like a school? 
  • [3:00] Suiting your school structure to your life
  • [9:50] The power of home
  • [12:50] Learning spaces in your home
  • [15:08] Structuring your time