In our home, every corner of it is a learning space… A place for us to know, love, and serve God in our daily duties. This house has children in it and we are not afraid to show that in our decor. This house is full of holy reminders and I have been told (rather jokingly) that it looks like a convent. It has framed holy pictures on its walls and strewn rosaries all about.
We live in a 1923 bungalow style home, typical of that era. There is a living room/dining room combination in the center of the house. It is in the center of our home that we typically gather for school. There is something in here for everyone…from the 19mo toddler to the eldest children….it is user-friendly for its purposes no matter if you are young or old…you BELONG here!! There is a smaller version of our dining room table in front of the bookcases for the littler children to bring their treasures to when they want to explore them. We have 3 floor to ceiling bookshelves against our only solid wall. Other pieces of furniture include the dining room table as well as a 1/2 high bookcase(where most of our individual schoolbooks are kept…), china cabinet and a secretary desk. The room has the look of an elegant early colonial oak/maple library to it. We keep it simple and hide our "office/classroom" as a dining room while we have company. Have you ever seen those interior design shows where they do this type of thing hiding the office behind the dining room facade? Well, this is my inspired decorating scheme!
In the secretary desk I have the pocket charts folded up with a few folders of pocket chart centers for the 3,6 and 7yo dc. There are three drawers below the fold down part of the desk that serves as our notebooking/ scrapbooking/lapbooking assembly area with large drawers for papers and a basket on the top of the secretary for additional supplies in containers and baskets…next to that basket is the science supply basket. I pull items down from these baskets to the fold down desk part as items are needed. If they are not needed, they are up high…out of the toddlers reach, labeled and ready to go for the time they need to be in use…it is easy…pull down the desk part and get to work! Everything needed is right there!..it is by a window that has the most beautifully colored leaves in the spring and fall and is a favorite place to sit and write!
In the china cabinet… it LOOKS like a china cabinet, but hidden under this guise is Math/Language centers and supplies. There are 3 large baskets atop the cabinet and one is for Math, one for art supplies…(art games and whatever didn’t fit in the art cabinet in the kitchen)… and the other for language. Here I keep the extra Montessori supplies and center items that I pull down only a few at a time for use. I spent much of the summer getting them ready. Behind one of the china cabinet doors are some decorative jars, boxes and small baskets that hide some of the more needed manipulative items….handy, but hidden and once again out of the toddlers reach….want to know where I ‘hid’ the dishes?? Most of them are in the other two sections and half of the area below the china cabinet. Right next to it is a door leading to a walk-up attic…I have several shelves of dishes ready to be used at the top of the stairs in that attic…I just have to give them a quick wash before company and we have it made! It makes it so much easy to care for my special treasures with children around if I handle it this way. Besides I feel kind of elegant opening and closing the doors on the china cabinet when gathering the things for school. It somehow gives even something as tedious as math a special air.
Across the 3 large bookcases are 4 more large baskets….laundry like wood-stained wicker baskets with fabric liners…. History (movable time line items) More Science items(3 part Montessori cards and interesting manipulatives) Games, and Sewing Stuff can be found there.
The shelves are divided by sections by subject …full of books!!….and the highest shelves hold items that we want away from the baby…a display shelf for our latest project….like a miniature medieval village made of Model Magic on a painted cardboard base and landscape…precious books….and handiwork shelf…sewing baskets with projects inside…klutz books..potholder loom…whatever we are working on NOW for fun or to flesh out one subject or another. The bottom most shelves hold a basket of baby toys and younger books for easy perusal.
There is one long decorative window higher up on the wall near the dining room table and under the molding around this window we have cup hooks that hold our maps and pocket charts when in use…we use every surface we can find and use it in a way that is uncluttered…easy to clean and deliberate. Even the baby knows where it goes and that has some great effect on all of us.
I also run cup hooks under the fireplace mantle in the Living Room….it is for hanging Montessori bead chains and maps and charts …at least most of the time, and for stockings at Christmas! ;o)
On either side of the fireplace are 1/2 high built-in bookcases and on these shelves we have pull out drawers for papers and manipulatives in hardware drawers on the top shelves and Montessori tackle boxes on the middle shelves and puzzles on the bottom shelves. (I loooove these…the baby cannot open them!! woo hoo!!) I also have my computer/TV set up in the living room on a large oak table. The TV sits up higher on 2 large drawers that house the video tapes/DVDs and clip boards for our TV schooling! Under the table almost out of sight are two filing cabinets full of interesting project parts. On the side of this table is an unusual piece of furniture that houses some of the Montessori manipulatives and trays. ( I found some very sturdy decorative wooden cherry trays at a garage sale for 1.00 that suit this purpose well!) The pink tower, the brown stair and the red rods are here as well as the metal insets and one set of the knobbed cylinders. I keep any other manipulatives like the three part cards on one of the top shelves (encased in a tackle box or hardware drawer) of the mantle bookcases…the kids know to go there to find the work…I will only put out a few things at a time to keep the pokiest fingers from spreading all we have in every possible direction.
Most of my art supplies are kept in a locked Black and Decker cabinet that I haven’t decided where the final resting place should be. Right now it is in the mud room, but I need to find it a newer home. It is great for storing paints and messy things! I loooove having all I need there, including small pieces parts for all sorts of art discoveries without worrying that the little ones will make waste of the whole thing in one sitting. I hated the idea of locking it, but it has worked very well and the children all know that it is a great place to keep the fun things they get as gifts. "Quick Mom! Lock this up so the baby can’t eat it!!"…Yes, it works well! It is full of collage things ..wood shapes, mosaic paper squares, glue and even paperboard treasure chests awaiting creative hands!!
I do NOT have much wall space in this house. But I do have a nice frame hanging on one wall and we change the art work in it frequently. I have different sized mats to go in it to accomodate a post card sizd pic all the way up to an 11X …(.oh whatever is the standard for that sized picture!) We used this idea for CHC’s Art Masterpieces last year! I want to get a framed pic of The Gleaners and The Angelus in matching frames to hang in my kitchen. I saw this idea in someone’s home once and LOVED it!…Ora Et Labora!…in addition we have many other art books strewn around for gleaning more inspiration and great conversations…all within easy reach of the children…like the DK book A Child’s Book of Art.…and Discovering Great Paintings. …not to mention The Child Sized Masterpieces series…encased in color coded folders in a lovely basket…a favorite too!! I could do another whole thread on this subject alone!!
We play classical and sacred music frequently here…I usually burn the cd’s to the computer to save them being eaten by little teeth. In addition, the sound system on the computer is a pretty good one for this. We are looking forward to using the CD’s that Elizabeth mentioned at her blog. We listened to one of them so far and I loved how it soothed the savage daddy home from a hard day of work!
My house is NOT perfect…it and we are always works in progress. But it has some assemblance of order and when it gets messed up, it doesn’t take long to clean up because it doesn’t house sooo much that we cannot clean it in a reasonable amount of time….besides that WHO WANTS TO CLEAN ALL OF THE TIME?? We want to explore and invent and be creative and learn good things!! We intersperse quick clean up times here and there and the reward is more time for creativity!! Being consistent with this was hard to start with…it is FINALLY coming together!!
Most of the toys are stored in the attic and they can bring one container down at a time and can trade for other things when they are done with that first container…works great…especially for entertaining the younger set. it took me a long time to figure this out…but where there is a will….I HAD to find a way! God created order out of the chaos of the universe…He helped me (with me pleading quite a bit) with my little dilemma. I wanted my house to be uncluttered and user friendly. It had to be a school house and a home and a bazillion other things too….and I didn’t want to cry at the end of the day seeing my hard work undone to such a degree that it would take weeks to put it back together! They layout is open and it is easy to see everyone. The learning spaces we have are structured for creativity and for having fun…no matter how big or little you are…you have a place here where you feel comfortable working. Even all of the hardware type drawers and things alongside the fireplace aren’t too out of place-looking. We know where to put things and we NEVER knew that before.
The local Home Goods store has many wonderful things that will inspire anyone to make an elegant looking home-office! Garage sales are goldmines for found objects that can be recycled in unusual creative ways….like my trays for example. "They are sooo beautiful" …so my 6yo dd says…that she feels like a lady using them and wants to use them quite frequently….so I feel like I really found something special there…I thought of her and how I could make her space as special as my space. It really is a home for ALL of us! …and….All of us LEARNING all the time!!
The most important area is over the fireplace on the looong mantle. Here is our prayer area that we decorate frequently with whatever special things move the hearts of the children…including a home-made paschal candle and some of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd items. In the center of this mantle is a liturgical cloth under a statue of Our Lady of Fatima….she is wearing a necklace of heart shaped beads as a gift of love from a little girl’s heart….and she is wearing a halo of white beads around her crown from a little boy who felt that he needed to show in some small way his love for his heavenly Mother.
Behind the statue is this picture that my dh and I fell in love with right before we celebrated our first Christmas together. It is funny that it seems to still speak to our hearts as one of familial love and togetherness…a place for the whole family to live and work together amongst each other. The church is in the center of it and a warm glowing home is awaiting its occupants promising shelter and love.
On either side of this statue and picture are two divided light windows. One is our St Joseph window with a statue of St. Joseph holding the sleeping Child Jesus and the other has a statue of the Good Shepherd with His sheep. The children were once given lambs for one of the 12 days of Christmas one year. They immediately placed these lambs around the Good Shepherd. "Look Mom! This is me and I want to be near Jesus!" …and so I want it to be in our learning space as well. A place where the Divine Guest can move in and amongst us as we come to know, love and serve Him in our daily struggles and duties. …to grow closer to His presence as we grow ourselves…both physically and spiritually till we really do find our way home.