Make no mistake. Homeschool, Roadschooling, Unschooling…they are all a HUGE undertaking. The notion of not enrolling your child in a more traditional school institution involves time, energy, resources, and even space. If you have a tiny house or small space and a limited income or even no income, try not to become discouraged. It is absolutely possible to create a wonderful learning environment in a small space and on a small budget. We are doing it now and you can to. Afterall, it is about the education, right? And learning takes place everywhere, all the time!
When we first decided to build a tiny house we were only a party of 2. We had a desire to start a family but not right away so it never occurred to us that we should plan a tiny house that would accommodate more than two people and certainly not accommodate room for both living and learning, so to speak. But as you can probably guess we found ourselves becoming a party of 3 rather quickly. In fact, before we finished building we were already trying to figure out how our single level, 240 sq.ft. tiny house would be comfortable for two adults and a baby. As our baby become an infant and then a toddler our adventure changed as well. We decided to purchase a travel trailer and take to the open road. The trailer we chose was just 40 sq.ft. larger than our tiny house so with 280 sq.ft. we had ample room to live but didn’t once think about how the school situation might work out. We knew pretty soon after our daughter was born that we wanted to homeschool her for at least the early years. I have a masters degree in education so I felt completely capable of the task and we knew that K4 was not about sitting still and taking tests for 5-6 hours a day. But never did we realize that even 45 minutes of focused learning time a day would pose such a challenge. Between shuffling about for play room, eating room, sleeping room, and school room, it quickly became a frantic pursuit!
PLAN OF ATTACK
Our first idea was to come up with some relatively easy goals and form a plan of attack. We decided our goals would be:
- Teach our daughter that education is not limited to a space or timetable
- Show our daughter that in everything there is a lesson to be learned
- Allow her room to be comfortable in what can be a scary, new world
Our plan of attack was similar to what it was when we first found out we were going to be parents. Our lives had to change. No longer was it just about us. Life was now about us +1. We couldn’t keep all the room to ourselves. We had to share. We couldn’t confine her to just a corner. We had to share. Homeschool in our tiny house would be an “all hands on deck” experience.
THE LIVING SPACE
Our travel trailer has one main living space with one slide out. We have some form of cabinetry on every wall even though they have to serve double duty to store food, pots and pans, clothes, computer/audio/video gear for my work, and a few other things. We have downsized our own stuff as parents though to make part of our living area a play area and school area as well. We purchased an inexpensive ‘Frozen’ table with 2 chairs that now sits in the corner by the front entry. Under it are some plastic storage totes and on top are some books and a few small toys. Because of the totes the area doesn’t feel clutter or unorganized and we have been working for months on putting stuff away and the notion that in our house everything has its place. We have one overhead cabinet that is “the school” in that it holds the craft box, the curriculum box, my teachers notebook, her clipboard (which holds daily lesson plans), and her Bible studies items.
While we still believe in the power of books we don’t necessarily believe they have to be in print format. We have built a nice collection of digital books that are held on our daughters iPad. That’s right. Our 4-year old has an iPad. It is a hand-me-down but it cleared of any adult materials and/or Apps and comes with a strict set of rules. It also serves as an educational tool and entertainment center. As parents we control it though and like many things it can be taken away as punishment and given for extra time as a reward.
STAYING ON BUDGET
We have a budgeted income and stick to it almost religiously. We have not spent hundreds of dollars on curriculum. While we do base our K4 learning off the A Beka curriculum we chose very carefully what pieces we needed and which ones we could supplement. The Internet is a beautiful place to print our color pages, flashcards, manuscript paper, etc. You don’t need the latest, greatest in homeschool curriculum to provide a good learning environment. In fact, we have found that the more creative, the better and the more our daughter pays attention. We try hard to tailor things to her likes and dislikes rather than suggesting what she should like and dislike.
The secret to our homeschool arsenal is the clipboard. It is a $6.99 at Target, storage clipboard that we allowed her to put her name on and make her own. Each school day we put her lesson sheets on the clipboard along with any other materials she may need to complete them. As she finishes them she puts the sheets inside the clipboard. This way she has something to do at all times and can let us know when she is done. It allows us to see her working style, work planning, and alerts us to her completion. We feel like it is setting up a good time value system. It also makes her responsible for her daily lessons.
The #1 rule in our homeschool is that life happens. Some days Chick-Fil-A is giving away a free ice cream after 1pm. Some mornings the library is having a kids reading time or the fire department is practicing drills out doors. Those sort of field trips are spur of the moment and are a great advantage to homeschooling. You can pack up the car, go see something cool, and never need a permission slip. In fact, we like to leave our tiny house as much as possible. The world is our living room so we like to get out and live in it! We call the shots and we like that. We don’t spend a ton of time at all worrying about having the perfect Pinterest homeschool area but rather turning our home into a place where learning is fun.
Do you homeschool in a tiny house? What tips can you offer to others? Do you have a secret to success?