Monday, May 24, 2010

Step Two: Spaced Out -- Thinking about Space Planning Guidelines in the Creative Curriculum® for the Home

I have decided that I will attack my May Focus on the Locus of Control in Home(Schooling) front  in part, by continuing the Creative Curriculum® (CC) for the Home exploration I began prior to Lent, but somehow let go for a while.  Now, let me explain that I did not entirely “space out” with the whole CC thing, forgetting to move onto Step Two as I indicated I would in my long-ago last CC post.  I simply chose to stay true to my Lenten promise to myself to save blogging for when all my other tasks and duties were done, and, thus, felt unmotivated to continue much with my CC path. No longer! I am grabbing my thinking cap and my work boots and taking a few more steps this month...

Now, before setting about to physically create each of the Creative Curriculum’s ® interest areas I mentioned in my last post, I guess I should think about guidelines for them.  In general, the Creative Curriculum® suggests the obvious – that the physical environment of a classroom has a profound effect on children and that a safe, attractive, comfortable and well-designed space helps engage children in activities.  Likewise, it suggests dividing space into the separate interest areas that are stocked with varied, well-displayed materials that offer children a clear range of choices.  As a whole, the classroom should, of course, have spaces which vary in size and set up, allowing for both quiet and louder play and for children to explore as individuals, partners and groups.

Now that’s all well and good for a classroom, but what about in a home?  As I study the Creative Curriculum®’s ideas on setting up and maintaining the physical environment for optimal early childhood learning, I adapt ideas as I go.  The curriculum’s Space Planning Guidelines were easy!
  • Are there established traffic patterns for such things as entering our home, putting belongings away, using the potty, and moving from one area to another?  Yep.  No worries there.  Although, when the new baby comes, we will have to adapt our entryway to include one more person, as well as include better space for visitors while we are at it.  And, of course, we are always looking to improve the organization and accessibility of storage areas in all the rooms of our house!
  • Have we clearly defined areas that need protection, such as block building areas, library areas, shelf areas, etc.?  To some degree.  In our current learn-and-play space, we had temporarily put down tape lines as a guide for where Luke and Nina could build constructions and leave them up.  We also placed tape lines indicating space in front of shelving that needed to stay clear of toys and construction in order to facilitate putting things away.  And, we put another line around our computer desk to remind the kids to ask before entering Mom and Dad’s work space.  (These were working, but have recently been shrunk and adapted as the room has taken on another temporary use –storing sorted books until we get our home library together.)  Plus, in almost all our rooms, we have cozy reading nooks that remain mostly undisturbed and allow for snuggly reading times.  As we move forward, we will think more deliberately of how to define open spaces, protected spaces, etc.
  • Do we have enough table spaces, allowing the whole family to be seated at once for a snack or meal, as well as for any writing, cooking or other activity that the kids might prefer to do at a table as opposed to on the floor?  Indeed, we do!  And, what a reminder it was for me to read in the Creative Curriculum® that there is no need for extra table space as kids prefer to work on the floor.  Sometimes I envision having perfectly sized children’s tables and chairs in each area of our home – one for snack time, one for coloring, one for game playing, one for you-name-it – but, really, we don’t need these.  The tables and chairs we have suit our needs just fine!  We might even do well to get rid of some of the extra kids’ tables and chairs we’ve collected if we cannot find logical spaces for them.  Cute and perfectly sized or not, they become just distracting clutter when they don’t have a home.  So, I took the first step towards this by selling one such table at our big yard sale yesterday.  Clutter, we release you!
  • What kind of floor surfaces do we have and, therefore, where might different activities work best?  Cooking, art, sand play and water exploration areas work best on floors that can easily be washed.  Blocks require comfortable flooring where kids can sit or work on their knees.  Between the hard flooring in our kitchen and living room, rugged floors in other rooms, a few movable foam floor mats and a handy old shower curtain drop or two, we are fine on this account.  Now, it’s just a matter of training us all to do logical things on logical floor types!
  • Are interest areas near needed resources?  Yes and no.  On the positive side, indeed, we do cooking and art in the kitchen, where a water source is vital.  And, as we clean the basement, we can move some art down there, as we have an accessible ½ bathroom there.  Plus, we have outlets near music and storytime areas, where CD players are used. However, on the negative side, our storage is a mess right now, with many things tucked in the most illogical places throughout the less-used recesses of our home.  Granted, we did purge some things over the weekend and, in the past few months, we’ve made some headway at sorting and labeling in the garage and laundry room, but we still have a long way to go and our basement family-room-to-be looks somewhat like news photos of post-hurricane and earthquake areas.  Thus, many resources are currently lost in the abyss.  More focused sorting and purging are definitely in order, followed by finding logical at-hand homes for things.  As such, the physical steps we partake in, inspired by the Creative Curriculum®, will undoubtedly bring beads of sweat to the brow!
  • Are we capitalizing on areas with lots of light?  Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of natural light in our house.  But, we do place writing, drawing and reading areas near windows as much as possible and we are working on getting better mood and task lighting in all areas of our home.  Plus, once I get some hanging plant holders, I intend to add “caring for plant” areas in naturally lit spaces of the house, too.  (Right now, our small collection of house plants, which are on their last legs, are atop our entryway shelf – out of reach of curious hands and bumps from moving boxes of clutter but not basking in light.) As we move forward, we truly hope to let there be more light – figurative and literal – in our home.  Until then, with the good weather upon us, we take a lot of our work and play outside! 

  • Are rooms organized so we can see as much as possible from every location to ensure children’s safety?  Eek!  How do you do this in a house with two floors and a ranch design – i.e not a lot of open space.    Not sure, but we do our best to keep the kids within sight! ;)  And, as Order in the Home continues, our sight lines will improve, we hope.
    Thus, the space survey ends.  And, I plan to take a break from thinking cap tasks to start some physical work creating one interest area.  Thus, Step Three will be our Music and Movement Area.

    In This Series:

    One final note, as I have mentioned before, if you would like to join me on this CC journey, please leave comments.  Grab a copy of the book yourself to review and let me know what you're getting from it.  Or, use my summaries and posts as a starting point for thought.  For today's topic, you can also see an excerpt of the book at Teaching Strategies.  Then, ell me how you're moving from theory to practice in your own home.  Cheer me on (or give me constructive criticism) about how I am doing.  Or, simply jot down whatever comes to mind.  Deep conversation or silly banter -- any adventure I have ever partaken in has always been all the better for the sharing that happens along the way.  Thanks! 


    emmacourreges said...

    Hello, this was a wonderful post today. I love what you are doing right now and your goals you are trying to reach to better your children's education is so great. You seem on the right track to me. I have a question for you or maybe there is another mom who might read this who would have some help. I would love to start home school for my pre-schoolers, my son does well with more of the activities not real structured enviroment and then my daughter has to have much structure and routine. I am working on our learning space building some shelves like you have in the picture to use to store activities on and working on building her a small fun desk to do tasks at because some things involve small parts her brother can't play with. I am wondering a couple of things first I am really overwelmed trying to find some curriculm that is christian I know there are good ones but there is so much out there I am just overwhelmed trying to decide. Second everything is so expensive I am wondering if there are discount or used curriculm places or maybe a place where people will donate old curriculm. Also my daughter does so well with hands on activities like stringing beads and lacing boards and all different things like that and I have a few lacing boards and right now we are stringing macaroni (it is soothing to her especially when she is overwhelmed) but I was wondering if there are places that sell things like that at discount. I so badly want to homeschool but my husband says I can only do it if we can afford it and looking at things I am worried I can't get enough stuff together to teach her what she needs to know with the little I have! Any hel in pointing me where to look is greatly appriciated! Thanks so much and keep up the good work! Amber

    Mama Pickles said...

    I just recently came across your blog and I love your posts about Creative Curriculum. My son is in a mixed early childhood classroom that uses CC. What a wonderful idea to bring it into your home. I have to see if my library has a copy of this book. My son didn't qualify for extended school year and he THRIVES on structure. I think I'll look into structuring areas of our home lie this to help him through the summer.

    Martianne said...

    Thank you Mama Pickles. I look forward to journeying with you. Let's keep in touch and share ideas! I just left a messg on your blog...

    Emmacourreges, thank you, you. If your son likes activities, but not real structured schedules and environments, setting up CC inspired interest areas may be quite helpful for his learning. They could also help your daughter. Both, could benefit from some sort of daily or weekly rhythm, too. There are so many ways to incorporate these into home life and education. If you need ideas, just ask!... Regarding shelving -- the stuff you see in the picture on this post is actually closet organization shelving that I have had for years and simply repurposed. Some cut boards atop crates or bricks would work, too. My dream is lots of Ikea shelves. But, re-purposing and making due have been working just fine for now and can work for almost anyone. heck, I used sturdy boxes for a while...

    Martianne said...

    And more...
    As far as a desk for your daughter goes, depending on her age, until you can afford one, you can actually make a personal desk with an old box, too. I did it for a while. You simply cut u-shapes out of the bottom for legs to slip under. Another inexpensive thought, if you want a "high" desk to keep things out of reach from your son is to stack crates or similar things and then use some re-purposed wood or masonite atop it... There are so many make-do ways. If you tell me a bit about your available resources, I can help you brainstorm. Alos, if you have freecycle in your area - try that!

    You mentioned curriculum and how expensive it is. True. But, you don;t need it. Try signing up for the Creative Kingdom and Printable Place of Themes yahoogroups. You'll get more than you need as far as printables and ideas. Or, use one of the curriculums that are free online. Some are Charlotte Mason based ones (that are really for K on up as during pre-K CM mostly advocates free play, habit training, outdoor time and read alouds. Hubbards Cupboard is wonderful, too Oh, there are so many. You really don;t need to pay for one at this age! Five in a Row, if you can get it from the lirbary, is great for this age, too, and might really work for your two kids -- providing ideas for activities for son and some structure for your daughter. There is a Christian Supplement book that you might be able to get from the library, too...
    Regarding discount and used curriculum places, I only know of some yahoo groups, plus using paperback Swap, Book Mooch, Freecycle, etc.
    For materials and activities, depending on where you are, Oriental Trading Company (when they have sales and free shipping) and Discount School Supply can be helpful. The Dollar Spot,thrift stores, yard sales, etc. and a little ingenuity work, too. I am always creating activities on the fly and on the cheap with found and very inexpensive materials.
    Many expensive materials can be replicated or substituted for homemade versions using repurposed, upcycled, recycled goods. You mentioned stringing beads -- use string, shoe laces, pipe cleaners, straws, yarn, etc. and macaroni, buttons, toilet paper tube sections, etc. No need to purchase expensive sets...
    truly, I encourage you to homeschool if you feel called and to let your husband know you can do it inexpensively. When I start worrying that my time and our budget won't allow me to homeschool efficiently and with the "right" equipment", I remind myself that God provides and that folks have learned all over the world with almost nothing at hand. It is only in recent times we have felt a need for so much stuff to educate our children. Truly, when I used to volunteer and travel, I would teach kids at orphanages using sticks, stones, dusty slates and paper scraps and nubs of pencils. They learned just fine with these. So, please, please be encouraged and let's keep dialoguing... If God is calling you to homeschool there is a reason! Please feel free to comment anytime on this blog or to email me personally so we can inspire one another!

    emmacourreges said...

    Thank you so much, for all the great info, I hadn't come accross any of the free sites yet so I am going to look at your suggestions. Thank you so much for all your help oh yes and I am deffinantly going to look at the CC book maybe the library will have it. Oh yes and then the most exciting thing was after I sent you a comment I was on the move to find something in my area to help me out and I found a store that is just like half price books, if you know what that is but is all home school curriculm, I am so thrilled it is called the book cover. I think I am going to have to go check it out today and I truly belive it is an answer to prayer. Thank you for all your help and ideas and keep up the amazing job of showing your children christ through everything you are doing!

    emmacourreges said...

    Just wanted to let you know I checked out the sites you gave me and then we also went to that store the book cover. I made a post on my bog about it. It was so awesome you should check out everything I got for 38dollars. Also if you ever needed anything they have a website you can look on it is all resale but the workbooks I bought today have never been written in. Thanks so much for your help and talking me down of my overwhelming pedestal. I think we are ready to start our learning soon and I can't wait. Amber

    Honey said...

    We're doing the same thing...creating a more simple, organized and beautiful home. As we are in the process of selling our home I am being forced to create an environment that is visually pleasing to both my family & strangers. Amazingly I'm finally really letting go...of course it looks worse before it's better...but...I did see the floors earlier today!

    I'm interested in hearing more about this. Thanks for sharing.


    bellaaziz22 said...

    god i am so happy i found your blog . I am a mama surrounded with complete mess that i am finding hard to get rid of . first i was a mama for a very hurt physically disabled daughter for 12 years before i was blessed with my second and third terminators . it is probably me who lived for years one way and need to change now but finding it hard .
    like i said my first child is extremely bright but unable to do anything physically , we did a lot together but mostly intellectual sensoriel , and for physical activities my arms and legs were hers .than second blessing came along this is when i heard of montessori and i loved it , i found it perfect fit , i set up a wonderful environment , didn't really have to do much it was all well set up with my first child . i was there on the floor working on my hurt daughter hands on therapy , and the baby was playing around including her with whatever we are doing , and she really loved mummy's attention.
    than at 2.5 years , we were blessed with our third baby boy . pregnancy was hard for me , i had to slow down couldn't do as much as i used to , baby brother arrived , he grew fast and was mobile by 4 months walking upright at 10 months , and this is when my troubles began . i love my kids but my days are wild , and i am thorn trying to reorganize my days .all i do now is following the youngest two and trying to pick up the mess . number two is engaged with an activity , number three is there doesn't believe he is only 18 months but a twin brother to his 4 years old sister and very determined to do what she is doing so any activity will end up in a big mess and tears of course because he is not ready for it .
    also suddely the four years old enjoys her baby brother wild exploration , she can barely sit for five minutes learning something before she announces i want to go play with my brother . they spend their days jumping on the trampoline or playing outdoors.i know this is healthy too. but i like to have a bit more structure , a more organized house , more predictable routine , a functional dining table not one full with clutter , impossible to use . the 18 month old is not really ready to put back his own stuff , so his sister regressed to do the same . cannot put a barrier between their toys and stuff,well i can go for ever , i just need some advice how other mamas do it , how do you see yourself handling your two young ones after the arrival of your third blessing ??

    bellaaziz22 said...

    ok i sent a very long rumbling email,and all i had in mind was how much i like to use the many three part cards i prepared , games , montessori material ,and all my 4 years old want is mama can we go play outside swim or jump on the trampoline.anything else i suggest she would say mama can we do it later i am too tired , but still she can go for more jumping .she is not too tired to mess around but tired to clear her mess , and the presence of her 18 months old brother is not helping.
    she is very bright , taught herself to read loves books is very sweet loving , probably it is me i just need some routine or predictability in my days , for me or for her hurt sister , and i worry of her lack of concentration and not wanting to sit don and work on something and finish it like many other kids.


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