First Day of School Essentials For Families With Kids Who Keep Growing

We  started school this week.

I’ve got no cute back to school pictures of the kids holding a gently aged chalkboard with their grade on it. We didn’t mark the day with anything special except a box of Pillsbury Toaster Strudels. And thankfully, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that, while my mom would LOVE some new pictures of the grandkids, I don’t feel guilty about the lack of hoopla.

It’s been a crazy end to the summer. Typically, I feel like July is the busy month, with August giving us a few empty weeks before we buckle down and resume a fall routine. But this August was different, and that’s okay because it’s been lots of good stuff, but it means the some of the niceties get pushed aside due to practical matters… like cursing about IKEA furniture in the wee hours of the night.

I decided the older three were getting too big for their school desks and would need some new accommodations this year. Addie would need a desk upstairs in her room so she could participate in her online classes with less screaming and wheelchair bumping and Byron and Edie needed something with storage space that could also meet the needs of two children growing approximately three feet every six months. (Byron and I now see each other eye to eye…literally.)

As a reminder, here’s the before:


Or more likely:


I wanted a standing desk option, but not at a standing desk price or with he look of an ugly, cheap standing desk.

Option #1, looks good but VERY EXPENSIVE.

Option #2, looks good but VERY EXPENSIVE.

Option #3, very inexpensive but it doesn’t look very nice, and it would make me want to eat cookies all day, plus this, and many other homemade standing desks were only designed for computer use, not writing or reading.

Picture from Sprint 2 the Table

I found a hacked IKEA standing desk that I thought could also double as a good bar counter height kitchen table. So I emptied and sold off the 2 non-wheelchair dented desks. With books and papers all over the schoolroom floor, I announced to Tony and the kids my idea. Despite not having any actual instructions, Tony supported my decision to go to IKEA and attempt to assemble this desk (or more accurately, my interpretation of it)…because he had very few other options.

The inspiration:

ikea standing desk hack
The original pin is a dead link so all I had was this picture.

I hate assembling furniture, and so does Tony so you can imagine the gusto with which I approached this project. If you follow me on Instagram, maybe you caught some of the late night Stories where I talked about the possibly of torturing terror suspects by making them assemble IKEA furniture or how a $20 stool required more steps, pieces and tools then an entire bookshelf. Tony just avoided the schoolroom until I needed help lifting heavy pieces, measuring extra supports or prevented from throwing a stool piece through a window. Luckily, the project only required one additional trip to IKEA for extra brackets and legs. Now that it’s finished, I can see a few things I wouldn’t mind changing, but overall, I’m really happy with how it turned out and we all love using it, even though it is still a bit tall for Edie.

Finished project, or, the after:

A photo posted by Kelly Mantoan (@kellymantoan) on

In use:

This girl who doesn’t want her photo taken is in HIGH SCHOOL Y’ALL! HIGH. SCHOOL.


Once school supplies and decor goes on sale, I’ll be raiding Target. Until then, the rest of the school room will look a little sparse. (I force my kids to make do with dried up markers and pencil nubs until the second week in September when I can pick up everything at clearance prices. “Does anyone need brass fasteners?? Who cares!? They’re 55 cents! Throw five packs in the cart!!” )

Overall, I like that we have plenty of storage space, plenty of work space and a nice looking piece of furniture that can work in a school room, or a traditional eat in kitchen.

If you’re interested in assembling a similar piece, here’s the supply list:

1-2 bottles white wine

23,019+ hours

The last shreds of your sanity

A loving and supportive spouse

Capita brackets, 4 boxes with 2 brackets in each

Gerton adjustable legs, 2

Two, 2×4 scrap wood blocks

Capita legs, 2 boxes with 4 legs in each (We used the  6 1/4 -6 3/4 legs, but the shorter ones would have worked well too. If you go with the shorter legs, the 2×4 blocks we added at the top of the Gerton legs probably wouldn’t be necessary.)

Kallax Shelf Unit, 2×4 openings, turned on side (We went with the beech finish and it’s REALLY noticeable that this unit is beech veneer and the table top is actually solid beech wood, so a white, black or painted base might work better)

Gerton table top (This is solid and very heavy which is why we ultimately added the extra support legs. The unit is free-standing and I didn’t want it tipping over.)

I’m using four Drona boxes in the bottom cubbies. Byron and Edie each have their own bin, Fulton and Teddy share one and the fourth has shared books. The top cubbies contain our most used history books for the Ancient time period and various manipulative and games.

We went with two Stig stools, but I think an adjustable stool (like the Janinge) would be ideal. Hopefully we can upgrade at some point.

The only downside is this shiny new furniture piece makes the dingy white walls stand out even more than usual.

Fellow homeschoolers, did you complete any schoolroom makeovers this year? How do you accommodate leaners of all ages and sizes? I’d love to hear your ideas (or see your pictures) in the comments below. Don’t hesitate to share a link to your post or photo.


  1. My room is all IKEA furniture and assembling it all was the end of June for me. My mom hid the flamethrower until I had been done for a few days and kept finding “errands” for me when she’d hear too much swearing coming from my room.

  2. I spent the week after Easter assembling IKEA furniture in my daughter’s new apartment, with a bonus kitchen island assembly that was from Target. I was missing the wine and the supportive spouse (he was camping with our daughter) so you can imagine how that went. Stig stools are not the most sturdy, we have found, but the price is right! – nancyo

  3. I love buying school supplies the second week of September when everything goes on clearance. For that reason, my kids are the ones with their scuzzy last years’ lunchboxes and worn-out backpacks for the first few weeks of school until I get them new ones on clearance.

    If I were really smart, I would buy things on clearance for NEXT YEAR so they had new stuff to start the year. But there’s no way I can be THAT on top of things.

  4. I want your blue cabinets!!! Please tell me those are not custom built-ins and that I can buy them somewhere…

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