Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our New Learning Centers

Oh, have we been busy around here!

We just started our first week of school on Monday...I know what you're thinking - "It's June, Shanna!"

Well, here's the thing. Baby #7 is due to arrive in early September. So, we could take a Summer break now...when it's hot and humid and yucky outside. (My current almost third trimester state has no bearing on the "yucky" status of summer days...I have always thought 95 degrees and humid is yucky.) And then we could break again in September, because we all know I won't be up to homeschooling then. This would put us way behind and totally stress me out...

Or we can get a headstart on the school year now and wait to break until September and October. I'll have a full 2 months to adjust to a household of 9 without the worry of school and my kids can actually enjoy full 75 degree fall days! I pick that one!

So, with the new school year also came the need to tweak our schoolroom a little...actually a lot. We spend about half of our school day in this room. I like to have a space that all the kids can be in at once to do individual studies in the morning. After lunch our school is spent doing art and science experiments around the kitchen table and reading books curled up on the couch.

So this is our updated school room. It's a bonus room/playroom over our garage. Truly it has been greatly improved (I should have taken before pictures), but you have to see my vision because its not quite finished. It's biggest need right now is a fresh coat of paint. Chad has agreed to let me paint the two long low walls with black chalkboard paint...I mean seriously why not just embrace drawing on walls if you can't stop it? The tall walls and ceiling will be pale yellow.

This is the play area for E2 and L1 while we are schooling. Just last week the walls in this room were lined with tubs and tubs of toys. We have now implemented a "toy storage" system that truly deserves a post all its own so I won't go into detail now. But our toys have been reduced to this small area. I simply rotated the tubs in away to give the littles a blocked off place to play without distracting the big kids while they were working.

Our school area is still pretty similar to what is has been. A bookshelf to hold all the curriculum we currently use, white boards, 2 desks in the front for kids that are working with mom, and two to the left and one to the right (you can only see the black chairs) for students who are working on independent studies.

To explain the rest of the room you should know that things were becoming very chaotic in our morning school. Lots of toys meant lots of mess. The little kids were being very distracting to the older ones (and to me as I was trying to work one on one with the older ones). And then the older kids were finishing their independent studies before I was ready to work with them one on one and were left with nothing constructive to do, so they were becoming distracting as well.

My answer? Learning Centers! I've created 5 small spaces that the kids can go to when they are not working on "school work". Funny thing is, they are being quiet, working diligently at each center (though they think they're playing), and are definitely still learning!

The front right corner of the room has been transformed into our reading nook...

Okay, I know its not very pretty...yet. BUT it's very cozy! G8 curled up here for at least a half an hour today to read in peace. All you really need is a bookshelf with books (turned sideways) and a couple of pillows.

Our art center is just a really small table. (I think revamping this kid's chair needs to be a future art project!) I put a plastic mat underneath the table. And then I just put a few pieces of construction paper, scrapbook paper, and a pencil holder with a pen, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. Like the rest of the centers, I will change the materials out periodically to keep things interesting.

Learning Center #1 is pretty simple right now, but the kids haven't seemed to notice. I put out a basket of pattern blocks (their favorite math manipulative!) and a scale. I added a few file folder games as well.

So eventually, I'd like the centers to be a little more colorful like this one. I printed off all of these fun activities about plants FREE from Sparklebox ... which is full of ideas for workboxes and learning centers. I also like the idea of having at least one "themed" Learning Center at all times...sort of like a unit study on a table.

Here's a close up of the activities...plant words, dandelion life cycle cards, organize plants by height, coloring and craft sheets, a letter match game, and a wildflower field guide.

Learning Center 3 fits in a box! The rule about this center is the child must sit on the floor in one spot while playing with the box's contents and use the lid as a tray or "table top". I did not fill the box, but instead put only a few things inside...a baggie of magnet letters, a box of magnetic marbles that link together, and a baggie with noodles, yarn, and a timer. Each of these activities have instruction cards with them. For example the baggie with noodles has a card that says, "Can you string the noodles before the time runs out?"

These learning centers have really made our school a more peaceful place the past couple of days. I can finally work one on one with each of the kids while the other ones are occupied and within eyesight! Praise God for small miracles!

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  1. inspiring...truly...and I only have 3....I SO need learning centers.
    thank you!

  2. Love the new learning centers! And I think you're brilliant to start school now and have time for the new baby in September!

    Can't wait to see you next weekend!

  3. Oh, I love the learning center idea! I also homeschool in a loft:)

    p.s. I found your blog on the TOS Crew message board!

  4. Shanna, I admire you so!! I have really enjoyed reading your blog!

  5. We're about to move into a house with a large area I'm converting into a school room. I wanted to have centers set up. Thanks for giving me some fabulous ideas! PS: I love reading your blog.

  6. Wow, you sound so organized! But I'm sure you need to be!

    I hope all goes well with the summer schooling and the planned September break, but if you can't keep on schooling, don't worry.

    During 12 years of homeschooling my five children, I have both experienced and read, over and over, that an enriching environment can do as good a teaching job as mom. And you certainly have an enriching environment set up there!


    Annie Kate

  7. Hey Shanna,

    I'm just catching up on your blog for the first time in a while...we've been out of town alot! I love how you set up the schoolroom, and I vote for yellow paint. I love how it cheers up a room. :) I also think your idea for schooling now and breaking in Sept./Oct is'll even get more breaks at the holidays, so even less chance that you'll get overwhelmed!

  8. I love this idea! I'm going to be a copycat and incorporate some of these ideas into my schoolroom as well.
    Thank you!

    ps- I also found you through the TOS Crew board. :)



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