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Homeschooling Done Simply

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I was curious to see if anybody might have pictures, inspiration or advice about homeschooling done organized and simply. Despite having implemented a great organizational system in our school room, I often feel as if we're drowning under a deluge of books, math manipulatives, craft supplies and other learning resources. In certain ways the bounty is a fine problem to have but the feeling over being overwhelmed with the visual clutter in the closet and the daunting task of living with all of this excess. I freeze when it comes to the "paradox of choice" in life and my adventures as a homeschooling mother are proving to be no exception. 

 

How do you find the balance between adequate learning resources and simplicity?  What system of organization best works for you? What do you keep? What do you eliminate? 

 

In nearly every other part of my life I've easily met my goals and desires for simplicity and less clutter but struggle with simplicity in schooling. 

post #2 of 22

I've got some thoughts--we're pretty minimalist in our schooling--but I'm only teaching one so far, and he's only in first grade. My sense is that there are a LOT of a variables that could affect how minimalist one could be, and I've started to type this several times only to end up with an essay, so I'm just going to list what we do and you can ask if you want me to expand on anything, m'kay? smile.gif

 

1. I don't have a separate schoolroom; instead we use the dining room table and keep everything we need for formal schooling nearby in or on a waist-high two-door cupboard. Yes, this means I have to put everything away before we eat. However, a) I would need to put everything away anyway, at least in theory, and b) we're only talking about a few books and a very limited set of manipulatives.

2. Note my emphasis on formal schooling above. This means basically math and handwriting. Other books and crafts are located elsewhere in the house; I don't really think of them as part of school because the kids access them all throughout the day. So the core of what's on/in the cupboard: a binder holding our math curriculum, a notebook for copywork, a mason jar full of rods and one full of glass beads for counting, a ruler, a whiteboard and some markers, a bucket of things to write with. . . that's really about it. I've got some more stuff stored there, mostly books, but it could really be anywhere in the house because we don't make daily use of it. I could post a picture if you think it would be helpful.

3. We use fairly minimalist curricula, especially in that we follow Charlotte Mason (more or less). Happy to give more info on what we use, but that's such a personal and philosophic choice that I'm hesitant to dwell on it. That said, our choice of curricula probably allows us to be minimalist more than anything else.

4. Organizing books: A big chunk of our Charlotte Mason-based material is on the Kindle. Honestly, though, it wouldn't make a dent in the number of books we have about if we used hard copies instead. My suggestion for book organization is baskets. You can organize them by theme (a science basket, a fiction basket, etc.) but really I just stick everything in together and the kids pull out what they like.

5. Organizing crafts: Ha. I'll get back to you on that if and when we ever hit on a system that works. Right now my 6yo and 2yo each have a craft desk, and I have a small bookshelf nearby that holds the materials ready to use. I'm trying to adopt a Montessori-get-them-to-put-stuff-away approach but we're not there yet.

 

One final point, now that I've re-read your post: I notice what you said about "paradox of choice" issues. I suffered from those myself, in a truly embarrassing way (at one point I described myself, with no irony whatsoever, as tending towards a Waldorf-inflected classical unschooling model--and to make it even worse I think my son was four when I said this). What really, really helped, not just from an organizing standpoint, but from so many even more important ones, was to determine my fundamental philosophy of child-raising and education. Once I had a clear goal and method in mind, it became much easier to resist curricula and materials.

post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your response. I really appreciate the thoughts and tips you have shared and will be keeping them in mind while pondering about simple homeschooling this week.

 

Your bit about "Waldorf-inflected classical unschooling model" made me laugh as it's a line of thinking to which I can relate. ;)

post #4 of 22

My son is older, hes 11 so we've moved on from the 'little kid' stage.

 

For books how much do you need to own and how much can you get from the library?  If everyone in your family has a library card you should be able to check out near 100 items at a time (assuming 3 people and 35 items per card).  I have access to 2 library systems, 2 people so that would give me 140 items at a time. dizzy.gif but seriously cuts down on what I would need to 'own'.  Get to know your children's librarian.  They can be a lifesaver and a huge money saver.

 

Also are you considering an E-reader or Tablet in the future?  Many books you can get for free on e-readers.  Most of my NookColor books are free.  The $250 I paid for the thing a year ago has more than paid for itself in free reading material!

 

For crafts I recently got rid of all the cheap, crappy junk and made the move to quality supplies.  DS and I share several sets of Derwent colored pencils, sketchbooks, Prismcolor markers etc.   Yes it was an investment up front, lots of coupons and sale watching but a few good quality items IMO is well worth it.  Everything is stored in plastic Sterlite containers with LOCKING lids so even if they fall, there isn't a mess.  I find the containers at Target.  I got to know a couple employees at HobbyLobby and they really helped me find supplies that fit what I needed.  Some I purchased at HL, most I ordered on Amazon for cheaper.

 

One thing I learned over the years is whatever system you use needs to work for the kiddo.  I learned this when I was fighting The Great Lego Battle of 2007.  I discovered those locking lid sterlite containers and everyone was happy.

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 

I just received my e-reader last month and will be buying one for my daughter in the future. We are also seriously considering a laptop or tablet exclusively for homeschool purposes. The amount of paper waste and printing cost such a purchase would eliminate would pay for itself very quickly I think. It just seems a bit over indulgent (my parents and grandparents talking heh) to be purchasing such technology for a child but as my husband aptly pointed out, we already have a telescope, microscope and other 'real' learning tools available to her and allow her to use our computers so there's really no difference. She's also proven she can handle computers, e-readers, digital cameras, and a myriad of tools with care making age largely irrelevant. 

 

We're gradually making the shift to nicer art supplies and have all really been enjoying that. Part of me really wishes I could ditch all of the heaps of crafty materials (pom-poms, glitter, etc) in favor of art supplies exclusively but worry this is somehow limiting my daughter's creativity I guess. I'm starting to notice what might be the real issue while typing on this thread: allowing the judgement of others to influence my decisions in inappropriate ways. Helpful hints and real issues becoming clear all in one thread, all the motivation I need. notes.gif

 

Those containers sound excellent and are something I'll be checking out later today. 

 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 

post #6 of 22

My four year old is too young to go to kindergarten (which I am still dithering about) but emotionally and mentally CRAVING it. I am very interested in what everyone else is doing for this, because I have at least 9 months of half-hearted homeschooling before she can attend school out of the home. I got rid of our art supplies and got a membership to a FANTASTIC local art studio, but she wants something more stimulating, and I just don't have the space or energy. 

 

I wonder how you do it without becoming MENTALLY cluttered with so many projects, ideas, and plans!

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

I began my school  room decluttering and have 87 items in a box and soon on their way to families who will welcome the art supplies, games, and books. 

 

Before sorting through the art supplies this afternoon, I dedicated six mason jars to crafty bits and kept a selection of the most fun and open-ended items for free crafting, limiting our supply to what could fit into the allotted space. 

 

Seeing space opening up on the shelves and in the closet storage has me feeling better already, lighter almost. Tomorrow I will conquer the rest of my homeschool materials! 

post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by CultivatingMyRoots View Post

My four year old is too young to go to kindergarten (which I am still dithering about) but emotionally and mentally CRAVING it. I am very interested in what everyone else is doing for this, because I have at least 9 months of half-hearted homeschooling before she can attend school out of the home. I got rid of our art supplies and got a membership to a FANTASTIC local art studio, but she wants something more stimulating, and I just don't have the space or energy. 

 

I wonder how you do it without becoming MENTALLY cluttered with so many projects, ideas, and plans!


If you're not interested in early academics, you might look into Waldorf. Disclaimer: I have some serious differences with the underlying philosophy, but I really admire their ideas for preschool environments--very gentle, rhythmic, and enriching. Despite the cost of Waldorf toys and art supplies, much of it can be done very cheaply, and if you as the parent can get into the rhythms, I think they can be done with very little "space and energy," as you say. If you're unfamiliar with this, books I'd recommend would be Simplicity Parenting and/or Heaven on Earth. Of course, Waldorfy folks would not describe this as homeschooling, exactly. But the emphasis on rhythm and the learning value of everyday activities provides boundaries for parents who feel they have to constantly create a smorgasbord of experiences for their kids (and that was me, with my oldest--so I'm doing a kind of "learn from my mistakes" move here). 

 

If you are interested in early academics and you know your daughter is ready for it, you still don't have to get all fancy-schmancy. Consider math games and conversations and lots and lots of read-alouds. . . 

 

I don't know how helpful this will be--I'm just going on one phrase in your post and obviously don't know you or your daughter--but when you say she "wants something more stimulating," is this perhaps an opportunity for her to work on her own discovery process? Providing stimulation for her may end up creating a busier environment than either of you actually want. Again, I don't want to make too much of one word in your post, so disregard if I'm way off base.

 

post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsmischief View Post

I was curious to see if anybody might have pictures, inspiration or advice about homeschooling done organized and simply. Despite having implemented a great organizational system in our school room, I often feel as if we're drowning under a deluge of books, math manipulatives, craft supplies and other learning resources. In certain ways the bounty is a fine problem to have but the feeling over being overwhelmed with the visual clutter in the closet and the daunting task of living with all of this excess. I freeze when it comes to the "paradox of choice" in life and my adventures as a homeschooling mother are proving to be no exception. 

 

How do you find the balance between adequate learning resources and simplicity?  What system of organization best works for you? What do you keep? What do you eliminate? 

 

In nearly every other part of my life I've easily met my goals and desires for simplicity and less clutter but struggle with simplicity in schooling. 



I am so happy you posted this!  We are over halfway through our first year of homeschooling - 3rd grade, 1st grade, and a 15-month old thrown in there for good measure duck.gif  I tried using our family room in the basement of our 3 level split-level house, but alas, although using the coffee table worked great for the big kids, the baby had far too much access to whatever materials we were using.  We now school on the main level in the dining room so the baby has access to us, the LR, and kitchen.

 

We have a 2-door chest/buffet piece (unfortunately the glass doors still show our mess!) in the DR.  We have a total of 6 shelves, and I organized them into:

-1 shelf for math manipulatives

-1 shelf for art books and supplies

-1 shelf for textbooks - one stack is DS's, 1 stack is DD's daily books

-1 shelf for 2 baskets, 1 of which holds all our pencils, erasers, stapler, single hole punch, stickers, rulers, etc. that we need for just about every subject, and 1 basket has extra pencils, glue sticks, etc. that we need, though not on a daily basis

-1 shelf for all other books (reference, texts, and reading books)

-1 shelf for history/geography and extra fun workbooks (logic puzzles, critical thinking fun workbooks, etc.)

 

I have to say that since getting my tablet, life has gotten a lot easier in a few ways: library checkout via iPad; quick and easy access to the internet for research or showing the kiddos a video, picture, etc. during lessons; both are motivated even more to read b/c they love to hold the tablet; great educational apps so if I am busy with one while the other waits for me, that one can practice math or do a puzzle, etc.

 

I second the library - I have spent a TON less than I would have otherwise, and the kids have had ample opportunity to learn how the library works and look forward to library days  :)

 

 

post #10 of 22

I have 3 kids, the oldest is 8 and we homeschool him and, a bit, his 6 yo sister (she is still in waldorf kindergarten) . I also have a 3 yo who is in kindergarten. However, because a lot of homeschooling happens when the younger two are around, with the homeschooling supplies I also need to store art stuff, books, etc for them. My oldest has four subjects at a time (right now, maths, Latin, handwriting and chemistry), the younger ones have stuff so they can join in with him or not.

 

 

I dunno, all the formal stuff is fine on one low shelving unit  (three shelves to it). Each kid has a basket with their work for that day in it.

 

I think the key for me is to work out what we use a LOT and store everything else elsewhere (in our bombsite of a bedroom). I do plan around a week in advance so I do have time to get things I need from elsewhere in the house and have them organised before we start. For us, day to day, ds only really uses his books and usually we have some latin or chemistry games. He might have fifteen minutes or so on the computer to do also. If dd1 is joining in, she'd probably use some manipulatives or something like a clock face. But really, not that much needs to be stored near the place we are working. We need the stuff long term but not there. Even at the height of miquoning with ds (now finished), we still only used a box of cuisinere rods and sometimes some dice or spinners or counters or something.

 

In terms of activities for the younger ones, I have some art and textiles stuff (nice crayons and pencils, paper, roving, wool, weaving stuff, wool for finger knitting, crochet hooks and knitting needles, blunt needles for sewing on canvas, etc), which they can use alone, and also a few projects that they can use with supervision if it looks like they need to get into something bigger. I also have a few art and design books and some how-to-make x books, mainly for the 6 yo. I do keep the sewing machine nearby, partly in case she wants to use it.

 

The only other thing I keep to hand is my camera because this is the main way I record what they've been up to.

 

 

post #11 of 22

notes2.gif

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsmischief View Post

I began my school  room decluttering and have 87 items in a box and soon on their way to families who will welcome the art supplies, games, and books. 

 

Before sorting through the art supplies this afternoon, I dedicated six mason jars to crafty bits and kept a selection of the most fun and open-ended items for free crafting, limiting our supply to what could fit into the allotted space. 

 

Seeing space opening up on the shelves and in the closet storage has me feeling better already, lighter almost. Tomorrow I will conquer the rest of my homeschool materials! 


i love jars for this!!  sounds like you are making good progress. this is my plan for this week... re-homing some great things we don't use much.

 

post #13 of 22

i wanted to mention that we have an IKEA expedit shelf that i seriously love for organizing home-school and craftstuff. there are 16 cubes and the top ones i put stuff i don't want the little ones to get into (paint, scissors, glue...)then lower down we have baskets for puppets, wooden trains.... all of our curriculum is organized by child or subject and it looks nice too. highly recommend something like it. i will get a photo up soon of our home-schooling room/craft room/ playroom .

 

im home-schooling my 9yo son (gr.4) and 6 yo daughter (gr1) and have a 4 yo and 15 month old girls as well. its hard to keep things sane with 2 younger siblings! we are doing a mashup of waldorf, regular curriculum and unschooling..if that makes sense.

post #14 of 22

Quote:

If you are interested in early academics and you know your daughter is ready for it, you still don't have to get all fancy-schmancy. Consider math games and conversations and lots and lots of read-alouds. . . 

 

I don't know how helpful this will be--I'm just going on one phrase in your post and obviously don't know you or your daughter--but when you say she "wants something more stimulating," is this perhaps an opportunity for her to work on her own discovery process? Providing stimulation for her may end up creating a busier environment than either of you actually want. Again, I don't want to make too much of one word in your post, so disregard if I'm way off base.

 


 

Not at all, thank you for responding! My biggest issue is that she wants structured activities that aren't appropriate for her 2.5 year old sister, and her sister is NOT OK with being excluded. I ordered her a butterfly pavilion, she has been diligently caring for a hydroponic garden, and she is CONSTANTLY asking how things work. I am going to try and find ways to fit in one on one time with her; I think even one hour a day completely focused on HER and something age appropriate to only her would be a tremendous help. I'm trying to set up mini-units for those occasions; and you mommas have been excellent inspiration!

post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaFern View Post

i wanted to mention that we have an IKEA expedit shelf that i seriously love for organizing home-school and craftstuff. there are 16 cubes and the top ones i put stuff i don't want the little ones to get into (paint, scissors, glue...)then lower down we have baskets for puppets, wooden trains.... all of our curriculum is organized by child or subject and it looks nice too. highly recommend something like it. i will get a photo up soon of our home-schooling room/craft room/ playroom .

 

im home-schooling my 9yo son (gr.4) and 6 yo daughter (gr1) and have a 4 yo and 15 month old girls as well. its hard to keep things sane with 2 younger siblings! we are doing a mashup of waldorf, regular curriculum and unschooling..if that makes sense.



Your set-up sounds inspiring! 

post #16 of 22

thanks! sorry i haven't had a chance to get a photo yet! orngbiggrin.gif

post #17 of 22

I have the same ikea expedit and seriously without it our homeschool room would be a total wreck....pretty much everything is in there.

post #18 of 22

Some good photos of the ikea expedit.  I  have been thinking about getting one too. 

 

 

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/inspiration-ikea-expedit-stora-49822

 

 

http://blog.bossycolor.com/2010/12/ikeas-expedit-shelving-the-cubitec-alternative.html

post #19 of 22

I'm interested in this info too. My daughter is starting a Pre-K curriculum in the fall and I am already kind of overwhelmed as far as storing all of the materials we will need. I am a fairly minimalist person, so the last thing I need is another piece of furniture in my home (not going to buy the expedit, sorry!). I'm trying to find a way to store her materials (workbooks, mostly) that will stay out of sight and inaccessible to her (she will be 3 in July) and to her upcoming baby brother (due in June) as he gets more mobile.

 

Will be watching this thread!

 

Please no comments about starting her so early. She is in the early stages of reading and writing already and we are confident in our choice to start gentle schooling with her in the fall.

post #20 of 22

Alicewyf-  I love that you are going to start her with school!! My 2 1/2 year old is reading numbers, counting to 10+ and once his verbal skills catch up some more (he's slightly delayed in speech, which makes the counting amazing!), we'lll be working on reading skills too! Don't apologize for having a kiddo who's capable! You know her best!

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