Is it possible to homeschool in a small space? More importantly, is it possible to do so contentedly, joyfully, and productively?
Most homeschool families I know are on a budget. We have wealth in the form of our children (and often our book collections), but not so much in the form of a large house or bank account.
Images on social media make us wonder: can we really homeschool without a dedicated homeschool space? I remember googling organization tips for homeschooling in a small space many years ago and becoming so discouraged when the results that popped up focused on things like the exigencies of homeschooling 2 kids in a mere 2,000 square feet. At the time I had 5 kids under 10 in a space much smaller than that, and I felt like no one was speaking to the actual realities of my daily homeschool family life.
That’s why I’m so excited to share today’s guest post with you all! Alyssa Bohon and I became connected through mutual friends via the internet, and she is right in the middle of this “homeschooling in a small house” reality with you. Today she shares practical tips to make this work, but even more importantly she shares some important exhortations that apply to us all regardless of the size of our home or whether or not we have a dedicated homeschool room. I know you will be as encouraged as I was by her words!
How to Love Your Homeschool in a Small Space
by Alyssa Bohon
In 2015, we moved into a double-wide mobile home. We had a two-year old and a baby on the way. After our tiny duplex, the house seemed like a spacious dream, and the huge rolling yard of almost two acres really was just that.
Six years later, with four children swarming over the threadbare carpet in the middle of winter, the space isn’t giving off so many dream vibes. But this is our home and we are doing school in it.
I don’t consider myself to be a hero of homeschool organization. Most of the time I wonder if I am doing this right. But I often learn the most from the people who are still in the middle of figuring it out, so I hope I can be that person for a few minutes in your life as I remind myself of the things I’m learning.
1. Be Thankful
God has provided this space for you. He didn’t see fit to give you the house with a spacious dedicated homeschool room complete with a six-foot chalkboard, cozy cushioned reading corner, and multi-cubby nature display shelves. God knows what you need, He didn’t think you needed a big house right now, and He is good.
We have a big dining table that doubles as our schoolwork center. I’m thankful for that – and for the hundreds of books that line the shelves that cover most of our wall-space, for the windows that extend our view beyond our walls, for the electric piano where we can make music, (even if we have to remember to push in the bench on one side and the dining chairs on the other so we can get through the space between), for the long couch that doubles as a cushions-off trampoline, for the kitchen island where I can prepare food while watching all of it.
These are blessings from the Lord which I should never view with an unthankful heart. You cannot thrive in any space unless you are rejoicing and giving thanks for the goodness of the Lord each day, so start there.
2. Evaluate storage
I can’t fit all of my home school curriculum in one place, but the important thing is that I know what I have and where it is, even if it’s in nooks and crannies.
Home school families can’t really be hardcore minimalists, but we can regularly evaluate our resources, decide what we do and don’t need, and figure out whether the things we use the most are the most accessible.
I have things in spaces of graduated accessibility, and I regularly switch them out as I discover unused resources in plain sight. Put those things away for later and rent their space to a higher usage tenant.
Step back and evaluate other spaces. Could you get rid of enough unused kitchen cupboard items to fill one with home school supplies instead? Could you switch out a décor item for a tasteful storage basket that can hold a few supplies? Is there a taller skinnier spot for the tall and skinny books? Could the short books be consolidated to take advantage of a small space?
We have a two-drawer filing cabinet that holds a number of books in a hanging file top drawer so I don’t have to have big floppy curriculum books on my shelves. The bottom drawer is all things scrap paper for the kids to use at will.
Ask your friends to give you ideas. Don’t go on Pinterest or Google for this. Text a picture to a friend or family member and say, “I’m trying to make this work for ___. Any ideas?”
Even better is asking them when they come over for a playdate or coffee. Even the tiniest difference of perspective can bring illumination to something you’ve overlooked – and it will be so much more helpful than asking the web.
3. Use your windows.
You probably have windows in your house. Make the most of them to improve your time at home, especially in the winter (when I am typing this) when everyone is inside a lot.
We have a bird feeding area outside our main table area that drastically brightens our winter days indoors. It keeps us looking outside and makes our living space seem bigger.
Over time, I have reduced the window treatments in all the living areas to almost nothing so that we can see more sky and more light. It’s uplifting to be able to see clouds, flying birds, or the moon from your couch.
This fall, we enjoyed seeing a chickadee inches from our window because of the goldenrod seedheads that had grown next to the house. Grow something outside your windows that looks good in winter.
Actually going outside is a great solution to all kinds of indoor woes, but the purpose of these thoughts is to improve our outlook when we have to be in our house space. It’s where a lot of our work has to be done.
Get creative and open your eyes to the possibilities for bringing in the beauty beyond your four walls.
4. Tackle daily clean up.
Small houses don’t provide many out of the way places to leave a mess for later. That can be a good thing. Don’t resent the need to constantly put away and tidy a space that has to serve multiple purposes.
Sometimes God trains us in minor virtues by the compression of our circumstances. You can become more organized simply by being forced to do so, and this can make you a more virtuous person if you tackle the assignment with a cheerful heart.
I am a naturally tidy person, but I have had to cultivate patience and consistency in training my children to clean up. This can be my lesson in virtue also.
We usually have a clean up time at the end of the day before I start cooking supper, and on many winter days the reward of watching a show (on our desktop computer which doubles as a TV screen) when it’s all cleaned up provides a definite incentive to clean up quickly. The pre-dinner timing of the show gives me a break from crazy circling little feet while I’m cooking the one meal of the day that involves raw meat.
Maybe I’m compromising by giving them ulterior incentives to clean up. I confess to pragmatism here. It makes us all happier. I hope that they survive to be adults who value cleanliness for something more than a justification for watching Busytown Mysteries.
But most of all, I hope they feel loved by the order that I try to weave into our day together.
5. Accept limitations.
Probably if you are home schooling in a small space, you are not rolling in the stuff. Space limitations can help us to accommodate our budget limitations.
For example we don’t have a Lego collection (though we have a collection of Duplo that’s served our littles well) and I’ve never subscribed to something like Kiwi crate – less because of the cost than because we simply do not have a space for such things.
Space is a form of wealth that I also have to steward carefully. It can be tempting to think that because my children do not have the things that many other children have that they are disadvantaged. I mean, isn’t playing with Lego a rite of modern childhood? Maybe. We’ve had friends over and I heard the question “Where are all your toys?” (They do have toys, btw).
History comes to our help here. Think of the great men who grew up with very little. Like Abraham Lincoln studying borrowed books by fire light in his father’s cabin.
A lack of possessions will not ultimately disadvantage our children. What will disadvantage, indeed harm them, is to have parents with a discontented, ungrateful spirit. If that’s taking up space in your home, chuck it. Repent and praise the Lord for His goodness.
Love the Homeschool Space God has Given You
So we’ve come full circle. We appreciate the space God has given us by beginning and ending with a thankful heart!
I’m speaking as someone who has had to repent a lot here. Our dining room still has carpet because a slew of necessary house projects has delayed a floor makeover. (Did you know that carpet reduces the sound of children running around? Hey, it’s something.)
I have spent many an hour vacuuming and scrubbing food off the carpet with a grumpy spirit. But God has provided all that we need and a hardwood floor is not a source of joy anymore than any other thing.
God with us – in our hearts, in this home, in the hours of scribbling and schoolwork and soup and sandwiches at this table, even on this carpet – is our source of joy.
Let’s pass on the legacy of gratitude to our children, no matter how small our space!
Alyssa Bohon lives in rural West Virginia with her husband and four children, and tries by the grace of Jesus to be a good home school mother while making glorious garden plans, experimenting in the kitchen, climbing mountains of laundry, and reading too many books at the same time. She will occasionally wax poetic, and maintains a sporadic blog at Gathering the Fragments.
9 thoughts on “Five Ways to Love Your Home School in a Small Space”
Great post! Wonderful advice. Your house looks lovely and thank you so much for sharing it. I agree with everything you said (including removing all the curtains from the window!) I have been living this myself but I still benefitted so much from reading your perspective especially this time of year. I will be looking around my house with a new attitude thanks to reading this today 😉
So glad! Writing it gave me a fresh perspective too! 💖
Thank you so much, Alyssa. Beautifully put. I feel nourished and well exhorted after reading your words. We are in a New York City apartment that’s large by NYC standards but of course, garageless, yardless, low on closet space, etcetera…and so different from much of the Internet vision of homeschooling life. You’ve encouraged me to rejoice in what we do have and, most of all, in God-with-us as our source of joy. We have Psalm 90:1 on our living room wall and it has been a sweet word in each of our small spaces so far: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” In him we live, and that’s just right.
I love that text, Kate, and it’s one I have thought of this winter too. It made me so ashamed of having griped about my earthly dwelling place. The saints are richly housed in the dwelling of the Almighty! Thank you for sharing. ❤️
Thank you for this! I’ve thought recently of Laura Ingalls when she went to the birthday party in Little Town on the Prairie and was astonished that the house at the train depot had a room for nothing but eating in. A refreshing dose of perspective! We have a bunch of kids in a home that I don’t consider too small, but many others probably would. I don’t want a bigger home – it would just be more to manage, and I would think I “needed” more things to fill it. Thank you for your organization tips – that’s where the challenge is for me. I love your primary focus on a thankful heart – I pray daily about that as well! Even the dust bunnies are under our Father’s hand.
Oh my, I love to think of the dust bunnies nestling in the arms of eternal Providence. It makes me feel so much less pressure to vacuum them up. But I’m sure they don’t mind if I do 😄 And yes, small spaces gives us so much less to care for -more time to read!
What an encouragement this post was to me. Also, convicting. Thank you so much! I am homeschooling with my four kids in a two bedroom city apartment and this was not my plan. I often deceive myself into thinking this is not healthy for my kids when in reality it is my attitude that is unhealthy. Thank you!
“ What will disadvantage, indeed harm them, is to have parents with a discontented, ungrateful spirit. If that’s taking up space in your home, chuck it. ”
This has been a stumbling block for me through the years. Very well stated Alyssa with practical and doable suggestions. Thank you for these truths that point us back to God, and what he is accomplishing. Even through our woes, he will use these times to humble and sanctify us. May His name be praised even through the mess and seeming chaos of our lives.
I’m so glad this encouraged you, Mary. Yes, may His name be praised! He is not limited by our limitations. 💛