It is no surprise that we practice a style of homeschooling that is a hybrid of the Unschooling or Child led and Charlotte Mason and I have already written a few posts on what that looks like. However, I am often asked how I actually do this…and on a budget! So I took photos of our downstairs learning areas and will take you on a tour of how we use each room.
This Afternoon I took the opportunity of having a clean house (and the children outside playing in the great 40 degree weather) to take pictures of our downstairs learning areas… otherwise known as our living room, dining room and kitchen! have you ever heard the phrase “I get more cleaning done in the 10 minutes before company than I do all week”…well in my house that is so true! We had a last minute change of plans and instead of going to Piano Lessons, Piano lessons was coming to us and of course that meant that the kids spent all morning (like 3 hours) watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I wish I could say it was something educational but I was in no mood to actually pay attention, there were walls and toilets to be scrubbed, books to organize, dusting, vacuuming…well lets just say school has been a priority lately and good enough is not guest ready!
Ahh the epicenter of our life ,otherwise known as our science center or the Kitchen!
With as much as the kids eat, I experiment and the magic nature of my sink (does anyone else have a sink with the ability to spontaneously create dirty dishes?) I think I spend more time in this room than any person should! However, since the stomach is the best way to the heart, this is also a room filled with lots of love. I absolutely love how much light our kitchen gets during the day, and since there are no curtains (I never finished adjusting their length for this window) I find that it is the best place to gather light for our budding winter garden. My neighbors have pretty dishes on their windowsills… we have produce and I am totally ok with that! The kids and I have been getting things ready for our summer garden (we are gathering recyclable containers to house are soon to be seedlings) and soon I will have to find more space as we start our seedlings as well. This is more than just a place to grow pretty plants this is also where we do a lot of our baking and I actually let the kids help me as we work towards making more of what we eat. Because we use baking as both math and science we end up learning all about fractions, weights, measurements, chemical reactions and heat transference. Depending on what measuring cup is clean I will sometimes even have the kids try to figure out how many parts are in a whole. My sons favorite activity is to time how long it takes for water to boil or steam to rise. My almost 2 year old loves rearranging my baking area and so I help her learn through the process by keeping my stacking mixing bowls/pots /pans (smallest to largest) in the same area…and not freaking out when she empties the whole cabinet (not an easy task!)! My three year old is learning how to sort so she helps me empty the dishwasher (and she likes it!) while my almost five year old helps me put away groceries (she likes to know why we have to put the milk in the fridge but the pasta can go in the pantry). We are trying to let them be more independent (it is really hard when I know I can do the same job with less mess!) and have set up a wooden stool so that they can access their own cups for water, snacks and dishes. They love the independence… which is good because I hate the mess, it goes against my OCD grains… but its part of the process, right?
Now into the Media Room… er… Living Room.
This is where we house the TV, Game consoles, Laptops, iPads and Piano. This is also where Geronimo, our male Beta Fish, lives… he likes to watch tv too. Geronimo has been a great lesson on animal behaviors and the need to take care of others. One day we will have more than just him… maybe a snake, or a tarantula… definitely a dog and once we retire… well lets just say daddy is already planing his own sustainable farm. But thats all just dreaming for now, so back to the media room. Lil G and Jo (starting next month) take piano lessons from a wonderful woman who attends our church and they love it! I can read music fairly decently and I can play treble clef but bass clef is a no go for me. I found this piano at a Salvation Army in San Diego for $150, it needs to be tuned but for our purposes its wonderful! The littles are always creating masterpieces on it and even my hubby will spend the evening just playing around with the sounds in an effort to make harmonies. The girls love to dance around our living room as I play around on the piano or even when I play pandora on our TV. We actually use our TV for a lot of learning, and some fun stuff too. When my husband came home from Afghanistan he just needed to have a smart TV (we don’t have cable but he is a gamer and wanted a good TV to play his console games on) and our favorite app on the TV is VUDU where we can access TED talks, Philharmonia Orchestra, Princeton University podcasts, Irelevant Astronomy, From the Top at Carnegie Hall, and Pandora. Depending on the day and the kids interests we could easily watch an orchestral concert, listen to Jazz or watch a short on the galaxies we barely know. We also have two gaming consoles that we use for games (even the littles love playing games and their hand eye coordination is better than mine!) but even more than that we use it for Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu Plus. We love documentaries, its a staple in our learning environment and NOVA and NATURE have some of the best options for young, eager and curious kids! There are also a lot of pretty great cartoons and shows put out by PBS, History Channel and Discovery Channel but we refuse to pay for cable and want things on Demand so Netflix and Amazon Prime are great options for us.
Here is a long view of our living room, the bookshelf between the columns separates an otherwise long and narrow room. There are several sofas and a small table that we use for board games, card games, blocks, coloring, writing practice, or really anything that requires all four children to be able to reach easily.
Directly across from these columned bookshelves and right next to the camel colored couch is our lego area. It is a small area and we are still building our collection but we have often found a child sitting on that little wooden stool flexing their engineering creativity.
Now on to the other side of the living room… this side really is more of a school room than any other part of the house but it also our main living area so we have had to be subtle in our set up. I have long since given up on the idea of having a “classroom” and honestly right now I don’t think we need one! Right now bookshelves, and an art easel (woohoo for ikea!) will work nicely!
Our first bookshelf on our way through is filled with our YA, science fiction and fantasy collection… those are more for mom and dad than the kids! On top are our two encyclopedia collections (both found at a thrift shop for $10 each collection!). The smaller ones are from the 60’s and have black and while illustrations but they have been great for research and comparisons. The larger white ones are all Animals with great color photos. The two small green cans hold pencils, paint brushes, rulers, and our pocket microscope (the best $15 I have ever spent on Amazon!!) while the pencil box holds our crayon collection. The crayons and Pencils are only within reach during the day because otherwise our walls become canvases, and that is bad because it requires hours of cleaning on my behalf.
This is the kids downstairs bookshelf, we have more upstairs with kids books but I’m still trying to find a set up that fits up there. In the meantime this keeps a small part of our fun kids books in one easily accessible place. on top we have a half hour hourglass, the holding spot for our calendar pieces and some fun knick knacks that needed a home.
Between the kids bookshelf and our Ikea storage shelf sits our workboxes and Globe. Back when I thought I would need to have the days materials all organized and laid out every morning I found this gem in a local thrift shop for $5! What a steal… but now that we have adopted a more relaxed environment I use this for workbook storage.
Top drawer is for my eldest, he knows what is in there and when he says he’s bored I send him in there to find something to work on. Our rule is that you must finish what you start, so if he decided half way through that he would like to do something else my response is always the same, “when your finished with that page you may do that.” … it also really helps us have proof for the county that he’s learning. Most of the workbooks are from the dollar store, the dollar spot in Target or I found on clearance in one store or another.
Second drawer is for my eldest daughter, and her overflow (mostly phonics stuff that will be used with her sisters as well) is down below her sisters drawer.
My middle daughters has some preschool practice sheets as well as workbooks.
Up on the wall is my fabric covered cork board. I found this fabric in the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby for $2 and I found the cork board at the thrift shop for $1, I just stapled the fabric around the cork board and hung it here to house our school stuff & chore charts. On the left hand side I have some scrapbook paper push pinned into an envelope shape with each kids name written on it. The blue strips are their chores and the red strips are their school subjects and the envelope on the right is for work that has been finished. Its a nice visual that helps them see whats going on without me needing to print or make up a new list every week. The puzzle pieces will be used as a place to pin interesting notes for each kid (every things color coded so that the kids know who’s is who). Since three of my kids are working on phonics and letter recognition we have a weekly letter that just hangs out there for them to see all week. The green Crayon/pencil, glue bottle and apples are the days date (everything is held up with push pins) and the white boards hold the days assignments (written in color coded dry erase) including each kids copy work written on removable mini boards (center, under the green crayon/pencil thing). I’m not great about changing this daily so sometimes its weekly work instead, but it works for us and doesn’t look too schooly.
So this area looks a bit messy because it is used often by four children under 6 years old… they don’t know how to put things back perfectly yet. Starting on the top left is a collection of science books, nature guides and DK encyclopedias filled with great pictures. Two shelves of toys and a regular microscope that really doesn’t work well. The last box on top is filled with a Story of the World (we never really use it and I might end up selling it one day), a kingfisher history of the world encyclopedia, a 1919 speller (found in an antique shop in Ramona CA), a 1920’s reproduction language book filled with copy work ideas (found it in a thrift store in Lancaster PA), and a collection of well illustrated fairy tales, Aesop fables and Mother Goose stories (I found this 1920’s reproduction in Barnes and Noble when my oldest was only a few months old). Then on the bottom left is our stack of library books, I’ve found that if I don’t have a set place to keep them my children wander off with library books and they disappear into the abyss! Next is three (or four) different kinds of blocks that we use ALL the time. Blocks become manipulatives, they become physics experiments, quiet time aides and any other thing that my children can imagine. And last, in the pretty wicker box is my stash of diapers and wipes…hidden but accessible so that I can send any one of the kids to retrieve it for me when needed. Sitting nicely on top is our collection of wooden game boxes (2 chess sets, and two really random games we found for a $1 at a thrift shop and have not yet played).
These next few pics are our big storage areas, this big entertainment center was made by a friend of our families when I was in high school, when my parents downsized they gave it to us. The bottom of this area is filled with our VHS, Video Game, DVD collections and our overflow charts/posters and binders. Ok now for the picture below, the honkin huge red box is filled with empty composition books and our files that we show county at our reviews. Next to that big ole box is my collection of curriculum and workbooks that have been given to me or picked up randomly over the years…some we use, some are meant for 5th graders…some I thought I would use and haven’t yet.
The middle row has my collection of learning aides based on subject that I have found at the dollar store, dollar spot at target or on clearance. We have science experiments, magnifying glasses, garden trowels, “growing” animals and water beads fill our science bin. The math bin has a combination of flashcards, clocks, play money and math-y knick knacks. The Language Arts bin has flash cards, phonics aides and writing aides. underneath that is our bubble collection, which is kept under lock and key, and it all sits next to our gigantic play dough collection (which was gifted to us and terrifies me).
The bottom contains our math manipulative (squishy blocks in different shapes that I found in the dollar store and a huge container of dried beans), all of our writing/drawing supplies and books that Ive read to help me on this homeschooling journey. (Those drawers down there are my hubby’s domain and we don’t enter it)
My kids favorite part of this area… Puzzles, Board games, Dominoes and Cards. The Drawers hold all of mommy’s office supplies but the kids don’t know that, they think its daddy stuff too!
What looks like a mess up there is our recyclable collection… we use this stuff for crafts, science experiments or we turn it into organizational supplies…the kids also like having that big box for their pretend play… its a rocket, a pirate ship and anything else they want it to be!
The top shelf holds more recyclables, tanagrams, musical instruments and phonics practice aides. The middle shelf is all craft supplies. The bottom shelf has our opposition books, coloring books and binders. That brightly colored binder holds my theories and ideas on homeschooling and it sits next my planner. I will write another post on how I use those two.
ahh…MY favorite spot in the house…our super comfy couch where i read the kids stories, crochet while they play, work on my novel and type up these posts! that little table is perfect for tea or my morning coffee, a stack of books and that abacus (we actually use it a lot!). It sits right next to a nice window and our backdoor so when the little ones want to play outside but baby girl does not or is sleeping I get to hunker down on that great green couch and cuddle up with her while they play and explore the world outside.
The last part of our classroom is right there… those woods are were we do our nature study, that playground is perfect for PE and the whole area makes for the best recess! Hope you enjoyed the tour, see you next time!