You know what’s been the hardest aspect of homeschooling four year old and a six year old? Juggling. Yes, juggling the fact that they are currently at very different levels in their learning. But this learning station organizer is saving my homeschooling sanity!
My oldest reads, and is at an age where he needs to spend some time practicing, memorizing, getting a focused lesson.
I can be much more relaxed with my youngest. He’s fine to play, trace letters, look at books, or draw. The problem is, his busy activities are huge distraction for my six year old, who still wants to play, too! So what happens is like trying to nail jello to the wall. I get one boy started working, then move to the other, but the first child finishes before I’m done with the second. So he’ll start playing, making it difficult for me to get him back on task when I’m ready to work with him again.
Meanwhile this cycle repeats itself with the other child! And back and forth we go, with me feeling like I’m chasing my tail all day.
Enter: our learning station organizer!
I needed something the boys could do when they had to wait for my attention between our schoolwork. I wanted quick, fun, and educational activities that they could work on independently. Kids love choices, so I decided to do an organizer filled with choices for them to pick from.
Any type of organizer could work for this – letter tray, file folders, or shoe bins. I had an over-the-door shoe holder collecting dust, so I went with that.
I poked through my bins and boxes of homeschool materials and pulled anything that could be use for brief, independent activities:
- Flash cards
- Hot Dots
- Mini Books
- Mini Puzzles (I found ABC’s, time, and money puzzle match ups at the Target dollar spot)
After sorting them into preschool and 1st grade piles, I sorted the activities further into math and literacy topics. These items got their own pocket in the shoe holder.
Here’s how I assembled the learning station organizer:
- The bottom row holds tin pails (IKEA) for supplies like markers, timers, erasers, etc.
- The second row up is for my preschooler and contains a mix of activities to help him practice number and letter identification. I color-coded these with orange tags, and my older son knows he’s not allowed to pick an orange tag activity because it would be too easy for him.
- The third row up contains math activities (time and money puzzles, flash cards, and tangrams).
- The fourth row up contains literacy activities (phonics, Hot Dots reading, mini books, etc).
- The top row contains miscellany (logic and problem solving, patterning, science Hot Dots).
I color coded the tags for the subject rows as well. I thought about making fancy labels but as these activities will change out regularly, I just cut card stock and hand wrote them. (The shoe holder is a fabric material that wouldn’t take the stick on label holders I had!).
How the kids use their learning station organizer
I have a daily task sheet listing the subjects and general learning activities for the day. I added “choice activity” underneath each subject. Now, whenever I’ve assigned a math task to my oldest, when he is done, he can pick a math choice activity from the learning station. He uses a timer to work on that activity for about 5-10 minutes, or until I am ready to work with him on another subject.
The reason our learning station organizer is saving my homeschooling is that the boys are excited to do the activities (which are designed and selected to support and reinforce their learning). Yet, the activities are brief enough so they aren’t engrossed by the time I can work with them again. They no longer complain that they have to leave their play time, because the activities are easy to finish or just pack up and do again another time. It’s a highly satisfying arrangement for all of us!
I plan to rotate the activities monthly, or with new units of study, so the station remains a fresh and exciting spot for self-directed learning. This learning station also helps me make use of all the teaching materials I’ve stashed, which is a bonus! (I tend to collect teaching materials like some people collect baseball cards!).
Having a spot for independent learning activities isn’t just for homeschoolers. I think a station like this could be useful for after-school activities, weekend boredom busters, and helping prevent the “summer slide” by providing quick and easy literacy and math challenges to keep kids using their skills all summer long – without diving into thick packets of worksheets.
What are some of your favorite and quick learning activities I could add to our station! I’m always on the lookout for ideas now!