Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tour of our Project Room

I'm always interested to see how other unschoolers set up their learning spaces, so I thought I'd share ours, in case anyone else is curious. The main challenge I found when setting it up in its current configuration was how to make everything accessible and visible to my girls, while still keeping it out of the little hands of the baby. The girls, now aged 5 and 7, have had lots of experience with all these materials, and are well past the stage of making giant messes to investigate how it all works. The baby, however, at 20 months, is just discovering what a joy a glorious mess can be... and he doesn't necessarily differentiate between a mess made with popsicle sticks, and a mess made with the popsicle-stick creation that one of his sisters had been working on carefully all morning! So, a little separation of zones came into this set-up.

My other main consideration was making it easy to tidy up, for me and for the girls. I find that they don't go as deeply into their work when it's hard to keep track of all the bits and pieces under the clutter, or when there's so much stuff strewn over the floor that their attention keeps jumping from one thing to another. So far, this configuration has been working really well - I've never spent more than ten minutes getting it back in order, and the girls have been helping much more too.

Here's the view as you enter the room. It's a bit stark in this picture, because I had just that morning taken down the past year's-worth of artwork and filed it away. But we're already filling the walls up again with new creations.

The floor is partly covered with a carpet, which is in turn covered with plastic (I bought it in the fabric section of Walmart, years ago - I think it was intended to be the waterproof backing for outdoor table-cloths?). That way, it's easy to clean up the girls' sawdust, and any glue, paint and playdoh that the baby has been exploring.

Going around the room clockwise, first there are the shelves and the workbench:

In the tote bag, we keep our math and Arabic textbooks, so that we can quickly grab them to take to the playground, the woods, or wherever we might happen to decide to go hang out that day. Next to them is the bookshelf, with some of the baby's board books on the bottom (the majority of them are on other shelves in the kitchen), and picture books for my 5-year-old. (My older daughter's teetering stacks of chapter books are on the windowsill by her bed.) Beside that is the "paint" shelves; then the woodworking shelves; and then the workbench. 

Although we call them the "paint" shelves, these shelves are really more multi-purpose:
On the top we keep liquid watercolors, temperas and white glue, still (just about) out of reach of a certain little somebody. On the middle shelf we keep a box of ribbon-ish things of all lengths and textures, a tub of legos (more because I keep hoping that my kids will play with legos than because they actually do!), some spiro-graph things, and  bunch of fancy-edged scissors. On the bottom are some toys for the baby: his little train set on the left, a box with his cars, trucks and balls in the middle, and a set of books that came in a nice box, which he enjoys taking out and putting back in again. 

Next along are the "woodworking" shelves;
On the left is a set of stacking-cubes that I super-glued together for holding various bits and pieces like q-tips, paper clips, etc, and a tub of popsicle sticks (which needs replenishing in this picture - we go through them pretty fast!). Beside them is a cup with rulers, pipettes and syringes. The rest of the top shelf is for projects-in-progress (in this picture, it was a rainbow-loom and some kind of paper cut-outs that my younger daughter was using, and another rainbow-loom, some knitting, and a bag full of perler bead supplies for my older daughter).

On the bottom level we have a little dustpan and brush, a tub of playdoh toys, and then (partially hidden) the woodworking supplies: a hand-drill, a hammer, and some scrap wood. We keep the saw hanging up high inside the closet, out of the baby's reach, and the nails and screws are on the art table, for the same reason. The workbench itself is my dad's. It's old and heavy and very stable, and just the right height for the girls when we keep the legs folded up. 

On the opposite wall, in the back corner, is the art table:
More rainbow-loom supplies on the left, in front of the scrap paper, white paper and colored paper. next to the paper we have two sets of miniature drawers, stacked on top of each other. The bottom one has woodworking supplies, like screws and nails, and the top on has crafting supplies - beads, sparkles, pompoms, etc. On of the whole lot is a little container of googly-eyes. 

The blue drawers under the table hold our "inventing" supplies. More on those in another post!

Next along towards the window (kind of hard to see in the picture, I know), is a jar with spare glue sticks for the glue gun, a pose-able drawing model, and the glue-gun itself. Then there are the boxes of oil pastels and crayons (and usually markers, too - I don't know where they had gotten to in this pic!). Finally a jar of pens/pencils/scissors, some tape, and (not really showing up, behind it) a stapler. 

On the other side of the window, we have the board-game shelves: 

From top to bottom, you can see Rat-a-Tat-Cat, Swish Jr (in the grey pouch), Forbidden Island, a dot-matching puzzle card game whose name I can't remember, Sleeping Queens, Hiss, Set, Obstacles, Cat and Mouse, Outfoxed, Pengoloo, Rush Hour Jr, Sorry, Hare and Tortoise, and (tucked away on the bottom in the yellow pouch) Chocolate Fix. 

Beside the board games is the loft, custom-built by my very kind husband. Just beside it is the door to the closet, where I keep my extra homeschool supplies. 
We intentionally spaced the "ladder" rungs quite far apart, so that the girls will have a space to keep their most precious things out of reach of the baby, until his legs get much longer :) This is their area, on top:

Basbousa has the three drawers on the right; Kunafa has two of the big drawers on the left; and I have the third big drawer. We all share a very small bedroom, so these drawers in the Project Room is where we keep our "stuff." (My rule is that when your Stuff no longer fits in your drawers, then that's when you need to figure out which things you no longer need!) The wicker basket is full of yarn, and underneath it is the Snap Circuits set. 

Underneath the loft is Qutayf's zone:
His desk (which he uses more for climbing on than for writing on at this point), his blocks, a marble run, and his mega-bloks. 

The last part of our Project Room isn't actually inside the room, but hanging just outside the window: 

We have a bird-feeder there, just inches away from the window, and all three of the kids regularly check to see who's visiting us. We initially had great hopes of getting to know each squirrel individually, but so far... hmmmm. It turns out to be pretty hard to quantify degrees of tail-fluffiness!

So, that's where we spend a good chunk of our time! Hope you enjoyed looking around :)

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