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Vol. XXV
No. 6

In This Issue

Early Years Previous Page Next Page
by Vicki Bentley
- disclaimer -
Organizing Your Home for a Learning Lifestyle
Bookcases and an old dresser organize this homeschool space.
Vicki Bentley
The bookcase at left holds children’s schoolbooks and educational games, while the dresser-turned-end-table to the right contains crayons, extra paper, notebooks, and more.

Did you realize that if you spend just 10 minutes a day looking for misplaced things, you spend over 60 hours a year hunting for stuff? Your mother probably told you, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Turns out she was right! Home organization is about being able to find what we need so we can function efficiently and effectively. Let’s think “outside the box” (pun intended!) for homeschool storage and learning centers as we organize our homes for a learning lifestyle.

>> It is helpful for each child to have a space for his personal school belongings. A plastic snap-shut pencil box, an inexpensive lidded plastic shoe box, or a zippered pouch can hold pencils, pens, glue sticks, erasers, and more; we let our children decorate their own pencil boxes before the school year began, using paint markers. If the children share these supplies, you’ll want the items to be easily accessible, such as in a compartmentalized drawer or standing in a mug or other container near where they will be used. Color-coding all supplies for each child made life easier in our household: child #1 had a blue binder, blue tape on her pencils and pens, blue scissors, a blue pencil box, etc.; child #2 had all purple accessories, and so on. (Do your kids waste or “lose” school supplies? Check out the article in our Organization Resources section online.)

So where will they keep their pencil boxes, reading material, notebooks, and plan books? A few suggestions include:

  • Milk crates
  • Dishpans
  • Backpacks (If space is at a premium, these can hang on bed posts!)
  • Rolling carts
  • lastic drawer units
  • Filing cabinets
  • Bookcase shelves
  • Kitchen cupboards
  • Binders
  • Under-bed boxes with wheels
  • Lower section of china cabinets
  • Dressers (not mixed in with their clothes!)

Here for You

HSLDA members may contact our early years coordinator, Vicki Bentley, for advice on teaching preschoolers through 8th-graders.

>> If you don’t have a dedicated school room, you can retrofit everyday furniture to accommodate school needs and still look like a “regular&rdquoo; room. Instead of school desks, you might incorporate a sofa, lap desks, and a large coffee table with a shelf or cubbies below for games or work in progress. A rolling microwave cart or file drawer cart can hold daily supplies and be wheeled from a closet to the work area, then back out of sight. An end table with drawers can hold educational games, manipulatives, and thinking skills activities. Use the lower section of a china cupboard to house preschool toys and books, near the dining room table where you work with the older children (or a lower kitchen cabinet or shelf, if you work at a kitchen table). Vintage linens on a tension rod can conceal science center supplies on a bookshelf in the living room. A sofa-table with a yard sale curtain below the drawer can accommodate storage containers (mine conceals 18 plastic drawer units!), and an old dresser with the large lower drawers removed might hold several banker’s boxes of papers (or the kids’ milk crates of daily materials or learning center supplies), with a coordinating curtain on a tension rod to hide any clutter. Or skip the curtain and simply stash the supplies in decorative baskets.

A vanity hides storage space for supplies.
Vicki Bentley
By evening, this is a vanity in the author's tiny master bedroom but the thrift-store vintage curtains on the tension rod hide 18 plastic drawers for supplies!

>> Organize to encourage independent study. Have educational “while you wait for Mom” materials on hand for those times that a student needs to wait a few moments for help. Consider using the computer for drills, research, and educational software. Make it easy for him to correct his own work in skills areas such as math. You might give him his own planner with his assignments listed so he can move forward at his own pace, or try Sue Patrick’s workbox system. Categorize materials into “learning stations” to make self-study more user-friendly; include cassettes or CDs, supplemental workbooks or coloring books, games, or drills, as well as books on various topics related to the studies at hand (see sidebar). Have a specific inbox and outbox: spaces for work to be checked and work that mom has already evaluated. Most of all, remember that they do what you inspect, not necessarily what you expect, so do stay nearby and available.

For more learning center ideas and home organization resource suggestions, check out www.hslda.org/OrgResources and Vicki’s HSLDA webinar, “Getting Organized, Part II: Creating a Lifestyle Learning Environment”.

Centered on Learning

Grouping resources and supplies into “learning stations” or “learning centers” can make educational activities more effortless and attractive to a student. They can be all-year assortments or temporary collections to reflect (or inspire!) changing interest. These types of stations can simply be baskets on shelves in various locations or drawers in a corner—anything that can entice a child to pick up an activity and explore on his own, so learning simply becomes part of his lifestyle. Here are a few ideas:

Reading center

  • Conducive to reading
  • Good lighting
  • Cozy (sofa, chair, tent, nook)
  • Books–easy to select/put away
  • Bookcase, basket, dishpan to store books
  • Magazines for children
  • Books on tape or CD
  • Reading games or flashcards

Writing center

  • Desk or table with good lighting
  • Paper/notebooks (including some "pretty" paper)
  • Note cards
  • Story starters (in a jar)
  • Thesaurus and dictionary
  • Colored pencils, pens, calligraphy markers
  • Stickers
  • Stamps, addresses, envelopes
  • Computer with printer
  • Desktop publishing software

Art center (You may want to keep parts of this one up higher!)

  • Colored pencils and drawing pencils (good quality)
  • Paints, papers, canvas
  • How-to-draw books or DVDs
  • Calligraphy supplies
  • Color books, tracing paper, construction paper, markers, white board
  • Blank note cards or folded cardstock
  • Clay
  • Craft books (Laurie Carlson, Williamson Press)–many historical crafts
  • Art postcards/posters
  • Magazines, glue, leftover photos
  • Stickers and scrapbooking supplies
  • Other craft supplies (on a rotation basis, to conserve space)
  • Smocks and vinyl tablecloths
  • Frames, mats, clothespins, magnets (to display artwork)

About the author

Vicki Bentley is HSLDA’s early years coordinator.