A few weeks ago, I noticed that it smells like fall. I wasn't outside, catching the first whiff of falling leaves. I was actually at the mall, shopping for a few late pregnancy items. The smell? The distinctive scent of back-to-school shopping. Though the fashions have changed, I am happy to report that new shoes, crisp khaki pants, and stiff backpacks still smell like they always did.
I loved back-to-school as a child. I loved it even more as a teacher. And, I admit, I had considerable pangs of wistfulness the first few falls that I did not go back to school in either capacity.
We try to school year 'round here, at least to keep to some maintenance level in the summer. So, back-to-school can sort of disappear into the ordinary days. This year, when the neighborhood children board the bus, I will be about three weeks from delivering a baby. Since this is my fifth baby born between the last week of September and the third week of October, I know that back-to-school for us will be followed in short order by "Fall Break," even if fall has just begun.
Charlotte Mason wrote that "education is an atmsophere, a discipline and a life." It's oft-quoted, simple, and direct. That's been the guiding principle for my summer--a summer I've spent at home, preparing for the baby and hyper-focusing on meeting the individual needs of each child in this house.
With the encouragement and support of much good conversation, I've looked at atmosphere. The good and generous Lord gave us this home and yard. Have we used it in a way that is pleasing to Him? Does the atmsophere welcome Him to the home that is His? We're trying. We've gardened and cleaned and organized and spruced things up. I've kept my eyes and my heart on the goal of Marian loveliness.
Then there is discipline. That's more than a paragraph in a post about learning rooms, but discipline is key to making home education work. We have our household routines down. Really down. Order is the backbone of executing all the lovely plans we've made. If we can't find the pencil, if we don't get up in time, if there are no clean socks for the big game, we will be frustrated and cranky and--before long--despondent over our failures. There must be order and there must be time planned into every day to maintain that order. It's not optional.
So it is with preparing the learning room. I take comfort in an ordered environment, probably too much comfort, as if I really have the control that a clean room promises. Just invite a toddler in, all delusions of perfect control will dissipate rapidly. I've shared much of our "atmosphere of learning" in the preschool posts. There are lots of pictures there.
- Our arts and crafts supplies are actually two floors down in a cabinet in a room that has lots of lights and a vinyl floor.
- Language arts materials for little ones are described in this post.
- Math manipulatives for one and all are detailed here.
- Hands-on materials and picture books for to encourage growing closer to Jesus, the Bleesed Mother and the Saints are pictured here.
Here is the big picture of the room where we spend so much of our time.There is only one working computer for the eight of us (Dad has a laptop). It's a mixed blessing--no one spends too much time on the computer and I definitely can see what people are doing there all the time and we get lots of practice sharing cheerfully but, well, there are eight of us competing for the machine;-). The computer on the desk with the pink lamp isn't functioning, but we are hoping to refurbish it so that it can run a word processing program, at least. In the clear plastic shoe pockets behind the door are all those little office supplies that tend to walk away--pencils, staplers, postit notes, sharpies...
The basket to the right of the main computer desk holds teacher's guides and books for mom. The basket on top has nature notebooks in it. Scrapbook/notebook supplies are in the clear plastic drawers beneath it.
There is a big, unfinished (the plan was to paint it to match the table, but I had a baby instead) armoire cabinet filled with all sorts of paper and other lapbook supplies. On top of it are finished lapbooks and books to ship.
The big baskets are labelled with the children's names and hold their current workbooks, living books, and notebooks. (Michael and Christian have theirs in their room.) The peach crate on the floor holds all the Five in a Row volumes and picture books.
Finally, there is the "room" that was my husband's vision and ranks right up there among the most romantic things he's ever done. When this house was being built, it was supposed to have a two-story family room. He asked that there be a room above the family room instead. That's the learning room you see pictured here. In that room, he drew plans for a large walk-in closet--the biggest closet in the house. And the day after we moved in, he installed shelves in there. And now, we have a real live library! Some people buy their wives jewelry, mine buys me books!
The shelves are all labelled according to subject matter. The children all have bookshelves in their room for books that are extra-special to them, but most other books find their way here. I love this closet. I love the many, many things in those books that are mine to discover and to share with the people dear to me. I love this lifestyle of learning alongside the dearest people in the world.
Education is a life. It's my life. I'm learning all the time--learning about my Lord, about my children, about my husband, about myself. I'm learning how to teach and how to learn. Real Learning is a lifestyle; it's embracing with humility the idea that no matter how much we've learned, there's still much, much more to know.