This also happens to be the time of year when, from all over the 'net, I'm seeing idyllic photos of newly created school rooms and spaces, lovingly assembled, decorated, and equipped for the family scholars to achieve their maximum potential and enjoyment. Most of the time, these photos come from the homes of newby homeschoolers, or at least families who've been schooling for, say, less than five years. I have to smile, because that was once this homeschooler.
During the 26 years we've been teaching our kids at home, we've lived in eight different houses. (The past ten were all in THIS house, so you can get a feel for how often we moved in the first 16 years.) In the first five or so of those houses, I agonized over which room to make "the schoolroom" and how to outfit it perfectly, with desks for everyone, maps on the walls, cursive writing charts, a globe in easy reach, a cupboard stuffed with art and science supplies, cases and cases of books, the latest Lang school calendar, even an old-fashioned school bell. It was right up my alley, and I loved it.
It was also basically useless. These fairy-tale arrangements usually lasted about two weeks. And that was under duress. It took me a lot longer than it should have to realize that in our home, schooling was life, and life doesn't get confined to a room. At least for us, school days were much happier in recliners, at dining room tables, on the floor, on the deck, even in the kids' beds at times. All the planning and decorating in the world couldn't confine our learning to the desks and bookcases I'd so carefully prepared.
If I could write a letter to the me of 1985, one of the things I'd stress is that I shouldn't waste my time and money, no matter how much fun it was and no matter how many people I could impress. All that energy could have been so much better used in hours of reading aloud and other homeschooling pursuits. The trouble is, even if the me of 1985 got that letter, she'd probably pay about as much attention to it as all the moms starting now do when I try to persuade them.
So...instead of throwing cold water on your colorful bulletin boards and Pottery Barn desks and meticulously crafted study carrels, I will congratulate you and then count off the semesters until all your kids are on bean bag chairs or under the back yard trees doing their math and reading Shakespeare.
For most of you, it'll happen ;-)