We are a homeschooling and home-learning family and, in the last three years, I have tried setting up many different versions of a “school space”. But in the end we always end up doing our learning all over the house and the school space just ends up being a clutter-collecting mess.
I have two sons: Hunter, who is in “2nd” grade (age 7, but doing above age level work) and Damien, who is in “baby school” (age 14 months, we call this grade level “K1″).
Where We Do School
We honestly do school all over our house. Often on the couch. Sometimes in bed. A lot of times on the floor. Frequently at the dining room table, in the kitchen, on the patio, at the park, or in the car.
I have many, many times tried setting up specific “school centers” but in the end I guess we are a restless bunch and end up moving all over every corner of the house, anyway, so I’ve really given up on the idea.
But I’ll spare you with posting pictures of all of that because, I assure you, it’s not all that interesting.
Earlier this spring I bought Hunter a very small computer desk from wal-mart. It is small enough that we do not store anything on it (pencil cans, books, etc) and therefore it does not collect (that much) clutter. Or at least when it does collect some clutter, we have to put the clutter away before he can use his desk, so it stays pretty tidy.
I know I just got done explaining how we do school all over the house, but now I am telling you that we have a school desk. Let me explain.
The thing is, he doesn’t use it for everything, or even every day. Really it is just a tool to help him focus during certain times, mostly when I need him to be working on something by himself. He does a lot of his school on the computer (see his curriculum here) and so it also serves as a charging station for the computer that does not move. I cannot tell you how many times I have told him to go do some school on his computer, and he recoils with “But the computer’s dead and I don’t know where the charger is!”
Some other reasons this little desk works great for us:
- It’s very small so no distracting clutter (or toys) get stored on it. This really helps him focus.
- We’ve been keeping it in the dining room where his little brother generally doesn’t play. This really helps him pay attention to his work.
- I usually have him do his independent work on there, and I can watch him from the kitchen.
- He has a coaster on it where he keeps his water bottle, avoiding the constant water breaks (the coaster is attached with poster putty to prevent it from slipping and getting lost).
- The pull-out keyboard tray is a great extra workspace if he needs some more room.
- His stool fits perfectly underneath for storage and the whole set-up takes up very little room.
- He keeps his “workbox” next to it, which holds his pencil/supply box, reading books, binder full of weekly assignments, timer, scratch paper for math, journal, and so on. This box does move all around the house with us, but being able to “put it away” here prevents the “I don’t know where it is” issue.
So that is what is working for us right now, at this stage of our life and his development.
In the living room is where we all actually spend most of our time. We have a big old couch, TV, and piano keyboard in there, but the rest of the furniture is centered around Damien.
The baby-centric nature of the room evolved out of the fact that this used to be my daycare room so it in turn was the toy room. Right now the only toys I have out are ones that Damien is currently developmentally interested in. In theory I rotate these weekly but in practice they stay out for longer than that, but the toy selection does nonetheless change on a semi-regular basis.
The above picture shows some of the shelves with lots of small motor development toys, some fine art prints on the top shelf, as well as Damien’s bit bag (the blue monkey bag) where I keep all of his flash cards, poetry and music copies, checklists, and journal. To the left is our piano keyboard with a basket of alphabet letters resting on top of it.
Across the room is another toy shelf for Damien. Next to it is a big open space where another shelf used to be. That shelf is now in Damien’s room harboring books (see first picture in this post). The open space makes a great place to keep his ball popper and slide.
Next to our little TV stand is Damien’s potty. We keep some books down here and to be honest he spends more time looking at those books than he does all the other toys in the room. That little patterned box you see next to him is something I made for him when he was learning how to pull to standing and push things around the room. It’s just a cardboard box that has some extra cardboard pieces inside (for strength), a few jingle bells tossed in, then sealed up and covered with patterned contact paper.
He is way past that stage now, but it is now serving as a perfectly-sized “table” to him to set his books on while he goes potty.
The last little thing in the living room is Damien’s jungle gym. We built this out of PVC pipes (cut with a saw and secured with a hot glue gun) when he was still very tiny. Back then we used it as a mobile bar and hung things from it for him to look at and hit or kick at. Later he used the sides to pull up on or crawl through. Now he uses it to hang from the “monkey bars” and still climbs through it and around it.
The big kids throw a blanket over the top and use it as a fort, or get a ball out and use it as a soccer goal (the front side is open). We covered it in colored duct tape because all the plastic paints we could find were toxic. (See tutorial and pictures of all its uses here)
Other parts of the house…
We have a lot of books in our home. Since I am a firm believer in the idea that books belong in shelves, not stored up in boxes, that equates to a lot of book shelves in our home, too.
The above picture shows the bookshelves that are conveniently located on the landing area of our stairs. They contain all sorts of books but they’re mostly educational. We also currently keep a lot of kid games on the top of the shelf, as well as that little plastic colored shelf full of other kid games, such as card games, puzzles, and so on.
Some other book storage areas from around the house:
- Tall bookshelf in my room
- Medium bookshelf in Damien’s room (see top picture in this post)
- Book area next to potty station (see above photo in living room)
- Small book station next to Hunter’s bed
- Two long shelves in laundry room above my desk
- Shelf of school books in a downstairs closet
- Art and office/school supplies fill part of a closet downstairs
- Toys and learning materials we’re not currently using go in a section of an upstairs closet
- Flash cards and paper learning materials we’re not currently using go in a two-drawer filing cabinet in my room
- Flashcards, worksheets, and other paper learning materials that are scheduled to be used in the future go in two drawers of a filing cabinet in the laundry room
I also really enjoy having everything out of the way so that I can focus on what we are working on.
Besides the inside of our house, “school” happens other places, too. We do a lot of school outside on our patio and a lot of physical education at the basketball court and park behind our house. It’s nice to have our “own”, free gym!
We also do quite a bit of physical education in our garage. We have a treadmill, a punching bag, a pull up / dip bar, some weights, a foam mat, and a basketball hoop.
And last but not least, school frequently happens out and about. We go on a lot of impromptu field trips and listen to educational songs or have discussions in the car.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little description of our homeschool space. I’m looking forward to seeing how much things will have changed by next year!
Previous “School Room” Posts:
- Our school room in 2009
- Hunter’s new bedroom 2009
- Hunter’s bedroom in 2011
- Our dining room school room in 2010
“Yet he filled their houses with good things…”
Hunter is 7 years, 4 months old and in “2nd” grade
Damien is 14 months, 2 weeks old (1 year & 2 months) and in grade “K1″