Monday, April 11, 2011

Homeschooling Sardines?

Okay, so what  exactly does that title mean?  It means I'm writing about homeschooling in small spaces today.  While our home may not be the smallest of homes, it is small when you consider that we have 10 people living in it.  10 people in 1800 square feet:  1 bathroom, 1 kitchen, 1 living room, 1 dining room, 3 bedrooms.  That's it.  No extra bedroom, no family room, no extra anything--  unless you count the hallway and closets.


So how do we do it?  Simple.  We forget about the idea of having a "school room" or "school area".  I realize some people can't deal with that.  They want a dedicated school area and they don't want textbooks and projects to encroach on the rest of the home.  But that hasn't ever been a possibility for us.


Initially, we "did school" in two places ... the dining room table for workbooks and textbooks, and the living room couch for unit studies and reading.  But as our family grew, that became problematic.  We had schoolbooks still out at supper time, laundry folding crowded the school students, siblings distracted each other, and the older children didn't feel they had enough elbow room with everyone at the table.  So we spread out.


Now, my 15 yo daughter has a desk in the kitchen.  My 14 yo daughter uses the dining room table.  My 11 yo daughter does her work in her bedroom.  My 10 yo son does his schoolwork in either the living room or his bedroom.  The 7 yo does his schoolwork beside me, usually on the floor.  We come together again in the living room for history reading and some other joint studies.


Our textbooks and notebooks are stored on shelves in the dining room, where our wall maps are also displayed.  Each child has a milk crate of their current work in the dining room.  Our library is spread throughout the house, in the living room, dining room and hallway.  I'm still plotting to fit another bookshelf in the kitchen.


It's working, but I had to give up any hopes of keeping all evidence of school contained in one room.  I had to be okay with wall maps as decor, even when hosting guests.   I have to be organized and if I have any hopes of a clean home, I have to teach the children to put away their schoolwork, craft supplies, and projects.  That's the hardest part.


I also had to think creatively.  My high schoolers desk in the kitchen was once my little baking center.  I had to move my bread machine, crock pot and mixer to the dresser that was my changing table.  And my changing station moved to my bedroom, where I now use my bed for diaper changes, keeping the supplies in a caddy on the dresser edge.


But, homeschooling in small spaces has its blessings, too.  Yes, we have textbooks in plain sight, and maps on our dining room wall.  BUT, that means that our maps are readily accessible for teachable moments.  It also means that when we're talking about something we're learning, kids can quickly grab a book to show us what they mean.  Having no school room also means that I can continue with my chores as the children do their schoolwork.  I'm not in a distant part of the house, unless I'm doing laundry.  Learning is part of our everyday life, and our home reflects that.


You don't need a huge home or a separate area for homeschooling.  If you have that area and want a separate school room, that's great!  But if you don't have the space, it's okay, too.  Don't let a small home stop you from homeschooling, if you feel God is leading you to homeschool.  Just pray, and be creative!


This post was written as part of the weekly Homeschool Crew Blog Cruise.  Visit the Crew blog to read what others have to share on the subject.

Homeschooling my 8 sardines,
April E.


  1. Cozy is a good word for your home/schoolhouse/work space/living space! :)

    My home is a bit bigger than yours and we only have 7 people and various pets living here, but it still seems ... ummm ... cozy (ya, cozy!). Our books, maps, science experiments, and crafts are all over the place but I don't think I'd want a dedicated "schoolroom". Either my housework would not get done or the schoolroom would not be used.

    The way I have it now, schooling in the kitchen and reading in the family room, is working out great! Messy, but nice!

  2. Sounds like you have worked really hard to make everything fit into the rooms that you have available. Good for you, April!

    Our house is 1800 sq. ft., so for four people it works well for us. When we moved in, our oldest was 3 months old, and we said, "What are we going to do with this one extra room? It's a two bedroom house but had a 9x9 ft. room right next to the living room. It had a very wide doorway, but no door, and it also includes the back door to the outside of the house, so we had no idea what we were going to be using it for.

    Initially, we used it for my crafts and then later included a bookshelf and a computer desk/computer. When our oldest was 5 and we decided to begin homeschooling her, it was THEN that we knew what that room would be for. Thankfully, our house is a square-shaped box instead of a long, skinny rectangle, so even having french doors on the schoolroom now doesn't close it off at all; we keep the doors open most of the time.

    But I do have to admit that we mainly use it for storage of our homeschooling supplies, bookshelves, large table, and computer desk. Sometimes, we do some school work in there, but often we use other parts of the house as well.

    If we had more children, we could use the schoolroom for a bedroom, but we'd have to remove the french doors and put something solid there for privacy, and it's kind of weird to have to go through someone's bedroom to go out the back door! :)

    Glad you are working things out in your house! You do a great job, April!


  3. [...] April E. @ ECloud Homeschool:  Busy Minds, Busy Hands, Busy Feet asks Homeschooling Sardines? [...]

  4. I like the blessings you point out!

    It's also neat how each child has a different place/form of homeschooling - that you've been able to adapt to their age/learning style?

    I really need to figure out the milk crate thing for our house... :)


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