Learning spaces

by Lilia Efimova on November 12, 2014

My interests in learning and architecture come pretty nice together with homeschooling our kids. It’s fun to observe kids in action and then go along and modify the space around them to support their activities.

When I dived into learning about project-based homeschooling, creating a workspace for the kids was the first thing I picked up. We made a desk a while ago for Alexander in his room, but it’s rarely used, so it was clear that the workspace had to be where the action was – in the middle of our living room.

Living room workspace evolutionOver time I have learnt that with kids the best thing is to go with prototyping: put something in place, observe how they use it and then go a little bit further. In this case we planned to make the table at the same height as our dining table, so chairs could be easily shuffled back and forth. But we saw that our prototype was used a lot while standing, so we ended up with a lower height. Eventually we added a working surface, a white board and storage containers.

It is used – every day. Mainly for drawing, writing, arts and crafts, but occasionally other things, like cooking or performances. It also doesn’t scale – a three of them painting just fit and if I want to join there is no space :)

Lego tableBut it’s not the only space. A huge white board in front of our dining table is used for drawing, playing with letters and hanging items that need attention. A Lego table we made a while ago, trying to contain little Lego pieces away from our youngest. Now it’s used by all three of them. It has storage bins inside, a construction space on top and it can slide under the bed when not in use (which is rarely :)

Kids also have their working places where we do things. Robert’s “man cave” in the garage has a shelf with kids’ instruments and a workbench at kids height, which is used for wood projects or working with limestone.

Self-made sewing deskAs now there is more interest from the kids in sewing and other textile crafts that I do in the attic, there is a learning space “under construction” there. Alexander wanted a desk there, so he had to make it. Looking at him Anna made one as well. I assembled a little sewing kit for Alexander, but I guess I have to make a storage bin for them with supplies and tools that they can use without asking.

I like to experiment with growing things to eat in our garden and of course kids help there a lot. They have kids-sized garden tools for a while, but this year they also asked for their own vegetable garden. So in early spring they’ll have their own space to experiment.

UntitledOf course, learning happens everywhere. It’s just lots of fun to observe how they use the space and to think what else we can do to make sure that they can work (more) independent, have necessary materials and tools nearby, and are reminded about work in progress and inspired for new projects.


Facilitating informal learning

by Lilia Efimova on November 10, 2014

It’s always funny to realise how much the roots of what I’m doing today lay in the past:

Looking back now I realised what got me into doing my PhD at the first place – fascination with formal/informal interplay in learning…

Making road signsOnce I have discovered research on informal learning, I became fascinated with the idea of how much of learning is informal and how little we know about facilitating it. My PhD focus went from informal learning to knowledge work to blogging, but at the core it was about the same: how to facilitate things we can not control at the space where intrinsic personal drive meets external requirements.

Guess what I’m doing now? Facilitating learning of our own kids so eventually they get an education that they need in life. I would guess that their percentages are pretty close to 80/20 of informal vs formal learning of adults. Part of my work is figuring out when formal learning is needed (e.g. swimming lessons) and then which forms/methods/resources to go for. But a way bigger deal of what I do is about creating conditions for informal learning to happen (as well as laying foundation for meta-learning, so eventually they can do my work by themselves :).


Book organisation

October 30, 2014

Not panicking anymore, just trying to accept the fact that we are not going to have a perfectly organised kids books in the house. Regardless how many bookcases we have. And that’s also true for educational materials. And art and craft supplies. And what is made from all that. On toys and playing things I […]

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Thuisonderwijzers leren samen: learning with adults

October 3, 2014

This week is National Education Week in the Netherlands and its focus is on learning socially. Dutch homeschoolers are participating as well, with a blog hop Thuisonderwijzers leren samen. For me the social is at the core of learning, so it took a while to figure out what exactly to write about. Learning for a […]

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Sitting on a fence: should I make another blog?

September 27, 2014

I think I’m ready to get back to blogging regularly, but I am caught in a logistical issue: should I continue blogging here or move to another blog (have .nl domain and basic WP installed for a while now).

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Unschooling myself and project-based learning

December 15, 2013

In a sense it feels like starting from scratch. Like I forgot everything I knew from theory and practice under the weight of the responsibility of helping my own kids to learn. At times I feel that I’ve never learnt so intensely and so transformatively as I learn now. It’s very much true that unschooling […]

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Do I give lessons at home?

November 7, 2013

When I tell people that we are homeschooling our kids, they usually say something like “so, you give lessons to your kids at home, right?”. No really :) Like today. When kids woke up we had an idea to eat chocolate before breakfast – just because you need exceptions from the rules once in a […]

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Family sabbatical

January 16, 2013

With the last blogpost published more than a year ago I guess the time is right for an update. So here it is :) Although I shamelessly stole the title of this post from a very nice book, it’s not about an extended family travel. I like how the meaning of “sabbatical” is described in Wikipedia […]

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Not bloging, identities and Happy New Year :)

December 31, 2011

I go to Nancy’s blog to look for the Pear & Cranberry Chutney recipe to cook for tomorrow and then remember that I have a blog too and that it had been silent way too long. So here I am :) The truth is that I feel a bit like a caterpilar in a cocoon […]

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A long due update

May 5, 2011

It’s hard starting after a break – there are way too many stories to tell and way too many thoughts that came in between. So I start somewhere. I had a burnout – going on and off after my PhD defense and not very obvious behind the usual “not feeling normal” during my pregnancy. But […]

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An afterlife of a paper tea box

February 7, 2011

Paper tea box that’ve been at Alexander’s play kitchen for ages went into recycling. A few days after he founds a lid of it and then realises that the box is not there anymore and can’t be brought back. The tears of loss come and then I embrace him in my arms to tell a […]

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While it looks still…

November 18, 2010

…there is a lot of turbulence underneath. I’m trying to figure out if I had a burnout (looks very much like it) and what is a way out. Still rethinking work-life balance. My professional values and parenting values align quite well, but the realities of putting them into practice do not mix well. Looking at […]

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The first dress

September 23, 2010

They grow so fast. Of course I knew it. But to know, theoretically, and to feel time slipping away from you are two different things. The box with baby clothes, first sizes, just-in-case-there-will-be-one-more, is almost ready. And there is that first dress that doesn’t fit anymore. I just can’t put it in the box – […]

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What I’m doing these days

July 19, 2010

…learning how to live life with two kids …building forts …washing diapers …growing tomatoes and trying to eat berries from our garden before birds eat them …observing practices of online parenting communities …suffering from the hot weather (well, at least diapers dry fast :) …enjoying summer evenings …reviewing reports …allowing email backlog to build up […]

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