Imagine a school where the classes are organized as “unit studies” and are based directly on your child’s deepest passions — anything from solar systems to game design to sustainable agriculture. Math, reading, and all other content knowledge are woven seamlessly into each activity. Now, imagine that all of this is happening in the comforts of your home, perhaps on some big comfy beanbag chair in your living room. We speak, of course, of homeschooling.
There is a steady growing interest in homeschooling, from homeschool students making up 1.7% of student-age population in 1999 to 3.4 % in 2012. More and more families are choosing to take their children’s education into their own hands, often seeking more educational freedom and flexibility.
Today, we focus on how to hack your home to best support learning. However, even if you are not involved in the homeschooling world, your home can still be a supportive learning space for anyone, you included. We will showcase a few of our favorite creative room layouts and cost-effective hacks submitted on our website and show how they could easily be adapted for a home learning environment.
Foundations for Home Learning
Before we dive straight into hacks, let’s break down the essential components of a homeschooling space. We really like Katie’s approach from the blog, Wellness Mama. Here, she zones her space into different “workstations.” Based on her model, some essential “stations” include:
- Reading Station: Whether this is a dedicated corner in a room or just a comfy beanbag chair, allocating a reading station encourages students to read independently or take a mental recharge break.
- Storage Station: This station is for the parents! While your class size may be smaller than a traditional classroom, it’s still important to organize all your school supplies and books in one central location for easy access. (For more tips on storage, check out this post on organizational hacks).
- Display Station: It’s time for your student’s masterpieces to shine! Save a wall (or part of a wall) to hang up and display student work.
- Work Station: Large, flat surfaces work best here and thankfully, you can easily repurpose a dining room table or office desk into a working space.
- Play Station: Who said learning is all work and no play? Katie has incorporated a mini trampoline/rebounder in her space for students to bounce on and release extra energy, (For more hacks like this, check out our post on movement breaks).
Now, let’s dive into ways to transform any room in your home into a learning space.
The Living Room
Consider setting up a smaller shelf in your living room to store all the textbooks and other school supplies so that everything is easily accessible for students. Rather than a tall, thin bookshelf, think short and long so students of all different heights can browse books. We’re always inspired by the bookshelf from the classroom libraries post, where all the books are grouped by subject and organized in movable bins. This makes it easier for a student to grab a bin, a seat, and dive deep into one particular interest.
Another way to repurpose the living room is to use it as a media center, like this one at High Tech High Media Arts. Many homes already have televisions set up, so consider hooking up a laptop or computer to the monitor for more multimedia options. Who can resist snuggling up on the sofa to learn some Spanish vocabulary by watching lyrics videos on Youtube?
Ah, the kitchen! Another popular place to see children completing their homework at the dining table while parents prepare dinner. Why not maximize the utility of the kitchen and use the magnetic fridge door as a learning board? You can buy some numbers, letters and shape magnets like the ones on this magnetic wall, and easily stick them on the fridge. While you are getting ready to cook, have the kids spell out dish names or calculate food portion sizes!
Even if you do not have a large backyard, you can maximize the utility of your space with a mini outdoor garden, like the one at Sycamore School. If you are able to grow vegetables and plants, use the opportunity to teach about plant growth and photosynthesis!
As for physical education, never fear, an entire gym set-up is not necessary. Instead, you can scout out parks, playgrounds or recreational centers near your home. For those in homeschooling groups where several families of kids study together, Prakash Nair, architect and president of Fielding Nair International, suggests connecting with your local community organizations and setting up ways your students can use their recreational facilities.
Whether it functions as a formal or informal educational space, your home can support learning. Even if you don’t have students in your home during the day or after school, we are all lifetime learners. Hacking your home for learning ensures that you and anyone who enters your home can feel inspired, engaged, and ready to learn.
Interested in homeschooling or have ways you have hacked your home for learning? We want to hear about it! Share with fellow edu-innovators on www.room2learn.org and Tweet us at @HackClassrooms!