Sunday, June 20, 2010

A lot of people ask me how I organize my home school. To answer that question, I've taken some photos and I'll give explanations as to how we use the space we have and why we set things up the way we do.

Keep in mind that this is what works for my family. I think it goes without saying that every family is different, every kid's ages, needs and wants are different, every mom's preferences are different, and every house is different. So, with all that in mind, you've got to do what works best for you and your kids in the home where you live.

We use the dining room table for subjects (like math and handwriting) that require a clean, flat work surface. And, I stress the word clean. We don't use the kitchen table much because no matter how often I clean it, it seems to remain sticky or crummy in some place. So, I think it's nice to have a separate table for school, if you can manage it.


You can see in the photo above that I have a cabinet in the back corner of the dining room. It's filled with various school supplies that we don't use all the time, but that I want to have close at hand. Inside it, I have things like tape, a stapler, construction paper, paints, etc. You can also see our picture file in the other corner and Norah's artwork on the windows that face the backyard.


This is a view of the other side of the dining room. I (meaning Dwayne) mounted a shelf high on the wall next to the table. I didn't put a full book shelf on this wall, even though it would fit, because I wanted my dining room to look as much like a dining room as possible. We still use this table when we have large families over for dinner parties and that's fairly often, so I wanted my guests to be able to move around the dining room with ease. This shelf manages to stay out of the way, but is also remains close enough to hold the items we need for the subjects we do at the table. You can see that we use it for our abacus, math books, manipulatives, the small white board and eraser that I lay on the table for math instruction. Norah's handwriting book, extra paper and workbook are also kept on the shelf in that wicker, standing file.



A soft rug covers the floor next to the table. This provides a place for the baby to play while Norah and I do lessons. I actually roll this carpet up and store it away when we are using this room for dinner guests, so there's no danger that food spills will soil it.



I usually keep a few items out on the table, as you can see above. But, these are easy enough to move, if necessary. When I need to clear the table for any reason, I usually just place these items up on the mounted shelf with everything else.


Norah's little table separates the dining room from the den. I think it sits nicely in the space between these two rooms. She uses this table for free time arts and crafts and to draw the illustrations for her narration notebook. Sometimes, I will let her sit here to do things like math tests or workbook pages, just to change things up a bit.

We use our den for home school half of the time. We sit on the couch for subjects like phonics, reading, singing, etc. A large part of our curriculum is me simply reading to Norah from books and then she and I discussing them, so this goes better if we are both comfortable.



Notice that I have a carpet in the den, too. This provides another soft place for the baby to play while we work.


But, the baby doesn't always stay where she's "supposed" to play. She likes to be close to us, naturally, so while we are on the couch, she spends a lot of time babbling at our feet and pulling up on our legs, sitting on my lap or walking around the coffee table. That's okay. I teach Norah to deal with the distractions her baby sister brings. The way I see it, "Home" comes before "school" anyway.


Since we spend so much time on the couch, I need storage there, too. I keep a basket of school books on the top of the coffee table and baskets and shelves with other supplies underneath, like pencils, notepads, my notebook, scissors, my calculator, books I'm studying or reading, etc. I have to train the baby not to touch these books and not to empty these baskets, but I am firm about this and she is learning quickly what "No" means. This, after all, is part of her lessons, too. Note the box of tissues on top of the coffee table. This comes in handy when we read heartwarming stories, which happens at least once a day with Sonlight.

Last but not least are the bookshelves. They fill up the back wall in the den. The books that are part of our Core, but that we aren't currently using, stay on the top, left shelf. Unlike some moms, I do not let my kids have free access to their school books. Norah and Avril have another shelf downstairs full of books they are free to take off the shelf and read and look at (and ruin). I want to preserve these books for Avril and the other kids we have and the only way to ensure I won't have to buy them again is to keep them high and dry.

As you can see, we do not have a ton of books... yet. But, I just started this journey. I am sure these shelves will be full in a few more years. For now, we use them to store baskets of toys and games and other things we use for our school days, like CDs and tapes.

So, that's how I organize our "school rooms." Notice that my house doesn't look much different than a regular home. I am not sure anyone would know we "do school" here. But, this is very intentional. I actually feel very strongly about how I have chosen to organize my house.

Way back, when I was looking for ideas about organizing my school supplies, I found this picture and this picture online. And, honestly, I reacted very strongly against the organization shown in these photos. I felt like school had "taken over" this home. I am not just a teacher. And, my kids are not just students. Our home does not exist just for school work. And what about my husband? Should he come home from the job he works that allows us to home school, only to have to step sideways to get a cold drink from the fridge?

With respect and grace towards this family (who is free to choose to organize their home school however they want, in whatever way works best for them), I believe these photos illustrate what I am working to prevent. I must have greater division between home and school. I thrive this way. And, I think I would actually begin to resent home school and perhaps even reconsider it, if it had to encroach on my family's life this much. I want learning to be something we do all day, yes, but I do not want school stuff to take over my family's life.

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