A Dedicated Space

(This rambling post may not be very interesting, but I needed to put some of these ideas down so that my brain can stop spinning!)

I realized the other day that I started doing preschool work with Jonas when he was two-and-a-half… That means we’ve been at this for four years already! (Actually, that makes me feel better about all the breaks we’ve taken… surely we’ve logged plenty of days that way!) In the Elsmere house, we worked at the kitchen table, overflowing to the floor or relaxing on the upstairs couches to read and snuggle together. When we moved here, we kept working in the kitchen – albeit a new table. The layout here gives me a great view of the family room and kitchen while I work with Jonas in the breakfast area, so that has been nice.

But I’ve been brainstorming about having a dedicated space since we moved in. This house’s floorplan has a formal front room and dining room… but we don’t have formal furniture.The front room currently holds a all of bookshelves and a bajillion books, and two old floor lamps which have seen better days.  And since my Dad’s latest visit in June it has gained an antique dry sink and a Panamanian leather rocking chair.

And the dining room, until this week, held our old kitchen table and three chairs, our old coffee table, the dog’s crate, and an odd collection of “stuff” which hasn’t found just the right spot to land in the new house. (I’m ashamed to admit that, since we’ve lived here a whole year already!)

So the plan has been bubbling in my mind… What if I turned the “dining room” into a school room? Of course, the obvious ‘con’ on the list is that we wouldn’t be able to use it as a formal dining space for the next year or so. But since we probably won’t make room in the budget to buy formal dining furniture for at least that long, odds are this room would continue to go largely unused, which makes it an unfortunate staging ground for all the bits and bobs that are still undecided (unhung pictures, baskets I can’t seem to donate because I might need them for something, etc!)

The pros far outweighed the con, in my thinking. A dedicated space would free up the kitchen table to be just a kitchen table. Instead of the rush to clean off breakfast and in order to make room for work – then clean off all the work to make room for lunch – and repeat again in the afternoon… I could have work out on the work table and leave it there! We could just saunter into the kitchen for snack and lunch time.

Also, I didn’t mind having our calendars and wall charts hanging on the tiny wall opposite the breakfast nook, but it’s a high-traffic spot (the thruway from the ktichen into the family room) and things were constantly getting rubbed, marked on, or knocked down last year. In the dining room, I can hang more things (especially the world map, pocket charts, and calendar that I know we’ll use a LOT with our second grade curriculum) and since they are “out of the way” they should hold up better.

Another pro is that I think Susannah and Abigail will feel more “cozy” and close to us while we work; I’m hoping to get Susannah into a routine on the days she’s home (she’ll continue to attend Parents’ Day Out at our church, MWF 9:00-12:30) of working on small tasks and playing with manipulatives and activities that I set aside for “school time”. Wish me luck on that one, haha!

SO – I brought up the idea with Chris. There was a little bit of hesitation on my part, because I didn’t think he would like the notion of having school stuff all over the place. But he was immediately in favor! He said he liked the idea of using this room for *something* and he agreed that will all the projects we’re planning to tackle this school year, we do need more space to spread out.
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As it turns out, this is an even bigger re-do project than I thought it would be. To be fair, the actual setup of this room isn’t the issue, it’s the one-thing-leads-to-another phenomenon that’s getting me.

First, I measured the space I had in mind, then bought and put together a simple white cabinet. Removed all my curriuculm from the kitchen cabinet, and hauled it to the dining room in a Rubbermaid tote.

Now that the upper kitchen cabinet was clear, I was able to relocate the glass & crystal that really belonged there. That freed up a lower kitchen cabinet – which meant I was finally able to unpack my mother’s china from the crates and put it in place there.

Before I unpacked the tote full of curriculum, I had to get the OTHER tote from the garage (which held curriculum and resources from my public-school teaching days) and then I had to clear off the shelf from the under-the-stairs closet.

Since I was doing that, I went ahead and pulled everything out of that closet, vacuumed, and sorted and reorganized. Most everything fit back in very nicely, and a few things were returned to their rightful spots in the coat closet and kids’ bedrooms.

Back in the dining room, I started putting away items in my new white cabinet. I have one bin of materials to store for future years (or to store for record-keeping purposes) and two trash bags (and counting!) to toss. I’ve hung several things on the wall, and I’m making a list for the office supply store — ah, be still my heart. I get a little bit giddy over post-its and white-out and letter trays and pencil boxes. I’ve always gotten a kick out of organization, but since this room is a little bit “on display” I’d also like for it to look nice so I’m going to see if I can find black, yellow, and white accessories to coordinate with the existing red & white walls and the Parapluie-Revel print hanging in here.

I needed to prepare a bin for materials that Susannah can use; I had a bin the right size up in the office closet with the 4T clothes I’ve bought ahead for her. In order to use it downstairs in the school room, I had to empty the 0-6 month clothing from a pink bin and relocate the 4T clothing into that one. Now I have a pile of infant clothing in my room (which will eventually be washed, ironed, hung, and labeled for a consignment sale coming up this fall. I hope!).

Still working on:
~NEED~
tape dispenser
bin for under coffee table

~WANT~
translucent glass vases/bottles in red, orange, green, purple
tissue box in yellow/black/gray
sew a fabric flag banner to hang over front-room entry?

Edited to add
~GOT~

whiteboard eraser
post-it notes
zippered pencil bag
2 stackable, clear, square boxes (crayons)
1 stackable, clear, rectangular box (markers)

4 letter trays (portrait orientation)
magazine file
dining chair seat cushions (yellow/black/gray?)  -note: bought pillow forms and fabric to make myself when I saw how much they were going for online!

Sneak peek: the room is not even done, but the big kids both asked to “do school.” I found Jonas a graphing sheet and a water-cycle mobile to make. Susannah played a patterning file-folder game, and Abigail explored the toys I’d set aside for her. Peaceful fun for all!

I’ve got a couple of weeks to put the finishing touches on. Pictures to come when I’m done!

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MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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1 thought on “A Dedicated Space”

  1. I love your summer science. I have been realizing that so many things I did with Canaan when he was younger – I really need to re-do with Zion. He was there, but at 2 1/2 years younger, he really did “miss” some of it.
    I will just give a bit of my take on “dedicated space”. I have had a little bit of everything over the years, and houses. I have loved being right in the middle of things, so having a separate room has always scared me. However, the last half of last year (latest house!) we made the dining room table ours. All the books and craft supplies have shelves and drawers upstairs, but most of the week they stay on the table until it is time for the next weeks supply. The kitchen is where we eat anyway, so, like you I wondered why I was trying to switch back and forth all the time. I simply stole an old table from my mom and made it the kitchen table, and use the nice dining room table for school. Slightly backward, but it works! We can use the dining room table when needed. The books have a place to go on shelves upstairs.
    My only problem now is that the dining room is decorated. I have a beautiful chalkboard, but the rest is taken by grown-up decor. I need space for a timeline. I’ll have to figure that one out soon!

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