Hello everyone! I am SO excited to be here helping out on Hip Homeschooling while our beloved Rebecca is away. I’ve been a fan of this blog for a long time now, and after taking Rebecca’s How To Start A Blog Coaching program, I’ve started blogging over at Up Above The Rowan Tree. I am so thrilled that I get to be a part of a blog that I love so much! When I was thinking about what to contribute, I thought it would be a lot of fun to talk a little about my experiences with small space homeschooling. Make sure to pin this for later!
How I got started with small space homeschooling
About a year ago, when my partner and I started to house-hunt for our first home – I insisted that I wanted a small space. I wanted to be intentional about being more minimalist and I did not want to be tied down to tons of housework every day. As a home educating parent, I don’t have hours in a day where I can devote to keeping up with a big home. So, we placed that as a priority. I wanted a nice space to live in but I wanted a small space. When we found our home, it was small and quirky and absolutely everything on my list – had a yard that wasn’t overly manicured but still rough and natural, it didn’t need much cosmetic work, and it was SMALL. It was everything I wanted!
And then we moved in. And I had to fit all of our things, and the four of us, and find space to do our schoolwork.
This was not going to be as easy as I had imagined it would be. I was sitting amidst piles of books and piles of curricula, and piles of laundry and piles of piles of things. I mourned the fact that I couldn’t have the wall-to-wall bookcases that I drooled over when looking at the blogs and Pinterest pages of other homeschoolers.
And there’s the little demon on my shoulder: comparison. I looked at so many “homeschool spaces” on Pinterest, and almost all of them were so big and spacious with plenty of room for desks and chairs and books and all of the trappings of The Perfect Homeschool. I saw the most dreamy, beautifully decorated homeschool rooms and creative spaces – and I suddenly felt all very self-conscious of our tiny little house. I started to resent not having a dedicated school space, and I really allowed this comparison to get to me and get me down.
Here’s the thing – I love my little home! But I was just not being realistic about what I could (and couldn’t) do in this space, and I had to get very real with myself.
6 tips to successfully manage small space homeschooling:
- BE REALISTIC – this is key. Look around your space and see it for what it is. Look at the functionality of every room, and get to know your small space. My home is SMALL. Our main floor (which houses all of our shared spaces – little eat-in kitchen, small living room, bathroom and the kids bedrooms) is small. Under 900sq ft. We don’t have a dedicated dining room that I could co-opt into a school space, we don’t have a big open living room where I could snag a bit of sq footage to make a little homeschool space, and we didn’t have a spare room or den/nook that I could use. I had to be real and just accept that we would NOT have a dedicated school space in this house anytime soon.
- PRIORITIZE – what is important to you in your home? Are you okay with clutter, or tight furniture arrangements? Can you squeeze an art/school space in the corner of a room? Or is having things simple and tidy higher on your priority list? There is no right or wrong here, but you have to decide what you MUST have, and what you can let go of in terms of your ideal schooling space. This goes hand in hand with being realistic: what do you need and what can you DO in your small space? This is a good time to consider where your kids (and you!) are comfortable working – do they have room in their bedrooms for small desks that they can work at, can you guys bring your work to the kitchen table, or maybe you do have a dining room where you can commandeer a shelving unit to house your books and supplies. Again, look at what you need and have to work with.
- PRIORITIZE – wait, did I just say that one? Yes, but you have to prioritize AGAIN: this time, about your books and curricula and other school supplies. This was key for me and this is what helped me to turn my little space around. I could not be a curricula collector anymore. This was VERY difficult for me to accept, but in the small space we’re in I simply CANNOT keep every book, workbook, and art project that I may want to keep. I took a day and I pulled EVERYTHING off the shelves, I picked up each book/workbook/resource and I decided “Am I currently using this? If not, will I use this within one year?” and if I was NOT using it and would not use it in the next year, I sold it. What I would use in the near future I packed away in a bin, and what we were currently using went on a shelf. I have ONE bookcase for school materials, and I can’t add any other shelves or bookcases into my living room so what we keep needs to go on this bookcase. I also have a cart from Ikea that I sort of use for different things at different times. Currently, it’s what holds my ‘teacher manuals’ and planners and some other random books and resources.
- GET THEE TO IKEA! Truly, I have not found any other store or retailer that has SO MANY fantastic small space solutions. For me, keeping my living space not only functional for our homeschool needs but also comfortable for my family to LIVE in, simplicity and function were key. And MOST of my favourite solutions have come from Ikea. No, I don’t get paid to tell you this, but I just love their products that much.
- STAY ON TOP OF THE CLUTTER – for those of you reading this who know me in real life, stop laughing. No, I’m no perfect housekeeper, and yes the clutter can get away from me – but I’ve had to really put it at the top of my list to stay in control of the mess. It’s VERY easy in the busy-ness of a homeschool day, to let things slide and then I’m back amongst the piles of things again and everyone gets edgy and irritable. When you live in a small space, it’s really important to just take a few minutes during the day to make sure things get put back, do a quick sweep and tidy of your living spaces, and try to keep the clutter to a minimum. Here’s where small space homeschooling has its positives – small spaces take WAY less time to clean than a big sprawling home. I take 10-15 mins after lunch, and another 10-15 mins at the end of the ‘school day’, and then our deep cleanings happen on the weekends.
- DON’T COMPARE YOUR HOME! This is my last and probably most important tip. It sounds obvious, but for those of us trying to manage small space homeschooling, it can be really hard to look at others’ homes and feel that pang of envy, or resentment that we can’t do or have these things in our spaces too. But just look around at your small, probably cluttered, space and see that it’s your HOME, it’s where you and your family connect and love each other and where you educate your kids. Take the time to make it what YOU want, but don’t feel guilty or ‘less-than’ if your home is not as big, or if you don’t have a picture perfect homeschool room.
So there we go. This is how I’m managing small space homeschooling and making it work for me. We may not have a big, spacious homeschool room but we curl up on our sofa, or come together around the little table in our kitchen, and the work still gets done! It’s a constant ebb and flow, deciding when it just needs to be a bit of a mess because we have to school here, and then deciding that it also needs to be a comfortable living and entertaining space. But at the end of the day, your home is YOUR home – and what your kids will remember when they look back is that they got to spend their days at home with the people they love most. So love your space, tiny as it may be, because it is your home.