Tips For Creating The Perfect Learning Space For Your Child

 

As my eldest daughter and I prepare for our third year of homeschooling, and my youngest for our second year, I’ve been in hulk mode with getting our curricula and learning space together. I don’t know what happens, but something clicks in me when it’s time to plan for our new school year. My thoughts run wild all day, I become obsessed with my to-do lists, and my insomnia kicks into high gear. I really take this homeschooling journey seriously, and my goal is to make sure that everything meets all of our expectations for an amazing learning experience. This school year I recognize that not only are myself and other veteran homeschooling parents preparing for new school years, but new homeschooling and virtual (distance) learning parents are as well. That, unfortunately, brings on an immense amount of pressure to figure things out for something that is new to both the parent and their child(ren).

As someone who’s not new to creating a learning space, it’s actually not necessary to create a new learning space each school year; it’s a choice. I enjoy making small or big changes to my family’s space because my children age out of certain tools, I realize there other things I’d like to add and/or remove, and it brings on some excitement for the girls and myself when we change up our space. Now that school is upon us, many are posting what their learning spaces will look like for the school year. I’ve seen so many beautiful spaces and beautifully curated pictures. They have been gorgeous, inspiring, and creative. However, seeing those pictures can make some feel insecure about what they are able to do for their family. I’m here to tell you to acknowledge the greatness, but erase the images of those big lavish and perfectly designed spaces from your mind NOW! If you’re able to create a space like those images, do it! But if not, don’t fret!

It’s important that you think about your family’s needs, preferences, and budget when creating your perfect learning space. The meaning of perfect for me is that it is perfect for the individuals involved, which means that it’s not for any and everyone else. You can be inspired and want to try different setups you may have seen on Pinterest or Instagram, but you have to be sure to tailor it to your needs. It is so important that you understand this because some of you are working with a little bit of space and feeling defeated because your learning space doesn’t look like someone else’s. Homeschooling does not have to be expensive at all, and that’s why I love it. You have so much room to make this experience absolutely amazing for both you and your child(ren). That’s a vital thing to remember when creating the perfect learning space. There are so many learning and teaching styles (i.e. Montessori, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, mixture) so your space has to reflect the one(s) that you use. So! Let’s talk about the different learning spaces you can create for your family, big or small, lavish, or minimalist. At the end of this post, you’ll find a list of the places I like to search and shop from. Feel free to comment and/or email me if you have any questions, or if you’d like to share some of your favorite places. I’ll update this post as needed.

WORKING WITH A SMALL SPACE WITH A SMALL AND/OR OPEN BUDGET?

So often we believe that if our space is too little, we aren’t in the position of homeschooling our child(ren). Well clearly it’s not a choice for many anymore, and now you have to make it work regardless if your space is limited. You are more than capable of having an excellent educational experience with a limited amount of space. You can’t compare your homeschool/virtual school to a perfectly curated picture on social media. If you have no room to work with, purchase an ottoman or try making a little space in a closet to store the materials that you’ll be using for school. If you have a dining room area/table, please use your table for learning! It’s the perfect place for you to work on one end, and your child(ren) on the other. You have the choice of setting up and breaking down your dining room set up each day, or you can get your child(ren) involved. It’s important to make them a part of the cleaning and maintenance of their learning space. If you have a little more room and can afford to have your learning materials out in the open or in a corner, consider using a storage cart or storage bin. I love the multi-drawer storage carts and plastic storage bins with wheels for easy movement. I believe in being strategic about what you invest in. Storage can range from $15 (Here’s a cheap cart I found at Walmart) to the hundreds, it just depends on your budget. They range in size and design so there’s a host of options.

If you don’t have a dining room table to work with or open space for storage, make use of the couch and/or floor. Use what you’ve got to make things happen. Your child will be perfectly fine with their laptop and books lounging across the couch and/or floor eating and learning. In addition, you may consider moving some things around in your child’s room in order to make a little learning nook. It’s a bit of a costly investment, but I’ve recently considered purchasing a daybed in order to combine my children’s room and our schoolroom. While it’s ideal to have a set space that separates learning from sleeping and/or play, you can still add to your child’s room and simply set some boundaries and rules. Got a little more space? Invest in a desk. You can get a student desk that fits their current size, one that you can adjust as they grow (the legs on the desk adjust as if it were a crutch or cane like this one), or one that can work for both you and your child (i.e. a writer’s desk). Facebook Marketplace is an amazing place to look for classroom items, especially desks. I was able to snag a student desk last year for $8 from a music school that was renovating. I’m 100% sure you’ll find storage carts and more on there. You can also purchase learning materials such as curriculum, manipulatives, etc.

WORKING WITH A MEDIUM TO LARGE SPACE WITH A SMALL AND/OR OPEN BUDGET?

Even if you’re working with a big budget, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to fill up your large learning area. However, what you choose to invest in can determine how long it may last you throughout your homeschooling journey. With more space, there’s more of an opportunity to purchase school materials in bulk, furniture for organizing, create different learning centers, reading nooks, easels, decorations, and more. Be careful not to get too carried away! It’s best to budget so that you don’t create clutter, and the rest of your money can go toward curricula, online resources, co-ops, field trips, food, and more.

My first year with an actual room dedicated to learning was last year. While it was exciting to have the bigger space, interior design doesn’t come to me naturally so I did my best to make a space conducive for both learning and play. I was gifted and purchased additional organizing bins that I placed on the floor for easy access to the girls, and utilized plastic storage drawers for the storage of the things that we would not yet be using. I didn’t even think about the amazing storage carts that I mentioned earlier. For my desk area, I used an old, round TV dinner table with a fold-up chair that (now that I think about it) was not pleasing to the eye. As the school year neared the end, I realized that I played myself short and really needed to step my game up for this upcoming year. When things were primarily on the floor, the room became cluttered and junky easily. Also, while I like shopping on a low budget and thrifting, that doesn’t mean I can’t make it bring out the amazing space that we have!

I didn’t go crazy, and you don’t have to either, but if you desire to and have the means to do so, GO FOR IT! Go all out for your child(ren). Fill the walls up with pictures ( a cute school picture is great), artwork, inspiring quotes, and educational posters. LED lights or Christmas lights are simple, but they create fun but relaxing vibes. Be sure to leave room for things such as sight words, but especially for graded school work/exams and your child’s artwork. With your larger space, you have more room for trial-and-error. Try a setup, and then try again if it doesn’t work. Discover what your style or learning theme is and literally create. You can make your space have a rustic, Pan African, classical, cartoon character themed, and more. You can even buy a large roll of paper, attach it to your wall, and let your child(ren) create a mural. I find it best to have as much open space as you can though. It leaves room for dance breaks, P.E. indoors, building, creating, and more. The biggest and simplest change I made to our room this year was purchase organizing shelves/stands. I absolutely love them, and my girls do too! It still allows for them to have access to their things, but clean up is much easier and clutter is almost nonexistent (considering I have a toddler who drags everything in and out of the room). I was also gifted a bigger and rectangular desk and chair that fit perfectly. I would love to say that our space is complete, but it isn’t. I, like you, can change up decorations to match seasons, holidays, and more.

I would love to go on and on about the endless things you can do with your small to large space, but you’d be reading for days. For now, hit the subscribe button, and follow me on Instagram @_queen.tiana and Queendom Wife and Mother on Facebook. I will be going live, and creating IGTV videos sharing more of my thoughts on this topic, and learning at home in general! Pictures/Videos of our previous and current learning spaces are below.

Places I like to shop or think are great for furniture, decorations, school supplies:

  • Target (Has an excellent teachers sale and back-to-school sale)
  • Walmart
  • Amazon
  • Dollar Store (Tree, General)
  • Ikea
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Goodwill
  • Lakeshore Learning
  • Five Below

There are so many more out there, but these are my go-to’s! I am not a brand ambassador or influencer for any of the brands mentioned above. While I do not receive any incentives or income from those mentioned, if you’d like to donate to our family in any way, my cash app is $QueendomWM and PayPal is tiana.gurley@gmail.com or PayPal.Me/queengurley.

Small learning space

Homeschool 101: Issa Global Pandemic!

It’s no mystery that the world is facing a global pandemic. People all over are being heavily impacted by these conditions. People are losing their jobs, being sent home with no pay, teleworking, schools and programs are closed, and the list goes on. Originally, schools that were closed in the United States were closed for two weeks. Those closings have now been extended for most of or the remainder of the school year. Working moms and dads are now experiencing what it’s like to be work-from-home and stay-at-home parents, in addition to being homeschool parents. So many lives were changed overnight.  Many families are scared because they have elderly, sickly, or essential loved ones, suffering a financial loss, and most of all nostalgic about how things used to be. How do I homeschool?  This was never my plan? Heres my take.

Now that you have a few more weeks added to your new (kind of forced) homeschool journey, RELAX! It’s not as bad as it seems. There are a few steps you should take in order to make the most out of this time with your beautiful child(ren). First of all, yes you are homeschooling/distance schooling, but please understand this is not the same as normal homeschooling. This is pandemic-schooling. Those of us who were homeschooling before COVID-19 aren’t even schooling the same! No co-ops, no playgrounds, no library visits, and more. So take a step back, breathe deeply, and take this new journey on day-by-day.

Unschooling/deschooling is one of the most important steps you can take during this time. It is the process in which both you and your child(ren) release your ideas and/or learned ways of schooling. It encourages exploration, student-led, and life learning. I stress that unschooling is not just for your child, but it is also for you. Teaching in a home environment is completely different than in a school building. While you may keep some of the public school methods that work for your child, it’s important that you do not force those things that to take place at home. Your child views you differently than he/she does their school teachers.

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn with homeschooling is to become flexible and to remain flexible. I’ve tried to stick to a schedule hundreds of times. It never works! Some days I’m up at 7am with a solid plan for my daughters, others I’m up at the same time, but not moving until 9:45-10am. I used to stress over having a strict schedule, but the flexibility works for my family. The days that I find myself moving slower, I actually notice my oldest daughter needed the extra time as well. However, I realize that many reading this blog will be running to the car or bus stop to get their children back in school once it’s open. So keeping a schedule similar to what it’ll be like once school begins again may work best. I also know that you may have to work! If your child has a zoom class meeting, set them up and work. If they can work independently, set them up and work! But if you are required or needed to help finish schoolwork, give your baby some simple tasks like journaling, cleaning, watering the plants, and more to hold them over until you have a break or you’re logged off for the day. Working, cooking, cleaning, and teaching is not easy, so don’t put that much pressure on yourself.

In addition to those two steps, be sure to incorporate a lot of fun and playing in your day. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, pandemic-schooling is not the same as homeschooling. Your child loves you and enjoys being home, but they are missing their friends, teachers, recess, extracurricular activities, festivals, dances, graduations, and more. Most importantly, those old enough to understand are under a lot of pressure and possibly scared. Try incorporating some of their interests into their learning experience. For example, if they are into music have them write a rap or song about one of their lessons or a topic. Let them put on a show and perform it. It combines music and creative writing all in one. You can discuss, proofread, and edit it together. You also never know what your child finds interesting. Bring them into the kitchen to cook with you. If it’s ok, let them see how you do your job, give them some assignments based on your work. They need real-life experiences still! I intentionally let my daughter watch me work on our family budget sheet, pay bills, and put money into our savings. I also let her work with me when I completed our taxes. You can really do anything and make it a learning experience!

Lastly, remain confident. Be confident that you are an excellent parent, employee, and person. You are doing your best with something that was just thrown into your lap. If your child only worked with workbooks, printouts, YouTube, and online lessons for the day, that was a productive day. If you were able to interact and actively teach for the day, that was a productive day. Every day doesn’t look the same, and that is OKAY! You have been raising and teaching your child since the day they were born. You are more than capable of teaching your child during this crisis. I understand that some of us are parents to younger children as well. I have a very active 2-year-old daughter. Some days we’re working together, others she’s learning through play. I am a parent who uses YouTube all the time for learning. We use puzzles, she plays with her dolls, blocks, and more. I recently purchased an Elevated Learning binder from Momi Swap. If you have a preschooler thru 1st-grade child, it is one of the best investments. The owner is Majidah Muhammad, a beautiful mother of two, who is an educator, but also homeschools and owns a homeschooling co-op. You can learn more about her and what she does through her website Momi Swap.

Be sure to subscribe and turn on your notifications. I will be posting a follow-up video where I speak a little more on what’s mentioned here and show a little bit of the changes that have taken place in our household.

Happy teaching!

Finding the Green Within: A Plant Based Vibe Added To Our Homeschool Routine

We have finally reached the end of our first year of homeschooling, and I am thrilled about the new activities that we are incorporating into our summer learning and what we will continue next school year. When Taniya was in public school, she was fortunate to have a program that came to visit once a month that taught them healthy eating and cooking. I genuinely want to incorporate her in cooking many of our meals, but I find myself getting anxious because of the time it takes. Most of the time I am in a frenzy trying to get the meal complete by any means necessary. I’ve spent all day teaching, chasing after Jayla, getting them outdoors to play, preparing breakfast, lunch and all snacks, and washing dishes each time. By the time I’m ready to cook dinner, I need it finished in enough time for my husband to be in bed early for his work day, and my children in bed early so that I can have my free time (wine). I began to feel bad, until an old friend came into the picture.

Liz and I went to middle school together and reconnected about 8 years ago when we both first became mothers (her; a year before me). Motherhood joined us, but I became more likened to her motherhood journey when I saw her brand develop over the years. She is the owner of Greenwithin, where the goal is to create opportunities for her community to explore and adopt a plant-based lifestyle. She recently expanded her footprint to include connecting as many individuals living the Washington, D.C. area to plant-based meals using locally grown produce from a local garden. Her goal is to be able to host events where she is able to educate the youth and their families with a hands-on experience.

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Once she has her entire program in place, we will be first in line to take part in the experience, but for now I absolutely love the one-on-one experience. Taniya’s first lesson was a simple fruit bowl. While she may not have liked each fruit that was included, she was taught how she could use any fruit to create a colorful and healthy meal. The fruits that were used on this occasion were champagne mangoes, blueberries, banana, watermelon and kiwi. She cut them with a reusable wooden knife like a pro.

Taniya and I love watching Food Network. One of our favorite shows is Chopped Junior and Chopped (the original). Because of the amount of hours she and I have spent watching that show lol, she is well aware of what a good presentation is when it comes to cooking. I was very pleased with how much effort she put into the placement of the fruits with the assistance of her great teacher, Liz. The outcome was both beautiful and tasty! Jayla and I waited patiently and then enjoyed every single bite.

I was also very happy to let go of the teacher role for a bit, and to watch Taniya be able to take her time to learn and cook without being rushed (by me). It was enjoyable for her also because it gave her a moment to say “this is just for me.” I always teach my children to share, but I think it’s great to give them moments where they can say “this is just for me and not my sibling.”

My husband and I were already very enthusiastic about living a more plant-based lifestyle, so now the goal is to get Taniya on board. We don’t plan on having a completely meatless diet, just a more fresh and natural colorful diet. Jayla would adapt well as I have only recently introduced meat to her, but Taniya has had years of an on-and-off again poor diet. When I had Taniya home with me for the first year and a half of her life, her diet was consistent and healthy. Once I began working and she was in school, we were always on the go. It was only her and I, being as though my husband was over-the-road and I always went for quick meals. That usually meant eating out. Once I became a stay-at-home wife and mother at the end of 2016, it felt good to hear her say, “Mommy, can we eat something outside of the house? We never eat out anymore!” Now I’m ready to hear her say, “Mommy, can we try adding a little more kale to our salad? We always have spinach!”

I believe with the continued guidance and motivation from Liz and Greenwithin, Taniya will be thrilled to live a more plant-based lifestyle. I plan to choose a day and time where Taniya can have more of these moments together in the kitchen where she and I aren’t in a rush. I don’t want her growing up thinking that her experience in the kitchen has to always be rushed and stressed!

If you’re interested in learning more about Liz’s efforts and seeing some of her amazing recipes, follow her on Instagram @greenwithin and twitter @plantbasedvibes.