While I am open to freshening, brainstorming, flexibility and changing in some areas, there are a few areas that are fixed, like points on a compass. These fixed points keep us moving in the right direction! They remain consistent in our home education and provide security and a strong and steady rudder.
The points of our home education compass:
- Living books – Again and again we return to living books as the vehicle to communicate a generous education. The author of the living book communicates ideas and thoughts in a compelling and literary way. What a load off my shoulders this is! This removes burdens from me and lightens my load! Handing my children a feast of living books over the years means they have been exposed to many different thoughts and different manners of expression. Their own ability to communicate is increased and broadened because of this growing exposure to noble thoughts.
- An atmosphere that is orderly, inviting and welcoming – sunshine is a must! I like our spaces to work for us, rather than the other way around. In fact, I’d say it is imperative! Therefore, the pictures you will see below reflect how our family works at this time. Spaces change and are re-ordered when needed in order to meet our changing needs. We’re blessed to have a room to use as a central hub in our learning spaces – this isn’t necessary, but it sure is nice!
- The discipline of good habits! My wise pediatrician (a homeschooling dad of 6) once told me, “you can’t teach if they aren’t teachable.” It’s a very simple statement, but there is a great deal of truth there and I was grateful for the wisdom. Good habits – offering attention, being honest, obedient, tidy, exercising basic manners – assist the day in a way that is indescribable. No matter the curriculum, book, approach, space, or tools brought to the table, if a child is not in possession of some basic habits your days will be unproductive and unhappy. It’s just the truth of the matter.
- Eyes always open to wonder. Mine and theirs! Education may take place here in our learning room, or in the out-of-doors, or at the farm, or the supermarket, or, or…. I don’t need a syllabus or a teaching outline to appreciate and foster learning in the simple everyday moments that line the days. What I do need are the eyes to see these moments, the discipline to engage and be in that moment, and the ability to be as a child and wonder aloud. Eyes open to wonder.
- within your resources…
- within your budget…
- within the books on your shelves…
- within your spaces…
- within the tools you have right this moment…
- within the Sacrament of Matrimony – your husband is your best ally and your most valuable resource for brainstorming!
- within the gifts God gave you…
- within your limitations…
….and challenge yourself to find solutions that are INTUITIVE and make sense to you, in your family, and meet your needs. Gather ideas like a bouquet of flowers and have hope!
The past few weeks we’ve been closing out our 3rd term of work and preparing for our 4th and final term for the year. Unbelievable! Wasn’t I just planning and preparing for this year? It seems like that was just a couple of weeks ago?
Some things have worked out so well this year, and others we’ve learned from and made some adjustments along the way. I’d like to do a few future posts reviewing some of the ideas and books that have worked well for us as well as those that haven’t. (Check back for them!) After making a few changes on paper it was time to address the spaces here; our family is growing and maturing and our spaces need to reflect those needs.
My 9th grader needed space of her own…
…my 5th grader and 1st grader enjoy being together and working together on some subjects…
…and my 3 year old is enjoying some work of her own.
It was time to make adjustments so that our spaces were again working for us, assisting the days.
I am constantly amazed that the most popular post on this blog, the one you look at most frequently and comment on the most (both on the blog and through email), is A Detailed Look Through the Learning Spaces. LOL!! Really? Our learning room post? I remember writing that….and I almost didn’t post that monster!! But, it seems clear that you continue to enjoy that post and enjoy looking there for ideas you might use in your own home, so I’ll share again with a few new ideas for you!
We began our year with my 9th grader and 5th grader sitting at one common table, but about 12 weeks into the year that no longer seemed to be a situation that would foster harmony and productiveness. You know what I’m sayin’ don’t you? So, the 9th grader now has her own workspace.
She enjoys the space here though she has other work areas in different rooms of the house…some of which allow for more quiet than others. On the shelves above her table are the liturgical book collection. The very top shelf holds catechisms, some religion and apologetics books and other Catholic resources. The middle two shelves contain the liturgical year reading collection. You can see the clip-on book supports used to divide up the books.
The bottom shelf is a shared space – on the right are our most frequently used liturgical year resources and on the left are my 9th grader’s books. She also keeps some books in the basket on her desk. Because she needed a small shelf space to hold calculators, clipboards, pencil sharpener, etc, I *liberated* an 8 inch deep shelf from another room of the house and used it as the lowest shelf. You’ll see that I’ve done this under one other set of shelves in the room, providing a shallow storage space under the larger wall shelves. It’s handy and useful.
So….let’s re-center. Walk with me to the other opening just across the room and you can get another sense of the overall room (which, if you remember, is actually supposed to be a dining room which we have given a new purpose)…
That’s my desk there in the center of the room. There on the far right is our science and nature study area. Our supply cabinet is directly behind my desk.
I held my breath, closed my eyes and opened the doors to take another picture for you of the interior of this cabinet. Sigh. So much lives in here! It’s clear I need to turn my attention to my cabinet and do a little purging and re-organizing now that the room is tidy and fresh!
Above the cabinet is our collection center, mostly science and nature study materials and treasures we’ve collected. High spaces are great for collections that are enjoyable, sometimes visited, but don’t see everyday use.
These pictures were taken on different days, so you may notice some differences (look above…the big basket on the floor containing the books that have been completed during the 3rd term is missing.)
A word about computers as a tool — they are just that — tools. They are not evil in themselves, though they can be abused and over-used just like any good tool. They can also be applied and used judiciously and wisely, aiding the process of home education greatly. I keep them near me to ensure that they perform as the latter, as tools in use for the good. One laptop was purchased used (but with warranty) at a local computer store so be sure to check used options if you are in the market (the other laptop was gifted to us). In our home laptops fit our needs best because they are 1) portable 2) lightweight 3) fit on my desk, a child’s desk, a lap, on the kitchen table…with ease 4) have a lid that conveniently flips down when they are UN-available or not in use 5) take up very little overall footprint. Things our laptops do not do: 1) travel to bedrooms…or anywhere without permission 2) live permanently on children’s desks 3) surf the web without restraint (we have parental settings on the highest restriction on one of the laptops) 4) substitute for books. There. Stepping off my soapbox. 🙂
Above the laptops, on the shelves you’ll find our collection of nature study and science books. The basket on the lower shelf there contains our Morning Basket of work as well as some of our most frequently used resource books:
- The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun (revised and updated edition here)
- Victorian Family Celebrations by Sarah Ban Breathnach (now published under the title, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions)
- Famous Paintings, reviewed by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (These treasures are being used for picture study this year!!! There are 2 volumes in the set)
To the right of our Morning Basket are our favorite field guides of which we have some absolute favorites that we return to again and again and again:
- Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife
- Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock (make sure you get the book with the black cover – the new version with the much prettier cover is abridged.)
- Attracting Backyard Wildlife by Bill Merilees (out of print, but wonderful if you come across a copy)
To the right of the laptop area and science/nature study books is our science and nature study resource area. We keep engineering projects on shelves here (like a new-to-us set of Capsela motorized construction toys which used to be my brother’s and is now enjoying renewed play…by the way, you can still find these sets on ebay) , a few nature treasures, experiment kits (from homeschool science), and a variety of other resources and tools for further studying and understanding science and the natural world. Organizers like the blue cardboard mini-shelf are great for organizing small collections like microscope slides that need only a shallow amount of space. They’re not very heavy either which makes them ideal to sit on an existing shelf. These could organize a number of collcections very well!
Back to my desk….
This is the top of my desk. I’m pleased with a few small changes I made to it. I sorted and resituated some of the files in my file basket that weren’t being used too often and made enough room for my dictation books (Spelling Wisdom from Simply Charlotte Mason), math answer keys, logic books, and other useful, small books. Very handy! That’s my favorite Catholic daily planner just below my file basket. I use this planner every.single.day! There is a stack of reading books on the other corner of my desk. To increase our daily exposure to great art, I ordered the 2011 Art-Page-A-Day calendar and we really enjoy it. (HT: Satori Smiles) I should mention that not every piece of art is for innocent eyes, but I’ve only found a couple of concern. These images will make fantastic art project work after the year is complete!
Turning to the other side of the room you can see our hanging maps – you remember those, don’t you? We’re moving into the area I set up for my younger learners.
Isn’t it amazing the difference between the morning light (picture below) and afternoon light (picture above)?
This is a little area set up for Doodlebug with favorite puzzles, magnetic letters, games, and paper. Something I found recently that both my little people love are Alpha Magnets – there are upper and lower case. What I enjoy is that the vowels are red and the consonants are blue just like our Montessori moveable alphabet. (NOTE ** I can’t find the same sets to link for you. The lower case set of red vowels/blue consonants is the correct link, but our upper case also has the red vowels/blue consonants – only in capital letters. Not sure why I can’t find them to link them. We found ours at a local school supply store.) Here are some new games that my littlest learners enjoy:
To the right, in that small bookcase, is our collection of geography books. I’m thinking of relocating them nearer our map cabinet…but for now…here they are.
Above the small floor shelf is our rainy-day shelf of Dover coloring books, Folkmanis finger puppets, and back issues of our favorite magazine, Nature Friend (which all the children enjoy re-visiting). Our logic games and Zome building tools are here as well. Here are a few other *new* favorites (that weren’t in the last post):
- An old stamp and coin collection – these are really enjoyable, and a wonderful way to learn about history! Ask grandparents about these – they may have a collection they don’t mind loaning out! Our coin collection is one that was collected by 2 generations of paternal grandfathers and loaned to us. The stamp collection belonged to me and has been merged with one that my husband started when he was a boy. Our kids are enjoying adding to it!
- All the Knots You Need: An Illustrated Guide by R. S. Lee with accompanying ropes for practice
- The Spiral Draw Book
This is the little work area set up for my 3 year old. The small table tucks in nicely here and her favorite Babybug and Ladybug magazine collections (both found as a used set of back issues) can be kept on her table. This is a cheery little spot for her to work….with friends. 🙂
Next to the little work table is our map cabinet and I’m excited to share two more games we’ve really been enjoying!! We enjoy these so much that they live on top of our map cabinet so we can play them when we have time.
- Bananagrams – which I think everyone in the world except me already knows about and uses! LOL!
- Sumoku – a fantastic math game! Your student needs to have a good understanding and knowledge of multiplication tables to play this game, but the game will stretch their knowledge and build their speed and ability to think of multiples of a certain number. Highly recommended!
Above the work table and map cabinet I’ve relocated most of our art supplies.
You can check out the links for almost everything on our art shelf from the detailed learning room post. I did add a set of Prang metallic markers that the kids really enjoy – especially the boys that are enjoying illustrating medieval armor! The metallic markers are in the glass jar second from the right.
Just below the art shelf you can see another of those shallow shelves which contain activities for my younger students.
Swinging around a little more is the boys’ work table. It has been a good thing to pair them at the same table and allow them to work together on projects. This year has been a little bittersweet in that respect. My 14 year old is now working independently, on her own projects, schoolwork, and passions. In days past, she and my 10 year old would happily work together, but it’s time for her to stretch out further on her own and for the 10 year old to work with his younger brother just as his older sister worked with him. It’s been a time of change in that respect, so the tables moving around and seating arrangements changing is reflective of that new season in our learning spaces.
And finally, I have a solution I’m thrilled to share with you! We hung our folding table-top art easel and now it is so accessible while still being off the floor! I’m thrilled!
We had been watching for this particular table top art easel for some time because it is compact and doesn’t take up a lot of space. Once a year, Michael’s craft store offers all of their art easels for 50% off and when they did, we jumped! If you’re in the market for an art easel, ask around to see if there is a time when local craft stores offer them for sale!
I felt our art easel didn’t really have a home. Even though it is relatively small, it’s still awkward to store. Once it is stored it is out of sight and rarely used. I asked my husband to help me come up with a way to hang it on the wall. My requirements – spend nothing and have it look nice, be functional, and sturdy. Rob went into the garage and came in with a simple leftover L bracket from another project. He mounted it using wall anchors because there wasn’t a stud in the center of the wall…and you must know how I feel about symmetry, right?
Perfect! The handle easily slips over the bracket and the horizontal length of the bracket means it won’t easily slide off. The weight is supported by the vertical length of the bracket mounted to the wall so it’s nice and sturdy.
And that is it!!! I CANNOT believe I just put together another ridiculously long learning room post! LOL! Hope you all enjoyed!