As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Our Little School

When I first started homeschooling, I scoured the internet in search of homeschooling blogs seeking wisdom in helping me get started on this journey.  My oldest was in grade one at the time, and I was looking for the veteran Moms, the ones who've done this for years (and who could provide pictures for me).  There are many blogs by veteran homeschoolers with large families and many grades to teach at a time, but the ones I found were more focussed on life in a large homeschooling family than they were in documenting their classrooms. I did find another category of Moms who were just starting, whose kids were in pre-K or K, and who seemed to have tons of money (and handy husbands) who could diy their own private classrooms that were the homeschooling equivalent of a jackpot.  Where were the pictures of what homeschool in a house like mine (on a budget like mine) looked like?

I've only got three years in, so I'm kind of in the middle when it comes to what I blog.  I don't have a lot of money, and while my husband is high on handiness he's pretty low on time so diy-ing doesn't happen too often around here (no Pinterest classroom for me!)  And I'm not living a life with teenaged kids going here, there and everywhere (or the life lessons that accompany that, which I'm sure will be filling my blog in the not-to-distant future).  I'm working out the kinks and our needs change from year to year, depending on who's in school.  But I thought that, for the sake of anyone else who might be questioning like I once was, I would document what our learning environment looks like today.  And more importantly, to show that you don't need a ton of money or loads of space to make homeschooling work well in your home.  You can set up individual workstations that don't completely take over your home, but that allow each child their own space without being confined to the dining room table.

The bulk of our schooling happens in the living room.  I have struggled with having desks in this area that don't look like school desks, because realistically school is only a few hours of our day, and the rest of the time this is a family space.  Making a room do double-duty is no easy task, and at first I resisted having anything school-related in the living room.  But our dining room was just too small for individual desks, and I needed the kids to have their own workspaces - a little to help them concentrate, but mostly to keep them from playing together and driving me nuts!!!  For a while I had old school desks in the corner of the living room, but I never felt like they really worked in there.  And then, I found this great cabinet on Kijiji that folds out into a desk when in use, and tucks away neatly when not in use.  It was perfect! Since I do some freelance work from home, I am able to keep a computer and printer tucked away inside for me, and my oldest uses it as a work station for school.  I paid $150 for it for the light colored-wooden one (which I thought was a steal) and then this summer was delighted to find a second one, this time in a darker finish, for only $60.  We use that one to store extra school supplies.  My brother gave me a desk my uncle made for him growing up, that works nicely under our TV, and even though it still looks like a desk and is the only thing I can't hide away, I'm okay with that.  I like the sentimentality, and the fact that what my brother used growing up my kids can use now (and hey, what homeschooling Mom can refuse a free desk?)

Here's what our living room looks like:

And that oldschool desk still gets some use in the basement.  Mostly for recreational reading, but occasionally also for tests.

The dining room is still where the bulk of the teaching happens, and is the room that screams "homeschool" as soon as you walk into the house.  I don't mind that though, I actually kind of like it.  The littlest ones do sit at the table to do their school work and that works okay, since it gives me plenty of space to sit with them.  The big shelf on the wall that holds all our books (which I love love LOVE!) was on another wall when we first moved in, and badly unused.  We took it down when we painted and it sat in our shed for a year, until my husband and a dear friend succumed to my incessant requests to put it up on the wall for me.  It is just perfect in our dining room. We have the kids books organized in banker's boxes with their names on them (an idea I got from a friend) which keeps them from falling over and makes them easy to grab.  Here's what it looks like:

I struggled for so long wishing to have something I didn't when it came to schooling - namely money and space to do something fantastic - when all along everything I needed was right under my nose.  This entire journey has been an exercise in making what we have work, and with two more little students ready to join our classroom in the next few years I have a feeling I'm not done squeezing, searching, and making things work. I don't like for every inch of our house to look like a school, but I do think that it's okay for some parts of it to look that way, because our house should be representative of who we are.  Our little house continues to burst at the seams with the life that lives within it, and that is what makes it beautiful.

"A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints." (Pope Benedict XVI, St. Mary's College, Sept. 17, 2010) 

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