Now that my boys are older (4th and 5th graders) learning centers are no longer at the core of what we do. However, they still have a place in our homeschool.
Before we start each new unit, I brainstorm several hands-on ideas to match the theme or topic to be studied. I also look through story starters, puzzles, logic books, and other enrichment books or materials that I own. I usually create or select one activity for each of the following:
- Writing (prose)
- Writing (poetry)
- Birding or nature journaling
- Problem Solving/Logic
I write the instructions for each center activity on index cards and assign them point values. More difficult activities, like writing a script for a play on one aspect of WWII, is worth 5 or more points. Simpler tasks, like working a puzzle, are generally only worth 1 point. I place the cards in the apple pocket chart pictured to the left.
Beneath the pocket chart, I have shelves on which I place the materials needed to complete the tasks. I set them in stacks according to the topic. When my boys find themselves at a time in the school day that they need something to do, they go to the pocket chart and select a task. They work on it until it is time for the next lesson. This is particularly helpful at the moments in the day when I need to work one-on-one with one boy or when one finishes an assignment before the other and we cannot move to the next lesson until both are finished.
If the task is not completed when we are ready to move on to the next lesson, the materials are returned to the shelf and the card to the pocket chart. The next time he has a center time, he resumes work on the previous task. This continues until the assignment is finished. Then he places the completed work on my desk along with the assignment card. I grade it and award him the points on a wall chart. When he has earned 100 points, I buy him a special treat (something simple like a candy bar).
My boys really enjoy center time. They do not realize that they are completing school work. It is a good way for me to incorporate enrichment activities and those things that I just never seem to have time to complete with them. It also keeps them productive during times that they could otherwise be disruptive. Plus, it's fun and very motivational.