Our Minimalist Homeschool Room

Why we chose to turn the loft into the school room

When we moved into this house, the upstairs loft jumped out at me right away.

I’m of the mindset that you can homeschool anywhere, without a designated “school room”, but if you have the space for it, it definitely makes things easier!

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Even with a school room, we still sometimes find ourselves learning fractions at the dining room table and going over Egyptian civilization at the kitchen island while I make lunch. However, I love having a separate space just for learning and storing our curricula.

Homeschooling is messy, and I like that the mess is segregated from the rest of the house most days.


What’s in the room & how we use it

The first thing I did when we moved in was look up the different options for desks. We have four kids, and while only three of them are actively being homeschooled (Emmett is only three so he mainly just tags along), it’s a lot of bodies in a small room at once.

I didn’t want the room to feel cramped or for our set up to be inconvenient.
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I’m not new to homeschooling, so that helped me have a sense of what would and would not work for us in terms of this school space.

I decided to ditch all the Pinterest images I was saving and do my own thing - a dining room table is what we really needed in here. This would give us lots of space for everyone to sprawl out with their books, and it would be easy for me to move around and go from kid to kid.

We got this super modern table from IKEA, and as fate would have it, it was previously purchased, put together, then returned without a scratch on it by another person, so we got the last one for 50% off and didn’t have to assemble it. #winning

The chairs are a collection of what we already had (but didn’t want to use at our actual dining table) and they’re comfy to sit in so this worked out perfectly too!

We use The Good & The Beautiful curriculum, and one of their main selling points is that there aren’t 100 books per subject - their design is very minimal, which I of course love. I knew we wouldn’t need a ton of shelving and storage, but definitely some!

One shelving unit is plenty for us, and we could even do with less space here, which surprises me with four kids!

We keep our Legos in the school room for a couple of reasons. First of all, it worked out in terms of space.

Also, all four of my kids play with the Legos, so it made sense to put them in a shared space rather one of the kids' rooms. 

We store Legos separately from their other toys (which are in a toy bin in the boys' shared room) and we also use Legos for school on a regular basis. It just made sense to store them in this room.

We use the bins to hold segregated Ziplock bags of Legos. Leland likes order, so he’s usually pretty good at keeping the Legos separated by color, but it’s not perfect and I’m not picky.

As long as they’re off the ground and out of my way, I don’t care.

Legos are so valuable for learning and so good for the kids’ constructive play, I think they’re worth the mess they make.

Besides, a little mess is good for you, and raising kids is messy! If you're analytic about every little thing being perfectly organized, you'll probably end up miserable and not too much fun to be around!


How we keep supplies at bay

It is so easy to become overcluttered with homeschool supplies! So many times I find myself excusing myself to keep junk because we “might need in one day”, which I normally don’t struggle with!

I have to check myself and let that ish go.

Homeschooling is awesome but also unpredictable, so it can make you feel like you need to hang on to stuff all the time, but that’s not true.

If you need help with this, read this blog post.

Our homeschool supplies are what we need, and nothing else. I feel like we’ve struck a really good balance with where we’re at.

Currently, our homeschool practice itself is incredibly minimal and “bare bones”.

What I mean by that is that we aren’t doing a lot of extra stuff. We are in a very full season of adoption prep, business growth, and focusing on extracurricular activies rather than extra homeschool activities (things that go beyond the main subjects).

Our supplies reflect the season we’re in.

Someday we’ll do way more art and new languages and science experiments that will cause our supply stock to grow a bit, and we’ll adjust, but for now it’s super basic.

Do you homeschool? What do you love or hate about your homeschool space? Share with me in the comments!


Want to know where we got something you see here? I gotchoo, girl. 

Our homeschool table: IKEA

Leather chairs: IKEA

Rug: IKEA

White book shelf: Target (similar one here)

Lego cart: Target (wheels purchased separately) (similar one here)

Lego bins: Target (similar ones here)

"MAPS" book: Amazon

Panda bear head: Target

Black macrame: Target

Cactus art: By Bella :)

"Seek adventure" and other decor on that wall: Target

All frames: Target

Bean bag: Target (similar one here)

Curtains: IKEA (couldn't find the link! Looks like they've discontinued them)

Pencil holder: Nake Berkus for Target

(Some of these links may be affiliate ones.)

 


How I Bring Art into Our Homeschool (When I'm A Truly Terrible Artist)

I can barely draw a stick person. That’s not a clever way to start this blog post that I came up with, it’s the sad truth. Observe.
 

See? Told you. Art is not my thang.

Give me a blank piece of paper and tell me to fill it with words that suck you in so much you miss your next meal, and I’m on it. But guys, I can’t draw.

When my oldest, Bella started showing pretty insane signs of artistic ability when she was super young, I have to admit I panicked. I had planned on homeschooling, and wasn’t sure how to cultivate her talent.

In our homeschool, we are all about finding what our kids are really good at and cultivating that like crazy. We’re also all about pushing the limits and encouraging them to get better at things they aren’t naturally gifted with.

And so, for both reasons, art has always been a part of our homeschooling. Since I can’t draw, I started using YouTube videos to teach the kids more about drawing, and we bought curricula that taught them about the classic artists to provide background knowledge. The YouTube videos though, weren’t cutting it once Bella turned seven.

I kept searching for more advanced YouTubers, but it never challenged her and I wasn’t a fan of their ads and crappy video quality.

A few months ago, Brian and I were fed up with less-than-inspiring online art lessons for the kids and were about to sign them up for in-person lessons when we came across Artventure.

We signed up for a free trial and instantly knew this was awesome. Artventure is run by Kirsty, another mommy who lives in Australia.

She’s a super amazing, gifted artist and has the sweetest temperament as she walks the kids through each lesson.

During our first week using Artventure, the kids were spending hours drawing and creating artwork. They didn’t want to do anything else - it was amazing! Even the boys, who are usually less excited about art time, couldn’t get enough and were creating some really great pieces.

One of the things I’m most grateful to Kirsty for, is inspiring Bella to teach. As she and I worked together on creating the Just For Kids module in my course, Your Uncluttered Home, Bella was really into finding ways to inspire the kids who watch to get creative and get outside. She had the idea of teaching them how to draw a few animals rather than sitting in front of the TV (her words - proud mama here!).

She led three lessons on drawing three different animals just like Kirsty does in Artventure, and it’s adorable.

Artventure has given my kids inspiration, skill, and the patient guidance to draw better - something I cannot give them.

After we had used Artventure for a few weeks, I emailed Kirsty and told her I absolutely had to share her website with you guys, and she kindly offered an exclusive discount just for my readers.

This code can be used to purchase any level of membership (3, 6 or 12 months) with 25% off.

Discount Coupon Code: ALLIECASAZZA

Head to Artventure, select your preferred membership, use that code at checkout and you're good to go!

I am so happy to have found Artventure, and so grateful to Kirsty for partnering with me in sharing it with you guys!

We even put together a video all about our experience with Artventure! Click below to watch.

How to Bring Minimalism into Your Homeschool

I want to start this post out with some good news for all the homeschooling mamas out there…

You can give your kid a high-quality education without devoting your entire life, house, and day to it. It’s true!

Homeschooling can easily mean having so much stuff that it takes over your house. We want to give our kids a solid education with as many books as necessary. We don’t want them to miss out on an opportunity for learning just because we aren’t as full of resources as an actual school.

We’re told by homeschool conventions and curriculum programs and mommy bloggers that we need to try something new every year, and so we do, and we hold onto the old stuff too. It adds up, piles high, and pretty soon we’re telling ourselves this is just the way it is when you homeschool- cluttered. And it’s worth the sacrifice. But is it?

Laura Ingalls, amazing American writer, had just one piece of chalk and a slate board which she shared with her sister to learn with. Abraham Lincoln read Aesop’s Fables over and over again because it was the only book he had. He did math by writing out sums on a shovel with a piece of coal. What the….

My point is, you don’t need a ton of STUFF to homeschool. Get down to the basics and set yourself free!

Homeschooling does not have to mean a cluttered space, and I don’t think it should. What takes up your space takes up your time, so it’s important to be ruthless and intentional about what we allow to take up space in our homes, even when it comes to home education tools and resources. If you’re a homeschooler, your home is not only the place you and your family do life, make memories, and form childhoods, it’s the place your kids sit and learn all there is to know about the earth, numbers, letters, the written word, everything you’re teaching them! This space is important, and deserves to be clear of chaos.

According to studies, clutter is directly link to high cortisol (the stress hormone) in women. You will parent and homeschool better if you clear out all the things and just focus on what you actually need.

If right now you’re wondering how homeschooling would even look without shelves and bins and garaged boxes full of curriculum and school supplies, if you’re wondering how minimalism can have any place in homeschooling, I’m going to show you.

How to Bring Minimalism into Your Homeschool

 

  • Let go of old books and curriculum.

Yes I know, it hurts. You spent good money on that curriculum, and you could use it for your second-born who will be in the same grade next year. That’s fine! But will you? If you’re actually going to reuse something, it’s in your definite plans to do so, and it’s for sure going to save you tons of money, hold onto it. But so much of the time I see moms holding onto curriculum because it cost a lot of money and they might reuse it (which I can tell means they probably won’t but are having a hard time just throwing it away).

Listen to me, that curriculum served you well. You bought it to teach your child a year’s worth of something valuable, it served its purpose, you can let it go and use something else for the next kid without feeling guilty. It’s okay to let go of what’s old news and not working for you anymore. Learning what’s better and using what’s better as you go is a big part of homeschooling; you’re not being wasteful, you’re using your newfound wisdom on what might work better for you next year. The same goes for books. I love books, and I love the look of a stocked bookshelf more than anyone- it’s so cozy! But when the books have taken over and you know you need to let go, do it. Don’t hold onto a book because someone “might want to read it later”.

You’re allowing clutter to cause you stress based on the fear that you may get rid of something you need later, and that’s a fear-based decision right there. Don’t give anxiety that power over you and your home! These books aren’t something you’re using now, they’re played their role in your homeschool and nobody’s picked them up in months. Let it go, mama.

If you feel like you truly may need something at another point in your homeschool, like a really useful piece of curriculum that would be perfect for your first grader once she’s in second grade, then have a place in your garage or attic where you store things like that, but be ruthless. Don’t just start piling things in there. You need to have a dedicated shelf or box or something that’s containing the amount of things you’re keeping. Having a set limit will help you get real with yourself and not just say “keep!” to everything.

  • Clear out all the drawers and bins and bags of school supplies.

It’s all too much! It’s crowding your home, your school, and your brain. Mama listen, you only need to keep what you need! Minimalism in homeschooling is just like minimalism in any other area - it’s simple. Do you need eighty-nine pencils? Probably not. Narrow it down to a dozen and call it a day. Do you truly need an entire drawer-full of markers? Surely, no. My kids are all artists who create stacks of art on a daily basis, and they do so happily with a normal amount of supplies that aren’t taking over the whole house.

It’s okay to minimize things that are doing your family good; they will continue to do them good. Go through the erasers, crayons, pens, pencils, notebooks, etc. and get real. What do you truly need and use right now? Let go of some of that clutter.

  • Rethink having a separate curriculum for every child.

If you’ve got kids really spaced out in age or if you’re dealing with special needs, disregard this point. Everyone else, if you can at all simplify your life and your daily rhythm, why aren’t you doing it? A less stressed mama is a happy home! I try to squish my kids together in schooling whenever I can. It saves me time (and space in my home) to teach them all the same thing as often as I can.

For example, if Bella (my oldest, second grade) is learning about the Civil War, I’ll let Leland (five, kinder) and Hudson (four, pre-k) listen in too. I answer all their questions, allow Hudson to color or build Legos while he listens if he’s losing interest (after all this isn’t even for his age group), but we do it together.

It challenges the younger kids, saves me from loads of curriculum for each age, and it’s a big benefit for me of having kids close in age. When I planned and purchased all the pieces of curriculum for our year, I bought everyone their level of math, reading/writing, but everyone works together with Bible, history, art, reading aloud, and anything else that works with everyone.

  • Stop buying homeschool things just because they’re on sale.

This is a big one for all of us because homeschooling is so expensive! But remember to ask yourself, “do we truly NEED this in our homeschool?” Bringing home extra workbooks, reading material, and supplies just because you got a killer deal is only adding to your chaos and clutter and stress levels (remember the high cortisol connection). Just say no! Keep it simple.

  • Simplify your schedule.

If your homeschool routine is working well for you right now, awesome. But if you feel like you’re constantly behind, never actually accomplish what you set out to do when each day starts, and feel like home education is quickly becoming a burden more than a pleasure, hold up. There is so often a lot we tell ourselves we need to do daily or weekly, when it could totally be bi-weekly, monthly, or just every once in awhile.

Look at your homeschool schedule and see where you can create more margin. You’re homeschooling, and that means loads of flexibility and making this whole thing work for you and your family. If it’s not working, tweak something. Can you stop telling yourself that your seven-year-old NEEDS to do art lessons every week and take it down to once a month? Can you focus more on math and reading right now and limit history to once a week?

Sometimes just by creating a little breathing room, we find our new rhythm and our best selves, and can do so much more good for our families. You’re not a failure if you can’t do everything for everyone all the time perfectly, you’re just a human mama doing her best. But you can’t if you don’t give yourself a little grace and permission to rearrange and try again.

One benefit you’ll find in simplifying your homeschool is that, just like when you declutter your house, everything gets lighter. You can easily take a day (or way more than that) off because you’ve simplified your school and your days are focused.

You’ll get a lot more done and the pressure to stay on task every week no matter what’s going on in your family is less intense. We can pick up our day’s work and head to the park or the lake without carrying bags of junk. We could do school in the car, a trailer, outside, wherever we want or need to because it’s simple and light. That’s a great feeling!

How do you simplify in your homeschool? Tell me in the comments!


 

Why We Chose to 'Soft Start' Our Homeschool & How It Works

Doing school at the park next to our house. 

Doing school at the park next to our house. 

Homeschooling has been a somewhat-constant part of our lives since our oldest hit pre-school age four years ago. I’ve learned that my style is very relaxed, and I’ve schooled my daughter as it fit our family. She’s been placed in public school for half of the year two times now (because, life) and now that we’re moved into our new state and settled into work-at-home life, we’re getting back to it after finishing the last five months of first grade at the sweet little elementary school across the street.

I’ve been pulled back to my original reason for homeschooling, and since the older boys are now school-age and Brian is no longer working a normal 9-5, we’re going all in, and we’re pretty excited about it.

We’re not diving straight in though, even as my social media feeds are full of back-to-school photos and Target is pushing pencils and notebooks on us and the season is starting to slowly cool down. Normally, I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person, but in this season of our family’s life, it just hasn’t felt right. However, it also didn’t feel right to do no school yet. The kids are getting antsy and Brian and I have work to do during the day, so some structured school tasks would help everyone out. That’s why we decided to do what we’re calling a soft start.

What a soft start is

Rather than diving into all our curriculum like we normally would, we’re only bringing reading, writing, and art into our days. We’re doing this until the first week of October, at which point we’ll get into the other subjects.

How it works day-to-day

We’re doing a four-day school week (Thursdays and Sundays are our days off both work and school), and we start the school day with a family devotion and prayer time over breakfast.

Afterward, the kids do art class while Brian and I get some work done. They only need to do one twenty-minute lesson, but they end up going through three or four lessons. They LOVE art, and it’s the reason we included it in our soft start. Nonnegotiable for our little herd!

After we all get together at the table for lunch (the goal for each day is to eat all three meals as a family), we spend about 30-45 minutes reading aloud to the kids. One of my main goals in homeschooling is to give the kids a love of books, stories, and adventure. Sometimes we read aloud again in the evenings.

At this point in the day Hudson and the baby take naps, and the older kids have quiet time while Brian and I get some more work done.

We wrap up the afternoon with some copy work to practice writing, and we have the rest of the day (it’s usually only about 3:00 at this point) to run errands, hang out, or go explore.

We do school outside sometimes to change it up, and that keeps the kids really busy. I bring my laptop with me on those days and get work done on-the-go, so I’m not getting behind for the sake of a change in scenery. 

Our soft start curriculum

Family devotion/Bible

Book/Plan  - Leading Little Ones to God

Reading

We’re currently reading Little House in the Big Woods, but we’re following the book list from Ambleside Online (Year 1 & Year 2)

Art

Art Hub for Kids & The Doodle Academy

Writing

We have the younger kids practice their letters and basic words, and Bella writes out Scripture/poetry/positive quotes that we choose randomly.

How we're liking it

I am so happy with our decision to start this school year out “soft”. It’s provided so much peace to our family. We’ve had a crazy year moving cross-country, moving from our temporary condo to a house, the start of our businesses and the transition out of Brian’s job… I could go on but I’m stopping there so you don’t think we’re insane!

It’s just been a very intense year of change for our family. The last thing we needed was any more extreme changes. This just fit us for this year.

Another perk is that we got into a rhythm immediately. Normally it takes a couple weeks (or more) to get out of summer mode and into school mode. I think because the school load wasn’t overwhelming, we found our rhythm right away. When October comes and it’s time to take on the other subjects, we’ll be well-rested and prepared - both the adults and the kids.

Do you homeschool? Have you ever done a soft start?

Stay tuned for more details on how we spend our homeschool days, how we run two businesses from home and homeschool, and the rest of our curriculum for this year! Subscribe to stay in the know.