Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where do you "School"

When we first started this homeschooling adventure 4 years ago we both thought we had to do it just like a regular school. We have been very blessed with a large home with some extra space so we took an unfinished room upstairs and finished it as a "schoolroom". Paul had a small desk/table, I had a small section with items for Zach to play with and I decorated it like a schoolroom. It wasn't huge but big enough for the two students I had at the time. Steve worked really hard on getting it all finished like a schoolroom.

That first year proved to be very challenging. My Dad passed away in September of that year and he was the one family member that supported our decision to homeschool. We found out about Molly in November and yes that was a HUGE blessing but it kept me very busy getting ready to go to China. But, I continued to think that education needed to go on in a schoolroom and we needed to be in that schoolroom a certain number of hours each day and that is how it was supposed to be. When that didn't happen--because I had a two year old to care for, we were preparing for Molly, and Paul was only in Kindergarten--I was stressed. I thought I was doing something wrong, actually I thought I was doing everything wrong. I still have days that I feel like everything is going wrong, but they are fewer and further between now.

Later that year I finally figured out it was ok to not school every day--especially with Paul because he is very bright. But, when we did do school it was in the schoolroom. So, we left to go get Molly in March of that year and that was the end of school for the year. Paul had finished his curriculum and we had to focus on our new family member.

The next school year (Paul was in 1st grade, Zach was 3, and Molly was 1). We purchased a kidney shaped school table and got chairs for all three kiddos and I was "set". We still had the school room upstairs and still primarily did school upstairs. Molly had 3 surgeries that year so I began to pull some of Paul's schoolwork downstairs (where the main part of the house is) to make sure he was not getting behind. Zach was a maniac and in to absolutely everything and hated being in the schoolroom. Molly was still "attaching" to her new family and needed alot of Mommy snuggle time. There was simply not enough time in the day to do it all and spend 4 hours/day in the schoolroom. We plodded through that year and all was good. Paul was progressing along wonderfully--not because I was a great teacher--or even a good one, but because God always take care of us and He knows I am not capable so He intervenes!

Paul's 2nd grade year....Zach went to preschool 1/2 days, Molly was 2 and I thought "this is going to be the year that things go smoothly"--any homeschooling Mom knows that there is never a year where everything flows smoothly for the entire year. There are days when things go smoothly, maybe even a week that everything goes as planned--but never a year! At the beginning of that year I discovered "workboxes" and they REALLY, REALLY helped us get more done and helped me and my "organization-challenged" self stay organized. Paul loved them, I loved them, I was so thankful that God had led me to workboxes. The other thing we did 1/2 way through that year was pull our school room in to the dining room on the main level of our home. This was the BEST thing I did for our family. Paul got more done, Molly was happy playing in her room or livingroom close by and doing her workboxes in the dining room, and if Paul was working on something independently I could put a load of laundry in or start lunch.

So, why in the world did I not stick with that--I don't know. Something about it being ingrained in me since childhood that school needed to happen in a "schoolroom". So, that summer (last year) we were finishing part of our basement -- one large room (30' x 30'). It was to hold a play area for all the kids' toys, a "media" area mainly for the Wii, and then a school area. We brought the kidney shaped table down both flights of stairs, I decorated, bought new bookshelves, moved all the curriculum in to the basement, we were set--again! This year I had Zach in Kindergarten, Paul in 3rd grade, and Molly was 3 but really, really wanted to do school like her big brothers. I set up our workboxes in the new "schoolroom" and we were ready to go--again.

The beginning of the school year I was so excited to have an area the two little ones could play after finishing their schoolwork and I could continue to work with Paul. Many homeschoolers would love this set-up. We did get alot of schoolwork accomplished those first couple of months but the kids were also easily distracted by the toys ten feet away and if I needed Paul to finish something while I started lunch it was too hard for him to focus while I wasn't their and the little ones were playing. Plus, I was getting nothing done in my house. There were times when I would just be sitting downstairs waiting on Paul to finish something and I could have been starting lunch or putting in a load of laundry. So, upstairs to the main part of the house we came, and that is where we will remain. I did move us out of the dining room where we eat most of our meals and in to our "breakfast room" where there is a table that seats 4 and it is attached to the kitchen and right beside the laundry room. We are so happy here and we get so much more done. The kids love it, Mommy loves it, school is getting done, housework is getting done (sometimes) and all is well with the world. Now, don't get me wrong, our days are far from perfect. The kids still complain some days about having to do school at all. Zach hates writing, Paul hates Math, Molly, well Molly loves anything school related. But everyone is learning and working way more than we ever have.

Our goal is to educate our kids throughout the day, not just at the school table, so this setup is more conducive to that environment. If the kids have a question we can go straight to where all of our books are and find the answer, without it being a separate area of our home. We are trying to create an environment of always teaching and always learning.

My sweet wonderful husband just looks at the school stuff wherever it happens to be and smiles, and says "don't ask me to finish another area of the house for school!"

It only took me 4 years to figure out what works best for our family. Does what works for us work for every family--absolutely NOT. I know many families that have a school room and they love it that way. I know some families who school in their living room. I know a few "unschooling" families who educate wherever they are--we are moving more toward this everyday, but that is another post altogether!

So, my question to all you homeschoolers out there--where do you homeschool? I know we all educate our kids wherever we are and that education is a journey not just a set time of day, but where do you do the main part of your "schooling" If you are not a homeschooler feel free to comment anyway!


Vickie said...

We school in the dining room for table work. Our "library" is right off the dining room (it is the old living room) and we do some work, mainly computer and read alouds in the family room. I keep thinking I want a "school room" but I'd like it centrally located in the house. Since my dining room and library are about dead center, I guess that's where we'll stay. Although, I would LOVE a sewing/craft room so we can do more messier type crafts and I won't have to worry about my oak table :)

Beverly said...

I voted for a separate room. We do the bulk of our stuff there, but we do some living room, kitchen, and outside too.

Anonymous said...

Our school room idea did not work out as well this year as I hoped; maybe next year. So, currently we sit in our family room... one girl on each couch with me able to go between each of them... seems to be working well most days :)