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Ode to the Chalkboard

8 reasons to include a chalkboard in your homeschooling space.

As someone who never pursued my creative side through drawing before having kids, it feels remarkable to me that both my children are so brave with art materials in their hands. I credit this somewhat to my embracing of the good ol’ fashioned chalkboard as the centerpiece of our homeschool. It is a colorful, beautiful, and constantly changing extension of our efforts and interests. It encourages free expression and spontaneous brainstorming. It has provided a consistent, though gentle, culling of the profane and a cultivation of the beautiful.

Here are a handful of reasons for why I advocate for going the chalkboard route in your homeschool space, and tips for how to make it work for you:

This one joined us on a botany day under the oaks.

It’s environmentally friendly.

I’ve always made my own chalkboards, and it just takes a flat surface and a few coats of paint. We use the environmentally friendly ECOS chalkboard paint because it is non-toxic and odorless. For our main chalkboard, I bought a large piece of flat wood (tagboard is another option that results in a smoother board) from Home Depot years ago and had it cut to fit the size of our wall space. Because they are so easy to make, I have about ten smaller ones on our homeschool shelf, in all different sizes, that serve as scratch paper for math, word work, and brainstorming. We flip them over for painting or clay work, and sometimes they come with us on our nature days. One quart of chalkboard paint has been enough to paint all the surfaces we have needed, plus enough to repaint when needed. I like to add a new coat to our main chalkboard once a year, to get it back in working shape. It’s a fun project to do with the kids too! Using chalkboards has also ensured that, in all our years of homeschooling, I have never had to buy those plastic whiteboard pens that dry out so easily.

Ancient China studies yielded a fun one.

It’s practical.

Our main chalkboard is our homeschooling centerpiece. We tend to have ongoing units that we study for 1-2 months at a time, and the chalkboard is a living homage to the topic. I often begin the unit with a drawing, and as we progress, more ends up on the board. We erase as necessary, but as the weeks wend on, there are always some awesome creations that we want to see for longer, and those stay. In this way, our main chalkboard anchors our unit study and keeps the most interesting bits fresh in our minds and hearts. Along with our drawings, we use removable poster putty to hang relevant artwork, making the chalkboard into a bulletin board as well. The centerpiece aspect of the chalkboard makes it feel like somewhat of a bookmark. For example, as soon as we commit to having all things Ancient China on our board, our awareness is more attuned during those months to that region, and opportunities to connect with that topic arise out of the woodworks. The chalkboard is like a compass pointing in a direction, it does not bully us, and we often ignore it, but inevitably, as we meander along the path, we reach our destination.

This map stayed up throughout our entire Ancient India block. It was a hard one to erase!
I used a Waldorfish lesson for this one.

It is a way of modeling genuine effort.

Drawing is not my preferred medium. It does not come easily to me, and I don’t even particularly enjoy it. It takes effort for me to make a chalkboard drawing; one that usually involves Google searching other people’s drawings to copy and then some labor-intensive time full of starts and stops. My process generally feels like a chalky mess (more on this later). I have done it again and again, though, because my efforts at drawing are always highly rewarded. My kids LOVE when I put in that effort, it feels like a gift to them. It empowers them to take a stab at the drawing themselves, and they usually do at some point. My son loves to give me tips about how to improve my drawings with shading and shadows. They are under no illusions about my drawing skills, and I think that’s part of the magic. My efforts help validate their own. They see me working at something that does not come easy to me, and has increased their willingness to put effort into their own artistic work. I also believe that my putting effort into drawing brings a healthy balance to our homeschool life where it is easy to focus on academics.

An awesome Beast Academy math idea.

It is a great medium for working on emotional resilience and growth mindset (for parents AND kiddos).

Witnessing my mistakes and frustrations with drawing on the chalkboard (or even trying to write something neatly), has helped my children navigate their own academic and artistic disappointments more calmly. The impermanence, easy erasure, and layering encourage artistic and academic bravery and playfulness. This impermanence creates a comfortable medium for playing around with brave spelling, silly poetry, or challenging math problems.

The colors from chalk are beautiful and the medium is so forgiving.

I really appreciate that there is texture to chalk that brings its own magic to the drawing. It is a medium that does not demand clean lines. For amazing, pop off the board colors, my favorite, though pricey, chalk choices are Mercurius Blackboard Chalk and Prang Ambrite Chalk.

Having fun with chalk colors can make any lesson feel just a little bit more fun and magical.

When we do other things on the chalkboard, like a math problem, or even just write down a chores list, the multiple colors makes the whole endeavor feel more special. My default is a rainbow motif, but even the slightest effort at fun color choices can elevate the experience. Playing around with fonts and 3D shading boosts it all, too!

It teaches beauty.

I remember school as a lot of pencil on lined paper. Taking the time in our home and in our homeschool life to honor our efforts at creating something beautiful has proven to be a worthwhile effort. It slows us down and helps make our entire experience feel elevated and special.

Plus, it is an excellent conversation piece.

The constantly changing chalkboard draws everyone’s eye and can turn skeptical homeschool conversations into interested ones.

And about the mess...yes, chalk is not the cleanest choice, but neither is homeschooling for that matter :)

We have lots of aprons that we throw on when we are getting into chalk work, and always keep rags on hand for wiping hands between colors. We have discovered that microfiber cloths are the best for erasing chalk boards. Throwing a dropcloth down is helpful if you are getting into a big chalk project. I also often wash the boards with water and a rag when we are done, to minimize dustiness, and a good handwashing after any chalk work is always necessary.

Both Heather and I have pictures in our photo archives of all the many chalkboard drawings that we have put effort into during our homeschooling years. Seeing other people’s chalkboard drawings always helps, and I often model mine off ones I have found online. We are going to start posting ours here in the hopes that some may inspire other chalkboard drawing enthusiasts.

Also...don't neglect your sidewalks!


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