Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cozying Up Our Learning Space

Two years ago, I'd posted photos of our school space. We'd just moved to our new home then and with a tiny budget and little time, I put together a learning space centered around the dinette area in our kitchen.

We've made many changes since then. We'd decided that learning where we also have our food was probably not a good idea and I soon got tired of hauling the wicker baskets and stationery caddies around when it was time to clear the table to eat. So we moved everything to our family room which faces the kitchen. We got bookshelves for kiddo's leisure reading so it made sense to also do math, read alouds, puzzles and audiovisual learning on the floor next to the brown couch, facing the bookshelves. I soon decided not to use the baskets and Sterilite drawers too. They were easily re-purposed to hold kiddo's origami work and miscellaneous household paperwork respectively. I prefered to keep the curriculum in magazine holders. It was less bulky and less cluttered overall and this arrangement worked well for close to two years.

Day by day during the two years, it became clear that focusing learning in one space wasn't going to work for our family. So we spread out. Science experiments happened mostly in the kitchen. Serious discussions took place during lunch or dinner or in Dad's library/ study upstairs or during bedtime. The family room coffee table though remained as the preferred spot for the bulk of our learning activities.

The dinette area wasn't ignored. The table happened to be the same size as a large world map I had so, using some trusty Blu-Tack, I tacked the map onto the dinette table and covered it with a clear table cloth. We have done a lot of dining table geography this past year and a half!

This year, I've realized that the boy, growing so rapidly, will soon feel less comfortable sitting on the carpet to write on the coffee table in the family room. So for his birthday, I bought him a study table for computer/ writing work and an armchair for independent reading time. We have plans to replace the couch we've been using for read-alouds. For now, I've used a cottage-style quilted throw to make it look cozy and comfy and add some much needed color to the room.

To personalize his study space, I made a little clothespin holder to show case kiddo's geometric drawings. It took me less than five minutes to hot glue gun craft-sized clothespins on an old wooden ruler and then position it on the wall next to his table using Blu-Tack. I plan, in the near future, to make more to adorn that wall space.

For audio-visual learning, the Teaching Company videos we reach for most sit in a pretty box on the coffee table. The box also conveniently holds stationery, remote controls, silly putty for fidgety fingers while we read aloud and so on. 

Since I hate clutter, the majority of the main curriculum we use for home-learning will be stationed at the nifty operations center" near the dinette in the kitchen. This semester, we are trying out an alternate-day routine so books for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays have been placed in magazine holder A and books for Tuesdays and Thursdays sit in holder B.

Either kiddo or I will carry the specific holder to the family room's coffee table and we'll work from there, using the study table when he has online lessons, the couch when we do read alouds, the coffee table, his study table or propping the 3' x 4' whiteboard on our laps (can you see it under the couch in photo up above?) for math depending on mood.

We'll use the formal dining space in the front living room when kiddo wants to do science or crafts or other activities that need larger table space.

We tried this updated arrangement this weekend and it was welcomed heartily. Only time will tell whether it will remain or change again. :)
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  1. You're so organized! I'm envious and inspired. :) I also love the idea of the world map and clear tablecloth. Our table (bought by my parents before I was born!) has seen better days and that would be a great way to alter it.

  2. I'm organized says one of my role models! :) Thanks dear Alicia and hope all's well over there!

  3. I love the updated style. I need ideas ... always on the lookout for ways to use our space more effectively. We do spread out too and both kids have several projects (science and craft) on the go at once. These, on top of toys, instruments and books, can make it tricky to maintain some semblance of order. Thanks!

  4. Can you write on the clear table cloth with dry or wet-erase markers? I'm trying to figure out what to get so that we can label maps on our table. Suggestions?

  5. Hi Laura,
    We haven't tried it and haven't had to. My purpose wasn't so much formal instruction as daily exposure. I also didn't want to have markers residue on an eating surface. I guess you could try it but something tells me the clear vinyl type of tablecloth will not be a long term solution. For a long term solution I'd probably prefer a glass top.

  6. We are in the middle of a year long homeschool geography theme study. I totally love your map table. Clever! Going to pin this idea to my geography board.

    1. Thank you jeannine! Good luck on the geography study!


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