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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Homeschool Space - In the Heart of the Home


I thought I would share about how we have adapted our home to be not only the place where we live and eat and play but also to be the space where we learn.

We want "school" to take place in the main space of our home. We want learning to just be a part of how we do life and to be as natural as eating a meal.

But we don't want our home to look like a "school" (nor do I believe that Charlotte Mason would have advocated for that design style as she considered education to be an atmosphere - that of the child's world as it is naturally).

Most of our indoor education takes place through the reading of books in the family room or during meals - and that's the way I intend for it to continue for years. The gift of a truly living curriculum and cuddles at the same time. But we also need space to store art/craft supplies, paperwork, manipulatives, etc....that is where our storage system comes in.

We use a cabinet that is in the space between our fridge and the table in our dining room that holds our Berkey water filter and our fruit baskets. We also use a few cubes in a Closetmaid organizer in the dining room to hold manipulatives and puzzles.


I didn't show in the video our puzzle cube in the white Closetmaid organinzer. We store puzzles at Meghan's current level in plastic bags with the cover picture from the box in it in a cube of the shelving unit and we can pick from there what puzzle she wants to do.


That's what our homeschool storage space looks like for now. We are fairly minimalistic so I don't see this space becoming more full in the future. In fact, as children age they need fewer things to aid their ability to learn so I could see this space storing even less in the future. 

It's been a work in progress, but I can honestly say I am absolutely in love with this system - it hold everything I need near and is easy to use throughout the day. 

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Note: While we have chosen for our family and our home not to use a "school room" we do not believe that they shouldn't be used. For many families they make things easier, or more doable, and just work better. For our family, at this time, I don't think it would work. But that doesn't mean I don't love looking at beautiful pictures of Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool rooms :) 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Education is an Atmosphere - Summer Edition!


Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life....Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking -- the strain would be too great -- but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest.
--Charlotte Mason

When we say that "education is an atmosphere," we do not mean 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 the child's level. 
-- Charlotte Mason

We have a home that includes our children and makes space for them to participate in family life; but it is not what would be called a 'child-environment'. Our home is a space for the family. It is a natural place where learning and growing can take place in the context of real, family life. Here is some of what that looked like this summer: 


























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**NOTE** I don't share these images to make it seems as though we have figured this out or do it the 'right way' - this is just what an education atmosphere looks like for us in our home. I know I am inspired by seeing pictures of what a homeschool home looks like in the homes of others. I pray that sharing these posts provides some of that type of inspiration to your home.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Velcro Activity Mats


We desire to homeschool at our dining room table. That means that all of our homeschool materials in use need to be able to be stored in the kitchen area.

We don't want our main living area to look like a classroom. We want our house to look and feel like a home while also meeting the educational needs of our children.

We are aspiring minimalists - well, truly simplicilists - we don't like having lots of stuff everywhere. White space is very important to stress reduction to those of us who live in this house (and, I'm guessing, for most people!).

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These three things combined have guided us as we developed our homeschooling area. It's simple and minimal. While I believe young children learn best when they can manipulate their learning we don't have space upstairs to have a large number of supplies. I have found a simple solution to this that Meghan LOVES!


These velcro activity mats are a hit with Meghan. She asks for them even if I don't mention them!!

They allow her to manipulate her learning of core, rote skills. They take up slightly more space than two pieces of paper and we can store all of the mats in our homeschooling notebook. We can fit several activities and learning content in a small amount of space - win!

I simply laminated the mat, laminated the pieces and used clear velcro to attach them together. So far, we have mats for the following activities:

  • fruit & vegetable picture matching 
  • continent matching 
  • US state matching 
  • numbers 0-20 in order 
  • upper/lowercase letter matching 
  • color & color word matching

I'm sure I could look through an educational catalog and find all sorts of games and manipulatives that could teach theses same skills - but they would cost more money and take up more space for the same learning task as this simple, inexpensive activity. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Our Simple, Minimal Playroom


Today I thought I would share with you our playroom.

I LOVE this space. It is full of toys that our girls love to play with. But not so full that it's overwhelming to them.

We try to keep things simple and minimal. This video shows almost every toy that they own. We also try to have only wood toys or toys of very safe plastics; I have a list of toys companies that I most like to purchase from and very rarely stray from that list.

In this video I reference the girls by name - Meghan is 41 months (almost 3.5) and  Katie is 14 (almost 15) months old.

So, without further ado, here is our playroom:


(I forgot to mention that in the bottom of the second hutch are board games that Cole and I play with Meghan.)

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PS - Do you like video posts? Would you like to see more of them or do you prefer written posts? If you have a preference let me know. It was much easier to produce a video than I thought it would be, so I'm willing to do this format more if it would be of interest and helpful to others!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Minimal & Simple Kids Wardrobes


I like to keep my kids clothes simple - both in design and in number. Simple clothing makes it easy for children to run and play and explore. Simple designs (and no "characters") allow their clothing to spark creativity and be a part of their play. A simple number of clothes makes it easy for Mama to keep up with the laundry and keeps the clothing budget low. All of this simplicity is a GOOD thing! 

We don't practice extreme minimalism at our house. We prefer 'rational minimalism'. This means that we don't live with the very fewest number of things we absolutely need. Instead, we think through how we live life and our family's systems and decide what we need based on that.

Some things that must be thought about before deciding how many clothes a child needs and things you should know about our home before I start sharing numbers: 
  1. How often do you wash laundry? I do each load of required laundry once a week - so that means I wash the girl's clothes once a week. 
  2. How much storage space do you have? We have a walk in closet for each girl currently (we do intend to move them into a room together soon, but even then they will have a lot of closet space). That extra storage space allows me to purchase up sizes second hand! 
  3. How often do your kids need clothing changes during the day? I increase the number of clothes for my kids during the summer - when we play outside a lot and get dirty enough to warrant clothing changes. I also increase the number of jammies during years when little ones are in diapers (and may have blowouts/leaks) and increase even more for reflux-y babies (Katie could go through 4+ outfits in a day. And, I only changed for massive spit-ups!). 
  4. What is the weather like? We live in Kansas. We get frigid cold temperatures with ice and snow in the winter. We get heavy downpours and storms. We get extreme heat and heat advisories. We must have clothing for every season. 
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After considering all of those things, my clothing goal numbers per size (2t and up) are: 
  • Summer Outfits - play dress w/ shorts or shorts & tee - 10-12
  • Summer Church Dresses - 3 + a pair of bike shorts
  • Summer Jammies - 8 (this decreases to 4-5 after potty training)
  • 1-2 Swimsuits
  • Winter Outfits - play dress w/ leggings or pants and tee 8-10
  • Winter Church Dresses - 3 + black tights
  • Winter Jammies - 8 (this decreases to 4-5 after potty training)
  • Fleece Winter Jammies - 3 (to layer on frigid nights)
  • 2 Hooded Zip Up Sweatshirt (one stays in the car - Kansas weather is finicky and we need this one often!)
  • 1 Hooded Wind Breaker
  • 1-2 summer hats (to block the intense sunlight!)
  • 1 Winter Hat 
  • 1 Winter Scarf 
  • 1 Pair of Mittens
Sometimes the girls are given clothes as gifts, unless their closets get to overflowing, we will sometimes have additional outfits that they have been gifted. 

I hang up the girl's outfits on hangers with clips and that makes getting ready in the morning super easy - grab a hanger, socks if needed, and go!! 

(These pictures are from Meghan's closet - off season clothes are hanging on the top left, church dresses on the top right, drawers on the bottom left, and current season clothes on the bottom right.)

(These pictures are from Katie's closet - off season clothes are hanging on the top left, church dresses on the top right, drawers on the bottom left, and current season clothes on the bottom right.)

I also try to be minimal with their shoes - providing the things that we use and need. (They often get cute shoes as gifts from family members.) Here are my shoe goals for each size (4 and up):
  • 1 Tennis Shoes 
  • 1 Athletic Sandal (think Keens)
  • 1 Black Rubber Work Boots 
  • 1 Black Church Shoe (winter)
  • 1 White or Pink Church Sandal (summer)
I've found that with these pairs of shoes we have had what we needed for any and all events and activities we have participated in. 

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These numbers are working so well for our family - we have the clothing that we need when we need it and the girl's closets are almost completely empty on laundry day. It seems we have found a perfect number of clothing items for our family. 

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Disclaimer: I don't think we are perfect or that this is the "right" way to do things. This post was simply written to share our routine/system. Homemakers are busy people. I think it's very important for us to have routines for the mundane tasks whether they occur daily or every few months or once a year. I share our routines not because I think they are perfect or will work for any other home than ours, but as encouragement that we can find routines that work well for our families. It's always something we can be working to improve. I also share our routines as a springing-off point for planning a routine if you don't have one in place. I often find that reading what others do, trying it, and tweaking it for our family's needs can be a very helpful way to grow as a homemaker. I pray that these peeks into how we do the mundane are a blessing and an encouragement to those that read them

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lego Building Cards


Our girls LOVE Duplos.


I love that they are great for free imaginative play and can be used for a variety of "educational" play activities. Here's one that I made for Meghan to work on visual discrimination and following directions.

I built structures out of her Duplos, laid them on a white piece of paper, and took pictures. I ordered the pictures, laminated them, and put them on a ring.


She has a blast trying to build the structures that I made and they often provide a springboard for her to use them in creation of new buildings.


We have so much fun using these cards and building with Duplos!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Nature Journaling with Littles


Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life.
-- Charlotte Mason


Nature study is a completely natural thing for a child to do. Children are naturally curious and want to explore and learn about the world around them. With just a bit of guidance, children have the ability to learn so much from the natural world on their own. A part of nature study that Charlotte Mason emphasized was keeping a nature journal.

As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child. Every day’s walk gives him something to enter: three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a caterpillar climbing up a nettle, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider dropping suddenly to the ground, where he found ground ivy, how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, how bindweed or ivy manages to climb.
-- Charlotte Mason


You can look on Pinterest and Instagram and see so many pictures of beautiful nature journals that older elementary and upper level students create. I wanted to begin nature journaling with my young child - and this method has worked beautifully!

When we are in nature and Meghan finds something that she finds interesting, and if she were older I would guide her to draw in her nature journal, I take a picture of it. Every few weeks, I send the pictures off to be printed. When the pictures arrive, I tape them to a piece of paper and put the paper in a page protector in her nature journal


When we "work" on our nature journals, she picks a picture and illustrates it as best as she can. I then have her tell me as much as she can about the object in the picture and write down what she says.

It's a super simple system and it's so intriguing to see how much she is already learning to love and appreciate and take note of the world around her. Nature study, and nature journaling, have done so much to encourage her love of the world around her!!


From the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things of Nature proclaim without ceasing, ‘Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty’.
-- Charlotte Mason

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Some resources I love for learning about Nature Journaling:

Pocket Full of Pinecones 
I love this book for Mamas. It tells the story of a mother doing Charlotte Mason homeschool, and particularly nature study, while they live in town. It's an enjoyable story for fiction reading while at the same time giving tons of great ideas for doing study with young children.

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady 
This book is a reprint of a woman's nature journal. It's absolutely beautiful to look at and gives me inspiration for the kinds of things we can include in our nature journals as we grow into keeping them!