The most wonderful thing about homeschooling is also also the most difficult thing about homeschooling: Learning is implanted in real life and real relationships.
Sometimes I have to stop reading in the middle of a chapter in order to change a diaper, but it also means that connections are being made among life's many aspects.
Beauty, love, and knowledge are fostered co-dependently when my schoolroom is my living room. It’s not just what we do there that makes these connections, but what is there. Here are three must-haves for your homeschool room.
1. A Whiteboard
In my experience, there are three stages to learning that sticks.
I have never found anything better suited to these three stages than the whiteboard.
Don’t think of the whiteboard as a lecture tool. Think of the whiteboard as a projection of your personal learning journal. It displays your experience as the lead learner as you encounter new ideas, make connections with other ideas, and then start articulating them.
As I read the page from the Usborne World of Animals on the Sichuan forests, I encounter the forests on the whiteboard. I note key phrases and terms on the whiteboard. I draw pictures of the misty, pheasant-rich forests.
Next, I connect by embellishing. I draw how I imagine the animals are feeling. I write a sentence using newly learned terms. I draw arrows to other lands. I play with the information.
The whiteboard, being at the head of the table, prompts them to follow the lead. With their own journal in hand, they make their own notes and drawings.
Having invited them with the whiteboard to encounter and connect, now they, themselves, take to the whiteboard. They draw their own landscape to show the rest of us. I prompt them to consider key terms from the text. I encourage them to annotate. I gently question them, and I praise them for blessing us with their displayed work.
The whiteboard is a tool for the educator to lead by learning. It gives non-tyrannical direction to their individual learning practices. It stands for multi-perspectived learning that is designed to bless others.
2. A Vase of Flowers
I am torn between two dream-houses: a chic, minimalist apartment and a charmingly cluttered hobbit-hole. Where the coldness of the first is solace from the beleaguerment of endless LEGO underfoot, the warmth of the second welcomes us into cozy adventures.
I learned something early on from homeschooling in a toy-cluttered and ugly kitchen. Although kids insist on both mess and toys, they find it just as hard as I do to tune them out to focus.
I was more surprised to discover that blank walls are equally hard to process. The dreary expanse of wall was in danger of communicating that educational life is a boring necessity.
When my daughter adorned the table one morning with daisies, I realised that the flowers were changing the way we saw the lessons. Objects in the schoolroom were communicating either that truth is stolid and disembodied or that it is enchanting and embodied. The flowers became a cue to embody beliefs. We want a home culture that not only invites learning but also participates in the beauty of truth.
Before Covid-19, I was asked the almost daily question, “Why do you choose to homeschool?” Although I want my children to learn, to say that is my aim would be missing the point. What homeschooling is uniquely capable of achieving is a life-long love for learning. I want to light up loves, which sit behind learning. I want us to delight in God’s laws, not just obey them. I want to love truth, not only learn it.
Just as flowers in the schoolroom help to implant truth in culture, singing implants truth in our feelings. Singing something tells us that it is wonderful to us. A well-learned truth is integrated like this.
Singing is physical and proclamatory and happy. Singing the names of the oceans in Audio Memory: Geography Songs CD kit tells us that it is not just true, but significantly true.
Beautifying your schoolroom need not be vain or expensive, but replacing some bric-a-brac with flowers and pressing play on Audio Memory might give your next geography lesson depth worth singing about.