Keeping the Home in Homeschool

I have pictures from last year’s first day of school. In them new notebooks peek out from bright cranberry and sage buckets full of workbooks and crisp lined paper. Sharp points peek over the rounder where crayons, markers and colored pencils are grouped by type. Rounder cropped

The globe gleams dust-free beneath the world map carefully tacked to the wall, opposite artwork clipped laundry-style to twine and twig-like hooks. Everything’s orderly in our homeschool room. Everyone’s excited to get started.

Collage

But it didn’t last.

Crayons and markers got intermingled and pencils lost their points. By week’s end, the schoolroom was a mere shell; books, papers, notes and more having migrated upstairs like so many wooly mammoths. What on Monday was a kitchen table, by Friday, became homeschooling central as everyone was naturally drawn to this hub of our home.

As my husband loaded up a stack of books and art supplies to make room for dinner, he asked, “What happened to that nice area we set aside for schooling?”

I started to wonder is it even possible to keep school and home life distinct? With all the stuff of learning, how do we protect the home in our homeschool?

Telecommuters know the trap of letting work overtake home life. It’s tempting to take calls whenever the phone rings: it might be a client! So too the challenge of keeping schooling contained. It’s hard enough to corral backpacks, homework, and library books when school is a place you get to by bus or minivan. But when it’s the room down the hall, creep is inevitable. And not just the one-way creep of books to tables, beds, and floors.

A place for everything

As with any fast-growing plant, we discovered that the key to keeping the creep in check is regular pruning; in this case, re-ordering. At the end of every school day, I started having the kids return everything to its place. School stuff to the school room, toys to the bedrooms, library books to the library basket, etc. At the end of every school week, we started doing a more-thorough re-ordering, putting things back in their proper rooms and within those rooms, their proper places.

Even if you have a tiny home, you can be deliberate about where you learn and where you store your formal learning supplies. Distinct learning spaces are essential. If you don’t have a whole room you can dedicate to school, consider setting apart a cabinet, closet, or even large bookshelf as the school space. Using that space exclusively for school stuff will help keep homelife and playtime from overlapping with focused learning time, and vice versa.

For everything, a time

Just as every thing has a place, every time has a purpose. Learning happens in all of life. But Math, for example, is a distinct activity that requires structure and concentration. So we learned to do it first. Early. Now weekday mornings are for formal instruction, and the afternoons are for quiet reading. After that, play—lots of unstructured, unencumbered play—something we’ve found essential for cultivating a love of learning.

We may study a beetle on our front porch (or more accurately, launch it into the grass with a dustpan), but if it’s after 3 p.m., we’re not writing notes about our observations.

Always learning time

Whether you educate your child(ren) directly by homeschooling, or enlist the help of teachers in a classroom, every Christian parent is ultimately responsible for teaching their child(ren). We should be teaching our children every chance we get. That’s why Moses told parents to “Teach [the Lord’s words] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Edited school room

Learning should permeate all of family life, in every room and at any hour. But that doesn’t mean every room should feel like a classroom or that every hour should feel like a school hour, even if you homeschool. When it’s 5:00 p.m. and the kitchen table is piled high with the stuff of school, it’s time to re-assert the boundaries so we can get back to the most important thing that happens in that space: growing in relationship.