Monday, October 17, 2011

On a Construction Hiatus...

We have been in the middle of a number of inside and outside remodeling and construction projects that have taken a lot of time that I previously spent blogging -- life happens!

FIRST: The office/"learning space" --

WE are very happy with our efforts in the new homeschool/office space, which included installing a new ceiling, painting walls, floors and trim, installing carpeting, building office furniture, and some miracles that were wrought with drywall tape, spackle and hope.

 Many parts of the "re-do" were a family effort. Our eldest son helped his mother (who is not a good starter) get the old ceiling prepared and the new ceiling installation started. He is a delightful co-worker (and strong and handsome, too!).

The finish was a little tricky, as there is really nothing square about the room (the house was built in 1896). But my husband says, "Who looks up there in the corner, anyway?"

Along the way, I had to get creative, where gravity and time had caused some gaps to form between ceiling and wall, and wall to wall. These things they don't teach you on HGTV!

As you can see from the photo to the right, we didn't do too bad a job. We'll work on the light fixture at another time -- electricity is one area where I like to leave it to professionals!



Painting is my favorite part of remodeling. I used neutrals so I could use colorful accents and change them as I got tired of the old colors. The rug my husband bought is very soft, and beautiful (you can't see it in any of the photos... sorry).

The floorboards are the original wide boards, hammered in with those squared nails that they used in the Victorian era.

We had new windows installed on the second floor a couple of years ago - each one a unique size and shape. Don't you just love old homes?

Victorian era homes don't have a lot of storage space, simply because folks didn't have a lot of stuff to store, so we are constantly creating new and creative ways to store things. The house came with a lot of furniture that was left from previous tenants. While it was good and solid (not like what you buy now), one needs only so many dressers, so we re-purpose them as storage. I didn't feel like refinishing this time, so I got an idea from an BH&G magazine about creating a skirt for a piece of furniture. I used an old bedsheet, and use the drawers to store our homeschool materials, in bins.

I bought glass-topped office furniture, to make the room bright (it has two windows, north and east-facing, and is one of the sunnier rooms in the house -- something I desperately need in the winter). Here, you see my Bible study aids and my homeschool "tickler" files for the week, plus a timeline that we have to mount, when we get our bulletin board up. Oh, and the coffee. Must have coffee.

The room outside is the laundry room, which will get a redo later this month.

I store resources for homeschool in monthly boxes. The teaching angel was a gift from my mom when I got my first elementary school teaching position, many years ago. The fireman's hat was placed there by my husband, who insisted that every classroom needs a fireman's helmet.

He was my electrician for the installation of the temporary light fixture, and said he'll put in a new one, once I pick it out. He's a keeper.  He and my eldest son also picked out and transported the carpet. They're good Joes.
Because I use a laptop, I have lots of desk space on the L-shaped desk, so my little one and I can each have work space, and work back to back. He gets a lot more independent work done if I am working near him. This way, we are both comfortable. We'll need to get a beanbag or other comfy chair for his reading.

He loves to come in here to work during the day. It's sunny, and quiet, but not so far from the "action" to make him lonely (being close to the laundry room and bathroom keeps him in the loop!).

The wooden shoes were here when we moved in, and hold tools. The "LOL" paperweight is a gift from a former co-worker, and reminds me not to take work or homeschool so seriously that I forget about joy.

I always am on the lookout for a new and better system of organization. This seems to work so far. I need to build my last file bin, so I can get my work files out of the way.

This three bin system is working like a charm to foster independent work habits in our son. One basket has his independent work, which he does, with Papi's help, while I'm at work. The center basket is for finished work. Prior to moving in this room, I would have to hunt all over the house to find his work. Now, I never do.  The third bin is where I put things that I want to work on WITH him -- lessons, projects, games, etc. And the sticky notes are for directions. I never leave anything without a sticky note -- for Papi AND child!

I had a lot more on the shelves, then pared it down, so that there was more open space for trinkets, such as family photos. The urn contains magnetic letters for poetry. I need to get a magnetic dry erase board so we can use them -- they were a big hit with my older children -- we used to laugh at the poems that would appear, and then be re-arranged. We didn't always know who did it!

You can get the magnetic words at any bigger bookstore.

My son loves a morning message. Sometimes I ask him to write back. I usually draw, too -- he likes that!

I also like to leave a question or a "teaser" about what we are going to work on that evening, or something to review what we worked on the day before.

The surface of the re-purposed dressers makes a nice place for displays. We have a globe that needs to come here to live...

I love candles. You can't have them in a classroom, but you can have them in your home. The make it feel cozy. The apple paperweight is a gift from a former student. And the digital photo frame was a Mother's Day gift from my eldest son (the ceiling assistant).

It is important to make your homeschool space comfortable and a place of peace for you and your children. We live in a noisy city, so it's nice to have a quiet spot.

I bought an inexpensive garden stool years ago, and padded it, and covered it with a remnant of imported batik fabric from India, with the help of my mom. Now it serves as a perch for two of my cats, who particularly love to spend time with us in the "learning space." The stool is right beside my chair, so I can pet a kitty while I work. I think they're sleeping in my sock bin right now...

The dog likes to sleep under the desk, because he can look up at me through the glass.
Some additional treasures given to me by students over the years.

I like the book of affirmations. Homeschooling can be challenging, and discouraging, especially because those of us who homeschool have set a high bar for ourselves and our kids. I need to be reminded that I teach my children every day, even when we're not trying to "do school."


I bought a set of matching storage boxes at The Christmas Tree Shoppes years ago. They match the colors in the room (we're doing a lot of "I Beat Breast Cancer- Pink" this year), and make a great place to store stuff for my work contracts, so it is accessible but not out in the open. The pink file box is full of one contract.

My youngest son and I had some disagreements over color scheme, especially when he saw me looking at some hot pink, gauzy curtains the color of the file box in this photo. He said, "Oh, no no no no.... That is TOO girly!" So I bought spring green curtains with big white polka dots, as a compromise. He wasn't thrilled, but he is ok about it now!

When you live with a house full of men, you have to claim SOME girly space!
So back to organization... I thought about closet organizers, but they are expensive, and that would mean I'd have to deal with some really strange closet dimensions (the closets in a house this age are odd sizes). So I bought fabric "shelves" that are for storing clothing, and use those for storing office, work and homeschool supplies. They are much sturdier than you would think they are. I love it because I am prone to clutter, and then I can't think. The little "cubicles" fit my mind, and since the closet is right behind my desk, I can turn in my chair and get anything I need while we are working.

There is space on either side, and underneath, for bigger things, and my big books, which are always tricky to store.

I think we have bought five pairs of child's scissors in the past year. I think the dog ate two of them when he was a puppy. We find glue sticks without caps, pencils without erasers... staplers without staples. I solved that problem by hanging a fabric shoe holder over the back of the closet door. It looks nice if I happen to leave the door open, and holds all those teeny things that you need in an office or homeschool, and that you forget you have if you chuck them in a drawer.

The silver object to the bottom right is my Dynamo label maker -- the envy of my former office. Invaluable for organizing a homeschool or home office!

What did we do without Post-Its? I'll never know...

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A very crafty former co-worker made and gave me the apple hanging. The mirror of the dresser adds to the lighting in the room. My husband wants to buy a chair to put in the room so he can hang out here, too. I think we did it!

Next steps:

  • Assemble the last file bin and store work files;
  • Build our gigantic bulletin board (which we are covering with an African quilted batik fabric);
  • Finish storing my school materials in the dressers.
  • Hang the other curtain;
  • Get some wall art up.
  • Get the re-roofing project wrapped up (we're not doing THAT one!).
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I wanted to take some time to share our classroom make-over with you all... we'll be back to our regular "programming" later this week!