A Year of Planning Skillfully: Learning Spaces and Sensory Bins for my Homegrown Preschooler.

With our Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations year underway, I can now turn my attention towards prepping for our THIRD year with The Homegrown Preschooler, which thankfully fits beautifully with Classical Conversations. Its not an exaggeration to say that Homegrown Preschooler changed our lives, if you haven’t heard of them before, please check them out! I’ve been slammed with requests for information on our parallel learning spaces and sensory bins so I thought we could begin there. Please remember that all the information below is what works for MY family, MY particular situation, MY home, MY schedule. I am happy to share all this in the hopes that you might find a piece here or there to take and use in your home. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what works for me, what matters is that you are able to take pieces from several different places and find what works for YOU.


Purposeful Planning
As with all my planning, I sit down to do a heart check first. I remind myself not to panic buy things I don’t need. I have been using this curriculum on its own for two years with my youngest and it has served me well without add-ons or extras. This year is his first time in class at our CC Community. What sorts of things will be changing for him? What challenges will he be facing with his SPD?  How can I best equip him to tackle the year with joy and wonder and freedom? What character traits or habit training does he need to get to the next place with confidence and grace? How does my plan fit into the greater WHY behind my homeschooling? I sort through all these questions and make my list of goals.


HGP is divided into 9 months of activities within a wide array of developmental learning. (You can find a free month of activities here). Some of the activities he enjoyed as a 2 year old will still work and many of the activities out of his reach then fit fine and dandy now! Since its our third year I’m looking to get to those once out of reach activities.

I plan three months in advance. The first thing I do is look for common supply needs between the activities, or even acceptable substitutes. This way I can save money and use what I have on hand. Next, I make a list of things I definitely need to acquire in the order I will be needing them so I can slowly chip away at the supplies.


Then I look at what my older boys are doing and I find spaces to introduce new items to my youngest.

For example:
This year my eldest children are paying special attention to explorers in American History. They are drawing TONS of maps. When they are working on their maps I can work on the “My World” book activity with my youngest. Once its created we can go over it whenever the older boys do map work. We can also review his CC Geography at that time.

Before I buy anything new, I rummage through art/craft supplies, kitchen items and other household items to make sure I actually need the item. As I stated above, sometimes I can find something similar that stands in as a great substitute. I purchase scrapbook storage tubs from Michaels and I group subject resources in there. Then I use plastic shoeboxes to store theme items for each month of HGP, now that its my third year I have a nice supply of reusable items. For example, the November shoe box is full of felted acorns, crocheted leaves, velvet pumpkins, indian corn and other sensory rich fall materials. All of these shoe boxes are stored up high and brought down as needed.  I prepare new sensory bins every month and on Fridays I check the bins to see how they are holding up, track down any loose pieces or replenish base fillers if needed. I match several up with HGP and the rest I create based of my son’s current interests.  (More specifics at the end of this post!)

My third born still occupies his own desk in the corner of our classroom. My eldest boys meet at the table or at our new Science/Art bar. My youngest has his own desk and chair, which are height appropriate for his age. I have a Waldorf Playstand set up behind him, filled with manipulatives and Montessori style “work” that he can do during the day. A small adjoining open bookcase houses his current sensory bin work. The boys can all work at their stations  at the same time, but there is also room at the main table for everyone. In laying a feast of ideas a lá Charlotte Mason, I don’t want to simply distract my preschooler so that he is left on the floor begging for crumbs. If he wants to join us he can. He can come be with us at the table or he can go back to his own space where he has full reign over his resources. Lesli and Kathy have written about environment extensively in their initial Homegrown Preschooler book. Check it out!


A Quick Disclaimer
Before I go any further I would like to clarify two things:
First, a great deal of habit training went into this system. We started with one tray…not thirty. Once he demonstrated that he could care for the tray, his environment, etc we moved on to two trays. He is responsible for fetching his tray, using it appropriately and then putting it away. For the most part, he is able to keep this area tidy and if a mess occurs he is more than capable of cleaning it up himself. But he is not limited to tidy work! Kids are messy. Part of the their learning IS mess-making. The trays that require mess-making are not stored on this shelf. Messy trays are prepared by me and used outside in our “No-free” zone. There the kids can run riot with these things to fully discover them and enjoy them. We usually leave the messy work at the ready to use during our free spaces. By then all four boys are ready to go outside and make a big mess!


Secondly, because of my son’s sensory needs and our lack of coverage for services, I provide his therapy here at home. Therefore, I have an abundance of therapy tools for him to use. You do not NEED to fill your home with these tools in order to homeschool or in order to use Homegrown Preschooler.


Weekly Execution
My eldest children have asked to help their brother with everything in the Social/Emotional category and I am so excited to watch them teach and lead in that area.  Language/Literacy and Math will be done in the morning hours and I have made trays for the majority of those activities. Sensory activities will be included there as well. Our science activities will be done in Fridays before we meet up with our Wild + Free nature group. I have laminated a copy of HGP’s fabulous “5 Common Topics for Preschoolers” chart (p14) and tucked it into the inside pocket of my little guy’s nature journal.  I made copies for the older kids too! We plan to use this chart as often as possible. Art/Music activities and Gross Motor activities will be interspersed throughout the week. These usually occur when my older children complete their block of study and are waiting for the next block to begin. They are already anticipating the week when they’ll assemble PVC pipe into a pendulum with their little brother.


Family Style Learning
Have you picked up on that inclusive language? HGP is not just for my preschooler. Its become a family lifestyle for us. We are a family that plays together. I don’t ever feel like I have to FIT IT ALL IN SOMEWHERE!!! Because I don’t treat it like a box that has to be checked off. At the beginning of each month I list a bunch of HGP activities on our board, kind of like a monthly bucket list, and I tell the kids all about it.  They latch on to it and when their free time comes they ask for those activities instead of a movie. Come September I’ll hear “Doggie, doggie, where’s your bone?” float in through the open window. They’ll build their pendulum and an obstacle course and make clay tree faces. I leave the supplies out and they take care of the rest!


This year I will be sharing posts about our HGP and Classical Conversations year, so be on the look out of those updates. With each post I will add info about our current trays and bases we are using. Here is an example using our current bins.

Current Trays:
Black eyed peas, colored craft sticks, farm animals Safari toob.
Gems, seashell Safari toob, small magnifying glass, small bowl.
Kinetic sand, butterflies Safari toob, small net, small geometric forms
Water beads, frog pond life cycle toob, foam cut outs, measuring cups.
Play sand, Desert animals toob, small test tubes.
Potting soil, ant life cycle safari set, small terra-cotta pots, flowers safari toob.
Geometric shape tack set
Organs safari toob, Humany Body book, magnifying glass, three part cards.

General Sensory Bin Base Supplies
Water Beads
Kinetic Sand
Play Sand
Black-eyed peas
Black Beans
Beeswax pellets
Potting Soil
River Stones (Dollar Tree)

We are so excited to start our THIRD Year of Playing Skillfully! Thanks for following along!




10 thoughts on “A Year of Planning Skillfully: Learning Spaces and Sensory Bins for my Homegrown Preschooler.

  1. This is awesome and I’m so excited that you’ll continue doing these posts. We are starting AYOPS for the first time with my 2 and 4 year old so I will definitely be checking here for inspiration. Pretty sure we’re local too 🙂


  2. Absolutely love this post AND your blog! We have a three year-old that needs lots of hands-on and sensory opportunities, and we can’t wait to start Playing Skillfuly this September! (We did some trial HGP themes this summer to get in the mood!) Thank you also for the comments about building up to having multiple trays out by habit training… I was drooling over that play space, but envisioning a water bead/Toob/play sand disaster here at our house! 😂 Hoping we can get to the point of leaving out learning trays!

    Kim 😍


  3. I would love to know more about the three wooden toys behind your sweet little one. Your room looks SO inviting and everything looks like something that I’ve never seen!


  4. I just started reading and researching the Charlotte Mason method! Now I have Homegrown Preschooler to add to my growing list of homeschooling ideas to read about! Good thing she’s so young! Gives me lots of time!! 😁 Thank you so much for sharing this!!


  5. Thank you for sharing this! I just checked out The Homegrown Preschooler from our local library and am interested in learning more. As an aside- where did you get the wonderful posters on your school room?! I love the anatomy one!!


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