Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our Fall 2011 Classroom

I sometimes enjoy getting to take a peek at other folk’s classroom spaces and learning nooks online.  Thus, I am finally sharing our Fall 2011 classroom here if others are curious where some of our learning takes place.

Upon Entering 

 On the door entering the room is our Work Room Agreement.  Since our classroom is in a room that has served as a guest bedroom, an office and play-and-learning space, a storage room and a storage room/playroom/office, the children had developed bad habits about its use prior to this academic year beginning.  Thus, when I recreated it as our Fall 2011 classroom, I felt it was important to “make it new” in the kids’ minds. 

We did not let them in it much as I was cleaning out all the stuff that had been stored in it and made it into their classroom and we made a big deal out of how they would wake up in the morning to a new space, filled with fun activities for them to learn and play with.  Then, when they woke up, before we visited the room, we agreed upon the guidelines for it and the kids eagerly signed them and asked to post them on the door.  Luke even wrote “it” on it, which he told me signified that he agreed to it all.

When you enter the room, you see my desk, which only a small corner of is pictured next to some storage shelves (on the left above) covered with a whitish tablecloth to cut down on visual stimulation in the room and topped with the wonderful Shiller Math kit, which we were gifted by a homeschool friend last spring in exchange for some help we offered their family.  (Gotta love trading time, talents and no-longer-needed resources!)  I like having the kit handy so I can easily access it.

Montessori and Faith Exploration Shelves

Next to that are 20 Montessori-inspired cubby shelves. (These are stacked ClosetMaid organizers that have been re-purposed I don’t know how many times over the many years I have had them.)  In each cubby is one “learning toy” or a single tray (dollar store cookie sheets), bin (dollar store fabric boxes or cubby boxes I already had from elsewhere) or basket filled with a Montessori-inspired activity.  On top of the shelves is a puzzle shelf and a cleaning caddy, plus an empty space for the kids to place finished works.

To the right of our Montessori shelves is a light with shelves on it.  We use these for faith-based works, which are sure to include some Godly Play in the coming months now that teaching a lesson inspired by it hooked me this past Monday..

Then, under the print of Jesus is a small reipurposed shelf/magazine holder that will be used as an altar for home Catechesis of the Good Shepherd work when we begin it again.

Work Table

Under the window is a child-sized table and two stools that the kids can work cooperatively at, but, more often than not, it is “Nina’s desk”.

Luke's Multi-Purpose Desk and Workboxes

Next to Nina’s desk, on the wall across from the Montessori shelves is Luke’s desk.  It is not child-height (which some might say is a Montessori no-no), but it is what he wanted.  When we disassembled the kids’ bunk beds, Luke asked if the desk could be his work space.  I agreed, because it provides a three-in-one purpose:

  1. It gives Luke ownership and respect.  He requested it and he takes care of it.
  2. It offers Luke a sensory-friendly place to concentrate on his work.   The white “walls” of the desk against the light paint of the room’s walls limit distracting visual distraction for him and even cut down on sound a bit..
  3. It offers Luke a sensory-friendly place to have quiet time.  Although he has not taken advantage of it yet, we talked about how he could pull out the chair to “hide” under the desk whenever he wished.  He is welcome to bring blankets and pillows in to create a little learning or resting nest for himself when he craves this kind of thing.  

Above Luke’s desk is the dollhouse and a basket of dollhouse furniture that we had to pull out of the kids’ room and have nowhere else to house for the moment.  Right now, it is there just for storage, but we can take it down and use it in the hallway on request or when it is appropriate to enhance certain lessons. It is great for imaginative play, language development and social storytelling.

In the drawers of Luke’s desk, so far, are sensorimotor cards for movement breaks, a body sock and some figurines for playing with when a calming break is needed.

Next to the desk is our workbox tower of drawers topped by the kids’ pencil-scissor-glue boxes.  Luke uses the top five drawers and Nina uses the bottom ones.  I would have preferred to get single-colored drawers to reduce visual stimulation/distraction in the room, but these were the ones that were on sale when I had a coupon. They're working out well as the colors help Luke and Nina discern whose are whose.

Finally, there is an easel with a trash can under it and Montessori work mats behind it.  This is in front of a supply/storage closet.

Planning a Space with Principles and Goals in Mind

As you can see, the room is fairly small and, truth be told, a bit more crowded than might be ideal.   But, so far, it is working nicely for us.  We typically spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings in this room, as well as other times upon the kids’ request.  We also use our yard, other spaces in our home and many walks and excursions for “study”.  I am a strong believer that learning happens everywhere and that young children need ample time to play and explore freely outside.

As a put together the room for this year my three key goals were:

  1. to provide a Montessori-friendly space for some of our learning to take place in order to enhance the "I can do it myself" attitude we seek to develop in our children while helping us with our Rule of Seven, in particular, loving learning, loving working,  and loving playing.
  2. to be mindful of the children’s sensory needs and input and to key into our Rule of Seven goals of loving moving and loving one another (i.e. taking each other's needs into consideration)l
  3. to create a “work room” we could all enjoy, keying into loving beauty a bit, for even if the room is not as beautiful as I would like it to be, it is far more pleasing to the eye, mind and spirit in its current form than it was in its last manifestation as storage area:

I know, horrifying!  So glad that's been taken care of and that so far, our Fall 2011 learning space has been a success!

What does your learning room, nook or area look like?  Please feel free to post a link!

Also, if you have a sensory kid, consider making a last minute entry to the Super Sensory Makeover Contest over at the Secial Needs Network.

Or, if you would like to help us win $250 to make our learning areas even more sensory friendly, start voting for us at the Special Needs network between October 1st and 31st.  It would be an awesome gift to us if you’d consider doing so.  Thanks!


Amazing_Grace said...

Thank you for letting us see what your learning area looks like. I love seeing what others do and get ideas for mine as well. :)

Heidi said...

Thanks for sharing! I love the Work Room Agreement signed by the kids. That is a FANTASTIC idea. I don't have much to show right now because our house is a little tight with 6 of us and renting. I miss the days of having a dedicated space and I look forward to having that again some day! (at which point I promise my blog will be smothered in pictures after our hiatus from a designated space!)


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