Before I started home schooling, I talked to a lot of people. I had one friend who I talked to the most about the realities of home schooling. Her family was in their second year of school at home. They were giving it their best shot but my friend was struggling a little with the challenges of it all. She ultimately sent her children back to school halfway through that year. Even though home schooling did not work for her family, my conversations with her about it were valuable and thought provoking. One of the many things she struggled with and warned me against was that home schooling took over not only her time and energy but also her home. “I never get away from it,” she said pointing to the cluttered book shelf in the corner of her kitchen and the two little school desks next to their dining table.
When I began home schooling a few years later, I remembered my friend’s words and set up a classroom in our spare bedroom where we could put all our books and our own little desks. Our classroom worked out nicely. When it was school time we would retreat to our room and I could block out any distractions like dishes to be washed or laundry to be folded and concentrate only on teaching my children. When school was over for the day, I could close the door and shut the school clutter away out of sight.
When we welcomed our beautiful fifth child, I vowed to keep my classroom as long as possible, figuring our three girls could share a room for years to come. Things did not work out as I had planned. Our baby did not sleep well and we decided that “extra” room would be put to much better use as a bedroom than a classroom. So out came the school stuff and in went a bed and dresser for our oldest daughter, while the little one took her place with our middle daughter.
All of the sudden, I was in the place my friend had warned me about. The back of our family room became our school room and I no longer had a door to shut away all the clutter and supplies that go along with teaching 5 kids at home. The walls of my family room have slowly been taken over by the children's art work. The books and papers we use during school time find their way to the end table and the couch and are often underfoot on the floor too. The kitchen, right next to our family/class room, is full of papers and books and pencils as well. Our school stuff is everywhere, all the time.
When I attempt to entertain adults at my house, I wonder if I should apologize for the school books and worksheets that try to pass for décor and the construction paper and glue pictures that masquerade as great works of art. Should I pretend that I meant to decorate in the style of “early American first grade classroom”, or should I admit I just have no control over the constantly multiplying school stuff that encroaches on all areas of life these days?
The funny thing is- I don’t actually mind it all so much. Our life is education and home schooling is our life. I don’t really mind the kid’s art projects on the family room wall or the books they are currently reading mounting in unsteady, tilting piles on the end table. Actually, I love that our home is a place of learning and if evidence of that abounds, that is okay with me.
I have found that, for us, it is convenient to have school in the family room and there is something very cozy about washing the dishes or folding the laundry while the kids work on their assignments nearby. My decorating has always been much more functional than picturesque and my home has always been just a little bit lived in anyway. So, though that old warning from my well-meaning friend has certainly proven to be true, it turns out, I did not need it after all….never getting away from my children’s learning doesn't really bother me a bit.