Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment
It’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
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
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.
We make ample use of technology in our homeschool. Here are a some examples:
- Computers– two desk tops and two laps top for student use.
- Open DNS– is the filter we use for content at our house. It’s not perfect, but it works well.
- LEGO NXT– we’ve had NXT for many years. Our kids are active on FIRST LEGO League Teams and Dan coaches. We are eager to be able to purchase the upgrade EV3.
- Project Time– can include programming the NXT, Scratch, Alice, and other programming software for kids. Other software applications for word processing and presentations are encouraged.
- Digital Microscope– We have the Intel Qx3 which is a nice video scope and can take stills and video of the object.
- How to Homeschool with a Kindle– Tips on how to use Kindles and Kindle apps in your homeschooling.
- How to Make a YouTube Playlist– Did you know you can make custom lists for your kids to watch on YouTube?
- How to Use Google Earth in Your Homeschool– Take advantage of a virtual globe and learn geography with technology.
- Best Educational YouTube Channels for Homeschoolers– A list of our favorite learning channels on YouTube
Managing 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
Tips 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:
- 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
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!
I love the big windows around your table. What a great way to bring nature indoors!
Thanks Lora. We love those windows too…most people would use that space for the living room. haha Not us!
Besides…the family room is bigger and it’s only two rooms away.
I really love all your tips, we are just in our 2nd year (with a K & 1st grader) so it’s good to hear how others do it as their kids get older. Your internet tips are great!
Thank you Rachel! Our school space has changed a lot over the years. Some things are always the same!
Great post Heather, and I have always loved those wall magazine racks for holding books, it looks awesome! And yes, those big windows are a blessing 🙂
I see you have Dominion, Ticket to Ride, and 7 Wonder. Hello, fellow board game geek. 🙂 Have you tried Pandemic?
I have not! Will have to look it up!
It’s our gateway game for friends who either think they don’t like board games, or think they are too cool for them. We’ve gotten almost everyone hooked. 🙂
haha- we’ll check it out. Thanks!
After years of trying every different scheduling idea, tip, and trick I finally realized it wasn’t WHAT we were doing. It was WHEN we were doing it! I’ve been using a magnetic wet erase schedule that you can actually wipe clean easily and re-write a new activity. The best part is that it gives enough room for every member of the family to have their own schedule for the day. This is where I bought it: http://www.lovemyschedule.com
All of my kids have school from 9:00 to 12:00 (Language Arts, Khan Academy Math, flash cards, and crafts). Then we eat lunch and do one more hour of school from 1:00 to 2:00 (quiet reading, Rosetta Stone Spanish, Typing, Journal Writing). Basically, every kid checks their schedule and knows what to do without even asking me. When they come to me to turn in all the work for the day I ask if they did everything on their schedule. Sometimes they have to go check to make sure because they have been using it for long enough that sometimes they need it and sometimes they don’t.
Our schedule makes ALL the difference.
Great ideas Loren- thanks for sharing!
Great post! Goodness.. you’re so organized! I agree that our environment really, really effects us, and yours has a very nice feel to it. I once had a dedicated homeschooling area, but as the years have gone by we’ve just kind of integrated it into our general home.
Ashley, Mostly we have a central spot where the books land and other where the computers are. But, the individual workspaces for the kids are all over. I don’t think it matters as long as your home has plenty of books and curiosity in abundance!
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