We began homeschooling, or as I like to think, learning at home, one year ago today. We skied Beaver Creek during Spring break last year, came home, unpacked, and went to bed unsure of what our first morning learning together would look like. I, the fearful teacher, only had two and a half weeks to prepare the curriculum and the classroom for my two students, 11 and 12.
A classroom. We needed one. My husband and I walked around the house looking for a room that met the specifications: sunlight, shelves, and silence. We found it. His poker room was the one room in our home that fit the bill. Nice round table. Comfy, height-adjustable chairs. Fireplace. Shelving for books. Sunlight peeking in through the garden level window. Silently tucked away in a cozy, basement corner.
Monday, March 28, 2011, the students and I met in my husband’s basement poker room and learned together. We met in the sunny, shelved, silent room each morning for a series of days, weeks, months until I realized what was missing from our learning room. We were missing sounds, a connection to the rest of the house, the world around us. Sounds.
With good intention, I sought a room offering silence but this quiet was deafening at times. Studying in the library at college, SFA (Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX), was too quiet. Every breath, sneeze, tapping pencil, yawn, turned page distracted me. My kids never sat in a completely quiet environment at their traditional school. I mistakenly believed that silence would allow for focused, attentive listening. Instead, it felt isolating, every creaking joint in the house annoying my soul. We don’t even sleep in quiet environments. We all sleep with fans or noise maker apps when we travel.
Even in the great outdoors, it’s not silent. Wind ruffles blades of grass, birds chirp, pine cones fall from tree branches, squirrels forage through pine needles for buried treasures. Life’s sounds. Sounds that fill us with energy. Sounds that entice our senses and connect us to the world.
We needed background noise. Washing machine spinning. Dishwasher humming. Crock pot heating? Well, you get the idea. Mostly, I needed our home to feel alive, energetic, brimming with sounds while we are learning together. The corner basement room was nearly sound-proof. Truth of the matter, the kids and I are social beings, all fairly extroverted. We each recharge during alone time but derive our energy surrounded by others. Life. Sounds.
I searched the house again, this time looking for a room that offered sunlight, shelves, and sounds. The only sensible space was our main floor study but it presented several obstacles. Dark, cherry-wood built-ins too shallow, non-functional. Dark, cherry-wood shutters covering the two walls of windows. Dark, cherry-wood french doors at the entrance to the room. Right off the bat, the room was lacking a sunny disposition. It had shelves but no closed storage and although I don’t want a sterile, quiet space, I do like organized spaces, serene, peaceful. Open storage shelving doesn’t offer those things for me. But it was the only room that made sense and the only solution was a full remodel.
I drew up my plan for the room, called the contractor, and 60 days later, we met for school in our new learning room, complete with sunlight, closed storage shelving, and sounds.
Colorado weather doesn’t always allow open windows to welcome the sounds of nature so I incorporated mirrored back splash all over the room. They reflect mountain views, indirect light, and no one ever stares at a wall while working on a computer.
My overall design plan included a built-in window seat with lots of drawers to keep our current curriculum within reach. My three-ring binder holds our weekly plan, our novels, biographies, math books, recorders and hymns, paper and miscellaneous desk supplies.
In the corner of the window seat lies a special computer port allowing me to connect my computer to our TV monitor for viewing YouTube videos or to display my computer screen to teach internet basics, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, iPhoto, iMovie, or any of the available Apps. I can also connect our iPad2 and use it as a virtual whiteboard for math examples.
With budding trees and chirping birds, it’s nice to open a corner window in the room for fresh air and the relaxing sounds of our fountain. As the seasons change, so do the landscape colors around the fountain. Springtime welcomes red tulips and yellow daffodils. Summertime perennials paint blues and pinks. Fall mums bloom deep orange. Winter-white snow blankets all but the clear, bubbling water.
Homeschooling, for us, isn’t about isolation, living in a bubble. It’s about connections. It’s about making time to connect all of our school subjects to the world around us. Birds, flowers, insects, water cycles, animals, geography, explorers, the human body, God’s people, our Creator. If learning doesn’t point us back to God, then we’ve missed the connection. It doesn’t matter which room in the house we meet in each day, we can learn anywhere, just not in silence.
If you’re a decorator junkie, keep scrolling for more pictures. It’s all in the details: