What the Homeschool Home Looks Like

The purpose of the learning environment

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photo courtesy of S. Fast

Creating a Learning Environment

What are the elements to create context? So much of learning is about environment. To have an environment that stimulates, inspires, broadens, and then does that significant thing of allowing absorption.

Security is First

When my son left public education (grade four) for homeschooling, we went through a long process of de-schooling. It was at least as much for me as for him. And it took months.


Once a learner feels secure, this is the next step. “Disequilibrium” is the state when one is open to learning, and IS learning. It’s a state of being a bit off-center, off-balance. It’s having your world opened in new ways. It’s like getting up on the dance floor, expecting one tune, and then hearing another with a different type of beat…and finding your way to dance. It’s when life gets a bit scary. And it’s a good thing. Especially when you are doing it somewhere with that underlying sense of security. No one is going to tell me I’m a dummy here! No one is going to tell me that I shouldn’t bother with this stuff — that this is not what I need to know. No one is going to tell me I’m lazy, or too shy, or too young.


In all the messy homes I describe at the outset of this, I could always spot a place — a corner, a small room, a window-seat…some space of respite. A place to look out a window, read a book, mull, ponder. A garden bench. A front step with bright geraniums. A place just to be. The environment should reflect priorities and values. Even in the midst of happy productivity, aka mess, create a mental/emotional/physical space for pause. And mind peace.


The dessert. Recognizing and acknowledging “happy” or “content” or “Yeah! I did it!” should be a part of each day. More important than getting a good report card. And more important than a gold sticker. It is reward that goes deeply into a life-learner, and sets patterns, healthy patterns and needs. It builds a sense of accomplishment, and evokes gratitude. And motivates to enter into the next challenge. The next day. And the day after that. Learning is living.

Alison Acheson’s latest book is a memoir of caregiving, Dance Me to the End: Ten Months and Ten Days With ALS. She teaches writing in an MFA program.

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