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TURNER HOME

TURNER HOME

“Every home is a house of learning, either for good or otherwise…”

-Joseph B. Wirthlin

When I was homeschooled, we lived in 4 different houses during the time I lived at home. Although each house was different, the kitchen and living room were always the homeschool room. The last house my parents were able to build and they included an actual school room with a library. However, although we did use that school room, it was not our main area for school. The heart of the house was downstairs in the kitchen and so that was where we often ended up doing our school.  

Since I started my own homeschool journey three years ago with my own children, I remember fretting over where we would do school. We didn’t even have a toy room. The room next to the kitchen was our playroom. But, I relearned for myself what I subconsciously learned as a child, learning should happen in the heart of the home. This is exactly what Jessica and Randi have already shared so wonderfully in their own home tour posts. Thus, our playroom quickly evolved into a school room, library and our kitchen turned into our laboratory. 

 If I had my way, I would have a beautiful library with shelves from floor to ceiling covered in books. For now, we have learned to make do with our limited space.  In some of our built in bookshelves I store the kids magazine school folders. We have used them for 3 years and I love them! I use a basket for our daily books and menus. 



On the opposite side of our bookshelves we keep our library books separate next to our new display bookshelves. These finally went up this year (after buying them 2 years ago) and I love them.

When we first started homeschooling, we only had our dining table to use, but it was a cause of frustrations not having a place for the kids to just leave projects out all day without getting in the way of eating. My husband solved the problem and built us a table. It was one way he knew he could support me. But, like I said earlier, they don’t use it all the time. 

My kiddos tend to spread out, on the floor, under the table, on the kitchen table sometimes sitting on the table. But, as long as their learning, that’s part of home schooling to me, being able to learn where they feel comfortable and not restrained to sit at one spot. 

I’ve always wanted a large chalkboard, but ended up turning an old magnetic board into a chalkboard with chalkboard vinyl. The fact that it’s also magnetic makes it so much more useful for us. My kiddos keep track of their daily tasks on this board with little magnets. The system has worked really well for us. 

As I reflect back to three years ago when we transformed this space, I have now realized that I wouldn’t wish for a separate school room anymore. If we were to ever move, I think I would always want a school room next to the kitchen. The most important thing I’ve learned is that any space can become the learning space you need it to be. It doesn’t have to be large or fancy. It is after all your house and you can do with it as you need and want. For our learning space and house, I want our space that my kids feel comfortable in and that reflects our love for God and for learning. 


Havalah is a second-generation homeschooler who is passionate about her children, the outdoors, and art. Havalah has a degree in Humanities and uses her knowledge in the liberal arts to curate the Family Gather artist and composer studies available in the “Downloads” section.

You can also find her  at www.sisterswhat.com where she shares beautiful sewing and crafting projects. If you are looking for handicraft ideas, this is the perfect place to go!

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Pencil holder I painted it myself

Magazine folders

Floating MALMBACK shelves ikea

DIY framed magnetic board – you can see my tutorial here, I later took the fabric off and added the vinyl, but you could paint it with chalkboard paint

Chalkboard Vinyl

Free vintage bird print

Handmade Corded Baskets

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Gardner Home

GARDNER HOME

When I was a child, I was the one who made pretend worksheets and set up a classroom in my bedroom for my begrudging little sisters. I don’t know why they didn’t want to do my worksheets or sit at a desk after being in school all day. Ha! I however was a VERY willing teacher and a (eh hem) bossy pants.
I like to joke that homeschool is my childhood dream come true. But really, it’s not a joke.
When we first decided to homeschool I started imagining the school room of my dreams. This classroom would have vintage desks and a big chalkboard and a glorious teacher station. I’d have a basket of gold star stickers (of course!), neatly organized shelves and maybe even a class pet! Of course this classroom would also be filled with willing students – sitting at their desks eagerly awaiting my homemade worksheets!

As we settled into homeschool however, things were quite different. I hadn’t set up that classroom yet – that was for the new home – and so I “made do” with our 1,100 sq foot home by being very resourceful. I’d set baskets of learning tools or wooden blocks in any spare corner of the living room floor. My boys bedroom shelves housed beautiful books and craft supplies. Our kitchen cabinet kept playdough, sand trays and children’s kitchen tools. And everywhere we went in our home, there was an invitation to play, learn and explore.

I began to see the blessing of this small space and not having a designated schoolroom.
We started to draw up plans for a new home and people would often ask “are you putting in a homeschool room!?” To their surprise, I would tell inquirers “no we are not building a schoolroom.”

In our new home, I took from the resourcefulness I had learned in our cozy little house. I designed our home with the intention of doing school anywhere and everywhere in the house. Most every room has resources that spark curiosity and learning. The kitchen drawers have dishes and tools in reach of young children. Bedrooms have bookshelves full of books. Living spaces: baskets of open ended toys or learning materials, etc. Even the car is packed with a bag of supplies!
Below are a few examples of how we have created an environment of learning in our home.

Our central school space is our dining room. We acquired an old chalkboard from a church house and hung it front and center in our home. This board is adorned with most everything we do and love; our schedule, tasks, pictures, lessons and preschool crafts proudly pinned up by little hands.
Below is our handy cart that houses our daily resources; math manipulatives, current read-a-louds, scriptures and journals, pencils and chalk.
And most importantly is our picture of Jesus Christ to remind us of the true purpose behind everything we do; Him.

I have 5 children so there is always a little one or two running about when I’m working with the olders or completing my own tasks. I like to create spaces for the children that invites exploration.
Whether it’s a book case, basket of open ended toys, art on the walls or nature finds placed on shelf, it is all there to spark curiosity!

We were gifted this vintage school desk (my schoolroom vision isn’t ALL lost!) and it has become the favorite place for my two older boys to do their independent studies. I hung a map, a plant and an old typesetting tray (to hold our nature finds) and this little corner feels like heaven! Many a day have I watched with joy as my boys journal about their adventures while younger siblings adoringly observe.

We love to take our schooling to the hills! I keep my trusty bag full of essentials for those days we have errands or just need to get out. Field guides, magnifying glass, paper and pencils. Plus the first aid kit – always the first aid kit!
I toss in a few books & snacks and we are set!
This is probably my most favorite homeschool tool because it represents the blessing of our freedom to take our classroom wherever our hearts lead us!

Homeschool is a beautiful mess. It doesn’t look like the organized classroom I originally envisioned, but so much more wonderful! Homeschool looks like reading a book over pancake breakfast, a basket of instruments dumped out on the living room floor. Blocks and puzzles everywhere. Masterpieces pinned up on the fridge and always a baking mess.
These are the days! We get to set the stage for our little stars. And what an honor that is! 

Randi is a homeschool momma and artist who lives with her husband and five children in the desert of Southern Utah. She has a passion for seeing beauty in the ordinary and sharing that with others. Randi creates artwork that depicts everyday things through the simplicity of lines, and focuses on connection between people, nature, and God. On any given day you’ll find Randi outside with blanket piled with children and books. That’s just how she likes it. Connect with Randi via email rgardnerphotos@gmail.com or see her work at simplewonders.org.

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How to Simplify Your Playroom

HOW TO SIMPLIFY PLAY

Why Simplify?

“Education is an Atmosphere. By saying Education is an atmosphere, it is not meant that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment,’ especially adapted and prepared; but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to a ‘child’s’ level.” 

Being a mother during the twenty-first century has many blessings, but some major difficulties as well. One is that we live in a culture that is obsessed with buying and consuming. We feel that our children need fancy toys for them to be intelligent, develop imagination and be happy. But more and more we find our children unhappy and bored amidst boxes of toys.

Why? A major reason so many children are suffering is that too many toys and too much complexity can actually be harmful to a child’s development. This usually comes out in the form of anxiety and hyperactivity. It can even harm your child’s ability to play. I personally noticed my children complain of boredom and were unable to play for long periods of time when we had too many toys available to them. They fought more often over toys that are battery-operated and finite. Sibling rivalry and inattention is a huge indicator that you need to simplify your environment. I have seen the following benefits of simplifying toys down to the bare minimum: happier, more content children; less sibling rivalry, and hours of imaginative play. I haven’t heard  “I’m bored” since I simplified our toys and playroom.  You can read more about the research on play and toys here. Before you can fully embrace simple toys you must understand the underlying principles behind them–relationships and self-education.

Relationships

Another consequence of complex, commercialized toys is that many children do not develop motor skills that are needed for real-life, and as adults they are unable to understand scientific laws because they have not experienced these laws in concrete terms. One of Charlotte Mason’s most famous quotes is “Education is the science of relations.” When children play they are forming relationships with the laws of nature, themselves and others. As proof that open-ended play is cardiovascular surgeons are reporting that their students are having difficulties understanding how a heart works because they never used a pump, and others cannot sew up arteries because those fine motor skills were not developed as children. Some of the best toys we have are funnels, measuring cups, and buckets for the children to play with in the sand and water. They learn about physics by playing with cups and tubes in the tub, and funnels and scoops in the sandbox.

Self-Education

“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”

Consumer driven play is quite the paradox: too many choices, and at the same time not enough choices. The truth is that children develop creativity and fine motor skills when they need to create their own toys, like wrapping a wooden block with fabric to create a toy couch. Joy is sparked when a child solves a problem with their own solutions. Open-ended toys have endless possibilities and choices, whereas finite toys–like character figurines and battery-operated trucks– do all the work for the child. What our children really need is to be active agents in their play and education. They need open-ended toys to exercise their imagination and solve problems.

How to Detox Your Playroom

  1. Gather all the toys from around your house and put them in a pile.
  2. Throw away toys that are broken.
  3. Donate toys that are battery-operated and are finite (meaning they can only be played with in one way). If you aren’t ready for this yet, put them away in the garage and watch your children blossom and grow with open-ended toys.
  4. Over the next month watch and take notes:
    • Which toys do your children play with the most often?
    • Which ones hold their attention longest?
    • Which toys require creativity and thinking out-of-the-box?

Organization

“Everything in the nursery should be ‘neat’––that is, pleasing and suitable…Nothing vulgar in the way of print, picture-book, or toy should be admitted––nothing to vitiate a child’s taste or introduce a strain of commonness into his nature.” (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 pg. 131)

When choosing furniture pieces for the playroom, choose ones that will serve double-duty as both organizers and toys. For example, IKEA Kallax can store blocks and baskets, but it can also be a dollhouse, cages for veterinary clinic, or parking garage for trucks. A low shelf can store toys, but it can also be used to play store as shelves or checkout counter.

All toys should have a home that is easy to access, easy to see, and easy to move. Large, tall, opaque bins are usually the worst choice. I have found that open baskets, clear bins, or wire baskets promote less mess because the child doesn’t have to dump everything out to discover what’s inside. A really good option is to display toys on a shelf. When toys are displayed the child can simply pick up a toy without dumping out the whole bin. 

That being said, play is meant to be messy. Children learn from creating, destroying, and re-creating. I’ve found my children will not play as deeply if they are afraid to make a mess. Keep your playroom separate from other living spaces, if possible, just so they can feel free to create and work on their creations over multiple days. I put my three boys in one bedroom just so we had a room dedicated solely to play.

Which Toys Are Best?

“In choosing toys for the children, how important it is to bear certain points in mind; one special thing to consider is, to give when possible something out of which the child can make other things, or can do something more with.” -Parent’s Review Vol. 17 no. 5 pg. 366

In general, the best toys:

  • Grow with your child. Blocks are just as enjoyable for a two year as a ten year old. 
  • Are not gender specific. All children love playing with animals and a toy kitchen.
  • Are high-quality. Children are rough on toys, and higher-quality toys are less expensive in the long run.
  • Open-ended. Play scarves can be made into a dress, cape, ocean, or tablecloth.

 The best toys fit into these four categories. I recommend having a good variety of toys from each category, based on what your family dynamics and your individual children’s interests. You do not need everything on the list–take inventory of what you have and fill in the gaps based on your family’s needs.

Sensory

  • Play dough or clay
  • Sandbox
  • Water table
  • Tools for sand/water play
  • Threading beads
  • Wooden Balance Board
  • Push-toy ( like cart or wagon)
  • Swing
  • Bicycle
  • Shape-sorting toy (for infants and toddlers)

Engineering/Practical Life

    • Blocks (wooden blocks, magnatiles, Legos)
    •  Square craft boards to use with blocks
    • Rope
    • Real child-sized tools (hammer, pliers, screwdriver)
    • Sewing box (embroidery thread, needles, fabric, buttons, pins, scissors)
    • Child-Sized Cooking Tools (rolling pin, measuring cups, spoons, bowl, apron, spatula)
    • Pocketknife

Imaginative

    • Play scarves and fabric
    • Kitchen + food
    • Cash register
    • Schleich Animals
    • Vehicles 
    • Dolls
    • Tent
    • Bags, boxes, trunk

Social

    • Dice (lots of game ideas online, Greedy is a family favorite)
    • Balls
    • Cards (Uno, Matching, Old Maid, etc)
    • Board games
    • Matching games
    • Wooden puzzles for different ages
    • Pattern blocks

WHERE TO FIND TOYS

A few of our favorite brands for toys are IKEA, Hape, Melissa and Doug, Schleich, Haba, and Treasures From Jennifer (Etsy). Always check Facebook and Craigslist to find the items used before buying new.

Wooden Unit Blocks | Amazon

Picture Shelves (for animals) | IKEA

Kallax | IKEA

Play Scarves | Etsy

Mesh Produce Bags | Amazon

Baskets (for toys) | IKEA

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SMITH HOME

THE SMITH HOME

Our School Space

The physical space around you either invites the Spirit or detracts from it. When your home invites the Spirit it becomes “a house of learning.”  I’ve made it my goal to surround my family with things that are beautiful and functional, but most importantly invites the Spirit. 

Over the years of being homeschooled myself and now teaching my own children, I have found these things to be essential for a schoolroom: large chalkboard, map or globe, clock, oversized table, and bookshelves. I’ve also noticed it helps to have plenty of natural light and wall space, as well as the room being close to the main living area. In the past I had a school room in the basement as well as a room off the garage, both were unused because they were too far away from where most of our living happened.

In our current home, the only room that fit all my criteria was the dining room–which seems to be a common theme among homeschool families. As soon as we were moved in, I made a chalkboard, bought a vintage rolling map from Craigslist, and asked my husband to create shelves. Since our schoolroom is in the central place where we spend most of our time eating and pondering, my boys look at our large map, chalkboard, or artwork all day long. I love that the atmosphere they live in is full of beauty and rich ideas.

There is definitely some conflict of interest since our school space is right in the middle of our living space; we need to clear the table when it’s time to eat, wipe the table when it’s time to do school, etc. To remedy this, I made it as simple as possible to clean up by giving each boy a magazine holder to store all their notebooks and school books. They put each book back in the holder when they’re done, and when it’s time to clean up for a meal they only need to put one thing away. Wire baskets also work great for this purpose.

 

We store all the school materials we are currently using on the shelves in our living room, only about 5 feet away from the table.  I don’t want our main living area to look like a kindergarten classroom covered with plastic and brightly-colored posters. Instead, I use containers that are both functional and beautiful, like baskets and wooden trays. I put threading beads, pattern blocks, simple puzzles, and origami on the wooden trays so my kids can easily put them back when they’re done. I’ve also found it extremely helpful to use an art material organizer, like the white one above. It is just an old utensil organizer from Pampered Chef, but it is one of the most useful organizers I own. Ikea has a wonderful toolbox where I keep my second grader’s handicraft and art supplies. I also use wooden trays to keep activities and crafts for my younger boys. It helps to keep all the supplies for the craft/activity in one place, otherwise the activity never happens.

MATERIALS