The following post was originally posted on my personal blog, Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, three years ago. We are not currently using our writing center because Brianna has outgrown it and Josh and Megan aren’t ready for it yet. However, it’s all stored in our basement, ready to be pulled out again soon. Maybe it will give you some ideas to use in your own homeschool.
People often ask me about what we use for language arts. Our “writing center” is basically our language arts curriculum. I first heard about learning centers in Mary Hood’s book, The Relaxed Home School. I wanted Brianna to have freedom to choose her activities, but I wanted to encourage her to choose meatier stuff from time to time, rather than always choosing the “easy” or “fun” things. So, the first thing I came up with was the stop light.
Things in the “green” group should be done on a daily or almost-daily basis. Things in the “yellow” group should be done a couple of times a week and things in the “red” group, which are more complicated/time consuming, should be done at least once a week. I coupled that with a points system to give Brianna some choice and me some say-so. She has to earn three points a day. The green group items are worth one point each, yellow are worth two and red are worth three. So, if she chooses to stick with easy things, she has to make three choices, or she can do one moderate and one easy or just one “hard” project.
I also created a sheet for her to fill out showing what she’s done each day. By the end of the week, she has to have chosen at least two moderate and one more difficult/time consuming project. In addition, there is room to fill in what she read in her daily Bible reading, and a reminder to do her AWANA memory work and her daily free choice reading on the check sheet.
I got some great printables for our new writing center from a website featuring mini-offices. I used a tri-fold presentation board for the backdrop of the center and drew a stop light on it. The library card pockets came from a local teacher supply store (you can find them at office supply stores or online, as well). I was thrilled to find a pack with red, yellow and green pockets! The pockets were pasted on the stop light and filled with 3X5 cards listing the various activities. I also colored the top of each index card with the appropriate color. Of course, you could save time and purchase cards with the top already colored. I’ve seen them at Wal-mart Target. Finally, I decorated with some of the printables that I got from the mini-office website.
Our writing center features:
- a writer’s workshop notebook (an invaluable resource)
- encyclopedias (on a separate shelf, obviously)
- books for copywork
- a poetry workbook
- a story journal (where Brianna can write her own stories)
- writing worksheets
- Daily Grams and Easy Grammar workbooks
- a notebook for practicing cursive writing
- various types of paper
- the Weekly Reader e-book, Let’s Write a Great Book Report
- Brianna’s spelling box
The spelling box is our new tool for better spelling. I’m still working out the details on it, but we’re going to have weekly spelling words again that will either be from Spelling Power or from Brianna’s own writing (with ideas I got from this website). It’s a 3X5 file box with alphabet tabs. Each week I’ll give Brianna around ten spelling words. I’m going to write the word on the lined side of a 3X5 card. On the blank side, Brianna can write the word in big, colorful letters and, if she chooses, illustrate it in a way that will help her remember the word, a technique I picked up from the fabulous book, Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World by Jeffrey Freed.
I’m going to write spelling activities from Spelling Power on 3X5 card that I will place in the front of the box. Brianna can choose which activities she wants to do each day. Once she has correctly spelled the word, it will go into the appropriate alphabet tab slot, thus creating her own personal spelling dictionary.
Kris is the sweet-tea-drinking, classically eclectic, slightly Charlotte Mason, homeschooling mom to her three Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.