My kids both just finished up their homeschooling year, and it seemed like a great time for me to tell you a little bit about how we homeschool. This year marked my tenth year as a home educator, and I’ve learned a thing or two. I’m definitely not an expert in all things, but I guess I’ve become an expert in what works for us. And what works for us is a minimalist-style homeschool experience.
I wasn’t always a minimalist, but I did begin minimizing my homeschool long before I even knew what minimalism was. Through some trial and error, I learned that my kids learn better with less.
That was Then
When I first started homeschooling, I bought all the things. I had all sorts of books, curriculum, manipulatives, games, posters, charts, bulletin boards, child-size work desks, chalkboards, white boards, book shelves, etc… I had all the things. And I had them all in a dedicated room. The room was technically a formal dining room, but since we are not a formal family we didn’t use it the way it was intended to be used. I had a background of working in public schools so it seemed natural to me to essentially recreate a public school classroom in my home. The problem was, I wasn’t at a public school. I really was at home. And homeschooling was never meant to be public school.
Add to the mix that both of my kids have special needs and all the sensory issues that go along with that, and my school room had become too much.
After a few years of struggling with meltdowns and overwhelm and lack of attention and so on, I realized that there was just too much going on in the school room. I had done in my house exactly what I knew was an issue for my kids in a public school setting – I had made it chaotic, and they don’t do well in chaos.
So I began downsizing. I took a good look at what we used and what we didn’t use. I realized that a lot of what I bought for school was actually just sitting on shelves collecting dust. Books that we’d finished using were no longer being read. Games were no longer being used. Posters were just bright distractions. The bulletin board was a pain to keep up with. The manipulatives were great when I needed them, but we were moving past the stage of things like math blocks. And the kids were outgrowing the child-sized desk.
I went through a lot of my stuff and actually gave it away to a public school teacher. And what I didn’t give away, I either sold or threw in the garbage.
I began watching my kids closely, and I realized that they gravitated towards the every day dining room to do their work. They didn’t even seem to want to be in the school room. They would sit calmly in the dining room, happily working away for large chunks of time. They preferred the room with less.
I continued downsizing the school room until all that remained was exactly what we were currently using. And I began teaching the kids at the dining room table, sometimes on the living room couch, and at other times out in our backyard.
Our homeschool became exactly that – a home school.
This is Now
Since the start of homeschooling, we have moved. We no longer live in the house with the school room. In fact, we live in a much smaller house now. And you know what? It has all worked out just fine.
Our homeschool has been even more minimized since I discovered the minimalist lifestyle. We are still doing the majority of our school work right at the dining room table, and we still only hang on to what we actually use, and the kids are still much happier that way.
I hear from a lot of people about how they don’t have room to homeschool, and it makes me laugh. I don’t say that in a mean way, but I say it because my homeschool area looks like this…
That’s the dining room table, and behind it is the shelf with our homeschool work. That’s it. All the books we are using for the year fit on that shelf, along with various supplies, and my printer. I do have another area that is currently being filled up with next year’s curriculum, but it will be moved to this shelf as soon as I clear out the old stuff. I have’t done that yet because our school year literally ended yesterday.
I know it doesn’t look like much, but it doesn’t have to. What we use as far as text books doesn’t have to be overwhelming. And we supplement with things online and with items from the library. None of that takes up a bunch of room, and none of it creates extra clutter.
You can also see on the shelf that I have two small whiteboards. I realized that a big whiteboard and a big chalkboard were just taking up space. We don’t need anything large with just two students at a table. The small boards can be used by me or by the kids, and they can be put away when we’re done.
The kids each have a supply box with pencils and such that they keep with their every day creative stuff. Both of my kids like to create so those boxes tend to migrate through the house depending on where they are working.
It’s not a huge space, it’s not a ton of stuff, but it works. And I’m not saying that my kids never act up or get overwhelmed anymore – that is far from true. What I’m saying is that by minimizing the homeschool experience, I took that overstimulation away and helped decrease the meltdowns and sensory overwhelm.
And if I discover that we are missing something we need, well, I either borrow it from the library, ask a family member, or just go get it. It’s no big deal. The kids are learning and are happy.
Yes, You Can
If you are reading this and thinking that you can’t homeschool because you lack space, I want to encourage you. Yes, you can homeschool. You can use whatever space you have. You can also use the park, a coffee shop, your backyard, the public library… the possibilities are endless.
And you don’t need every book out there.
You don’t need every fancy gadget.
You don’t need multiple shelves full of curriculum.
Don’t feel intimidated and/or discouraged by pictures of fancy school rooms on Pinterest or Instagram. Those rooms aren’t homeschooling. They are just rooms. Homeschooling comes from the actual act of you teaching your children.
Homeschooling is not a collection of things. Homeschooling is the actual teaching and the actual learning that takes place.
So yes, you can. If it’s what you want, you can do it.