Friday, August 12, 2011

A School Room of Their Own

Does the "to have a school room or not to have a schoolroom" debate just seem endless to you?  I've been on both sides for awhile.  I thought the idea of a dedicated school room sounded lovely.  A little table.  Surrounded by bookshelves.

But then, downstairs, we literally did not have a room to spare.  We did school at the dining room table.  I enjoyed being in the heart of our home (we spend so much time at the dining room table), in the company of our icon corner, being startled to discover that my kids really wanted to learn things from me and actually listened to what I had to say a good part of the time.  As long as I didn't go on too long....

The Entrance of the Theotokos Feast Day Box from Orthodox Christian Craft Supply.  How we love these—must order a few more for the Fall.
But then we moved upstairs and gloriously found ourselves in the possession of more rooms!  A dedicated floor for bedrooms!  Even if there are only really two rooms up there.  And you have to walk through the first to get to the second.  And there's no bathroom up there.  But still!  Lying in our giant king-sized bed (which had formerly been squeezed into a typical Chicago apartment bedroom—I kid you not, we could not even close the door) in our giant master bedroom, looking up at the sloping ceilings because, yes, really, it is the attic of the building: well, it is like this blissful cocoon in which to slumber and forget about the stresses of the day lingering a flight of stairs below.

The little not-really-insulated-heated-or-air-conditioned back room that had been (downstairs) my husband's office was freed to be something else, and since my kitchen is awkwardly filled with doors and doesn't exactly have room for a table, we settled on the back being a breakfast nook.

Breakfast by candlelight on a dark snowy day

And it really did a lovely job of being that.

Our view of snow-covered garage roofs, which I quite like.

But in my quest to provide some order to my house and not always have piles everywhere, I gradually begin to remove the kid things from the living and dining rooms.  Out went the tiny toys in the corners of the windowsills, the bag of blocks, the kids' books that were always just being pulled off the shelf into a pile by the baby.  (Don't worry, there were still some kid books down there.  I love to see my kids poring over books!)

I thought that doing that, combined with confining them to the back of the house when I couldn't be mentally present to chaperon them in the adult living areas would do the trick.

But their homeschooling stuff and craft supplies were still out there.  Any time they wanted to make a drawing of a sun with girl eyes and legs or cut a piece of paper into infinite tiny bits, there it was on my dining room table (and floor) to be picked up mostly by me when I'd surfaced from whatever consuming household chore or project I had happened to have been engrossed in at the time.

An answer came to me slowly.   After a visit to a friend's house that contains a small school room in the back of her house, the thought, Move the school stuff.  Make the breakfast room into a school room, began to float in the back of my mind.  Rather, it nagged.

The breakfast room was really difficult to keep clean of food debris after all.  The table had awkward gate legs that were hard to sweep around and it is a tight space for that big table and all that seating.

I began looking on craigslist for a tall table and stools to replace the chopping block cart/island in the kitchen.  Then we could eat small meals in there if we wanted to.  (For a picture of what I found, go back one post to this one.  Scroll down awhile to see the table.  Just yesterday, I picked up two more stools so now Mommy can sit down and eat too!  Very important!)

Then I did it!  I moved the table to the other side and folded up one side of it to make some room.

(Goodness, I am finally getting to the point of this post!!)

This is just after I cleaned the floor.  But nothing has been put back on the corner shelf yet.  The table is full of little projects the kids have come up with: Feast Day Boxes, sorting beads into cups—I love what they do of their own leading!

Then we moved a corner shelf—which we call the "homeschool shelf" and which had not been hitherto residing in a corner in the upstairs apartment— into the only available corner in this room.

Nothing organized yet....
I sort of let the kids run amok in there for several days.  I have to go through and toss or store what doesn't apply to this year.  I also had to actually order this year's books but that is finally done (mostly!) so I didn't want to waste time "organizing" when I was really procrastinating from getting our actual books.

She turned and made this face just as I clicked the button, I swear.

Yesterday, I shooed the big kids outside while I attacked the floor of this room.  I wish I had a before picture!  Just imagine the above table contents (but individual items about 90% bigger, as not to be choking hazards for Baby John) all over the floor.  But one of the organizational ideas I had was this:

Blocks in one, random baby-friendly toys in the second, little board books in a third (unpictured).
I'll get back to you on whether this system has any merits!

I know this post has gone on forever already, but here are a few other corners I wanted to show.  I was browsing Like Mother, Like Daughter (when am I not?) for some motivation to get back into our routines and schooling very soon, so clicked on the "education" category and found one on Nature Tables.

So I repurposed the top of this tiny bookshelf to serve as such for the time being.  We'll need more space later on, and maybe I'll get a bookshelf to put between the tiny one and the homeschool one.  But this will do for now.

Let's see rocks (top left and continuing clockwise) from Grandma and Grandpa's house, wooden cross from craft shop, jar of shells from a lake at a camp I went to as a girl and from beaches in France (!), acorns and buckeye from a nature walk at the start of school last year.  Small collection, but we had no place to display them until now!  We'll add to it this year.

Of course, nothing prompts interest like a new arrangement!
So that, mostly, is that!

Here's a fuller view of that side:

The little chaos-maker himself on the floor....
School should be extra interesting with John around this year.

Thank you, Auntie Leila, for the motivation to make many of these changes and for this post on educating children at home in particular!


  1. Wow, Patty, you did a lot! It's great to see you putting so much thought into all of this. I love your icon corner and nature table, and heartily agree about the need for books where the kids are! You know, a great kind of coffee table, if you ever find one, has a shelf below the top that you can stick books onto.
    Our home has always had piles of books everywhere, and I think that children do absorb the importance of that to you -- to them, books become a sign of the family!
    God bless!

  2. Thanks, Leila! Our current coffee table is a trunk full of board games... that we never use.

    Yes, I felt a little guilty moving the main (small) kid's bookshelf up to their room, and I don't think it gets as much use up there. But I'm just not always present enough to deal with the pile they create by pulling books off and dumping them on the floor! Especially the baby, but the other two aren't good at putting back either. I may relocate it to the school room, because I do want those down where we can use them!


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