Small Space Homeschooling: Part 2

Small Space Homeschooling PART 2 | HSLDA Blog

Did you miss part 1 of this series? I talked about 12 tricks for small-space homeschooling. Yes, you can teach in an apartment!

My attitude towards “stuff” and homeschooling has shifted pretty far since I was a student. I was homeschooled in a ranch-style house with an open-plan living area, a library and craft/school room, a fenced yard, and wilderness lands just across the street that led to a canyon overlooking the Rio Grande. It wasn’t a mansion, but we had plenty of room to work with and basically all the books.

Then I moved to the greater DC area and discovered apartment living.

Suddenly, I couldn’t buy and keep every book I ever read, or intended to read, or thought the girls might need for college someday. This was a difficult transition. Jonathan and I declared book-buying austerity measures and tried to prune. I got rid of some books in our first married condo…more, in the next apartment…then some more at the next place. You get the picture. I think Jonathan and I are finally down to about half the books we brought into our marriage (not counting newly acquired board and picture books), and we’re only just starting to buy some again. Now I actually like all the books we own.

My top ten attitude adjustments:

1. Stuff is temporary, but people are eternal. This is a precise theological position. Most of my stuff is not that special. I like it, but it’s okay to use it up, wear it out, and give it away. Some stuff is special and we will treat it carefully, OR ELSE—like the child’s rocking chair that my grandpa made out of the wooden crate my parents used when they shipped their things back from the tropics. But even the little rocker will break eventually, after a lifetime or two or three. What is eternal at my house is the people who live here. THIS IS WHY WE EDUCATE THEM. I have no patience for people who think their daughters aren’t worth educating. What, she doesn’t have a soul? (Sorry, hobby horse.)

2. I have to pick up and put away constantly. It’s what I do. I will probably have to do this for the rest of my natural life, even though I’m pretty sure cleaning is not my spiritual gift. I am not reconciled to this yet.

3. My apartment is finite. No closet goes disorganized for very long because I need that space. My girls love it when I create empty areas, and they immediately move in and take possession, usually toting a little lamp and paper and scissors with them. Then I reassess how badly I wanted that half a closet. Oh well.

4. I actually return the things I borrow, for the most part. Ahem. They cannot hide and will be returned!

5. Financial discipline is a necessary (but really useful) evil. Vacuum salesmen will never succeed if you can say no to a toddler, and saying no to a toddler is a breeze if you can say no to yourself. I’ve found “But where would I put it?” to be valuable armor against my own impulse shopping.

Small Space Homeschooling PART 2 | HSLDA Blog

6. I’m a better housekeeper. No, seriously, I guarantee that I’ll do dishes today, because we’re out of counter space and spoons, and I cannot go anywhere until someone (hopefully not me) decides to wash my travel coffee mug.

7. A small house builds community. This is a little counterintuitive, but when someone invites me into their small or untidy place, it tells me that they trust me and want me underfoot, and furthermore, it reassures me that my house doesn’t have to be big, perfectly clean, or decorated by a designer. I’m still kind of insecure about this, and I don’t even want a big house until I can afford a maid and lawn-mowing boy, but the feeling is there. So I appreciate my fellow apartment dwellers and creative messy friends.

8. It’s made me a better gift-giver. I now take into account whether the recipient will want another kitty figurine, or whether they might really prefer, I don’t know, a bag of nice coffee.

9. I love a good clothes swap. I get my friends’ girls’ hand-me-downs, and they get mine. I save a few special clothes, but because of our storage shortage, I feel the freedom to pass along our not-quite-holey leggings. This took a lot of practice, people. Tiny clothes are so cute and they yell, “Keep me! Keep me!”

Small Space Homeschooling PART 2 | HSLDA Blog

10. This is why you can have nice things. You can’t have everything, right? So choose the good stuff! The Anthropologie word is “curate.” I curate my house like an Anthro store,[1] not a crowded Kohl’s, and my space is (becoming) pleasant and full of good things. There, it’s Biblical.

There are some benefits to small-space living, but most of them seem to be character and housekeeping growth on my part. I prefer Latin to scrubbing, so this is not the kind of growth I would have chosen—just like you don’t pray for patience, because you’ll definitely get opportunities to practice it! But it’s turning out pretty good.

Anybody else have great small-space stories? Share!

Carolyn signature Montez font

Photo Credit: All photos by Carolyn Bales.


[1] But not only with stuff from an Anthro store. That would not be budget-friendly.

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13 Comments on “Small Space Homeschooling: Part 2”

  1. Julia Torcellini
    May 24, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    2.5 years in 480 square feet, homeschooling 3 boys and raising 100’s of chickens, sometimes in the house (I laughed really hard at myself on those days). I can relate to every point here! It can be done with good housekeeping, patience and lots of discipline on everyone’s part. People wonder why my children are so well behaved…that makes me laugh too. I am very thankful for my newer bigger, warmer home but I hope to take with me our small home skills for life!

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  2. audreyinboston
    May 24, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    Thanks for these insights. I’m reading this from my 100-years-old house in Boston, and believe me, they didn’t build big closets back then! I especially like the idea of being a “curator”–this conjures up a positive feeling about being selective.

    The thing I am learning how to do is “let it go” and bless someone else. My extreme lack of storage space means that when we are done with something in school, it needs to get passed on to someone else who can use it and feel blessed to get it. (Especially those things I spent soooo much time making that my kids used exactly one time *ahem*).

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  3. Crystal W
    May 24, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    Great article. On each point I was saying, “Exactly!” I have a small linen closet and I emptied it out to downsize and remember what I had in there, while it was temporarily empty my boys discovered the top shelf was a great “man cave” and climbed in with flashlights and books. I held my tongue and did NOT tell them to get out because what am I going to do now with a shelf full of blankets. I prefer my boys making memories than magazine worthy closets and a pile of stuff shoved in the corner is only temporary.

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  4. Kelly.Rye
    May 24, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    I think this is all so encouraging as we’re about to start our own homeschooling journey in a tiny house (like-360sqft-tiny). Many of the things you said here I’ve already thought about or am currently processing so it was nice to hear of someone in the same boat! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Sharon Stewart
    May 24, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    I have been responsible for the clear out of 3 family homes in the last few years and still have one to go. My family members weren’t hoarders but the “stuff” is nearly endless. This process has illuminated to me the true value of stuff, it just isn’t there. If this last project doesn’t do me in, my house will be next. Count your blessings that you are doing this all along the way.

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  6. christianshavemorefun
    May 25, 2016 at 1:18 am #

    We are homeschooling our three children and just recently moved into a spacious house and yard in the country after living in a VERY small house in town. I learned to use my cell phone camera to take pictures of projects, papers or art that we wanted to remember but didn’t have room to keep. I organized these chronologically in digital files in order to be able to access these photos quickly.
    I had a box for each child’s main subjects and we pulled these out from the living room corner each day during school time. By bedtime, we consolidated the work back into their boxes. We used a couple of small carts on wheels that contained our paper, pencils, crayons, etc. These could be rolled into any space for quick access and minimal clean up.
    Now that we have more space in which to homeschool, I continue to use several of these ideas to keep life simple. My goal is to keep our closets and cabinets less than full because it is more important for me to focus on my work as their parent-teacher than it is to focus on what I coin “stuff management”.

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  7. Laura Lane
    May 25, 2016 at 9:30 am #

    We live in what I call a puzzle house. You can’t move one thing without moving another! You’ve got a good attitude about this. You’ll do well mama!

    We’ve homeschooled since ’95 and never had a school room or dedicated space. That’s okay. It means we never “play school”.

    Please drop by and say hello!
    ஐღLauraღஐ
    Harvest Lane Cottage
    …doing what I can with what I’ve got where I am
    on a short shoestring budget!
    ~~~~~

    Like

    • Carolyn Bales
      May 25, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      I love how you call it a “puzzle house” — so descriptive!

      Like

  8. C Dougherty
    May 25, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    I’m reaching the end of my home school journey. A few years back as my youngest was entering middle school, I determined to dispose of my elementary books & curriculum. I had unsuccessfully attempted selling these items at garage sales. So I invited several home school moms and teacher friends to come pick through my stuff. I explained that I wasn’t selling, just cleaning out. I encouraged them to take what they thought might be useful to them.

    It was like watching them open Christmas packages. They were so excited to dig through my stuff and find treasures for their use. I cleared out 4 large boxes and my dress up chest full of costumes.

    Even though I explained I wanted nothing for the books/items one mom slipped a wad of cash to my children and told them not to give it to me until she drove off. Another mom stopped by the next day with dinner for my family. They were blessed and I was blessed. I’m plotting another give away when my youngest graduates.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Julie
    May 26, 2016 at 1:07 am #

    Great post! We keep “downsizing” in LA…homeschooling 4 in 750 sq. ft. So efficient and using the “outside world” as our classroom (the beach is nice too). 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. lorir2015
    May 27, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

    hi there!
    i think i have a small house, but it’s just cluttered and i hate that. i just found your blog and, by gum, you’re interesting! i’m not a homeschool mom; but i am a homeschool evaluator in PA: 18 years
    loving homeschool families,
    ~lori

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mum4vr
    May 28, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    What a wonderful article! I knew we were not alone! We are homeschooling 3 (2 teens!) in under 400 square feet…

    I hear the cavalry— that is, the public library! Not only as a source of books, but as a place to donate things we use only occasionally, but cannot house… but still value. Like our entire dvd collection (my teens said, but what if I still want to watch/ read that again!? I said, then check it out from the library! See– it is still yours + everyone else’s, too! Best of both worlds!)

    ITA regarding the classroom including the great outdoors– I am pretty sure nearly 100% of our high school literature classes was accomplished up one tree or another.

    Yes, I am not downsizing or de-cluttering, I am curating. Love this!

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. Small-Space Homeschooling: Part 1 | Homeschooling Now - May 20, 2016

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