Whether or not you homeschool your children, they are most certainly learning at home. Learning isn’t an activity exclusive to school hours. In fact, many have argued that true learning happens largely outside of the confines of prescribed systems of education.
One way that even the busiest parents can maximize the educational value they provide to their children at home is to incorporate learning into their home design.
Providing an environment that allows space for creativity, offers materials for exploration, and celebrates ideas and curiosity gives room for children to embark on a lifelong journey of self-directed learning.
Does this suggest you must completely redesign your home and invest in expensive furnishings so your children can learn? Should you hire a designer? An architect?
Certainly not. Even the simplest tweaks at home can have a dramatic impact on the educational quality of the environment. Use what you have, and simply shift your focus to that of learning.
Here are some ideas for your home:
Whether it takes the shape of a collection of baskets, floor-to-ceiling shelves, or an entire room, set up a library in your home. Be selective in your book choices and make visits to used bookstores a regular activity that the whole family can enjoy.
Choose a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction, including reference books. Vary the reading levels of the books available in your home library, completely disregarding the current reading abilities of your child.
Quality and abundance are the keys to a wonderful library at home.
As much as possible, reduce the availability of and reliance upon screens in your home. They are addictive in nature and have been proven detrimental to learning in young children.
Sure, there are “educational apps,” YouTube videos that can teach some skills, and a number of online learning courses that may be worthwhile, but all should be utilized with caution, if at all.
If you’d like to reduce or eliminate your children’s screen time, check out ScreenFreeParenting.com. They have forums, resources, and encouragement galore focused on this subject.
Nothing beats reading a real book, putting pen to paper, making something with your hands, or face-to-face play—no screens required.
When it comes to toys, be selective. Regardless of your child’s age, consider how your child will interact with a toy before allowing it into your home. Ask yourself, is playing with the toy active or passive?
For example, simple wooden blocks call for decidedly active play. Your children can put their ingenuity, creativity, and manual dexterity to use and make those blocks whatever they want them to be.
However, a toy that lights up, makes noises, reads for your child, or responds to a simple press of a button does much of the play for your child. It provides fewer opportunities for creativity, ingenuity, thinking, and, indeed, learning. Such toys provide lower educational value.
Children love to create and explore. Encourage their creativity and exploration at home by providing the space and tools they need.
Whether you have a room dedicated to crafting or a simple dining table that can handle a mess, the key is to remove the obstacles to your child’s work.
Gather papers of all kinds, along with crayons, markers, pencils, paints, popsicle sticks, modeling clay, glue, scissors, rulers, stickers, and any materials you can think of, to allow creative minds to make and do.
Setting up containers for recycled materials in a creative space is also a great way to inspire creativity. Bins of toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, plastic bottles, and toy packaging can inspire all sorts of creative magic.
Encourage experimenting and exploring as well. Items such as maps, globes, flashcards, an abacus, a microscope, and a telescope will encourage children to explore and experiment.
Provide something for all of the senses: the best classical music to listen to, the most glorious artistic masterpieces to see, lovely scents from home-cooked delights or fragrances to enjoy, access to child-friendly objects to touch from the youngest age, and your attention to their words in speech.
For extra delight and to keep things interesting, designate an area of your home—a shelf, table, basket, or another visibly prominent area—where you regularly change what’s on display. Perhaps one day, it could feature a globe, an atlas, books about geography, and a puzzle of the world. Another day, maybe it’s a collection of fairy tales, a bin of character puppets, and some costumes.
You get the idea—pick a simple theme and put it on display. Allow your children to discover it themselves and interact with it as they wish. Watch as they delight in each rotation, and enjoy subjects and ideas that weren’t otherwise at the forefront of their minds.