Do you ever get overwhelmed trying fit it all in during school hours? There are so many wonderful things to do, places to go, and subjects to study! I used to stress over all the missed opportunities and fret over all the extras that just didn't find their way into our schedule.

Over the years, though, I've learned to relax and accept that many of the fun extras really should be included, just not as another subject to be scheduled day in and day out. Instead, these extras come through other exciting outlets—like learning centers, field trips, family game times, and even computer games or downloadable apps.

For instance, learning another language is a breeze when you allow afternoon computer time in the form of a Spanish CD, or you encourage math skill and drill using a fun app. World-geography memorization is far from boring with games like Quick Pix Geography or 10 Days in Asia (or Africa, Europe, the USA, or the Americas). And music appreciation is way more meaningful when actually visiting an opera, symphony, or musical.

How do I slip extra learning into our homeschool in the form of learning centers? I'll just give you a brief description of our learning centers and then take you on a journey into one of the learning centers that has been most enjoyable to my children, while being extremely beneficial for extra learning time—the artist study center.

What is a learning center? Quite simply, a small area (a tabletop, basket, or box) set aside for supplies that relate to a particular topic. The center might include literature, games, craft supplies, experiment kits, flashcards, puzzles; anything and everything goes!

For an artist learning center, I simply

  • Choose an artist.
  • Find info books about him/her in the library.
  • Set the books out on a table with various art supplies. (I continually change the media so my children have experience with all sorts of art materials: watercolors, acrylics, poster paints, chalk, pastels, oil pastels, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, clay, collage materials, and more.)
  • I usually try to find a poster, or print some pictures from the Internet, of some of the artist's work—and then I tape it to the wall.
  • Then I let the kiddos read the info books, look at the art, and use the art supplies to try their hand at what they've seen.

With only a little planning, I can set up a display that entices my children to use their free time in a fun and meaningful way. They read the books at their leisure and enjoy experimenting with the art supplies to create their own masterpieces.

Once the artist has worn out his or her welcome, I start over again with a new artist. However, we don't always have an artist center up and going because I find my kids tire of the same subject if it's used too often. I especially love to set up artist centers during the summer when my children have many lazy hours to pour themselves into their art studies and projects!

So, what are you waiting for? Set up an artist study center (or a center on any other topic) today and see just how excited your children become to learn during their free time!

Cindy West is an eclectic Charlotte Mason mom of three who loves learning alongside her children. You can find her blogging at Our Journey Westward (, and find her nature-study curriculum at Shining Dawn Books.

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