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As a parent, you want your child to learn and grow so they might become the wonderful adult you envision them being. That requires us to consider so many things that will impact them and lead to a life well-lived. One consideration I want to share about today is how to set up a learning space (or spaces!) in your home.
How to Set Up a Learning Space: Where Does Learning Happen?
The biggest consideration is where your child will be learning. Homeschool families run the gambit from everyone at the kitchen table, a more formal arrangement in an official schoolroom for their house, or a “go where you want” approach to learning.
Like everything in life, there is no one style fits all approach to the environment. Instead, you need to consider the family’s needs as well as each individual child’s learning styles.
Some questions to consider about your physical space:
- Do I have a place to set up a work station for each child?
- Do they have their own bedroom where a desk can be placed?
- Are we living in tight quarters with no space to spare?
Things to consider about your child’s needs and those of the family include:
- Does my child need absolute silence and removal of distractions to focus?
- Does a child need music playing in the background and will that be entertaining everyone or plumbed through headphones?
- How does the environment affect my child/children? Do they need an uncluttered space to focus or do they thrive on the chaos around them?
- How do the kids interact with each other?
- Are the kids more motivated by competition and need to see others to stay on task?
- Do I need them close so I can help them so that the kitchen table or counter is the best place?
Real-Life Examples of Learning Spaces
In our home, we do a mixture of the three learning environment arrangements mentioned earlier.
My youngest son and I spend part of our day at a desk in the large room which serves as both learning and play space.
Other times during the day find us upstairs at the table where he can use my laptop with supervision for some work or on the couch or ground of the living space for one on one learning experiences.
My 10th grader sits at what was the group learning table years ago for most of the day. On occasion, he has moved to a small student desk in the bedroom he shares with his 2 younger brothers.
This photo shows when the boys ALL worked around the table together when we lived in Maryland. I miss those days as I could see what everyone was doing at one time.
His older brother, now in college, did most of his studying in his room where a desktop computer sits on the desk and he would spread out on his bed. He is living at home while attending a local university and still does the majority of his school work in his room.
My son who attends school splits his homework time between the main living space to be near me for answering questions or the couch downstairs in the big room even though he has his own student desk in that space.
How to Set Up a Learning Space: Tools to Have on Hand
Once you have the space consideration covered, you need to consider what tools to have on hand.
These are items such as pencils (regular or mechanical), pens, and crayons/colored pencils/markers are the basics needed by any aged child.
One of our hands-down favorites is Frixion Erasable Pens. They have color options beyond blue and black plus they work fabulously.
I shared one way to recycle and create containers for writing utensils.
For a parent, it may seem like you can never have enough paper in the house. What you need is dependent upon the child’s age.
Paper needs may include:
3-hole punched lined paper
graph paper(middle and high school)
There are also notebooks of all sizes and shapes that you might want to have extras of on hand. Composition books are a favorite of mine for science journaling.
My son used several poster boards as well as a trifold board for science fair projects in both 5th and 6th grade. (Don’t wait until it is due to get them!) An added use for those trifold boards is to provide a cubicle like space when siblings don’t want to see each other.
A bonus tip for you….during the back to school season it is often cheaper to by 70 sheet spiral-bound notebooks than 70 sheets of 3 hole-punched paper or copy paper. I stock up on those for my emerging writers who are constantly needing another sheet to practice their drawing and writing skills.
We also color code the kids’ notebooks so there is no confusion over who gets which notebook. That way when I find a notebook, I know exactly who it belongs to without looking inside. I’ll match the color for folders as well.
Arts & Craft Supplies
This includes things like glue, glue sticks, scissors, rulers / straight edges, glitter, stickers…. You get the idea.
Kids like to create beyond what might be assigned to them. I’ve had them stored in a plastic drawer unit for the year, but it is at the end of its life and is being replaced by a cabinet unit made for crafters.
So next time you hear “I’m bored” this is a great resource to occupy them with educational benefits included.
Computer and/or Tablets
With so much of education going digital, a computer or tablet might be a necessity in the home. All of my boys need some access to the computer whether for online learning or research on a project.
For most of their homeschooling, the boys have shared devices. As they entered high school, we started to have computers or tablets for each child. I have found that you need to either trust them completely or have monitoring software installed to help keep little eyes from seeing things that can not be unseen.
If you are going to be sharing one computer, then a desktop set up in a common area may help eliminate concern about unauthorized usage. Typically, a desktop offers more customization. While there are all-in-one options, I strongly suggest keeping the desktop and monitor as separate components.
For a family that needs to take school on the road, then an inexpensive laptop or tablet with keyboard may be the better pick. As technology has been made more portable, the inclusion of a Blu-ray or DVD drive has disappeared. You can get external optical drives that are plugged in when needed.
The iPad is a favorite device for some families. The larger screen and portability are fantastic. And there are many apps to pick from whether you need to read a digital book or access an online program. We bought a refurbished one to save money and have not had any issues with it.
I am really excited about the Kindle Fire tablets available with different screen sizes. My excitement is in part because they will take a microSD card for up to 128 GB more memory.
For the younger student, there is the Kids Kindle Fire which locks down access and includes a great warranty. They can read and play education games without worry that they will come across adult content.
Storing Completed Work
For papers that come home and you want to save, a binder for 3-hole punched items or an expandable file for others is the way to keep the clutter at bay.
I have also tried a banker box per child to keep everything and then purge profusely at the end of the school year. Their best work gets saved and I’m seriously thinking about bound portfolios made with my binding system.
Do you have work stations in your home?
What are some must-have tools for your family?
This article was originally published on Sep 26, 2015, and has been updated.
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