Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Preparing the School Room

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

July is here!  Will someone please tell me where did May and June go?  Our summer break has been busier (and now longer) than I intended.  Good grief, right?  I still need some time off for laziness, fun, and of course my ever-loving planning.  The first part of my planning process is getting the school room ready.  Not that we always school in this space, it IS a place to put everything at the end of the day.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 ways this Momma prepares our school room:

construction paper, stamped subject, glue, laminator

Books First, I go through all of our books to figure out what we've read and what's left, and I take out what has already been read.  I have never understood the need to keep books.  Sure, we have a few favorites that we hang on to and read over and over again, and we keep the essential reference books.  I've recently discovered a great local book swap store.  I take used books there, pay a very small fee, and get a whole new stack of used books to stock our shelves with.  Next, I take my boys shopping for new books.  I like to let them pick SOME of their own readers.  I feel it helps to build their desires for reading, (this of course is all in my head for Thoughtful, the reluctant reader).  They become interested in different subjects when they get to browse on their own.  Last, I sort.  I've seen posts of other blogging mommas' libraries.  Oh dear, my hoard-free self gasps for air at the mere thought of keeping so many books.  But, to each her own!  This is certainly not me, so sorting is fairly quick and simple.  I start piling books together by subject first, to get a handle on what we can add to our upcoming unit studies.  Then, I separate by reading level.  Last, I choose which books I will read aloud for the year.

Momma space  Our school room is also a space for me to work at home, and it houses my scrapbooking, craft, and sewing stuff.  I must have an orderly space to function.  My desk is a place where I can keep scrapbooking supplies at the ready.  I also keep my household binders (another post to come), the boys' working portfolios, and my school planner.  Please note that I'm in planning mode so it currently looks a bit messy.  Rest assured that everything has a space to be tucked away in a fancy box or drawer.

This old scrappy handheld tote is for daily use.  I can carry it wherever we end up schooling, but its home is on my desk.  Be sure to give yourself a space that is off limits to your children.  It doesn't need to be right near the schooling area, but it needs to exist.

Work space  We've tried separate desks, but I felt like it was "school at home."  It just wasn't a good fit for us.  So, we sold the desks and bought a Craig's List gem.  A table pushed against the wall.  It works for us, as we're a small homeschooling family.  We can all sit together, and I am in the middle.  This makes it easy for me to help and teach each child.  The boys each have their own supply boxes on the table, and I keep whatever books, maps, etc. that we'll need for the day.  Our bulletin board holds a calendar and some helpful charts.  The idea here is to create a place where the children can focus on their lessons.  If the seat is too high, give them a step stool at their feet.  If they need to repeatedly see how to form their letters, post their little reminders next to them.  You could make a mini office to hold such reminders if you wanted. 

Supplies  My very gracious and awesome mother in law takes us school supply shopping every year.  She loves to do this for all of her grands, and insists that the quirky homeschoolers must have a list of their own.  So, I make each child a list, and we pick up Nana.  Opening and setting up new supplies is another advantageous way to get the boys excited for starting a new year.  Who doesn't love new school supplies?  So its out with the old, and in with the new.

Workboxes  Ooooooooh, aaaaaaaaahhh!  This one is new to me.  I've recently read Sue Patrick's Workbox System and have looked at others' systems through the blogosphere.  We are going with these handy Sterelite drawers, that sit 3 high, and measure roughly 13"X14."  I have three sets for each child to give them nine drawers to work through.  The idea is that each drawer contains one assignment and anything required to work on said assignment.  The kids can move independently through their daily work.  There will be an official workbox post eventually, but for now, just know that this is a step in our preparations.  (decorative #s still to be added)

Supplements My children, especially Thoughtful, learn best when they don't realize they're learning.  When its all school, they mentally check out and decide they don't like school.  So, I'm creating more time for supplemental learning.  Things like sorting nouns, verbs, & adjectives, or a place value game, perhaps using light boards to practice handwriting for my dysgraphic guy, money bingo or card games, are all ways to reinforce the curriculum that we're using.    After looking through the Tables of Contents in all of our curricula books, I'm able to make a list of skills that will need to be practiced.  Google, Pinterest, the local teacher store, and the dollar store will become my best friends when compiling supplemental teaching aids.  What can you add to your children's days which don't involve pencil and paper? 

Around the room The single most highly-functional item in our school room is our $12 whiteboard. We bought this 3 1/2' X 8' piece of wall board at Home Depot last year. It has a smooth, shiny finish and erasable markers work great with it. Next to it, I keep a basket of dry erase and wet erase markers with erasers.

We also have our Spelling corner for use with All About Spelling letter tiles.  A rug on the floor is the best place for Spunk to read.  He usually brings a pillow in too.  Games and art supplies are all housed in the closet. This year, we are using hanging pocket charts and adding a poster center to the wall, but I haven't quite figured that out yet.   

Physical Labor  Yeah, I know "labor" doesn't sound pretty, but its necessary.  I wouldn't want to sit in a small room surrounded with white walls, and neither do my children.  So, first, paint is needed.  We have neon green and gray walls, trimmed with a bright orange.  The colors aren't so loud as to cause a distraction, but they aren't dull either.  This goes for schooling around the kitchen table too, or wherever you are.  Make sure that the space makes you and your family happy.  After paint, comes a thorough cleaning.  Walls, baseboards, desks, tables, chairs, shelving, lights, floor, everything needs a good dusting and mopping.  Using a scented cleaner only adds to the exciting freshness of the new year.  And last, move the furniture around to create an efficient work space.  I wish that I had room for a big comfy couch in our school space.  I would put one right under the window!  But I'm stuck with what we have for now.  How can I make it new?  I'm considering painting some of the bookshelves.  I've moved everything around just so that it feels new.  Also, take this time to replace burnt light bulbs, dead batteries, and used up ink cartridges.

Curriculum So the curriculum has already been bought, but its scattered around the room. EEK! At this point, I can't think. I don't even know where to begin the planning process like this. Gathering EVERYTHING that I intend to use for the year is essential. Then, I separate it between Thoughtful, Spunk, and Group. Group subjects are Bible, Science, History, Read Alouds, Unit Studies, and any related hands-on activies. Which brings me to planning.

Planning a/k/a my absolute favorite part of the new school year.  Just the thought of planning makes my heart go pitter pat.  I'm a dork, what can I say?  Planning for a planner, Type A, organizing-junky sounds quite simple, right? You would be wrong if your answer was "yes." See, I've recently learned that I can not plan every minute of every lesson, for every day.  Doing so is setting myself up for failure.  It will never go down as planned, and when it doesn't, I feel defeated.  We're homeschoolers, for crying out loud! Flexibility is our friend!!! So, I do plan, carefully, but I have to learn to save room for change. There are going to be times when the stomach bug hits the family, or there are just too many pretty days in a row to bother with that pesky schooling, or Momma just needs a break.  There will be a later post specific to planning but I wanted you to see how its the last step in my top 10! 

Please tell me how you prepare you schooling environment.  I look forward to reading your comments!

I'm linked up to Many Little Blessings and her Top Ten Tuesday.  Please go look around!  I'm sure you'll get more ideas for your school space here.

also here Not Back to School Blog Hop


  1. I'll admit it...I'm a bit of a book hoarder. :-) But part of it is I am often buying books with my oldest in mind...and she has three younger brothers whom I hope will read the books too as they get older. It seems silly to get rid of books only to buy them again. But since DD does like some books that I don't think the boys will ever read (fairy books, etc), I do encourage her to get rid of those as she is done with them!

    1. Aha! Thank you for the insight! I hadn't thought of that. We do keep the favorites that are read and re-read, and reference books stay! Those are usually the favorites for my boys anyway!