Here are five tips for tweaking your home accessories to enhance your ability to work and teach with more ease. The bottom line: make your home and its objects serve you, rather than you serving them.
- Lap boards:
It’s handy to have a few stiff lap boards (12x12”) to use underneath each child's work, while sitting on the couch with mama. We just jerk the covers of old large children's books from the thrift store to use for these stiff boards. Reinforce the corners with a piece of duct tape to keep them from fraying.
- Slant boards:
Setting these on the study table lifts the child's work up at a slant, which makes it easier to read. I always use a slant board for my own personal use and for tutoring. These make life a little easier. Once you have one, you may never want to be without one. Todd and I read our Bibles from them every day, because the angle between the page and the eyes is even. It is especially good for putting the children's readers up at a slant, or math pages, etc.. To make one, get yourself a regular clipboard, snap off the bottom part of the springed clamp up top, and tack or glue a half-inch square piece of trim across the bottom edge of the front (clip side) of the board. Attach a tissues box to the protruding clips at the top of board, and you have it!
- Card table and booster seat:
With a smaller child, you might use a booster seat and a grownup’s card table. Mama scoots the light card table up to the child as tightly as it needs to be for good easy arm movement. This is easier than attempting to move the already seated child up to a table; the card table is much lighter weight. Mama sits at the card table with her child for good tight focused learning.
Because a homeschooling mom is often working in the kitchen at the same time that she is schooling—double-whamming her time—let's look at two ideas for the kitchen, too.
- Kitchen trash can-ease:
Have two open trash cans in the kitchen, making it easy to toss trash in quickly without having to constantly open lower cupboard doors or mess with removing or tilting trash can lids. The ideal size is 15x14x8.5”. Why is that ideal? Because standard grocery store checkout bags fit in these containers, saving you from having to purchase bags, and they are light enough for the children to carry to empty often (this teaches them responsibility at an early age) and to notice when it needs emptying, because it’s not hidden.
Set these two receptacles side by side on the edge between the kitchen and the adjacent work/dining/study room. One of these cans is used primarily for kitchen garbage, the other for homeschooling paper trash and craft trash. The secret bonus? Both are available for either use, at all times.
- Easy-on-your-back work surfaces:
Create three work levels in your kitchen. One level is the height of a 5-gallon plastic bucket (actually use a 5-gallon bucket for that level; it will be 17” high). This level is to lift your trash can up upon when you’re peeling carrots and potatoes directly into the trash can; it eliminates the step of scooping peelings from the sink and it ensures that the peelings make it into the trash because it is right underneath you (impossible to miss).
The next level is achieved by using a little cart with wheels, ideally 26” high. This enables you to look down into your blender when you’re stuffing it with produce, and it allows your arm to fully extend downward when you’re hand-mixing a bowl of batter, for example—far easier and more restful on your arm than stirring with your arm bent at higher levels.
Your final work surface height is your normal kitchen counter, measuring something like 35”. You'll love transferring from surface to surface, depending upon the need at hand.
Any improvement that saves wear and tear on mama is worth it—especially when it uses something you already have or that you can find inexpensively, like these suggestions.