Spark Station Contents in homeschooling

by Mary Ann on April 30, 2010

The number one question I am asked regarding The Spark Station is, “What goes in it”? In fact, next to, “I don’t have a closet I can lock” this is the thing that stops most people from even attempting to get a Spark Station going in their home.

When I first started working with families on this topic one of the early surveys asked, “Have you implemented this tool in your home.” The following is a quote from one of those surveys and is typical of the response. “We attended the first Core and Love of Learning Seminar when the TJEd Ingredientswere first given.  That is when we learned the concept of The Spark Station.  We left the seminar excited and ready to implement a dozen new things in our home school.  Unfortunately everything didn’t go as planned.”

“Our biggest stumbling block was trying to decide what went in The Spark Station.  I needed suggestions or examples.  The concept was too broad.  I also didn’t have an actual closet that could be closed or locked and at the time my children were all under the age of 6.  We made a couple of tries (which amounted to about 2 days each) and let the idea kind of fall by the wayside with the hope that we would come back to it later. 4-5 years later, here we are and are ready to try again. “

I am definitely going to address this question here but want to make a couple of points first. In my experience kids don’t care what is in The Spark Station when you start. What they really get jazzed about is the fact that you are together, doing something that has been planned, with consistency. Really, this is true. We as parents think that the contents would be the most important, a make or break item. But kids don’t care. In fact, I can’t recall even one family where kids even mentioned content when I asked them what they liked most about The Spark Station.

The first two keys that I teach, in children’s minds really are the main two keys. Have a structured family learning time that you are consistent about and second, be present. Enough said!

So what does go in The Spark Station?


  1. Anything that you have in your homealready that is interesting and fun and doesn’t belong to a specific child. If it is someone’s personal possession don’t put it in the closet without their permission! One of the assignments I give parents is to go from room to room with pencil and paper in hand and think about what is in each room that would work in The Spark Station and to write it on the list. Then gather all those items and put them in your Spark Station.
  2. Toys – As Marie Montessori said, play is the child’s work. They learn by playing. Choose toys that don’t do the work for children; toys that encourage imaginative play, toys with cause and effect, toys that require some thinking or creativity to use.
  3. Materials for projects – I was watching a short video on a blog called The Pioneer Woman. In this video of children creating a volcano the parent said, “The use of project learning is an incredible way to encourage the child to venture into new areas of study.” So a box of old socks, scrapes of cloth and yarn, buttons and large needles fits the bill perfectly as does a bottle of vinegar and a box of soda.

4.  Anything that you would like to inspire your children to engage with. What are your goals for your children this year, what do you want to expose them to, what concepts do you want to teach. Use The Spark Station to do that. For example: astronomy, art, geography, stationary for writing, notebooks, math, what you loved as a kid, etc

5.  Books from the library.

6. Kitsor make your own kits.

7.  Respond to Sparks; those things that your children say or do that let you know what they are interested in.

8.  Academics – Some parents really need workbooks, worksheets and the like available to their kids. If that is you, put it in. Please remember “inspire not require”.

Just remember that starting is more important than mulling over the contents for years.

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