I am often asked questions about how unschooling works in our family and sometimes people have trouble imagining how our home is designed if we never do any structured, sit-down bookwork. As unschoolers, we do believe that learning comes from all things in everyday life and we do not need designated learning areas in order to learn. However, this concept was something my children valued and enjoyed and this is the reason we have decided to continue with the addition of specifically tailored areas in our home that address the childrens needs. In our new house I have set up a bigger, more permanent, more inviting space designed around the childrens needs and I will blog about those areas in 3 seperate posts. First up, the writing centre –
We have recently moved back to the house that we own after renting closer to the city for a few years. I knew this move was going to happen since around March this year, so I have spent quite a bit of time considering how I will organise the house to suit our entire family. Since we share a family bedroom, we have always had the room to have a dedicated play/learning space in another bedroom. However I quickly noticed the children rarely played in that room for long amounts of time and generally just brought items out into the lounge room. So I began setting up little corners of play where we all gather, as Lori Pickart from Project Based Homeschooling calls it – the heart of the home.
Hannah has always loved to write, doodle, draw and make marks on paper. She first put pen to paper at age 2 and hasn’t stopped since. I’m not sure where I first saw the idea of a writing table/centre but it was probably on Pinterest. I immediately knew Hannah in particular would love it and as I was planning on buying her a journal for Christmas that year, I knew the writing centre would compliment that nicely. I didn’t have any expectations of how and when they would use it though, rather I set it up as an invitation. Both children took to it with gusto, and Blake wrote his first recognisable letters sitting there for the first time. They have both used it regularly since then and it’s been great to have a specific space for our writing supplies.
Since moving, I have added a few new parts to our writing centre. I was really excited about the addition of this simple wooden ‘mailbox’ (I bought this from a thrift/op-shop) and judging by the amount of mail and letters we have been inundated with, the kids like it too! Hannah has always loved writing little letters to her friends and grandparents and this is a nice extension on that activity. When her grandma was sick recently she was able to write her a real letter, address it accordingly on the envelopes we have available, and send it off. She was even more excited to receive a reply addressed to her.
All our white and coloured paper, notebooks, post-it notes, staplers, rulers, and extras are all housed and easily accessible in this shelf to the left of the writing centre. This shelf – just like the writing table, chair and most of the baskets – was sourced from thrift/op-shops.
After watching the children use the writing centre and their mailbox for a few days I realised they were constantly asking us how to spell particular names. I needed to find an easy way for them to find the names of the members of our family so they could have more independence with their writing and this was my quick solution. I cut up some recent photos and wrote our names in upper and lowercase next to them. I plan to add grandparents and extended family soon too.
This simple project has had a tremendous impact on both children. Blake’s confidence with using pencils and paper has improved and he is excited to write or draw his letters and put them in the envelopes. He is recognising his own name better and attempting writing more letters. Hannah has begun to remember common words used in letter writing such as ‘To’, “From’, ‘And’, ‘Love’ and of-course all our names. She has also begun to use questions in her letters which has been a good jumping off point for talking about punctuation. But the table has been used for more than just writing letters. Maps have featured prominently as have puppets, painting, card-making and all forms of art.
Having a writing centre in our home has shown our children that we value communication in all it’s forms, and that their attempts at writing, drawing or any way they choose to use these materials is important to us and they have the freedom to use them whenever and however inspiration strikes. Making sure our children feel comfortable, valued and respected in our home is one of the keys to unschooling, and having spaces that inspire and recognise their needs is just one way that we do this.