Tuesday, June 21, 2011

School Room Tour

Time to update the learning spaces, and so here is a little tour of our current arrangement.We are very blessed to have a home with an in-law suite, and in-laws who are very happy with their own homes!  So, that space is dedicated to learning and creating.  If I had it to do over, I probably would consider painting the walls white, and not hanging curtains, but when we bought the house 5 years ago I was in a hurry to get rid of the teal walls! 
Last year I moved the dark shelves out and replaced them with these wooden cube units - they make organizing books by subject much simpler, and allow for storing and displaying items other than simply books.  I am still on the fence about the bulletin board.  I got it on Craig's list, so it wasn't a big investment, and I am tempted at times to just remove it.  For now, we will keep it, and use it to display our composer and artist study, as well as a map of the continent we are working on in geography studies.  Our felt saints live on top of the shelf as well, where they often form themselves into various interesting scenes.  Generally speaking, geography and reference books are on the far left under the globe, then history and Christian studies books. 

Then our wonderful selection of read aloud living science books.   The far right cubes contain art studies, including art reference books,  some Montessori 3 part cards, art games and a set of Child-Sized Masterpieces.  The beautiful book on display on top of the shelving is a copy of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.  Taking a tip from Jen, I enjoy having it on display throughout the year.  The illustrations are beautiful and the kids enjoy reading about each season.

I have been using the cubes for the kids for a few years, but this year I really expanded each of their personal areas.  Here is the crocodile hunter's space with room for his books, notebooks, new microscope (a Christmas gift) and his nature journals.  He doesn't do a great deal of work at his desk, but it is nice for some things, and allows him to have his own personal space.  Each child has a set of pencils or crayons that stays in their desk as well.

The futon is command central for me - that is where I tend to work with the Queen on her reading, and where our read alouds take place.  It was especially nice to have when I was still nursing a baby!  Above the futon is a set of shelves I hung to store the various found items and craft projects that needed a home.  They stay on display until the dust reaches an intolerable level, then it gets cleared off and cleaned, and some things either find a new home or are discarded.

On the table next to the futon is my basket.  My basket stores our current readings, as well as a handful of teacher's guides that I need to get my hands on daily.

Another Christmas gift was this art bench.  We have been using the Gluck Dvd art series, and the kids really like to have a bench to work at.  It is light weight so it is very easy to move around, or to put in a closet if it gets in the way.
This is the Queen's desk.  I really didn't need a desk for her, but she insisted, so I hit Craig's list and found one for about $25.  Beside the desk is her cube tower with her books and letters.  Behind the desk you can see my do-it-yourself fairy tree with puppets for her math lessons.  The baskets underneath contain various learning items such as an alphabet puzzle, acorn counters and a clock for learning time.

A seasonal basket of books sits in the floor, and I change it out every few months using ideas from Matushka Emily and others.  One way I have simplified this is to have a shelf in our back storage room with picture books organized by seasonal theme.  I include our saints picture books in this basket as well as nature books.  Then I can easily change these out without spending hours searching for the books.  It limits access to them, but it also means when they appear, the kids get excited to see old favorites they haven't read in a while.

Moving from the living room to the kitchen, our nature studies are focused in this area.  The table is a central work space for anyone who needs it, and is good for working on history portfolios, nature journals and anything else where you need a nice open space.

Using inspiration from Ann and our science theme from last year I purchased a bird poster to hang over our nature shelf.  I also borrowed Ann's beautiful display idea for nature treasures -  an old printer's tray from an antique store.

 The kitchen counters hold our art supplies, another great idea from Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles.  They are out of reach of the toddler who might do damage, but the older ones can get to them easily.
The nicest works are framed and hung in the hallway. 

Well, that is about it!  It has changed a lot in the past few years, and I am sure it will continue to evolve as the children grow and our needs change.  My final thought, (if you are still actually reading all of this!), in the interest of "keeping it real" :) as Matushka Anna would say, no, it doesn't always look this great.  In fact, the futon is often the dumping ground for unfolded clothes, and since I am currently in the middle of a massive overhaul of our home (the learning area being the last I plan to tackle) it also has recently been the landing site for all things that still need organizing.  Having taken two back to back trips in the past 10 days, here is what the room looks like today. 
Thank goodness we are taking this summer off from school!

If you have a post of your learning area, please include the link in the comments, I love to get ideas from others!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Seven Year Itch: Finding our Direction Again

I am still in the process of finalizing our school plans for next year, but I have to say I am experiencing a wave of excitement about homeschooling that has been missing over the past year or two.  I guess I would have to say I have been experiencing the "7 year itch" in our homeschool, feeling burned out, un-inspired and just plain tired.  I moved through the past year in a frantic deadline mode, just trying to make it through the next obligation or responsibility, and there have been a lot of them.  In January, I recommited to making life simpler, and named this the Year of Less.  With a completed family mission statement as my guide, I have tried to evaluate everything in my life - our home, the things we own, the commitments I already had, and current and future activities.  Organized Simplicity serves as the inspiration for simplifying the home as I am slowly moving through each room and reducing and finding a place for everything.  I have stuck to my promise and not commited to any new activity or project without careful consideration.  This coming weekend fulfills the last of my major responsibilities for the year outside of my duties as a catechist I feel as if a huge weight is being lifted.  Ultimately, the computer problems have been a blessing - it has greatly reduced my online time (I hate to surf the web on my laptop!) and apparently one of the casualties of the crash was my email inbox.  While I know there were things in there I will probably regret losing, my inbox is practically empty, so a clean start there as well!  I am now itching to get my hands back on all of my planning files, which thankfully were NOT lost, and as the new school year unfolds before us, I look forward to making it a year to remember.  I hope to have an outline of our studies up soon with our book selections and plan for the year - and look forward to hearing what others have planned for the school year.  Until all of the programs have been reinstalled on the computer, here is a peek at where we are headed.  We will be diving into an ocean of exploration - following the path of the great explorers in their journeys across the ocean with books such as The Brendan Voyage and Kon Tiki.  We will be diving deep to learn about the creatures living under that ocean pathway to new worlds, as well as other aspects of physical science that affect water travels.  We will soar over the ocean for another perspective, and when we finally land, we will explore that new world and its exciting beginnings .   Artists and composers have been selected to compliment our travels, as well as a selection of poetry and memory work.  If anyone has a favorite book to recommend that would go along with our studies, please share, and I would love to hear from anyone who is planning to follow a similar journey this year!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Another Frozen Moment Filled with Gifts

The computer is still down.  I miss my pictures.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say.  So are my not quite a thousand words worth a single picture, a moment stopped in time?  Or rather, can my words paint you a picture this evening?  An hour ago the power went out, and so I sit in the fading gray darkness of dusk, unable to see much.  And I listen.  I listen and begin to count. First, I hear silence.  Deafening silence.  No buzz of the air conditioner.  No hum of the refrigerator.  Real, true, silence.  What a blessing.  What a gift.  A cold supper is eaten, and as darkness falls within, I move to the patio.  The fireflies are making their appearance, flitting about in the growing darkness.  Sight is hindered as daylight fades and so again I listen.  A thousand sounds around me, a thousand gifts for which to be thankful.  The hoot of the owl, deep and mysterious.  The cicadas’ song, slowly fading with the light.  The chirping crickets compete with the buzz of the cicada.   Songbirds, more than I can count, each sing their own unique goodnight.  A dog barks far in the distance.  Closer to home, the young rooster is trying out his voice in a weak crow.  I flinch for a moment, startled by the noisy flutter of bird wings in the tree overhead.  The faint voices of the girls float across the acres from the garden where they help Daddy weed.  The occasional car passes, breaking the symphony of yard sounds.  A limb falls to the ground.  I can hear as it hits a branch on its way down.   What is it I need to hear tonight?  No phone, no lights, just peace.  Calm.  I know there are projects waiting to be completed.  Let them sit.  I know I have things to do - but I have no control, and I cannot do them in the dark.  Somehow, in the light, I believe that I have some measure of control.  I think that I make things happen.  I believe that it is within my power to accomplish what I set out to do.  But in the dark I must acknowledge that it is not me.  It is not within me to do anything.  I have no power.  I have no control.  I have only the ability to accept what He offers me, and to offer my thanks for each moment I am handed.  I feel the call to pull inward in order to listen.  I once again want to freeze time, to live in this moment, to breath in the heady scent of the night, to revel in the delirious feeling of embracing the Holy Spirit; accepting that the only thing that really matters is that I grow to become one with God. Each day He offers me the opportunity - if only I can slow down  long enough to hear and accept it. 

181. quiet, uninterrupted by the sounds of busyness
182. owl calls in the dark
183. thrumming melody of cicadas
184. songbirds
185. kids digging in the dirt
186. rides on the four-wheeler
187. the new baby bunny rabbit in my garden, even if he ate my rosemary down to the roots
188. the feathery leaves of dill
189. darkness
190. heavy, humid Southern heat 
191. fireflies dancing in the night
192. quiet in the soul, stillness within
193. no outgoing email, the chance to pick up the phone and connect
194. letting go, acknowledging the truth that I am only pretending when I think I have things under control
195. peace of soul and mind, when you acknowledge you are not in control, you no longer feel the pressure to keep up


Last Friday, my computer's hard drive failed.  Crashed.  Dead.  I have a laptop I use occasionally, unfortunately it only allows me to receive email, not send it.  Didn't realize how much of my daily communication is by email!  I am not liking it.  Not to mention all of those files.  All of those pictures.  We are in the process of retrieving the information from it to a new hard drive, and I am hoping nothing important was lost.  Meanwhile, I am also realizing how much I like to use photos when I blog.  No access to photos results in a lack of motivation in blogging.  I am missing my Monday thanks posts, and hope to put one up this coming Monday, with or without photos.  Well, all of that to sort of explain why I haven't posted all week, or replied to you if you have emailed me!  Hoping to get my computer back in working order this weekend.  I have been planning our curriculum for next year, and look forward to sharing our adventures in exploration next year.