Monday, April 25, 2016

How We Homeschool Without a School Room




*but first* There is just one day left to enter for the Greetings from Somewhere: the Mystery of the Gold Coin giveaway!  So go take care of that and then come back here to read about how I homeschool in the heart of my home.  Or is it in the trenches?  Sometimes it's hard to tell ;)


This past August was the first time we started a new school year after I had joined several homeschool-related Facebook groups.  Want to know what you see a lot of in August and September from homeschool moms?  School rooms.  Bright, organized, spacious, packed-full-of-educational-goodness, drool-worthy school rooms.  I confess, I spent many an afternoon coveting the in-home school rooms I saw on Facebook last August.  

As much as I would love a designated space for us to conduct our lessons, display our school work, and corral our school books and materials, it's just not an option in our current home.  

And to make matters even a little trickier, we only have one table -- one table that serves as our gathering place at meal times and as our primary school-work area.  Things might look a little different at our house if we had a kitchen table for meals and a dining room table we'd primarily use for school.  But as it is, the dining room table is it.   It's definitely not a cozy, out-of-the-way educational nook. The room gets lots of traffic and it's used for meals, school, crafts, sanctioned and unsanctioned science experiments, play time, time outs (the disciplinary kind ;) ), game night, and basically... everything.   It's pretty much the heart of our home. 

The two main "issues" we have to take into account are (1) it's a multi-purpose space and (2) there's only so much room to store our designated school stuff.  Here's how we make it work...

* Clean up every morning, pick up all day long.  The dining room gets a good once over every morning after breakfast - wash the table and chairs, pick up everything off the floor, vacuum.  I will not start the school day walking around on crumbs.

* Only keep books/materials currently in use, or as much as can fit on our one shelf.  The is tricky for me, as I'd love to have all our materials at arm's length.  But it cannot be so.  So texts, reference books, and workbooks that we're not specifically using for a designated subject this year usually find a home in a cardboard box in the attic.  If we must have them, we can get them.  Note: we have a couple books shelves in the adjacent living room where we keep some educational picture books, our lives of the saints picture books, and our readers and series books.  I keep the "school shelf" in the dining room for curriculum materials, workbooks, texts, etc...

* We can't save everything for every kid.  It's so satisfying at the end of the year to look back through all the work that we accomplished, so I look through it and then toss most of it.  I can not not save all the finished workbooks and tests and artwork from everyone.  Instead of keeping it all, I keep a binder for each child and use it to save important stuff, like letters, etc... from our school district, our IHIP's, my own quarterly reports as well as those from the study center my kids attend, and standardized test scores/reports.  I may also save stuff like unit math tests or especially well done writing assignments.  At the end of the year though, it's best to go back through last year's work and purge again.  For example, last year's math tests will have lost their emotional significance in the light of this year's math successes, so they can go.  

* Each student has a bin for his/her current school year books and must use it :)  I have found it much easier on the kids and me if each student has a place to keep their consumable (and sometimes non-consumable) books in one place.  So instead of keeping all the math stuff in one spot and all the spelling stuff in another, each child has his current math or spelling level materials in his own canvas drawer/bin.  This makes it simple for the kids to retrieve and put away their books and materials each day.  Hopefully then, books and materials aren't lying out all day long only to blindside us when it's time to set the table for dinner  (sometimes happens... but it's not supposed to ;) )

* Use baskets to corral stuff.  We have one primary "school" shelf in the dining room.  I use baskets to keep similar stuff together on that shelf -- I have a basket for flashcards and math manipulatives, a basket for the All About Spelling and All About Reading cards, a basket for art and music stuff.  I love these baskets from JoAnn's because they happen to fit perfectly on our shelves and you can see what's in them.  I actually once wrote a post about how much I love these baskets... it's a lot.  



* Konmari the art supplies.  And other supplies, for that matter.  I have a definite weakness for art supplies.  But we got to a point where we needed the extra space for actual school books, so I had to give up some of my art supply storage shelves for the greater academic good.  I tossed all the sub-par colored pencils and crayons and markers, and try to keep what remains in good shape and all in one place.  

* Stop buying books and workbooks on a whim.  I remember buying several cute reusable dry-erase marker books at a discount store several years ago.  They were going to be for fun math, spelling, and phonics practice!!  They were so appealing to look at!  I kept imagining my kids having lots of educational fun writing in answers and wiping them away!  But the books didn't follow the math and spelling methods we were using and we never ever took them off the shelf.  They, and other similar purchases early on in our homeschooling days, turned out to be wasted money.  And they wasted shelf space.  Time to move them along...

* Forgo a lot of school-ish wall displays.  This is a personal preference for me.  If we had a school room it would have wall maps and giant historical time lines, vocabulary and site words, memory work, Latin conjugation and declension charts, multiplication tables, artwork, and more on it.  But I prefer that our dining room keep a "family dining" feel to it.  It's ok for us to do school work in the dining room, but I don't want to feel like I'm eating dinner in the school room.  So, school stuff on the walls is very limited.

* Use all the rooms as school rooms.  We actually don't just "do school" in the dining room.  There's often a kid at the computer in the living room (visible from the dining room), and out of habit, the boys and I almost always do our afternoon science, history, and Latin on the couch.  The kitchen floor works just fine for math fact drills.  I give vocabulary quizzes while I'm changing the baby in his upstairs bedroom.  The boys often choose to do their silent reading in my bed or on cold days, they'll go sit on the floor next to the heater vent in their bedroom.  Now that the weather is warming up, the kids will have the option of working outside.  I actually love it this way, and often wonder how much we would actually use a school room even if we had one.  

* Other :)  A few other things that help make it work are noise cancelling earphones.  These are a must when kids are "doing school" in a main area of the house and there are other people doing other things in those main areas.  We also have a small kids table and shelf with little kids' "school-ish" activities adjacent to the dining room.  Often the younger ones will do drawing, stickers, puzzles, etc... at the little table while the bigger kids are working.  They're nearby and I can see them.  Bonus.  


Our systems are not perfect.  Often the dining room buffet looks like this (or worse)...




... and we might not always pick up everything before lunch time and the table looks like this (or worse)...


... but we make it work because we have to.  And it works because we've developed an attitude of school happens in and among the day to day rhythms and craziness of family life, and in general, it's hard to distinguish between the two!





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7 comments:

  1. Ha I love this and totally relate. We do school in three different areas, depending on a lot of things. If it's warm, we do it out on the screen porch. Most of the year, we are actually doing it in my daughter's room, because that's where the two little desks fit best. And occasionally we sit at the dining room table too. I do have an extra cupboard in the screen room full of school books that aren't currently in use, but all of of the current books are in their desks. It's not perfect or pinterest-worthy but it works for us and somehow the kids seem to be learning?!? Also, I have got to get some noise cancelling headphones. :)

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  2. Ha I love this and totally relate. We do school in three different areas, depending on a lot of things. If it's warm, we do it out on the screen porch. Most of the year, we are actually doing it in my daughter's room, because that's where the two little desks fit best. And occasionally we sit at the dining room table too. I do have an extra cupboard in the screen room full of school books that aren't currently in use, but all of of the current books are in their desks. It's not perfect or pinterest-worthy but it works for us and somehow the kids seem to be learning?!? Also, I have got to get some noise cancelling headphones. :)

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  3. We have a very similar system except HEADPHONES!! GENIUS! I'm lucky to have an extra room with a table so I can send kids into other rooms. Our biggest (toddlers excluded) issue in homeschooling is distraction. While a school room is nice for organizing and having all the things in one place, I'm guessing even if we had one, I'd still be sending kids out of it so that they're not distracting each other! But yes, some of those rooms I see are absolutely beautiful!

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  4. This is nearly exactly as we do school! And only one table in the house also and no buffet. My sewing machine now sits on a small antique side table in our dining/lounge room too and I use the dining table and ironing board for larger sewing surfaces. We have 8 children, although only 6 still at home, with the four youngest still being homeschooled.
    I know many others have a schoolroom as you say, however when one experienced homeschool registration authority person visited he commented on how so many homeschoolers miss the benefits of homeschooling by separating it from everyday life - he really liked that we homeschooled right in the centre of our home/family life. We have a world map on the wall - which we all frequently refer to, and no other 'educational' items on display..

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  5. I LOVE the bin idea for each kid. We are lucky to have two tables in our living area, so one is for eating and one for school and both are precut ally messy. I bet the bins (.and daily attention, ahem) would go a long way to help.

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  6. Such good tips! We're hoping to build a school room if we can get an addition put on the house, but for now I definitely need to clear out some of the homeschool bookshelf and box up a bunch of the books that we're finished with for now! It's such a mess...

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  7. Theresa
    Great tips, we used to live in a very tiny space and homeschooling with many in a tiny space is totally doable.
    Even now that we have a large home with a designated room we still spread out and use many rooms, rarely that one room

    ReplyDelete

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