evolution of a living room
i started reading the brave learner by julie bogart this past week. the book is about finding magic in homeschool, learning, and life and it is LIFE. CHANGING. i read the forward, introduction, and first couple chapters on monday and tuesday and was inspired, to say the least. the forward by susan wise bauer drew me in with the assertion that our job as parents, teachers, is to "provide the oxygen-rich surroundings that will allow sparkling new interests to blaze into full life: a rich, varied, colorful landscape in which our kids can find their own paths forward into meaningful, challenging adult lives." YES PLEASE. sign me up!
bogart's introduction and first chapters have been balm for my soul as i consider the homeschooling endeavor for my own children. the very questions she had and the methods she considered are the same ones i have and have had. bogart writes, "the key to a kinder and gentler homeschool is attending to the details we overlook--the coziness of our homes, the principles of natural learning, and the tenderness of our intimate relationships" (xxi). check, check, check on those. i love making my home a cozy and happy environment for our family to live, love, and play. i have been doing my own research on how children learn. i seek to parent in a way that i did not originally anticipate partly because of the adoption journey we have been on and my exposure to ideas such as trust based relational intervention (TBRI) and general trauma awareness. the strategies i have learned have influenced the way i want to interact and raise up my children whether or not they have experienced trauma. bogart's words have affirmed what i have been thinking about homeschooling and motherhood and my parenting strategies and methods.
a little further down the page bogart states, "you have to be brave to learn a new way to see education and to execute it, trusting that your kids will arrive on the shores of adulthood, prepared to tackle their futures" (xxi). yes! brave! she speaks of an "enchanted education" and the claim it makes, that "learning thrives when our families thrive" (xxii). a top priority of mine is having a close knit family unit where my and david's children feel safe, secure, loved, and accepted. a home where they anchored and, as such, empowered to explore and try new things, experience trial and error, failure and success within the security of the love and support of their parents. this is the environment in which children can thrive.
part one of bogart's book begins with the words "a lifestyle of learning begins at home--with parents who create a context that is welcoming of children as they are and that offers them happy experiences, accessible tools, and parental involvement" (1). i have said on many occasions to guests that my house is one big playroom. each room has a selection of different types of toys stored in specific places so that sabina moves from room to room and station to station to play. i utilize cabinet locks and baby gates to keep spaces safe and to minimize the "no's" i say. children hear so very many limiting "no's" that i just wanted to reserve those for when they really need to be said, not about every cabinet and door and fragile object in my house (of which there are not many). and then i do not have to be so vigilant about watching; i know my house is safe for my kid.
bogart describes what she calls an "enchanted art table" that a homeschooling mama friend of hers had right in her family room, a place for children to interact with different craft supplies and tools to use their imaginations and create a variety of self-directed projects. as i read the list of supplies to include, permanent markers and acrylic paint among them, i felt my anxiety rising. i loved the idea of a table full of craft supplies for my children to manipulate however they want, whenever they want. but i have a four year old and a five month old and i'm pretty sure the permanent markers would end up coloring spaces and surfaces that might well be disastrous. and non washable paint? that's terrifying to me. still, i caught the vision and decided to implement the idea with my own spin on it.
i had already created a similar space in our guest room upstairs with sabina's easel and paints. we have had this space for some time and sabina paints in there often. organizing her supplies on the wall next to her easel was a project i undertook a couple weeks ago. before then they were in a box on the floor and it was not easy to see all of the options she had at one time. i found some spice racks at ikea that were perfect for mounting supplies on the wall so that sabina could easily see and select the paint colors she wanted to use, and i could keep inventory of what needed to be replaced. i mounted the racks to the wall using velcro command strips. less than 24 hours later the wooden racks fell off the walls and i hung my head in despair. all that work for naught! i took a day to mourn my project and then i had the idea to hot glue the one side of the velcro command strip to the wooden spice racks because the problem seemed to be the metal piece that was meant to allow for mounting the racks to the wall via an anchor and nail. i just did not want to use something so permanent, but the metal piece and the wood together did not allow the command strip to adhere to the back of the rack securely. the hot glue did the trick, and they have remained on the wall for the last five days straight. victory!
my little painting space for bina in the guest room is great, but bogart insisted that a craft space really needs to exist in the middle of your living space because spaces in closed off rooms tend not to get used. and although sabina does regularly use her art space upstairs in the guest room, i wanted to incorporate a more easily accessible space on the main floor as well.
on thursday morning i started scheming how to create such a space for her. i eyed our living room which has undergone quite the transformation and several rearrangements since we moved into our home just over three years ago.
it has become more and more of a kid-friendly space the longer we are here. i recently moved our sofa downstairs to the basement living area and the wingback chair up to sabina's room and replaced them with two nugget comfort sofas in starfish. i rearranged the room to accommodate them but haven't been completely satisfied. i began dreaming up a couple variants to the existing arrangement and took it upon myself to continue to play furniture tetris until i was satisfied with the potential for an art space. i wanted a space on the solid wood floor with wall space available to mount art and craft supplies. the big front window wall became the focus of my new project.
i thought i would use the lack coffee table from ikea as craft table but i just didn't like how big and bulky it looked in the space so i made one more switcheroo and stuck the smaller sundvik table in front of the window.
perfect. then i decided i needed two of them. after rearranging all the furniture, i spent the morning searching the ikea website for supplies to mount and hang all of our art and craft supplies to the wall as well as store some of the supplies on and under the tables. i went nuts. did you know ikea has this amazing feature where you can stick all of your items on a shopping list and then tell ikea to pick all of them up for you so all you have to do is walk in, show them your drivers license, and walk out with all your stuff? you pay a five dollar fee to utilize this service and then when you pick up your order you get that amount back on an ikea gift card. most amazing service ever. also, as david later noted, very dangerous. ha. i made up a list of all the items i wanted for my craft supplies wall and picked them up later that day. i also made a big target drive up order (another life saver for moms of littles) of craft supplies to fill all of my wall mount displays. there was a lot of online shopping happening.
a few conundrums i encountered and solved along the way as i was dreaming up this crafting space for littles:
how to display the artwork and projects created? i decided to take down the curtains and use the rod with curtain rings and clips to clip pieces of art instead of hang curtains. this worked well because then i had more wall space to mount supplies too. for additional display space, i mounted various sized clothes pins using command strips to the opposite wall.
how to make supplies accessible to sabina but not juniper? there are materials sabina is able to play with that i am not yet comfortable with juniper having access to. i decided to mount the sabina supplies to the wall up high out of juniper's reach when she starts crawling and later walking. i got a step stool that sabina can climb and reach the supplies when she wants. i realize that juniper may also try her hand at climbing the step stool. yes, my plan is somewhat flawed. but also maximizes the space.
what to do for juniper so she is not frustrated by what she cannot access? i have one low shelf below the magazine rack to the left of the window that i will decorate with items juniper can play with. i have one hanging bag below the magazine rack to the right of the window that is filled with baby toys for her.
and here is the work in progress from start to finish:
from ikea i purchased the following items for wall mounting and craft supplies organization:
from target i ordered the following supplies in addition to some items i already had on hand (such as activity books and coloring books, dry erase books and markers, play doh and accessories):
number 2 pencils
crayola colored pencils, markers, and crayons
assorted varieties of pom poms
of the enchanted life, bogart writes it is "living in my ordinary circumstances with heightened awareness--being on the lookout for "a surprise of happy" (9). so basically, what i've been working on regarding being present and appreciating the everyday moments of joy. open your eyes to what is right in front of you, brittain. as a friend recently told me, "you're never going to get juniper's first year again." it is so true! i adore having a baby in the house round two. i adore having sabina as her older sister, always thinking of new ways to make juniper laugh. i adore encouraging sabina in her little exploits as she catches a passion for dancing as she watches the movie leap! and decides she wants to do ballet. i find so much joy in watching her as she picks up her paint brushes and dances around in her fancy dress exercising her pure creativity. the "surprise of happy" is sprinkled through each day in my two little girls.
our living-room-turned-complete-kid-friendly-play-and-create-room is my favorite room in the house. it is bursting with life and color. i cannot wait to see what sabina, juniper, and their friends create.
side note: if you are in the area and would like help creating a space like this in your home but are overwhelmed by the idea, LET ME HELP YOU. completing projects like this makes me feel alive and i absolutely love helping others utilize and maximize the spaces they have in their own homes.