Your Staged Dining Room is a Ridiculous Waste of Homeschool SpaceHas a home ever really been lived in if no one has homeschooled within its walls? 

Homeschoolers know how to live in a house. Every single square inch is commandeered for a purpose, or four or five. The kitchen is, at different times or all at once, the cafeteria, science lab, art room, nurse’s office, dinner theatre, and debate stage. We have even staged an epic fire drill in ours. (It was actually less of a drill and more of the real thing than I care to admit, but you get where I am going with this multi-purposing of rooms.)

Every space is prime real estate for sibling rivalry, and at times, the walls may feel as if they are heaving, cartoon-like as nooks and crannies become reading corners and LEGO stop animation studios.

But what about the dining room, you ask? We certainly need a vestige of civility. What if we have company?

What Use is a Dining Room?

Once upon a time, before we knew we were destined to homeschool, we had a dining room. It was fabulously off limits except for that one meal at Christmas and when we needed a place to pile the shopping we didn’t have time to put away. It also doubled as temporary storage for unopened mail or packages and outgrown clothing in garbage bags.  

What good is a room that is off limits until Christmas or on the happen chance that Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy show up unexpectedly for tea?  

It’s a waste of space in which one could otherwise cram books, hang charts, and spread out 429 little wooden pieces of a dinosaur model, that’s what!

The Unrealistic View from Magazines

Home décor magazines make me nuts. They sneak into the house disguised as innocent mail just to see the forlorn look on my face. “Hey! Look how the pretty people live,” they taunt. These are the people with ebony coat racks at their front doors, adorned with vintage hats and parrot head umbrellas. (They don’t really use Mary Poppins’ props to take out the trash every Tuesday. Do they?)

The living rooms are cozy and regal with spectacles atop a stack of leather bound Dicken’s novels on an end table next to a camel haired throw, perfectly tossed over a chair. Turn to the kitchen page and you will find an open cookbook upon a gilded ceramic stand near a glass dome filled with perfectly iced shortbread.

As I flip the pages of these impossibly perfect home magazines, I wonder... If a home is catalog-ready at all times, is it actually a home? After all, according to Webster, a home is a place where a person or people live permanently or a place where one flourishes.

Well, in my home, we flourish rather messily

Surrender the Dining Room to Homeschooling

If you are new to homeschooling and you want to set up shop the right way, just know there is really no point in fighting it. Your house will never have its own centerfold in a magazine. Well, unless it is a homeschool magazine featuring organized chaos.

We are not dining room people. Never were, really. Sure, I dreamed of dinner parties, little black dresses, and pretty little cocktail napkins once. But now I dream of home libraries and wall space for history timelines which will hopefully lead to future college scholarships. 

Having a fancy meal around here means we actually use real plates, the ones you don’t throw out with the chicken bones. But even then we eat at the kitchen table, right between the dishwasher, the backdoor, and the dog’s bowl of water under the oven.

Still, if you must go ahead and stage that sleek and minimalistic dining tablescape you are drooling over, as you envision a kid-free night of beef Wellington and baked Alaska, go for it. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when your own home whispers to your 4th grader that those gold leafed chargers would work well for his physics experiment on inertia. Or he’ll set up his Minecraft station on your linen table cloth and change the name of the space from the dining room to the Mining Room.

After you have spent months moving books from kitchen table to bookshelf three times a day for meals, pulled your cramped and fighting children off of each other during every grammar lesson, and run out of wall space for maps and calendars, you will walk past that hoity-toity dining room you haven’t stepped foot in since you placed the last stemmed wine glass, and you will feel contempt.

All at once you will see that your home is alive and that this stuck-up, good-for-nothing, persnickety room should at least be paying rent if she wants to keep lazing about and hogging that much square footage!

Your dining room is a ficticious waste of homeschool space.

I say reclaim your space for the real living and learning you and your kids are doing every day through your homeschool lessons. Line the china cabinet with books, slap some homemade art on the walls, and hang a globe from the chandelier. If Elizabeth Bennet actually shows up for dinner, she is likely to applaud your choice of décor and will be happy to have tea amongst Jane Austen’s best works scattered across the table.

Homeschoolers have no need to waste square footage to stage a fictional lifestyle. Display the real lives being lived within your home. They are much more interesting and rewarding. A Medusa portrait made from melted crayons makes for a great conversation starter. And any guest who thinks otherwise clearly cannot handle dinner in the Mining Room.   

Jennifer Cabrera


About the Author

Jennifer Cabrera is the witty writer at Hifalutin Homeschooler, a blog that aims to offer comedic relief to homeschool moms and dads. She is the mother of three boys, ages 8 and 12 year old twins. As a Physician Assistant/MPH graduate of Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Jennifer unexpectedly fell into homeschooling after butting heads with the public school system and was amazed to discover it was everything she never knew she always wanted to do. Her writing pokes fun of the highs and lows of homeschooling. She is proud and opinionated about homeschooling her uncommonly brilliant boys. Because the opposite of common is remarkable. And cafeteria food sucks.

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