One of my favorite parenting pastimes is saving catalogues dedicated to kid rooms and, come some quiet Saturday morning alone with my coffee, finally sitting down to
get super envious of be inspired by all the rooms on the pages. My question always is, who are these kids? Did, like, the parents knock down all the walls in the house and give up the use of every other room to accumulate square footage for one grand palace for their kid? Is the rest of the family sardine’d into what I assume is the only 2-foot space left? How can you fit a tree house in a kid’s room and still have room for a performance stage, a vanity “nook” and a “study area” three times the size of my own office? It’s the study spaces that always get me though–gorgeous built-ins, neat desks, staged computers that never have cords showing (Dear God, why aren’t there cords in these photos? Where is the ugly Allstate mouse pad they got for free from their insurance agent? And why isn’t some kid hunched over the screen, eating dry Fruit Loops, watching weird slime D.I.Y.s from a questionable grown woman with the world’s most annoying voice?) And the shelves. The shelves! Rows and rows of shelves with colorful matching baskets labeled with things like “Henry’s Flash Cards” and “Clara’s Stationery”, except Lord knows not “Miscellaneous” because the mother of these children certainly puts everything in its place, throws needless things away and would never have broken calculators, Command hooks that lost their sticky backs, and–oh, I don’t know–random light switch plates thrown in with her kids’ school supplies. And there are posters of periodic tables and color charts, peg boards and cork boards and chalk boards that say, in the world’s most perfect handwriting, “Henry, Practice Oboe!” and “Clara, Horseback Riding, Tuesday, 5:00.” Certainly these children are thriving and happy and bound for greatness.
I’m here to tell you that you too can have thriving kids with whatever ramshackle corner in your house you call a study space. I did it! I turned a sliver of available wall space into our homework headquarters, and WE LOVE IT. We’ve done the whole designated study space thing in our house, and Lainey still has a desk in her room, but do you know where my kids always end up choosing to do their homework or write a story? Our kitchen counter. As long as it’s not necessary for them to be in a quiet zero-distractions space, they seem to work best when they are out in the open and near us where they can ask for help or read us something they’ve written or yell for Alexa to give them an answer.
Ladies and gentlemen, our fits-all-our-needs, does-everything-Clara’s-palace-does-without-hogging-all-the-square-footage-in-our-home Study CART. That’s right, a cart.
There are a few things I love about our cart system, and I use the word “system” lightly because terms like “system” and “chart” when referring to parenting give me hives and are usually code for “something I will implement for two weeks and then disappointingly fizzle out on” (I’m looking at you, chore chart). We started using our cart system (you have no idea how responsible I feel throwing that term out) to organize our school schedules and learning materials toward the end of the year last year, and it’s been the easiest thing to maintain. Plus, we use it frequently which brings me to my favorite thing about it–it’s centrally located where everyone can see it and have access to it. That means we are more likely to pull out writing practice, learning games, flash cards. etc. and are reminded to encourage our kids’ learning goals. Technically, I’m one of those moms who likes a living room to look like a living room, not a day care; but the cart doesn’t scream “kids!” And besides, that smiley face Dash wrote on the wall at our entrance? The jig is up; we have kids.
Other arguments for a study cart:
*It’s easily moveable if a child wants to roll it to a more quiet space.
*It doesn’t take up a lot of room
*It’s low enough where even kindergarteners can get their own paper and sharpen their own pencils.
So, what’s in our study cart?
First of all, we use this 3-tier cart from Target. I’m obsessed with it. I have one in my office, Dash has one in his room for little toys, and I’m damn near tempted to just line up all the walls in our house with them for all of my MISCELLEANEOUS things. You heard me, Henry and Clara’s mom. Light switch plates and Command hooks.
Above our cart is a large paper roll (we use this one) that’s been great for displaying lists and fun quotes, but at least for the start of the year, we are using it to keep track of school information we refer to often–things like the little ones’ related arts schedules, lunch times (if we want to surprise them at school), student numbers, etc.
On top of the paper roll, we hung a large calendar (I bought this large kraft wall calendar – a nice subtle design that blends in with the paper roll and one where you can choose your start month and either a Sunday or Monday week start) to keep track of the kids’ events and family appointments. I spent a good twenty minutes the other day transferring all important dates from the school district calendar to this one so we can have everything in one place.
In the cart:
electric pencil sharpener (gets used sooooo much!)
cup of pens and pencils
crayon box filled with crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue stick, kid scissors
blank books (like these) for writing stories. We pick up packs of them from the Target Dollar Spot a lot. I love having blank books for creative writing in our home, and they are cheap enough that the kids can write a book a day if they like.
leveled readers I love this set we have for Nella and Dash with recognizable sight words and small sentences.
…and lots of learning manipulatives and educational games. Our favorites in the cart include…
Montessori Phonetic Reading Blocks (you can flip any one of the three letters to see how letter components change the word)
We have a lot of early literacy materials in our cart because it’s important for all kids but especially for Nella. Because her learning goals take a little longer, they require patience, hard work, consistent practice and a FUN approach; and our little study cart is stocked to help us stick to those goals.
Now, what to keep and what to throw out from all the things they’ll be bringing home from school this year? That’s a whole different post! Happy Studies!