Wednesday, September 11, 2013

5 Things That Don't Collect Dust In My Classroom


Like most homeschool families, my first venture into educating at home began at the kitchen table with a mental list of unrealistic expectations, 1 attention-less Kindergartner and a heaping bucket of craft supplies. While many of you still manage to educate the littles in the same location as the snacks, I had to surrender the dining area a long time ago, due to the high frequency of unnecessary, interrupting trips to the pantry and the fridge by myself and my students (who are always starrrrrrving) and also because grape jelly stains on spelling tests was starting to get a little old.

Thankfully, the last three homes we've nested in have had adequate space for me to set up a more structured place to lead the children through their yearly academic tour.  I'm always arranging, and rearranging, bringing stuff in and tossing stuff out.  But, after seven years of easing into our homeschool groove, I can honestly say that there are five essential elements that I have found to be necessary goods for our classroom.
I snapped this photo just before the daily destruction.  You don't think it always looks this clean, do you??
Side note: This post is one where function clearly trumps design.  Trust me, I'd love to coat that little beige box with a nice light shade of grey and hit it with some aqua and orange accents, whip out some brilliant white built-ins, throw down a fabulous rug and some bean bags.... but I'm still trying to recover from the trauma of renovating our Dolly Parton Steel Magnolia looking master bedroom, a nauseous vision of floral mauve wallpaper, into something my husband wouldn't have nightmares in. However, due to the looming effects of paint fume inhalation and the carpal tunnel in my wrist from scraping off tiny pieces of roses and vines, boring beige will have to due for now.
1. Whiteboard or Chalkboard
Okay, this may seem too basic, but I really do love having a great big whiteboard in our classroom. Not a day goes by that we don't use it. Boys are busy creatures, and when they're given a chance to get up out of their seats to work at the board, it gives them a nice break from the desk.  I have found that it's also perfect for little ones, who are just learning to write, to be able to gain penning confidence by beginning first with exaggerated motions using a colorful chubby marker. 
2.  Proper Seating  
I know that having the proper table height for little learners might seem a little over-the-top, but having that "just right" size table or desk really does help them to stay focused on their work.  When they can rest their busy feet on the floor and sit with good posture, their penmanship and their focus both improve.  
I bought this table years ago from a discount school supply store.  It works over-time as a playtime fort, a puzzle platform and extra meal-time seating during family functions and  social gatherings. The older boys have certainly outgrown it, but have graduated to the next level:
My inspiration for their workstation, which was built by an Amish craftsman, came from Pottery Barn. The P.B. model was perfect but, for us, a big budget breaker. Luckily, I found a gentleman who was willing to build it for me for a fraction of the price.  It doubles as bookshelves (the opposite side is identical to the facing side), and when the school days are done, it will make a great place work on creative projects.
3.  Maps
I love, love, love a beautiful set of maps.  This dual set of World and U.S.A. pull down maps have been a solid investment for our school.  Steve built the frame out of scrap wood pine, then we painted it to give it a bit of polish.  Each week we learn the location of a different country and waterway. I love to enter the classroom and find the boys studying different locations on the maps!
4.  Clock and Calendar
Never underestimate the value of simple basics in the school-room.  As adults we take for granted the ability to tell time and to understand how a calendar works.  For children, repetition and routine are great ways for them to learn life-long concepts.  Every day, we study the calendar, the weather, and the boys use the clock for time management.
5.  Toy and Game Basket
If you've ever tried to teach with a toddler around, you know it can be a challenge ! One tip I love to share is to keep a large basket filled with a variety of toys for toddlers in the classroom.  Every week, change a few things out to keep it fresh.  Using a basket keeps the toys contained, and holds the amount of toys underfoot down to a minimum. We also keep a few learning games, puzzles and manipulatives in clear storage boxes on the lower book shelves, so that they're easily accessible.  Using clear boxes makes it easy for non-readers to see what's inside.  Place a label at the narrow end for big kids, who help with clean-up, to get the objects into their proper place at the end of the day.
Charlie loves to dig into his basket! Thankfully, he's great at entertaining himself! 

Extras: Inspirations
- Words - 
Great quotes have always been an inspiration to me throughout my life.  When I saw this sign in a vintage decor shop, I knew that it would have a permanent place in our schoolroom.  It's the first thing the boys see when they walk in!
- Rewards -
A few weeks ago, Jen at Conversion Diary shared a link to A Philosophy Degree and Fifty Cents blog. While browsing through some back-posts, I found a sweet little tip on giving candy as a reward to your precious Poe's when they recite a poem each week.  The boys all work on poetry memorization throughout the year, but I have never given them a reward for their achievements. I can't wait to see how many stanzas they master this year!

What are your favorite classroom essentials??
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20 comments:

  1. I love your classroom! It's so efficient and looks like a happy place to learn. :)

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    1. I hope it's happy! Sometimes it's a bit chaotic - you know how squirrely boys can be!

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  2. Wow, just, wow...I am in awe! I think my favorite is the big kids desk, may have to steal that idea. My dad does woodworking...hmmm, maybe a Christmas present to me? We still do school at the dining room table because we don't have an extra room. Which means our dining room does have maps, calendars, timelines, etc. hanging on the wall. Maybe I'll do a post about it sometime with pictures. I'm o.k. with school room decor for our dining room, for now it's just part of our family life. I still feel incredibly blessed to be able to teach my kids at home. But if we ever end up moving I would like to have a dedicated school room, yours is fab, thanks for sharing!

    Oh, and this year we bought a water table we found on clearance (no carpeting in the kitchen/dining room). It's been a great addition for the little ones and keeps them busy for a bit so I can focus on the olders when I need to. I don't bring it out everyday so it stays fresh for them.

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    1. I think that teaching in the dining room is wonderful!! People come into your home and see that learning isn't just a part of daily life, but that it's a WAY of life, a way of living!

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  3. That's amazing! It's so organized, you're such an inspiration!

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    1. Thank you! It's not always that organized, trust me!

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  4. Thanks for sharing. You've given me several good ideas!

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  5. I don't homeschool because I would be awful (and I used to be a teacher!).
    But - I love your classroom - mostly because of the fact that you took the time to set it up and organize it just like any other classroom I've ever seen. I would enjoy spending my days learning in that room!!!

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    1. I set it up to mimic a regular school classroom intentionally. If the children end up going to school, I thought a little familiarity might be nice. We also try to be as scheduled as possible, with recess and lunch breaks. That format doesn't appeal to everyone, but it brings a little structure to our days, which is necessary with boys!

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  6. What a FUN room! Thank you so much for sharing these ideas...I'm taking notes ;)

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  7. That workstation is incredible!! I think I might have to have someone build us one :) And, the Ben Franklin quote -- so so good.

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  8. What a gorgeous school room! I have school room envy! Would you mind sharing the site where you bought your small table? I've been looking for one but they are SOOOO expensive. A discount store would be a great help.

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  9. Lovely post! I so enjoyed a peek into your learning spaces!

    Thank you!

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  10. I love your school room! I wish we had a house big enough to do something like that! I would love a space where they could have separate work areas/desks. You classroom is so pretty!

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  11. praise God for your wonderful work space. i wouldn't change a thing. am industrial white board was my first homeschool purchase. it's been with me for 12 years!

    prayers for a fruitful and joyfilled school year.

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  12. That table with bookshelves you had built is awesome!

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  13. Where did you find your calendar?

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  14. So cute! I had to laugh when I saw the map. I vividly remember Steve pulling it down to show me where he shipped hay and the routes they used! Lol! :-) boys are cute as ever!

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  15. Susan...how did you mount your white board? I LOVE your classroom!!!!

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  16. Susan...LOVE the classroom. We just had our downstairs painted and have been looking at new ideas for the kiddos. I love your white board. How did you mount that? I want to make sure its pretty secure. Thanks!

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