Monday, January 31, 2011

School Days, School Daze! Part Two- Organizing a Small Space

Of the homeschoolers that I know, very few of them can afford the space in their homes to have a 'school room'  We had a school room in our basement when I was a girl, and I have very warm memories of it.  But that is the exception, I think.  From what I have read, the normal homeschooling family considers the dining room to be the ideal place for schooling, and the living room couch is a close second.  

If that is true, then we are very typical.  We have school at the dining room table, with our reading time in the living room.  I would love to have a room to stick all of my stuff in, so it doesn't clutter up the house but that is just not happening in this small place.  Even if we did have a formal 'school room', I kind of imagine that we would still do our school in the parts of the house that we live in.  There is just something warm and comforting about doing school with books and papers spread out in on the dining room or kitchen table.  Unfortunately, since our dining room table is our ONLY table, I think it sees more books then it does food.  :)

So when you only have living space in which to cram all of your school things, how do you do it?  Well, I am one of those people who believes that you cannot have to many books.  I believe in hands-on science and plenty of art and craft materials for every sudden inspiration.  I believe in nature collections and bringing creepy crawlies in the house to observe. (those of you who know me personally are nodding right now!) I believe that learning does not typically take place behind the pages of a textbook but in the vibrant and active mind of a child in the depths of exploration.  

I also believe in a clean, tidy house.  

Are those beliefs compatible?  Well, not really.  Your house will never be as clean as the house where the children are gone for 8 to 12 hours a day.  BUT there are certain things that you can do to make it easier to maintain a home library and a small house.  I am still learning in this area, so I would LOVE input from you all on how to organize school things in a little space! 

So how do we keep our school things organized, so that each school day can flow smoothly?  Remember, I have to keep them busy because if I don't, they disappear!  Nothing is more counter- productive to a school day then herding children.


shelves by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere


SMALL SHELVES My small shelves are where I keep my day-to-day learning stuff.  I say stuff, because it is normally a conglomeration of books, crafts, half-finished projects, and papers.  The only reason this is small shelves instead of the regular shelves is because the books kept multiplying and we ran out of room.  Plus small shelves is just a catchier title.  

I keep several things up here that are often temporary.  Library books.  Bop's almost-done crafts.  Our current nature collection, rocks.  Our crayon and pencil carousel.  The top shelf is reserved for the children.  This is where they can display anything they make in school and their craft projects.  I always feel badly for them, when they make a great project or display and it gets ruined because we don't have anywhere to display it.  

But the important part, for you to know about, is the everyday school things.  Here I have those things that we use (surprise!) everyday.  Bible study and a little bible, our current language learning stuff, spelling workbook, etc.  Anything that we are using for this week that does not fit into the expandable file folder.  

As we go through our school day, everything I need is readily available.  Workbook pages are already torn out and in the file folder.  Bible study stuff is right there.  Our handwriting DVD.  Phonics readers.  Math pages and DVD.  Remember my goal-smooth days.

As we work our way down our planner sheet, where everything is written for the day, we can easily find everything that we need and it is already prepared.  We can go quickly and (somewhat) easily from one thing to the next.  

I try to have our school days done by noon, so that the children have plenty of time to play.  That is the most important part of childhood, and I don't want to infringe on that in any way.  So it is imperative for them to be able to go quickly from one thing to the next without getting distracted.  They deserve large uninterrupted blocks of free time, and they have to stay focused for that to happen.

Shelves by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere
BOOK BROWSER  This is really just a basket, but book browser sounds so much more "early childhood educator", don't you think? I keep a collection of books in here, related to the unit for the week.  I go through all of our books and add any library books that we have.  These are the only library books that they can have access to full-time.  We just have too many books of our own and I don't need the library books getting mixed up with them.  If they come out of the basket, they go back in the basket.  Easy Peasy.

I will also pick out a nice selection of picture books and add to the basket.  These are our read-alouds for the week.  I also add in whatever chapter book we are working on.  Right now we are going through the Magic Tree House books, and we are reading one a day.  

This basket encourages the kids to pick out different books to look at, since they can see the enticing pictures on the front.  It also keeps the unit-study reading at my fingertips and ready to go.  We just pick out a few and snuggle on the couch to read.   We normally have our read-aloud time after lunch, and after they have played for awhile.  We try to sit down and read for an hour or two each afternoon while we all get a little rest.  After I read, we continue our quiet time in the afternoon for about an hour while Baby Girl naps and the older ones look at books. 

I hope you all realize that this is ideal and a lot of our days do not go much like this.  But if I work the plan, the plan works for me.  What I mean by that is when I have everything ready to go before Monday morning our days work well.  When I get behind and am not prepared, we all have bad days.  

How do you keep your school days moving smoothly along?


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