Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning EnvironmentIt’s time to share our learning spaces with everyone! We’ve been homeschooling for ten and a half years and our learning environment has changed a lot over that time. When Ethan, our 12th grader, first started homeschooling half way through first grade, we had just one small table in our living room and a bookshelf for his school things. As we added more children to the official homeschool roster, we added books, larger tables and we dedicated part of our playroom to homeschooling. Two years ago,when we began looking for a new home, we knew we were looking for some place special. It had to have space for our learning materials, our homeschool library, and our project spaces.

Essential Elements for Our Home Learning Environment

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Our focus is not to recreate a school classroom in our home. However, with four kids immersed in learning throughout the day, it’s hard to miss that we homeschool. Here are a few “must haves” for our learning spaces.

  • Bookshelves for our homeschool library– while we do use the public library extensively, it’s important to have a variety of print material in our home. Bookshelves are essential.
  • Media Area– for the computers the kids use for school and projects. We keep them in the media room.
  • Slate Chalkboard– I adore slate and we had a smaller chalkboard in our last house, but this lovely piece of slate is a recent addition to our home learning environment and as you can see it has seen a lot of use in the few weeks it’s been up. We do a lot of math on the slate!
  • White Boards–  I often use it for explaining things along with a chalkboard. Or to write down assignments and reminders for the day. And sometimes the kids work problems and their own explanations on the board. I keep portable white boards on hand too for working math problems and playing games.
  • Large Table– for school work and projects. Though the kids can go to any area to do their work, they often work there together. We put it right in the large window so there would be plenty of natural light.
  • Storage Cabinet– or closet for homeschool materials that are not books. We have one large wooden cabinet which was a very special gift from specials friends and we have bookcases in our basement which hold everything else.
  • Project  Work Space– We wanted to provide a place where each of our kids could work on their own and plan and work on projects. This is an essential for us because a place for diving into and leaving out their work is important.

Using Walls for a Homeschool Learning Environment

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While it would be homier to not use posters and maps on our walls, the extra immersion is great for growing minds! The only thing I’d change? I’d put wooden frames around each one if I could!

  • Maps– both US and World. I’d love a large physical map of the world too. We have a laminated set I bought at Staples many years ago.
  • Periodic Table of the Elements– I went for the one that has pictures of the actual element by Theodore Grey.
  • Calendar– a regular wall calendar is all you need, but I was compelled to buy a pocket calendar. I do not have calendar time! Conversation about the calendar has successfully taught all of my children the nuances of the calendar year. However, I keep a large calendar there for reference.
  • Bulletin Board– for student work and other displays
  • White Board/Chalkboard– previously mentioned.
  • Student Work– on display this could be work hard earned, work done well, and art work. Love to display art work.

Homeschool Technology

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment


We make ample use of technology in our homeschool. Here are a some examples:

Blog, She Wrote: How to Homeschool with a KindleManaging the Internet in Your Home

How do you handle internet access in your home? This important question is surely a part of a homeschool learning environment. Dan wrote a series of blog posts on Internet Filtering & Access Control. He answers questions like:

  • How do you control when your kids are on the internet with your router?
  • How do you filter content once they are there?
  • Using OpenDNS as your content filter

Blog, She Wrote: Managing the Internet in Your HomeTips on Using a Homeschool Library

We have books in almost every room of our home. Here are a few tips on handling homeschool books and making sure they get noticed and read:

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environement

  • Rotate books– especially if you don’t have room for all the books to be out or on a shelf
  • Reference Books– should be easy to find and use. We have a magazine rack that is our reference shelf.
  • Library Shelf– to shelve books we have borrowed from the library.
  • Display Area– this is the top of the library shelf for us, but I use it to put out books I want the kids to notice and leaving the book open is very inviting!
  • Coffee Table– is a great place to leave books you want kids to notice. Both the coffee table and the display area never fail to promote interest in a book. Try it!
  • Organizing Your Homeschool Library– Helpful tips on storing and using books in your home library. You don’t want to miss this!
  • Ten Things Every Homeschool Library Should Have– What’s in your home library?
  • The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home– Ideas for how to make your home encouraging to readers regardless of age!

Other Learning Environment Links from Blog, She Wrote

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

Take a look at these other posts on our learning spaces– they are all still in use today.

  • Our Supply Cabinet– this is where we store our paper and art supplies for school. This post gives a list of what we have on hand in there.
  • Learning Spaces Full Tour– from last 2012. Things look nearly the same though we’ve upgraded some bookshelves and added more books!
  • Displaying Art– a post on how we use student work all over our home.

Thank you for joining us today at Blog, She Wrote for a look at our learning environment. Please sign up to receive updates in your inbox so you don’t miss the rest of the Not-Back-to-School Hop and Geography Quests here at Blog, She Wrote!



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High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

Probably the best way to sum up how I feel about this post is- it is getting REAL here folks! This year we are teaching two high schoolers again only this time we have a sophomore and a senior. The best thing about high school outside of the awesome conversations is mentoring these young people into adulthood by helping them to find their niche. Our curriculum choices reflect their interests and goals. Here’s a look at our High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016.

12th Grade Curriculum

High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

Ethan is our senior. He’s had quite a challenge as a junior having battled Lyme Disease the entire year. If he had not been ahead of the game, his senior year would look very different. Thankfully, he only needs one and a half credits to graduate. The rest of his courses are based on the colleges he wants to apply to.

  • Calculus– with Life of Fred
  • Physics– with ck-12
  • English V– with Excellence in Literature
  • Arabic– with Rosetta Stone after having taken an introductory course at our co-op and a summer course with a native speaker with iTalki.
  • American Government & Economics – with Notgrass and Uncle Eric
  • Novel Writing– with One Year Adventure Novel and Other Worlds. He has a goal to complete his current novel.
  • College Exam Prep– He’ll be taking the SAT and possibly the ACT this fall.
  • Driver’s Ed– complete his driving hours, take the 5 hour class, and pass the test!

Ethan’s hobby this coming year will be applying and getting accepted to universities. We’d appreciate some scholarship applications being completed as well. College visitations begin in September strategically chosen for the opportunity to see the Virginia Tech Hokies play Purdue at Purdue!

10th Grade Curriculum

High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

It’s hard to believe Rebecca is already a sophomore! She has two very distinct niches and it will be interesting to see how she works them together as she completes high school.

  • Algebra– complete beginning algebra and work through advanced algebra by year’s end with Life of Fred.
  • Biology– using ck-12 and supplemental lab materials and entomology.
  • Spanish– with Rosetta Stone (we have levels 1-5 of the homeschool edition)
  • English III– with One Year Adventure Novel using the reading list he provides along with essay writing. We need to keep her skills sharp though she’ll be writing fiction this year.
  • Quest for the Ancient World– WinterPromise and she’ll be doing this with her 8th grade brother
  • Art– a credit of art using a variety of materials and online courses
  • Sewing & Design III– An independent study which involves teaching others and breaking new ground in design and construction.

Rebecca teaches two sewing classes right now. She prepares the curriculum and helps the girls learn new skills and complete projects. Rather than working at a sewing camp, she chose to try for more students. This is the perfect working environment for her at this time.

Other High School Posts at Blog, She Wrote

Creating Opportunities for Your Homeschooled Teen

Working with a Bright & Occasionally Very Motivated High Schooler: Tips and Strategies– Do you know any students like this? Helpful strategies for working with this type of student.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math– How to work with teens and complex math. It’s easier than you think!

Creating Opportunities for Your Homeschooled Teen– How to work to find experiences for your homeschooled high schooler.

High School Help– A gathering of high school posts here at Blog, She Wrote



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Middle School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

Middle School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

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Isaac is our 8th grader this year. Probably the biggest difference for him will be the level of work we expect. 8th grade kicks things up a notch in order to transition to high school level work by the end of the year. Our Middle School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016:

8th Grade Curriculum Choices

Implementing Middle School Curriculum

Isaac will be working on more than those four pieces of curriculum would suggest. Art and music are part of his program along with some project areas. His learning time will consist of the following in addition to the four main subject areas above:

  • RC Plane Flying– He is a member of the local flying club and has three planes he flies and maintains. Two of them he can fly at the park behind our house and the other one is large enough to need an air field. That’s his newest acquisition and he’s quickly becoming an expert.
  • Model Rocketry– Isaac builds his own rockets from kits (some are more ready to fly than others) and launches them.
  • Daily Reading Aloud– Both as the reader and the listener. We read The Lord of the Rings together and take turns reading. Additionally, we read as a family.
  • Speech Practice– He has a history of severe apraxia and we are working on trimming up his R sounds. He gets weekly one on one speech therapy for articulation. I think he’ll be dismissed by summer’s end, but practice will continue. The sounds are there, but they require great effort from him.
  • Reading– Lots of reading is in store. Right now he’s immersed in a 14 book series by Robert Jordan called The Wheel of Time. In fact, his older brother and sister and his dad are all reading the series.

Other Middle School Posts at Blog, She Wrote

How to Engage Your Teens with Books

It’s hard to believe that, although we have one middle schooler this year, we are parenting and homeschooling three teens right now. Here are a few posts on homeschooling middle school.

Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts– Resources and information on how we approach language arts for our secondary students.

Homeschooling Middle & High School Fine Arts– Music and art in middle school

Homeschooling Middle & High School Math– We are Life of Fred users especially for upper level math. Learn about our strategy for teaching math in middle school.

Literary Adventures– Book fun for middle school or any age. Find a fun book which challenges your middle schooler and get started!

The Snake Project– This was our daughter’s 8th grade science two years ago and it was a fabulous example of what happens when you let a project develop and challenge a student.



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