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Use The Physical Space You're In : Embrace The Mess

It was our first year homeschooling and both of my boys were plopped at the table in our small kitchen. They were independently “working”, my youngest with playdough and my oldest drawing cartoons.  I wanted us to do some geography work with our new maps we recently bought so I went into our bedroom/ office/ homeschool supply room to find it. After I dug through our homeschool supply bin with no luck, I went into our living room where I continued the search with no luck.  I think I spent a full hour that day searching for those maps, with my frustration and anxiety raising with each minute that passed. 

When I finally found it, I had wasted a full hour and I was in a foul mood.  I thought that I definitely needed to start taking steps in the direction of having our household become a bit more organized so we could be more functional.  

You see, I have always been ok with a mess.  My brain doesn’t always seem to register clutter, and I can sidestep around a pile of dirty clothes with the best of them.  But the problem, at least for me, is that our house is not that big, and there was no rhyme or reason to our physical learning environment. This led to problems, like me not being able to find books and maps when I needed them.  

The reality is, although, I would love to be like Marie Kondo, I will never be.  However, since I have started homeschooling, I have taken great strides in creating a house that is not only livable but also a place where my kids can get an education, while organizing elements into a functional space.

In the area of homeschooling,  physical space plays a key role.  I have had friends who have homeschooled while living out of a trailer, and I have friends who live in 3000 square foot plus houses who homeschool.  I don’t believe it really matters the size of your house.  If you are willing to work with your livable space, you can homeschool just about anywhere.

The first thing is, you have to be aware of the space that you are in. Being creative and flexible with your living situation will be the ticket to success from wherever you are homeschooling. If we are in our rv for a month at a time, I have one crate full of our books and the boys have their own supplies.  When we are doing something that requires them to do independent work, they know they can sit at our rv dining table, they can go in their bunk, or if we are at a campsite the outside picnic table is an option. We have bought lapdesks if they choose to write or need a flat surface to work and they choose the overhead bunk as a place to work. Keeping books and supplies minimal when we are on the road has been important, and we find that we can find a lot of things online when we need them.  Although the physical environment is small, we utilize the space and it is sustainable.

 If we are at home, I have been able to squeeze into our house two desks that they can work at.  I have found that after I gave them their own designated place to work, it served them well.  Knowing that there is a designated space to think, create, build, and work hard has made things a bit more organized and less confusing.  Of course if they choose to work in a different area of the house or outside, that is always an option, but it seems that as they get older they flock to their desk when it’s time to get work done.

I also have 3 shelves of a closet where I can keep other materials we use for school such as games, math manipulatives, school supplies, art supply, and teaching books.  Unlike my first homeschool year, I have a designated spot for things.  By creating this space for things like this I have saved hours upon hours of looking for things that I have misplaced.

With that all said, I have to go back to my previous statement about being ok with a mess.  I think as a homeschool parent, this is critical.  Let’s face it, when kids are learning, it can get quite messy.  Your house will get messy.  And in that mess is the beauty of learning and growing.  In the words of scientist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, “Kids are sources of chaos and disorder. Get over that fact.  You don’t have kids with the intent of keeping a clean house.”

Yes you can be organized but when your kids' learning environment which happens to be your house, looks like a bomb went off because of the science experiment that just happened in the kitchen, or the biggest fort ever made was in your living room, embrace it and love it.  Sure it may me a little bit of extra work to get things back in order, but, please, use the environment that you have and don’t squash curiosity in lieu of a clean house.

Along those same lines, Julie Bogart writes in her book, “The Brave Learner” about how sometimes you need to put things messily in the way of your kids.  That may mean dumping a puzzle on the floor.  Or putting the paint supplies on the kitchen table for a week.  Often times, if kids find things out in the open and within their immediate environment, they will naturally start to play or use them as opposed to them being locked away in the closet.  

Continue to try new learning/ living  setups in the environment that you are in.  Have a designated area for supplies but also know that learning items may need to be scattered around the environment to make them more desirable.  We know that living in the same place that you school can be challenging, but I encourage you to be flexible and be ok with a mess if it means embracing your kids curiosity.

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