Throughout our homeschooling experience, I have tried many different set ups for rooms devoted to our learning. In Hawaii, I rearranged the house at least three times, eventually ending with what I have set up now in Boston. The dining room table is also the homeschool table.
Previously, I was enthralled with the idea of a beautiful school room complete with children sized desks and educational art on the wall. I wanted a little school that I could play teacher in. I went to teacher stores and bought so much more than I really needed. Sophia and I had a circle time with only the two of us in it! This was fine and it was what I needed at the beginning. I needed to duplicate a really nice preschool in my house. I also bought boxed curriculum from Sunlight that was beautiful and complete and a little overwhelming. I quickly discovered that scripted lessons and lesson plans didn’t suit our style, although we continue to use and love many of the literature selections from Sunlight. We have passed on the other subject materials to other homeschoolers.
I feel that I have finally settled on our homeschool set up. It is rich in books, much shorter in manipulative that I would have thought, and cheap and easy to organize and maintain. Storage in old apartments in the Northeast is at a premium, so we use lots of bookshelves and baskets. Clementine boxes and mason jars make cheap and attractive ways of organizing art supplies that need to be at the ready.
I have always kept paper, glue, scissors, crayons and the like available to the kids to encourage their natural creativity. Some days before I’ve even had my coffee they have already created a board game, or made paper airplanes, chatter boxes, or paper dolls. There is a bit of a mess to clean up, but it’s worth it for them to be free to explore. I use wooden wine crates I get for free at the local liquor store to organize paper, and to set aside ongoing projects with lots of pieces.
I also use these free wine crates to stick art and completed work for each child to be sorted through later. They are always attached to their work and can’t bear to part with it immediately. When the box is full, we go through it together and sort into keep, recycle, and send to family. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles are happy to get an envelope full of children’s masterpieces for the refrigerator and I am happy to have them out of the house. Each child gets an accordion file to represent each year of school work. It’s not much, but imagine how much there will be after 12 years for each child! We have to set ruthless limits. I am also not above sneaking things into the recycling bin when no one is looking.
Our shelves came from Costco three moves ago and have held up amazingly well. The baskets are from Target and I like that they hide all the multicolored clutter from our manipulative and make the shelves look more neat. I label the shelves loosely according to subject to help the kids organize and clean up. We have a lot of books, and always have. I like to buy books that I know we will read more than once. We also take advantage of the library, and keep those books separate.
I keep a frame on the wall low enough for the children to see where I switch out our picture study prints from Simply Charlotte Mason. More to come on that in a future post about curriculum. This allows them to see it every day during. I also keep a nice dry erase map on the wall where we find locations whenever they come up in our discussion of current events, or when studying some event in history.
For our curriculum (usually workbooks) that are used daily, I have organized them using an adapted Workbox system. All the materials needed for a particular assignment are in the box, including pencils, erasers, crayons, rulers, glue….whatever is needed so that the child doesn’t have to stop working to retrieve tools. Inside the lid of the box I have written detailed directions for what needs to be done. I have first demonstrated each of the activities, but after a few times, the child only needs a reminder. This allows greater independence for my 7 year old while I work one on one with my 4 year old. I prefer the craft boxes to the clear shoeboxes recommended by Sue Patrick because of the rolling shelve that comes with it, and the size of the workbox.