Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Organize Your Homeschool Room

Throughout all the years of homeschooling our learning space or homeschool room has taken many different sizes and shapes! Back when all three girls were homeschooling, we dedicated our entire basement to our learning space.  For a time when we had two homeschoolers, we dedicated our dining room to our homeschool room.  Now that we have just one fourth grader learning at home, our needs have changed considerably.  Last year, we had simplified down to just using the one or two shelves, and a big comfy chair or the dining table to do our work.  I loved the simplicity of that.  Half way through the year we ended up getting our current homeschool desk, but still were in the dining room.   I'm a huge advocate of having an "atmosphere" conducive to learning.  What that means to me has changed over the years however.  You can read about my recent thoughts on that by clicking here.  This year, we have what would be considered our formal living room as our dedicated homeschool space.   It's given us room to spread out a bit compared to last year, yet still lets the room function well for the entire family. 

 These great bookshelves from Ikea hold not only our school books, but most of our entire family library as well.  My camera equipment, along with photo albums, and other books are stored in the cabinets below. 
 This cozy little corner of our homeschool room is where I can be found during most morning hours.  This is where our favorite part of the day happens - morning basket time.   Oh homeschool mommas, if you haven't discovered the wonderful, tender, rich together learning time that is the morning basket please do a quick google search!  Morning time, morning basket, circle time - it has many names, but oh how it can change the tone and atmosphere of your homeschool day.  Our morning basket has actually turned into a morning shelf.  That lower shelf right by my chair is where we keep all our morning basket activities.  

The brown filing cabinet beside my chair serves as my desk and charging station for the laptops.  I keep all of my supplies organized in the drawers, and the handy organizer sitting on top of the cabinet contains my planner, our favorite memory work book, our scripture memory cards, schedules and more. 
 One of my favorite decorative pieces in our learning room is this vintage desk that belonged to my husband when he was in first grade.  Those books on the desk were from his childhood too, with his old Bible right on top. 
 This desk from Ikea has worked GREAT for our needs.  We bought the two base pieces separately and then bought a separate table top and simply used velcro command adhesives to attach the table top to the bases.  The side with the cabinet door is like a locker for Boo where she keeps all her daily school books, the other side with the drawers is great for organizing all her school supplies. 
 Daily school books inside the locker side of the desk cabinet base.  You can read all about our curriculum here. 

 Boo's desk drawers with organized school supplies...
 Our most used learning manipulatives are handy right in these drawers too. 

Can you believe those cute cursive letters on the wall came from the Dollar Tree?  Right in the middle of Boo's desk is an organizer that holds her history cards, bible cards, latin vocabulary cards, and our map stickers. 
Hanging a map right above the school desk has been just perfect for Boo.  We use removable markable opaque stickers (each subject a different color) for marking the spot on the map as we come across them in our different readings.  This is a great living way to naturally learn geography throughout any subject.  You would be surprised how many times you might encounter a "place" in your studies.  We always stop and find it on the maps above her desk. 
 That dark blank looking cubby just above our morning basket shelf is our charging station.  There is a power strip hidden under the felted mold that lets us lay our phones right on that shelf at night to charge.  It's also a great way to make sure all kiddos leave their devices out of their rooms overnight. 

 One of my favorite homeschool resources is this My Book House book collection.  My mother-in-law owns this set from when she was a child, my husband grew up reading them, and now her grandchildren are using them.  I found this set on Ebay for a steal! I'm so excited to have our very own set now.  You can read about how to incorporate them into your homeschool with this great post by my friend Pam at Ed Snapshots.  

 A super fantastic way to organize your homeschool day is with the simple use of a spiral notebook.  This easy trick has made my little type A student super happy as she giddily checks off her little boxes as she goes through her day. She knows exactly what needs to happen each day, she can use her own time management skills, and I can see at a glance what has been done and what may need to be transferred over to the next day.  It's a GREAT way to keep track of exactly what gets done and our reviewer loves being able to see EXACTLY what happens each day.  If something happens that wasn't scheduled, we can just jot it down and we suddenly have a great record keeping system.  Super easy, super effective, super organized! I just write this up each evening or (usually) each morning right before our school day begins. 

  Up above Boo's desk in the dark cabinets is where we keep our extra school supplies, paper and notebooks.  In the cabinet on the other side is our household office supplies.

I hope you enjoyed a peek at our homeschool room and were inspired with some ideas on how to get your own homeschool supplies organized! 

Hip Homeschool Moms

DIY - How To Stain and Paint Oak Stair Banisters

I finally tackled those outdated ugly orange oak stair banisters! What a difference it makes, right?  It really is very easy to do, and it barely even cost a thing - I spent maybe $50 at most.  Take a peek at some of the before and after pictures.....

To get started, you need a small sanding block, the brand General Finishes stain in the color Java.  I only needed a quart - and still have plenty left.   Also, the same brand in a polyurethane for the top coat.  I only ordered a pint, and have more than half a can left.  I ordered the satin finish because I didn't want it super shiny.  Foam brushes work the best - I tried out several and kept going back to the foam.  In all the research I did for this project, one thing I discovered is everyone said not to use any other brand stain gel than this one - General Finishes is the brand to trust. 

 A good primer is a must for the white spindles. 

The very first thing to do is to use a small sanding block and go over all the areas you are going to stain.  I didn't sand my spindles since they would be primed and painted.  I spent maybe an hour sanding, not much at all, just enough to take off a good amount of the existing old poly coat.  There were a few spots I didn't sand, and looking back I regretted it.   I highly suggest just a quick sanding over all surfaces to be stained.  Be sure and use a damp rag and go over every rail and spindle to remove all the dust you created by sanding.

The next step is to tape off around the areas you are going to use the Java gel stain.  I didn't worry about taping off the spindles because they are just going to be painted anyway.  I would highly suggest doing the brown stain before the white spindles. 

Be SURE you have some gloves to wear before you start staining.  I found some at Lowe's for just a few dollars, several pairs in a package. This stain does not come off your hands very easily.  I did have mineral spirits close by and it came in pretty handy at times. Using your foam brush, paint on the gel stain making sure to catch any drips or clumps.  This stuff is really thick, but goes on smooth.  The directions on the can say to paint a coat on, let dry a few minutes and then wipe off.  I did that at first as you can see here in this picture above. It made a huge mess and I felt like it was counter productive.  The rest of the project, I ignored the "wipe off" step and it worked so much better.  I did the first layer of Java in just a few hours and then waited until the next day to do the second coat. After two coats, I felt pretty good about how it looked, and just did some touch ups here and there where I felt it was needed. 

After I was happy with how the java looked, I started priming the spindles.  This was the trickiest part of the project. I used a small art brush and free-handed all the edges where the spindles met the Java stained wood.  I used a foam brush for the rest of the spindle. Any other brush I tried left tiny splatters of white on the freshly stained java. Um - NO. The foam brush was the best.  I did 2-3 coats of primer, and then three coats of paint. Put on a great audio book or listen to some podcasts.  It was a great time to catch up on some of my favorite homeschool podcasts! If you want to listen to some great ideas on education, have a listen to some audio recordings from the Circe Institute. My favorite was "A Contemplation of Nature" - WOWSA.  Have a listen - and happy painting.  

 Here's a funny - I had a rub-on decal just above the stairs that I wanted to remove to finish painting the gray wall color over it.  My sweet Banana offered to take over for me and when I stepped down off the ladder, I just happened to stop peeling at a very in-opportune time.  We had a really good laugh over it though! 

The paint color I used on the spindles is more of a cream than a white.  The rest of the trim in our house is a cream color and I wanted it to match.  The color is called Homestead Resort Cameo White from Lowes.  It is the same color I used when I painted our kitchen cabinets also. 

The final step was to do a simple poly coat again using a foam brush.  The coats dried very quickly so we did two coats in one day.  I only did poly on the java stained wood, not the spindles. You could certainly do the spindles as well, but since they are a semi-gloss, I didn't feel it was needed.  They also don't get as much wear as the handrails and base boards do. 

So that's it!! It was a pretty simple project, just a bit tedious.  What a transformation though! It's a great way to update your home, for very little money and it makes a really big impact - especially if your stairs are the first thing guests see when they enter your home.