Friday, October 5, 2012

Pajama-Clad Homeschooling in Small Spaces

I read a lot of blogs of folks who homeschool. The ones who give details have beautiful curriculum plans and an area set aside just for homeschooling. Some of them even have a whole room dedicated to homeschool pursuits. Those of you with entire homeschooling rooms, I want you to know that I think you're adorable, what with your brightly painted tables and your crafty pencil holders and your Pinterest-worthy shelves of neatly organized supplies. I applaud your efforts. Now please look away while I show our homeschool spaces.

First, for book work, we sit at the table. Note that I didn't specify which table; we only have one. It's big enough for us to eat at it and have our homeschool supplies stacked on the opposite side, but we actually do the work on the side where we eat, so depending on how industrious I was the night before, we may or may not do homeschool work on top of a pile of crumbs or a stray smear of ketchup.

working at the kitchen table

There is one daily activity that is hard for us to do on the kitchen table, and that is our calendar work. We don't have enough wall space to hang it in its own spot, so I just put some nails into our IKEA white board, and we have to take it down if Zinashi wants to draw something on the board. When we take it down, it gets shoved behind the board, kind of crumpled. Classy!

calendar time!

You also see here, as the title suggests, that we do homeschool in pajamas. For awhile Zinashi was getting dressed when she woke up, but then she started taking a page out of my book and just waiting until she absolutely had to change to leave the house. Sometimes I feel like this is a problem, but mostly I feel like it is one less thing to get through before we can start our school work. We have a very limited amount of time during Elvie's morning nap to work uninterrupted, and far be it from me to waste that time on something like asking my child to get dressed.

When it comes to storing our supplies, we do have dedicated space for that (besides the stack on the table; we do put things away at the end of our school week so as to enjoy a slightly less cluttered table on the weekend). We have a drawer. Singular. But look! It all fits!

the homeschool drawer

We use other things in Zinashi's schooling, but they are items we use for other things, too, like arts and crafts or bedtime stories. This is the curriculum. That's it. We are not making things too complicated this year.

I suppose that's the beauty of beginning with kindergarten. While it's an important year for laying foundations, there's not a lot of minutiae to deal with. We consistently do reading, math, narration, French, and calendar. That's it. And we only do them four days a week. I know. Hold the lazy phone. But the way I figure it, we don't take any teacher work days or extended holiday breaks. We get plenty done in each subject by doing them four days a week, and it gives us one day each week when Jarod is working that we can do other things. It's perfect for us.

You may note that I've left out subjects that a lot of others cover. Where is the history, the science, the...whatever? You guys, it's kindergarten. I could teach Zinashi the phases of the moon, and she'd listen with rapt attention, but she'd forget them before the year's end. For now, we are focusing on things she will retain, that we can build on. When it comes to art, physical education, and music, I approach those as extra curriculars. I don't want her to see them as part of her formal school work; I want her to enjoy each for its own sake. She is thrilled to be taking ballet, has shown a natural talent for soccer, and digs into the art supplies at home with aplomb. That's enough for now, I think.

To be honest, before we started our official school year, I was a little nervous about whether we could pull this off or not. I knew that the other options available to us were not a good fit, but I also didn't know if we could really manage to get school done each day and keep up with the rest of life. I'm still a little behind on the rest of life, but I don't regret the decision to homeschool. Zinashi is learning beautifully, and she still gets the luxury of having the time she needs to work on her own little pursuits in the comfort of home. She gets to do some group activities without becoming overwhelmed, and we get to have the family time we want to have without worrying about getting homework done or making sure she's in bed in time to get up for school the next morning. It's a win all around.

There are some challenges for me, personally, but I feel like I'm working through those. I'm not a morning person, but Zinashi is best able to focus in the morning, and that's when Elvie's naps are the most reliable, so we just have to do it. Monday through Thursday, the house is incredibly messy at the end of every day since we use the time which used to be available for cleaning to do schoolwork. It bothers me that things are not picked up more often, but I'm learning to live with it. Beyond those two things, it really has been pretty smooth sailing. We may not be the most creative or industrious homeschoolers, but that's okay. Like I said, it's kindergarten. We've got plenty more years to hone our schooling skills and figure out how to work in more subjects and projects. Next year, maybe we'll start one of those fancy history timelines. For now, I think the goal will be to keep the ketchup off the workbooks. That sounds pretty reasonable and doable to me.


  1. I love this! And really, isn't the point of homeschooling largely to set it up to work for YOUR family and meet YOUR child's needs?

    We can go crazy with all the shiny, organized stuff to buy. But do they make any difference to the outcome? I think not, unless you are trying to instill a passion for organization rather than for learning.

    Today, we looked for things that start with B while walking to preschool. No desk, no fancy pantsy stuff, and I think Yosi got more out of it than he does from any of the workbooks I've bought.

  2. Our homeschool room is a shelf in our dining room with some workbooks I grabbed from Costco. Obviously we're very fancy and have a perfect plan in place.

    Of course, crying a few days ago because I was certain I was ruining my daughter's chances of being a productive, intelligent adult wasn't exactly part of the plan. But isn't flexibility part of homeschooling?

  3. "Zinashi is learning beautifully"
    Sounds like you're doing great!

    This makes it sound more like something I could do than many of the posts I've read about it.

  4. You are doing reading, math, narration, French, calendar, soccer, ballet and art projects??? That is A LOT!

  5. Who has a birthday today? And I like your abacus. :)

  6. I was homeschooled K-12 and it looked very similar to what you're doing. No designated space, and up through grade 4 or 5, not much dedicated curriculum. My mom would get interesting books out of the library, we'd count stuff, or color things, or do chalk, or visit the airport/firestation/aquarium. Later we had math books, and literature to read and essays and stuff, but even when I was in high school we still mostly did half-days. And somehow I'm a doctoral student in biophysics. It just works out. As long as she's happy, curious and learning - it's working!

  7. This may be the most inspirational thing I've ever read. Thank you for keeping it real!

  8. I love this! I found you through images. My Sweet Peanut also homeschools in her pj's. We had one neighbor ask if we had just woken up! Preschool was done in the living room or what have you. We're in 2nd grade now and we homeschool in the large landing at the top of the stairs. We converted one of her toy organizers to hold school books and such. I think you're doing great! Your child doesn't care how fancy the room is. And you're working with a baby/toddler too? Kudos and like Mary said thanks for keeping it real.

  9. I'll have you know that when I was little, I did my homeschool work UNDER the table. But hey, I got all my work done! Whatever works is always ok :)


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