Creating a ‘prepared environment’ makes homeschooling easier
I have mentioned several times that I get easily bored with homeschool routines and strict structure. I have learned to discipline myself but I also try to consider and accommodate my boredom when possible. I found that having an environment prepared for learning really helps to keep days running smoothly and encourages learning throughout the entire day — not just during structured school times.
You can use any space in your home for your prepared environment. I use the playroom as our prepared environment and set it up to accommodate learning as much as possible but you definitely don’t need a specific playroom or school room to do this. It just takes a little forethought and planning. These are some of the ways I have prepared our home to make learning more natural and easier throughout our day.
We have a book shelf both in the kids’ bedrooms as well as in our playroom. We also have a designated area for library books and a display shelf right above the playroom couch for magazines or books I want to highlight.
At least once or twice a month, I spend a little time requesting books from the library about any subjects we want to study. I often find my older kids reading about ancient Egypt or the solar system just because they are new books on our library shelf.
I also request books online based on the kids’ reading levels and interests. I often try to let the kids pick their own books when we go to the library but requesting books ahead of time guarantees a good selection. Requesting books online cuts down on my stress when looking for books in the library with my 3-year-old.
One of my favorite tips for entertaining younger kids while homeschooling their siblings is to have table activities set out for them. In our house, this means most mornings I set out an activity on the table in the playroom that anyone can use when they’re not doing lessons with me. I typically leave it out until close to lunchtime so that everyone had an opportunity to do the activity. This works for me only because I have everything prepped ahead of time and just need to pull it out of the closet. If I had to think about it daily, it would never happen.
To get started, all I did was sit down and make a list of table activities the kids could do without my help. Most of it I already had in the house, and a few things I wanted to add I put on Christmas and birthday lists. Currently, our list of table activities include:
- Play dough and tools
- Sands Alive
- Little Sand Boxes
- Colored rice and construction trucks
- Taco supplies we made of felt
- A bin of clear stones, frogs and lily pads (I just need to add a half-inch of water)
- Paint with water books
I have found sensory bins to be a huge hit with toddlers and preschoolers, and it is easy to find hundreds of simple ideas on Pinterest that you can make with things you already own or with a few items from the dollar store. Maybe for you table activities could be puzzles, board games, and even 666 Casino games for adults, science activities, or even just special toys that you only get out for a certain time of day.
Learning and creative toys
I am a minimalist when it comes to toys. I have found that having a ton of toys out doesn’t mean they with all get played with. In fact, it is usually the opposite. We have one shelf of toy bins in our playroom, a play kitchen, hooks for dress-up clothes, and one shelf that has science, writing, and art supplies on it.
Our kids absolutely love using both the art supplies and science activities. By having these activities out and visible, they get used often and the learning they do while using them and other toys is a big deal.
I should mention that my youngest child is 3 years old. When all the kids were younger, having art supplies out and accessible would have made me insane and make a big mess. Please don’t feel like you need to have things out that will only drive you nuts. Someday the kids will be old enough to use them responsibly and you can do it then.
These are some ways that keep my kids learning throughout the day without much involvement from me. I think the key is taking a little time to sit and really think through some simple ways you can prepare a learning environment in your home.
I would love to hear some of the things you do to have a prepared environment.