Monday, August 31, 2020

At Home Learning Spaces

When last school year abruptly ended, we quickly made do with what we had. We turned our daycare rooms into school rooms. As rocky as last spring was, it wound up being great and lots of learning took place! Of course, as summer got underway, it was clear to me that the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year was going to be MUCH different than predicted. In mid-July, we knew we'd need to create a space for at home learning (for virtual learning). Just over a week ago, we had to revamp that idea as spaces for homeschool kids (our three included) AND those that would be learning virtually through their schools. All while keeping daycare going because I would have a few younger kids too.

It was a lot. Matt (my very patient husband) took a week off from work so we could create what I had in mind. With the help of a rented dumpster (that's still sitting in our driveway), he spent the first few days demolishing, reorganizing, and remodeling. Then, the real work started. 

Zeus "helped" with the painting. He was clearly a huge help. The cabinets are one of my favorite parts of the room. Not because they're done perfectly, but because they're not done well at all. So much of this room was inspired by the kid's and what I learned watching them online learn last spring. I love that they were able to help bring the room together. These cabinets will always bring a smile to my face when I look at them and remember trying to keep the dog away, failing, and dealing with sticky paints on a 100 degree day.

Just like with any good project, the idea or vision changes. We had initially thought we'd only partially re-do this one room. This is the room that will become a boy's bedroom in the near future, while the other side will be a den/big kid area to hang out in. We know our homeschool and virtual learning situation is only temporary, so we didn't want to spend a ton of money up front on something that wasn't going to last. That is, until we got to talking. Suddenly, we finished the flooring and installed (hopefully) long lasting carpet tiles. The built-in cupboards were meant to be taken out (because they won't be used when the space becomes a bedroom), but then I decided they'd make really good storage for homeschool supplies and would save some money on shelving units. 

The cupboards are in decent shape, so the kids (and dog) gave them a fresh coat of paint and now they house A LOT of art supplies, papers, educational games, workbooks, and so much more. 

The kids were a HUGE help in this project. Last spring, I was able to watch a group of school age kids do their online school work. It gave me a glimpse of how they like to learn. They like to read sprawled out on the floor, do math assignments on the floor, but tables are preferred for writing assignments and group activities. Keeping all of this in mind, I was able to come up with my final vision for our at home learning space.

I wanted seating areas, but also room to spread out on the floor. The art area came about after my mom asked me if I wanted the easel my grandpa built--I was going to say no, but the oldest mini piped up and claimed it. It actually has a great place in the room. I foresee many paintings and drawings happening soon. We dug through the kid's and daycare paintings we've accumulated over the years, to add some color to the basement walls. All other desks and supplies I already had on hand. We spent the most money on electrical work (even though we did it ourselves), carpet, and the big fluffy chairs in each of the learning spaces.

The oldest mini built shelving units and tables (some of which we already had in storage waiting to be used!).

The "welcome desk" serves many purposes. Virtual learners don't have long breaks, so I wanted them to be able to grab morning snack quickly. I filled a container with granola bars and organes. The container can fit inside of the desk for easy storage and easy access. The kids strive when they're able to see our day written out. This is also something I started last spring (to help me more than the kids) and did it all summer long, as requested by the kids. I write what we're doing for the day (specific times as well), what is being served for meals and snacks, and expectations I have for the day (keep the figurines off the floor, don't pull the dog's tail, include everyone in everything you play). This has been key in helping our summer days run smoothly! 
The wonderful part of this desk is that it can also be used as a desk. Kids can sit in the comfy chair, grab a kid size stool (from the storage area), or sit on the floor and use the desk as they wish.

A small reading corner with a pillow and a single desk. The desk was in the boy's room, but mainly served as a crap catcher (a place they set all of their junk). We cleaned it and moved it downstairs. It's sure to get lots of use in the weeks to come.
The cubbies here will hold dictionaries and educational books, as well as the mini's textbooks we'll get shortly from the district. 

One thing we didn't have time for was completing the ceiling. We took out an old drop ceiling and have plans for putting a new one in in the next few months. I call this our "open ceiling concept."

A look at how great the cabinets are painted (I have a huge smile on my face just looking at the picture).

The cabinets house everything we'll need for homeschooling and virtual learning. I have a basket of headphones and ear buds, so the kids can work peacefully without bothering each other. My three will each have a folder, notebook, and whatever else they need for their day. This will be the first thing they check in the morning before beginning their days. The folder currently has worksheets for the day, what they each need to complete (the lessons for their classes they're taking via an online homeschool program), and their notebook for writing and journaling.

I discovered these math machines from Lakeshore Learning. The kids LOVED the multiplication machine so much that I ordered the rest of the set (addition, subtraction, and division). This week's art project is making tie blankets (for the school age kids). I got the girls these Melissa and Doug sets to work on, while the boys requested to pick out their own fabrics from the store.

My idea is to have everything they need for their homeschool days laid out the night before, ready to go for morning. Inside of the folders are their worksheets for the day and notebooks to use for writing, journaling, and note taking. I also have a binder with my things in them for the day.

The first quarter of music class will focus on instruments from around the world. These displayed on the shelf are the first few we're learning about. The dog things the Chilean rainstick is a toy, so these had to be put up high!

One picture done by me during a wine and painting night and the other is our water balloon painting done by daycare.

Long, white table provided by Lauren. She also loaned daycare a computer to use for kids who need one. I have THE BEST daycare families!!

The upstairs learning space has a very different vibe to it. This space is also my office (where I do a great deal of my writing, planning, and thinking) and will go back to being a daycare nap room, so I didn't want to change it as much as we did the basement room.

The upstairs school room can comfortably fit 2-4 school age kids, with plenty of outlets for computer charging and a VERY quiet space. This room is actually the quietest room in the entire house. It blocks out all of the noise of the playroom when babies are sleeping and the oldest can practice violin and no one hears it. These are precisely the reasons I chose this room to be my office and the daycare nap room.

We made a few changes to the daycare room as well:

I have several preschoolers this fall, so I made an entire shelf full of learning toys, games, and manipulatives to keep them busy when I need to be face to face with the school age kids. I have no idea how all of this will work, with a house full of virtual learners, homeschoolers, preschoolers, and daycare, but this is me giving it a try. Believe me, I'll check back in and let everyone know what ideas have worked and what has failed!

I took away sensory activities for a bit and put coloring books in the sensory corner instead. Sensory activities require a fair amount of supervision, so they'll come back once we've got a good routine down and the rules learned.