No matter where you are in you school year, just starting, mid-way, or towards the end, you are most likely carrying mental lists that start “Next year, we should try…” or “note to self: never again…!” Whether your list of goals includes a full-fledged arsenal of new curriculum or a methods tweak or two, consider adding some school room organization to the list.
Let’s talk study spaces. Because homeschooling is such a versatile experience, educational areas look different for everyone. For me, it was divided between the dining room table for math/science, the living room for read-alouds, and my desk for language arts. For my co-op friends, school happened in the cozy basement with tables, chairs, and The Mystery of History timelines spread around the room like wallpaper. Regardless of the setting, it proved important for all of us to learn in quiet, neat spaces.
- Multi-functional areas such as dining or living rooms tend to be most efficient when they were organized with designated times for homeschooling versus meals or family time. During the former, the table is strewn with markers and worksheets, but during the later with salt and pepper shakers and board games.
- Keep related items together. For example, store both music CDs and books on tape within close reach of the stereo. Put math videos in the TV cabinet beside the Christian comedian DVDs. The key is to use them as separately as possible by training students to put both school and leisure items away directly after using them.
- By having a home for everything from textbooks to craft supplies to science equipment, the crossover from academics to living space is much easier.
- One idea is to use sturdy but portable file bins for books. These have a handle on the lid and a space for pencils and erasers. These can stack neatly in a corner or be carried back to homeschool headquarters.
- I strongly recommend getting a teacher’s desk if you haven’t already found one. It could be a folding table or an elegant heirloom. My mom’s HQ happened to be a gigantic table found for free on the side of the road. I’ve never personally taught students, but I can testify that my mom was noticeably less stressed when she had her lesson plans, grading tools, and completed student assignments in one place. BOOM: we had homeschool headquarters.
- If you don’t have the space, time, or budget for a headquarters, you could set aside a few drawers, shelves, or bins for a more compact version.
- The point I’m making is this: a divide and conquer mentality will strongly assist the balance between home management and school moderating. After all, who can focus on grading eighth grade math when you keep stumbling across stray credit card receipts or tax returns? By designating an area for each, there is far less opportunity to overwhelm yourself with both the duties of personal finance in real life and attempts to teach your students about personal finance from a textbook.
- As most homeschooling families know, especially those with younger students, the learning experience goes far beyond the static pen and paper element. Hands-on, creative surroundings can stimulate education on a variety of sensory levels. If you’re able, display colorful or significant projects that can increase both recall of information and healthy pride in hard work. Think 3-D Styrofoam models of atoms, a modern fashion makeover for Henry VIII’s six wives, or an ancient road map of Paul’s missionary journeys.
- Some of my most poignant memories of early homeschooling include playing with blocks, drawing, or needle craft while Mom read aloud to us. Recalling Genghis Khan’s biography brought about a fierce red knitted hat, while Johnny Tremain made for countless Lincoln Log villages. An edible map of Italy was a highlight of kindergarten, and a sixth grade science fair project kept a cell’s anatomy in my brain for years. Just like the photographic memory concepts of a timeline or a world map, experiencing the same visual reminders every day can be crucial for retaining info.
- Again, it is all about streamlining your space. Too many displays can bring mental and physical clutter, so try to keep the fun stuff balanced with the functional stuff in the learning area. Remembering the needs and styles of your students will also help with this balance. If your student benefits the most from sensory or kinesthetic triggers, then perhaps a DIY chart of China’s exports glued to poster board is preferable to flash cards or maps.
Bottom line, you are the captain of your own unique homeschooling experience. Go ahead and steer your organized spaceship in the direction you’d like to go!