Monday, August 13, 2012

"Not" Back-to-School Blog Hop: The World Is Our Classroom

I'm joining the "Not" Back-to-School Hop again this week.  Last week, I discussed some curricula we are currently using.  This week, the iHomeschool Network has asked us to link up our school rooms.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

I like the saying, "the world is our classroom," in multiple ways.

We don't have a "school room" in this house.  We have 6 children and live in a 3-bedroom house that's somewhere around 1500 square feet, so the space is limited. 

We also believe that learning is part of life, and not limited to certain subjects or locations.  So even if we had a school room, we wouldn't confine our school to it. But we might confine a lot of our materials there (at least theoretically, but I don't know, as I've never had a school room).

As things are currently, our tools for learning are scattered all throughout our house.  It works okay, except when they're so scattered that we can't find them.  Which happens.  How CAN a dozen pencils seem to vanish into thin air?  Do tell me!

Our school day tends to center around the main part of our home, which is three rooms -- kitchen, dining, and living rooms -- connected in a circular fashion with large open doorways.  Together the rooms are perhaps 600 square feet of living space.  The dining room and living room have become key work/storage areas by default.  We've tried to make the best of it... and then other times we've just let it make its own form, whatever that may be.  The first works better, sometimes, but the latter is far easier. :)

Right now, I'm wildly reorganizing (read: making huge messes), so I'm going to rely on past photos for the most part so you can get an idea of what things are like when it's not complete chaos (although sometimes complete chaos seems like the constant state of things...). 

This post is going to be mostly about the living room, and I'll see about making another post about the dining room and linking it to this one later, as I intend to do more work in there this week. 

Here's a picture of our living room when it's been spruced up.  I have to admit it's rarely this way.  This was taken last year, when some friends of ours got married in our house -- hence the flower/candle arrangement.
I really like the bookshelves.  There are two with cabinets on the bottom on each end, which were an investment made over time, and the simpler unit in the middle is one we got when a store was closing out for a very low price because it was damaged.  It works for our purposes, though.  The green you see at the bottom edge is our couch.  More on that later.

This is what the bookshelves look like in more ideal circumstances.  In reality, they look something more like at this link (well, not usually THAT bad -- at least remove the sock and put it on the floor).

Another photo, showing more of the shelving on an apparently more typical day, also over a year ago.  To the left are some bins that store toys for little ones (especially baby toys, but they often become cluttered w/others), and on top of them is the lost-and-found basket (full, as usual, ha).  The couch is scooted forward in this photo.

We have more books than that now (of course -- as if a homeschool family could let a whole year go by without buying books!).  But even at this time we had quite a few there, and packed away in boxes, and on bookcases downstairs.

Back to the couch.  Lots of reading happens there, and in the blue chair in the corner.  I really enjoyed looking through the photos to find living room shots.  Pardon me if I indulge in sharing a few extra reading photos I came across.  I love reading photos.  

The above is a bonus picture: because it's just too cute not to include.  These top two were taken very recently, the ones below a while back but not too terribly long ago.

Here's a shot of almost the whole couch, with most of the children drawing (they don't always do their drawing there, ha).  In the upper right corner you can see a bit of what used to be our paper timeline taped to the wall in the hallway.  We took it down because the hall needed painting, and haven't put it back up.  We also keep timeline notebooks, so it's not that big a deal.  Someday I'd like to have a painted timeline or something like that on a wall that would accomodate it somewhere, but I don't have plans to do it at this house.

Here is another angle of the living room, taken fresh because I didn't find a good photo of it already on the computer.  I didn't change anything before I took it, except closing the doors of the computer armoire on the right.  See how the mantel now collects piles of stuff?  I'm thinking I may just convert it to an honorary bookshelf.  As for the stuff in front of the fireplace, that's kind of a pile, too (some of which has been there far too long).  The drawers of blocks belong there, but a lot of the rest is stuff I need to go through.  The paper plates on the floor are courtesy of Abraham (11 months), because they are stored at his level -- not in the living room, but he carries them there and everywhere and distributes them randomly.  I guess I need to find a better place for them.  The toys in the corner were probably put there by Nobody, who is responsible for a lot around here.  Do you suppose Nobody would help me with my sorting? ;)

The little ones like to sit at the desk in the corner (which was mine, and I always really liked it; my mom got it for me and refinished it when I was small -- my brother Clint used it when he was small, too, but Mom passed it down to me for my children when Bethany was small).  They often listen to music -- sometimes an audio book.  

This one has a lot of personality, yes? :)  She thinks she's supposed to hold a book when she listens to music, ha.

Lately, Peter has adopted it as his place to work some of the time as well.  He had no idea I was taking the below photos -- his leg had been up similar to how it is in the bottom one just prior to my taking the top one, in combination with the awkward arm pose -- quite a position to do math in -- but he put it down just as I took the photo.  Then he put it back up and I tried to take another photo, which was when he looked up at me as I got the bottom one.  His focus makes me smile.
The desk is really too small for him, and while he has a place in his room that would be better, he seems to like to do his work either here or in the dining room better most of the time.

In the corner next to the armoire, on top of a small white file cabinet, sits one of the fruits of my fairly recent organizational efforts.  We've had it long enough for me to feel it's working pretty well.  I made some drawer units into these activity drawers, primarily but not entirely for my PK/K little ones, but some things suit my 3rd grader still, and some everybody likes.   They can slide an entire drawer out and play with its contents, or just take one activity from a drawer.  It's very simple and flexible.  For the most part the contents are quiet activities, also, good for keeping them occupied during focused school times.  That was the idea.  They can be used other times, too.  I have to make sure things get put back properly, but it's much easier to keep an eye on that than on all the toys in general -- especially since it's still out of Abraham's reach.  At first it seemed the little ones would just immediately tear it all apart -- not purposefully, but through just carelessness and neglect.  I turned the drawer units around some so that they couldn't slide the drawers out, to protect my work.  But they were also supposed to ask about the drawers, which went pretty well after not too long.  I limited the times they could play with them, and now I allow them more leeway as long as things don't start disappearing.  The plan was that I was going to switch things out in the drawers sometimes, but I haven't done that yet.

Next to that you can see my label maker, which is a very handy little tool.  The labels on these drawers and boxes aren't made with it, though.  I made them on the computer.  I use the label maker primarily for file folders and other things where a smaller font size is what I want.

Here's another project I did this summer -- quiet boxes.  These are very nice for the little ones for quiet times, either planned or spontaneous mom-needs-quiet moments (do you ever have those?).  These are currently sitting on a shelf in our entryway, so not technically part of the living room, but they are usually used in the living or dining room, if that counts. :)  The children are not to get into them without permission, so that they stay special and I can ensure the contents stay together.   These worked pretty well to take along when we traveled this summer, too.

Bethany sharing a book with her baby brother Abraham, October 2011.
The living room is host to a variety of activities, many but not nearly all related to reading. 

Now, below is a (sort of) "before" shot of the dining room.  This was taken back in January, when we purchased a used file cabinet and stuck it in the corner because I was really thinking I needed more file space.  The file cabinet is its own story, but the picture was taken when I was still moving things around after we made room for it. 
There's a whole lotta stuff in there.

I'm not yet sure what my final "after" photos will look like, but you're welcome to come back and see.  
[Edit:  Follow this link for the post I made later about reorganizing our dining room. ]

Do you have a school room?  If so, what's it like?  Feel free to leave me a link to your post if you have one.

Check out what others' school spaces are like at iHomeschool Network's "Not" Back-to-School Blog Hop.


  1. Great use of space! I love seeing how everyone else does school. So many great ideas!

    1. Thanks! I like seeing others' ideas as well, so many creative moms out there.

  2. Love this post! Will you come and make me some quiet boxes and a set of drawers like yours too???? :) Looking forward to seeing the completed dining room the end of September. chuckle

    1. Ooh, that could be fun! I enjoyed making them and it wasn't hard. I'm sure you'd do fine w/out my help, but it would be an excuse to see your new place. ;) The dining room is much better than it was in the above pictures, so I hope you can still tell when you come, ha! We're looking forward to it.

  3. Wow! You really do use every bit of space. Good job, Mama! I love the picture of all the kiddos on the couch reading. So sweet! As much as I am grateful for my dedicated space, I love the idea of learning happening everywhere (cause it does!) You are really making that happen.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, I do like having learning as part of the rest of life. I know there are advantages to having a "dedicated space" as you put it, too, though. I hope someday there will be a place for that.

  4. I love the way you show our style of homeschooling...except that our kids are usually lying on one of our three couches (the extra two were the greatest investment!) and I have two who keep on sneaking outside when they have schoolwork to do...but they learn just as much outside, I guess. And they like working in their bedrooms as well, either at their desks on in their beds.

    I've also, just today, found a beautiful grade 7/8 curriculum, very bookish, so there will be even more reading going on! I'm SO excited about it.

    1. Our kids do some things in their rooms, too -- mostly reading on their beds at times. Not enough space in the girls' room anymore for a desk, but I've now put some in the dining room (will try to post updated pics eventually). Our yard is small but there are times when they spend a lot of time out there anyway, with the animals or just enjoying being outside for a change.

      Neat about the curriculum, glad you're excited about it. Did you make a post about it?

  5. Thanks for the tour! It looks like you are pretty organized. I love the quiet box idea.

    1. Thanks. I get to appear organized online even though I'm not, haha. I am making a bit of progress, finally, but have a long way to go. Yes, I can favorably recommend the quiet boxes. They have been helpful.