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Home: Showcase or Workshop?

Homeschooling and a clean house don’t seem very compatible. Well, it can be clean, but it doesn’t seem to remain uncluttered very long.

The scene of conflict: my dining room table. I clear it off, put a vase of pretty flowers in the center, and enjoy the bareness of it for about an hour before an art project, the sewing machine or the computer sneaks back to stake a claim on my table. The battle raged for quite a season before I decided a perspective change was the solution. I strung up the white flag and finally made peace with my dining room table.

The cause of the battle was whether my home was to be a showcase or workshop.

A showcase:
It does bring a thrill of satisfaction and order to see it clean and neat and shining, everything in its place! I admire my friends’ homes when I enter to see everything where it belongs and things clean and nice. It gives peace to the atmosphere. All is in place. Everything in order. Visitors welcome without any feeling of embarrassment. Ah . . . that is not my home.

A workshop:
While you are raising kids, and especially if they are in your home learning all day long, you can take the attitude that your home is going to be a workshop, a place where the daily work of learning and growing goes on. When you enter an artist or a scientist’s workshop, you expect something to be in the center of the table, creation in process. You don’t want to see a bare table, because that means the artist is not inspired, not working, not creating.

Of course, children have chores, they must learn to keep things clean, and put things away. I am not advocating chaos—just creativity—and a more relaxed attitude on the part of Mom for her inventing-doing-learning precious ones. My husband and son went to scout camp, and while they were gone, the girls and I left our violins out everyday, setting on the love seat. We are all taking beginning violin lessons (me too!) from a generous mom in our homeschool group. It is challenging to get enough practice time in. It was just amazing how much music was played during that week! The easy access and availability made it simple to pick up the violin and spend a few moments playing. And it was contagious . . . the other violins were picked up and played too! I see snatches of sewing being done the same way, when the sewing machine is in easy reach. What I am saying is that neatness can sometimes squelch creativity.

I’ve tried to move this whole affair of learning and creating that was happening on my dining room table down into my school room in the basement of my house. I told my children they could leave their projects out on the table and work on them whenever they wanted. It could be a workshop table with ongoing experiments!

No success.

I even tried converting Louisa’s bedroom, the one nearest the living area, into a workshop. We set up tables and bookshelves and supplies. It was quite a job. No one (including myself) would work in there. It stayed clean and unused!

Sewing really belongs in my sewing area, which is where all my patterns, thread and fabric are stored. Louisa loves to sew and works on projects constantly. Do you think any of us will sew where we are supposed to? No. We’d rather haul the heavy sewing machine, baskets of fabric and thread and patterns up a flight of stairs to clutter up the dining room table.


Because being together trumps all other factors. The kids want to be where Mom is, and Mom is often in the kitchen or living area. So, the kids and their creative learning stuff gravitates right to the dining room table. No matter how big your house is, the kids want to live in the rather small area that Mom lives and works in. Isn’t it true?

I do have a school room area, and as long as I am there, the children will come and read and work. But the moment I transfer upstairs to start a meal, or do laundry, here they all come. So, rather than engage in the ongoing struggle of workshop vs. showcase, I made a truce.

Let my house be a workshop! Let my children do all the creative learning right in the dead center of the action. Let me enjoy every moment of this learning and experimenting and creating. Not long, I fear, the table will not only be clear and clean—but the chairs around it will be empty.

Hurrah for a thriving, bustling workshop!

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