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Preparing the Physical Learning Space

© Beverley Paine

The following is an exerpt from Getting Started with Homeschooling Practical Considerations for Parents of School Age Children

Children learn wherever they are and at any time of the day. You can't stop them doing it! You can build on this by planning quality learning experiences for them. Quality learning experiences are those where everyone makes the most of the time available, and is happy with what they are doing and resultant outcomes, and where skills and information are retained for future use.

Quality learning experiences don't often happen by accident although many will occur without your intervention or planning. Your children will naturally seek out learning situations to avoid boredom. If your children aware demonstrating the classic symptoms of boredom, or are irritable and fighting among themselves or with you, preferring destructive over constructive behaviours, then it may be time to seriously consider the physical and attitudinal aspects of their environment. There are many factors which can contribute to unhappy home schooling situations and most are easily remedied.

Physical Environment

Spending time preparing your home as a place for learning is essential. You will find you will use the whole home, inside and outside. Outside also extends to the community: see Part 8 for more information. This section deals with the immediate home environment.

There is no need to prepare separate or distinct 'learning' areas. Setting up a 'school room' may seem a nice idea and look good, but such spaces are seldom used after the first few weeks! Organised or structured learning activities, including working from books, usually occur in the family room or living areas. Some existing areas in the home are already ideally set up to locate certain activities, such as kitchen for cooking, science and maths, table or tiled floor for art work, etc.

Schools often go to considerable expense to replicate the many natural learning resource and features of the home. Take advantage of what you already have, thinking creatively about which areas, existing furniture and features you can exploit in your learning program.

The following list of suggestions has proven useful to homeschoolers:

  • A free table (not the dining table) for unfinished, in-progress work/projects is handy, perhaps even essential.
  • Visible storage, at child level, for books, art/'craft materials, toys, games, etc. Using clear containers or trays for consumable items reminds children they are there to be used, and often encourages new activities. Things in cupboards, drawers or opaque containers are quickly forgotten.
  • Places for celebrating learning by displaying finished work; for example - walls, shelves, windows and ledges.
  • Easy access to reference and fiction texts which are at your children's current levels of understanding and beyond will encourage daily use. There is no point having books in the house if they can't be accessed by interested readers!
  • A system of storing and organizing educational materials; for example, bookshelves, filing boxes or cabinet, computer. Encourage the children to share this responsibility. Avoid too much clutter, which can result in mental confusion, disorganization, losing or misplacing things you find you suddenly need, and annoying delays to learning activities in progress.
  • Have places to put, store or display the many collections that will evolve over the years which the children won't allow you to throw out!
  • Locate most of the learning activities in the rooms you tend to use most, usually the family room near the kitchen. Children tend to concentrate their activities around where you are - they like your company and you can easily get on with the chores and see to their needs of questions.
  • Involve the children in planning an arranging the spaces they use for their activities. Organise the physical layout of your home and garden to suit the needs of everyone in your family. You may need to re=define traditional uses for rooms!

Most families homes eventually end up looking a little like junior primary classrooms, taken over by the artifacts of children and parents very busy learning. Try to keep one or two rooms free of learning related objects, to escape to and relax in.

Although the above points are good to consider, maximizing learning potential involves a lot more than providing access to resources in a child centered way.

See also:

Preparing the Learning Environment:

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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