I enjoy looking at homeschool blogs and magazines that give ideas for organization, multiple level teaching, and surviving the challenges of both educating your children and running a household. Every homeschool has their own unique "culture" which is a subset of the family culture. Most of my philosophies of education came from my family, my education, and my experience. My mother homeschooled for 18 years! She started when I was in the 8th grade - not during the "easy" elementary years. And that was back in the days when it wasn't very popular and there wasn't any support. But she took the resources she had and used them to her advantage.
One of the things my mom did was to keep a special area reserved for "school". We did not work at the kitchen table not strew our notebooks and worksheets all through the house. That first year, she and I sat at a card table in the family room and when we were finished the card table was moved to the corner of the room until the next day. Later on when she pulled my sister and brothers from public school, dad converted the playhouse he had built for us as children into a schoolroom. This was a building separate from the house, there was carpet in it and space heaters in the winter. Each of us had our own desk and "area". I realize this flies in the face of the "unschooling" approach but mom insisted that we be organized. We weren't allowed to go to school in our PJ's (you wouldn't be allowed to do that in public school and you're not going to do it here!) or wake up whenever we wanted as I found out other homeschoolers were "privileged" to do. And what's funny is, I doubt mom read any journals or scholarly research articles on "dressing for success" or orderliness but using common sense she developed a standard of education that allowed her to educate and graduate four children, three of whom are now college graduates.
I've been very blessed to live in an apartment that has a lot of room so we've been able to have a whole area that is our schoolroom. Previously we've had one viewing area (we use the Bob Jones University Press hard drive curriculum) and all three boys would watch the lessons and then Allan would do his work at a small table. Now that we have two - it became necessary to have two viewing areas and eventually we'll have three. So this year we branched out and started planning for a more convenient arrangement that would give us what we needed.
We invested in an adjustable height table. This can grow with the boys over the years and in a year we'll invest in another smaller table that will butt up against this one for Stephen's desk. We then had a man on the maintenance crew make us dividers so that the boys could each view their classes without being able to see their brother's classes! (They don't seem to understand that this prolongs their own school!) The man did a fantastic job and it has done exactly what we intended for it to do.
The shelf adds space for their books an manipulative's keeping organization manageable. I also keep my teacher's editions there so that they're handy. We installed bulletin/dry erase boards that gives them a spot to see their schedule of classes, hang their spelling lists and memory verses and good conduct charts.
The divider was also made to include another section that will be installed when we are ready for Stephen to have his own viewing area.What we found (and were hoping this would happen) is that the way they are designed with the shelf, both boys are able to use speakers instead of headphones. This allows me to sit between then and listen in to both so that I can help whichever one needs help without going back to see what the teacher said.
To those who live in the Cincinnati area: we got one of our computers from the Cincinnati Computer Cooperative. This has been a very affordable way for us to have what we need for the boys' schooling. I don't know how many other areas do this but it's worth looking into. The other computer is one that we had for years and needed a few inexpensive parts to get it up and running.
I'll post some other pictures later of the rest of our schoolroom. And no, it doesn't always look like this! On Friday afternoon we clean this area so that it's ready for the next week and that's when I snapped the picture!