Monday, August 18, 2014

New School Room Tour.

It's back to school time and it seems like everywhere in the homeschool blogosphere, people are giving tours of their learning spaces.  I love being able to take a peek into other families' homeschool rooms and get new ideas for my own spaces.  I have always had a dedicated school room and I have never regretted the decision and here are my reasons why.

1.    It keeps me organized.  Having a school room, or even a corner in your house dedicated to schooling, helps wrangle all the books and supplies that homeschoolers are infamous for having.  It helps keeps things organized and neat.  I love that my kids always know exactly where to go to get their school supplies and their books.

2.    It helps kids focus.  I know this may not be true for all kids, but after researching and reading endless articles and studies on education, kids who have a dedicated space for studying are able to better focus.  It's like it puts them in the zone.  Children (and adults!) are creatures of habit, and we tend to make associations.  The kitchen is for eating, sitting on the couch makes me sleepy, etc.  There is nothing that focuses my kids' attention to school like sitting in their desks.  Do you have to have a desk?  No.  But make sure that you start making those associations early in your homeschool year.  Whether it's the kitchen table or a desk.  Once kids sit down, they should know that it's time to work!

3.    It helps create good habits.  Keeping their work area clean, putting their books and supplies away, timeliness, and independence are all great habits for kids to have.  We end our school day by cleaning and making sure everything is back in it's place.  Since everything has a place, it's easier for them to be independent in cleaning up.  A plus to ending our day with cleaning is that they are able to come down the next morning and get right to work.  No time is wasted looking for books or pencils.

4.    It gives kids ownership.  My kids love having their own desk and their own space and because it's their own, they work hard at keeping it neat.  Of course, they have their own space in their bedrooms and other parts of the house; but this is their work.  Just like their daddy goes to work every day, they get to go to "work" too.  We love this mentality and we believe it's giving them a positive attitude towards hard work.

Of course, every family is different and every homeschool family has to figure out what will work best for themselves.  We are very blessed that we can dedicate so much space to our schooling without it spilling over into our non-schooling life.

The Tour!

Before I begin the school area tour, I will add by explaining that this area of our house is the "guest quarters."  It is like it's own house with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a full size kitchen, a den, a recreation room, a laundry room, a media room, a porch, and even it's own garage and driveway.  It is a part of our house that might be considered a basement, but it really isn't because it only has a small area that is under the ground.  Before we even decided to move our schooling here, this area of the house was rarely used....rarely.  Like we never really came down here.  And we rarely had guests, so it was always unused.  Now it has become the perfect place for our studies and gets used every single day.

So let the tour begin!

This part of our homeschool is for the younger kids in the family.  Here, I do kindergarten with my 5 year old, preschool with my 3 year old, and my 7 year old has his own desk by the window.  I keep their current artwork hanging on a small clothesline and they love seeing their work go up.  Manipulatives, preschool activities, busy bags, games, and some supplies all go in the shelves above the table.

On this little table, I also keep my teacher manuals for MFW Kindergarten and First Grade, along with other workbooks that are used daily.  I bought a mud pan from Lowes and keep workbooks there for easy viewing.  The tabletop pocket chart holds our sight words (I put the flashcards away in a small Ikea box at the end of the day or they will be destroyed by my 3 year old).

In this room we also have a futon (which will be replaced by a comfier couch soon!) that sits next to the window where we can birdwatch, as the bird feeders are right by the window.  The hanging magazine rack holds our field guides and sketch books along with some artist pencils.  I also keep our current read alouds here since this is where we gather for afternoon stories.

It was very tempting to decorate the walls with charts and posters, but I've done that in the past and have found that is has NO EFFECT on the kids' learning and actually serves as a distraction.  I wanted to keep it as classy as I could and opted for some natural prints above the wall that reflect my love of nature.    

We get a great variety of birds that come to our feeders and I love that I can sit there and sketch or journal along with the kids.  They also enjoy just looking out the window.

Looking from the desk towards the rest of the room, you see my map area.  My kids love looking at maps, although in this picture they are more interested in video games.  Lots of our studies take us to this area.  

The large map on the wall is dry-erasable.  So when we're using the map, I can mark it with a dry erase marker.  The other maps are of the ancient world and were laminated so that I could also use a marker on them.  The inflatable globes hanging from the ceiling have been rigged so that I can easily take them down.  We also have a globe that we use, but my son had it in his room at the time of pictures!

I love the Ikea Trofast system!  I keep educational board games, puzzles, and some art supplies in these bins.  I also have portable maps that the kids can take to their desks.

Yup, our school has it's own kitchen.  We really don't use it except for snack time and this fridge is usually stocked with party food (I entertain a lot!).  Having the kitchen is also super handy for science and art.  I have 2 tables here that we are constantly using when we work in groups.  Our most recent group activity has been geography with the three older kids.  We make salt dough maps, paint them, label them, and show them off in pizza boxes!  

I keep a small table with kid chairs for my 3 year old to use.  Since she is pretty messy, it's nice to have her do her activities on tile floor that's easy to clean up.  On the round table you can see that use a dish rack to hold coloring and activity books.  The utensil caddy holds her crayons.  It's an awesome Pinterest hack!  I also cook a lot with my 7, 5, and 3 year olds...mostly things like applesauce, pies, snacks, and other things related to what they are learning.  All that takes place in this kitchen...all because of the tile floors (our kitchen has hardwood floors which are harder to clean up!).

Some day I will find the perfect thing to hang up on this big empty wall! 
Ready to continue the tour?  

Let's walk through the door next to the globes....

This is Part 2 of the School Room Tour!  This is where the older kids do their school work.  Because they require more focus and quiet for their work, I decided to separate them.  I can just close the door between them and the little kids at any moment.

I decided to keep the center of the room clear of any desks and lined the desks along the walls.  Each child has their own desk that holds their books.  After we moved the school room down, I lost my big, awesome wall of dry erase boards.  I had to find a solution, since we are constantly using our dry erase boards, I had to find a solution.  I had no free walls because one wall has desks, another has bookcases, and then there's the windows.  So I came up with the idea of using garage hooks to hold up the board.  It covers the little door that leads to the HVAC system, which we can still access by removing the board.

These are my awesome, built-in bookcases that I had put it.  I love the amount of space it gives me to put books!

The nice thing is all the storage space I have.  Above the fireplace, we have more shelves where I keep art supplies, board games, and science supplies.  Next to the fireplace is our "media" center with a little boom box.  I have all our CD's on that shelf.

I totally ran out of wall space for my desk, so I moved into our rec room, which is still nice and independent while not being totally detached from everything.  Our rec room actually has another refrigerator (it's right next to my cart, but you can't see it), and it holds a laundry room behind some double doors (also not pictured).

Our rec room holds our exercise equipment and some fun stuff (like the basketball game).  I can also open the shades and keep an eye on the kids while they play outside on the swing set or run around.  Since we use Charlotte Mason approach, I like taking breaks between lessons.  This means that the kids get a 10-15 minute every 45 minutes or so.  Sometimes they kick the punching bag, run outside, or play basketball.  I like that keeping them active actually helps them focus when they need to.  

Finally, I am including a picture of our office.  This is actually my husband's office that he rarely uses.  It's nice and separate from the schooling area, but still just down the hall.  I use the closet (not pictured) to store even more school supplies.  We keep our desktop here and the kids use this room when they have a test or need a really quiet space to complete their work.  Otherwise, we are on our laptops on our desks.

That concludes the end of my School Room Tour.  Hope you get some good ideas for your own learning space!

Cheers to Being Back!

It's been quite some time since I updated this little part of the blogosphere.  New adventures, new trials, and new seasons in life.  I&...