The space where learning takes place is important, whether it’s at home, school or outside. It needs to be a space where kids feel safe, both physically and emotionally, comfortable and can access it easily.
The problem is that many people, when considering how to design and set up a learning space, design it with a neurotypical, able-bodied child in mind, and we know that many children, and adults, do not fit into these boxes.
In pretty much every class in a school, there will be children who need adaptations and considerations put into place to enable them to access the learning space, to feel safe and to feel comfortable. It could also very easily be the case in your homeschool.
Our learning area is very much set up to make sure the boys are happy. And I think it’s one of the reasons why homeschooling has been so successful for them. They can really relax and concentrate on what’s important.
Here, we look at how you can make sure that your learning space, wherever it is, is accessible to all.
Can Everyone Move About Easily?
Traditional learning spaces were not designed for movement. Children would sit in rows, facing a teacher at the front and would sit still for pretty much the entire day. Fortunately, we have learned that this is not the best way for the vast majority of children to learn, and that moving about is essential.
Look at how your school furniture is laid out and spaced. Can children and adults move about without bumping into tables or having chairs land on their feet? Can they reach the spare pencils or those books and resources that they may need to complete their task independently?
Our whole house is laid out with the boys in mind. I prefer minimalism so there isn’t too much furniture to hinder movement. The kids are also able to get everything they need and want, at any time. This is a great way to encourage independence.
Does the Space Offer Comfort to All?
Not everyone works best sitting at a table and chair. Think about a library, for example. Some people will take their books and go and sit at the provided desks; others will curl up on a cozy chair.
You may even find some people who prefer to lay out on the floor to read. Where possible, offer a variety of spaces to suit everyone. Does it matter if a child who struggles to sit still goes and lays out in the floor in the corner to complete their task, as long as it is done?
I think another benefit of homeschooling, is how flexible it is for kids. As the boys find it difficult to sit still and concentrate for long periods of time, having lots of places for them to learn, helps a lot. They can lie down, stretch out or even bounce around, if they need to.
Are Learning and Behaviour Supports Visible and Easy to Understand?
If you have a set of classroom rules up, or a learner schedule, make sure that they are visible to everyone and most importantly, are understood by them. There is little point in having a long list of written rules for children who can’t read yet.
In the same vein, having something that is right up at the top of the wall and out of the children’s sight, is pretty pointless. Consider swapping written things for visual symbols and pictures so that everyone can understand them when they walk into their learning space.
We’ve found a great solution for this. We have many walls throughout the house painted with blackboard paint. These walls are great for rules, goals and schedules. They’re easy to change, can be created collaboratively and are nice and big.
Does Your Learning Space Feel Safe?
Possibly most important of all, does the space feel safe? Do children feel able to say that they don’t understand something or that they need help? Are they able to share their thoughts and opinions and make mistakes without feeling judged or worried?
Safety is very important in a school environment. But it’s just as important to foster openness and support in your homeschool. Set the tone for the beginning, and watch your children flourish and thrive!