Monday, May 1, 2017

"New" School Space

Summer of 2015 as we began our first "official" year of homeschooling the oldest as a kindergartner, we put together a fabulous school room with an extra bedroom in our house.  I was smitten.  I spent many days just sitting and looking at the curtains and maps and organizing our supplies both excited and anxious for our upcoming year..... And then having a separate school space didn't exactly go as I had planned it all out in my head.  (You can check out our old school room at this link over here.)

We spent at least a month or two religiously doing our school work back in our designated school room each day, and then the room slowly began to become a catch all, started losing it's allure, and became a little bit of a nuisance for life with a toddler.

With baby number four on the way, it was time to sit down and think about how practical it really is to utilize that room as a school space and evaluate it's usefulness.  And at the end of the day having a separate school space definitely has it's pros, but it also has some cons too.

School Space Pros-
  • A plethora of storage for all of our schooling supplies and books.  While the extra bedroom was not huge, it's still an EXTRA space meaning we had a closet and lots of wall space for bookshelves, filing cabinets and an array of storage.
  • A space to be hopefully distraction free.  I don't know that the kids struggle with it quite as much, but I have a habit of getting distracted by things around me such as a full sink of dishes, a floor covered with toys, and a couch covered with clothes.  When we had a separate space, we were basically locked away and able to focus.
  • It was pretty.  Can I count that as a pro?  I mean seriously though, we kind of had the maps and decor JUST right.  And this year we hung from the ceiling some really cute paper lanterns of the planets that we painted-- the space itself when tidy and kept up was quite mesmerizing.  (Have no fear, our beautiful planets were not tossed and are now happily hanging from the ceiling in the big boys' bedroom.)
School Space Cons-
  • Our school space was not by any means toddler proof-- I mean you can imagine shelves and cabinets full of books.  Maybe there's a way to toddler proof those, but the reality is that there were many days of fighting the toddler as he ripped items off the shelves in a tornado like fashion.  Due to this issue, there were many days of pulling our books out to the kitchen table so that the toddler could be with us or roam the living room in freedom and in eyesight.  
  • While being distraction free is nice, we were shut off in the back of the house.  I was not able to give the oldest an assignment and go wash dishes and still be able to assist him.  However, when we school at the kitchen table, I can be within earshot of him as I prepare breakfast/lunches or load the dishwasher.  
  • There's just something cozy about gathering around the kitchen table.  I mean, let's get real.  In most houses, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  It's where we host company and friends, and where we gather together as a family at least once a day but more often 3 times a day.  Even on the occasion we have people over, how often we end up standing in the kitchen chatting!  We totally have comfy couches only a step away in the living room, and yet, the kitchen is where gather.  
  • Also taken into account is baby number 4.  The reality is that 2 out of 3 of our boys have spent their first year and half sleeping in our room, so it isn't necessary for her to have her own bedroom right away, BUT what does reality look like schooling next year with both a toddler and a newborn underfoot?  Will I be able to move all of us to a secondary space and keep the younger two amused while the big kids do school?  OR will it look something more like nursing an infant on the couch while the toddler runs amuck, the 5 year old reads me a book and the biggest kiddo is a few feet away in earshot at the kitchen table working on his math worksheet?  I'm a realist, so I'm bracing myself for the chaos of the latter.  
Maybe it's just our time and our season.  I know that a separate space works and is praised by so many in the homeschool community, but it just wasn't working for us in this time and in this season, and that bedroom CAN be utilized for baby girl.  So after spending much of this year dragging our books back and forth to the kitchen anyway, we have officially moved into our "new" school space-- our kitchen table.  

We've had to do some interesting consolidating and cleaning out when it comes to our supplies and storage of our books, but overall, I'm incredibly happy with our new space!  We get to gather around the table each day, do our devotion and read aloud time of an array of books over breakfast, and then easily pull out supplies for our school day from the kitchen cabinet.  It also means that Mommy is a lot closer to the coffee pot throughout our school day AND my nesting can kick in as we decorate the nursery and prepare for the excitement of our first little girl.  

Here's a peek at our humble eat in kitchen.

The toddler on the table is pretty much a regular occurrence and battle.  He's learning lots with us though!

Same white boards and Ikea wire that were in our school room, just transitioned to the kitchen.  We use the wire to hang our Classical Conversations weekly timeline cards when CC is in session.  And the silver sign is new-- "Plant something and watch it grow."  Thank you Target "dollar" spot!  I just couldn't resist considering our school name has "Harvest" in the title.  And I'll pick up two new frames to add pictures of Joel and Evelyn to the wall in the Fall.  They aren't yet official schooling age, but they are very much enrolled in our school. Haha!

Remember I said the toddler is learning right along with us.... well today he taught himself how to use the pencil sharpener while he was on the table raiding our things.  It is as dangerous as it sounds.

So while I was looking for inspiration for our kitchen school I found that small space organization for homeschooling is lacking quite a bit.  I know many folks use their kitchens to school in.  That is not unusual, BUT many folks have space to add in a hutch, credenza or bookshelf nearby to store their supplies.  The reality is that with a second high chair being added to our small eat-in kitchen soon, we just don't have the space for an extra piece of furniture nearby.  We thankfully have plenty of kitchen cabinets and after doing some SERIOUS cleaning out and a run to Goodwill, I had an empty one to store our supplies.  It's working so far!

Want a peek at what all of these bins are?  Then feel free to watch me awkwardly show you our school stuff and how it's organized in the video below. 

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