You have curriculum that is exciting to your kids and you. All the paperwork needed by your district is filed. It is time to get to work, jump into learning, and embrace all the amazing moments this homeschool year promises. But wait, you need a space.
We all know that organization is a key component in our lives. My car keys live on the hook by the door, so that I can always find them. When I have a few hours of child-free time to get some work done, I make a list so that the most important jobs get done first. Our homeschool space needs this same care and attention to detail.
Key Elements to the Homeschool Classroom
If you are lucky enough to have a room that you can dedicate to homeschooling, your job is easier because you don’t have to make the space each day. If you don’t have that space, your job in creating the classroom is even more critical. Make sure that your kids have a table or desk that is the right size for them where they can sit comfortably with their feet on the floor. Try to limit all potential distractions. Take a few minutes to clear off the workspace so that it just contains the work at hand. Is your space quiet? Can you turn the ringer off your phone for a few hours? Check that there is plenty of light, and you’re ready to go.
Most humans benefit from having a rhythm to our day. While part of the fun of homeschooling is being spontaneous and creative, kids handle these departures into the unknown better when they have a routine. Make the routine work for your children. If they settle into their work better after a physical release, go on a walk together or play tag before sitting down. Figure out what amount of focused work time is reasonable for your kid and put in the breaks that let all of us be more productive.
Realize that a routine and a schedule are not the same thing. When my child is immersed in a project, lunchtime can be pushed off for another hour. If she’s clearly getting “hangry” at 11 am, it’s time for any early meal. Regardless of when we are sitting down, we wash our hands, and she helps to bring the food to the table. A settled routine leads to better cooperation, a feeling of security, self-discipline, and greater independence.
Part of the routine should be gathering the supplies for the day: a few sharpened pencils, books, and whatever else you might need. I have an old plastic tablecloth that comes out for many science and art projects. Part of getting your space set up is making sure that you have a system for all of your supplies. Your kids can create the tubs, drawers, or shelves needed to keep all of the school supplies organized, so that they can find the ruler, the watercolors, or the rubber bands easily. I like it when kids have an “office,” a portable wooden box they make that holds all their basic school supplies.
Hopefully for truly messy projects, you have an outdoors space!
A series of binders, folders, portfolios, or notebooks need to be available for work in progress and finished work. Keeping all of this in order makes it much easier to track learning and collect work samples. I know families that use pizza boxes, plastic tubs, and filing cabinets. Find the system that works for you. I use my camera to take pictures of favorite work that isn’t going to fit easily in a folder, and make movies of everything from kids reading to science demonstrations. There are a variety of apps and programs that can help you keep track of any work done on the computer. Check these out.
Technology can be an integral part of the homeschool classroom. I love bird watching with kids, but I have never been able to watch a pair of eagles care for their babies– until now. The internet makes it easy for me. Kids can easily take live, online classes, in any subject. This is wonderful, but time on the computer must be carefully monitored. Don’t let your child decide where they are going to work on the computer. Have the technology station carefully situated so that it is easy to glance over their shoulder. Think of it as an extra conscience for them. To help filter what your kids can access on line, you need Screentime.
You have the space, the routines, the work, and the technology all working for you. Your kids understand your expectations. Now it’s time to bring in the beauty. Beautiful things provide us with inspiration. Have your kids pick out a quote or two that resonate with them. Place a favorite painting or picture on the wall. Maybe your kids want to light a candle and recite a poem to help start their work time. A beautiful space can encourages creativity and make everyone feel good.
Your kids are only young once. Make sure that you enjoy their childhood! Setting up the space will make your day joyful and easy.