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Action stations! Action stations!

(That is one of my favorite lines in Battlestar Galactica. Yes, be in awe of my coolness.)

Two week of school under our belt. Something we're doing differently this year that is working pretty well for us is stations. The idea is loosely based on the preschool design theory of 'centers' - where a classroom is divided into areas for various activities (such as computer, fine motor, math, reading, dramatic play, and so on). Obviously I'm not going to turn our living room into a fully-functioning preschool room (and if I did, Lucy would never get anything done), but the idea is the same - children need a change of scenery, and a different location lets them know they need to do their work in a different way.

So we have had three stations, but starting tomorrow I'm introducing a fourth. That may seem odd as I have only three students, but I will explain: I have found that Truman and Lucy become bored in the 'reading station' (see below) and don't like to spend more than 10 minutes or so in that area. However, the other two stations (table and computer) require 20-30 minutes. So the time in the reading station will be split between reading station and... I haven't thought of a name for the 4th one yet. I've got 12 hours!

The first station is computer. Here we see Lucy doing her math at the computer. One lesson typically takes her about twenty minutes, including the lecture, the practice, and the test. When Truman or Penny have their turn at the computer, they are allowed to work on educational CDs, or Starfall or PBS. No other sites are approved during 'school time' (though they all get thirty minutes of computer play time in the afternoon). Lucy also does a lesson of Rosetta Stone Spanish a few days a week, usually after all the other work/stations are completed.

The second station is reading. Each week at the library I get 5-10 books that include a CD of the story being read aloud. I also put out a few books for them look at, which are only available to read during this time of the day. They all enjoy this, but like I said before, they get bored after a few minutes. My plan is to put novel toys (those that they don't see often) and games onto a shelf nearby, and tell them that after they have listened to at least two stories, they can choose something from the shelf. We have a child-sized plastic work table in this area too, so I think file folder games and play dough could work as well.

The final station is, obviously, the dining room table. We just call it 'table work,' and it means basically all the workbooks, handwriting, that sort of thing. Depending on the day this can require 15-20 minutes for Truman or Penny, and 30-40 minutes for Lucy. 

So far, the stations system is working out really well. We alternate which station they start with each day, and they rotate counter-clockwise. It's also helpful that each of these areas is in a different room of the house. Gives a bit more privacy and quiet. 

We start school not long after breakfast - typically that's turning out to be around 8:30 a.m. We then have a half hour of outside time, and come in to do the weather/calendar chart and talk about the upcoming day. Then we do the stations, and when everyone has finished all three and all their work for the day, we are done with school. We are nearly always done by 11:00 a.m., unless for some reason we get a late start. 

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