Take a Peek Inside What It’s Like Homeschooling in an Airstream
“How do you do it?” If I had $1 for every time someone has asked me that in the last year. I’d have an excellent hands-on homeschool math activity! Almost everyone asks a variation of this question when they find out I live in an Airstream that I work and homeschool from.
Truthfully? It’s exactly the same way you do. One day at a time. Is that too simple of an answer, though? Our experience is quite different from others who choose an at home education. Aren’t all experiences different to some extent? My classroom is a lot smaller (and a lot less Instagram ready.)
How I Ended Up Living, and Homeschooling, in an Airstream
Before I tell you about what my days look like, let me tell you a bit about how I ended up here. Like many things, it’s a very long story. I'll provide the short version. It started with having a baby while living in a one-bedroom apartment. We were content with a small space. Eventually, we have to move somewhere bigger. No apartment complexes would lease a one-bedroom to a family of three. As our space grew, so did our stuff. We realized we wanted to downsize, a process that took several years.
In 2013, we ended up living in a tiny rental house. During our time there we started toying with the idea of building a tiny house. We even got on the wait-list for our preferred builder. Most of our free time was devoted to designing tiny house layouts, planning, and researching. It was a year-long wait list so we had A LOT of time before we had to put any money down. During that time we came across information that made us second guess our decision.
Our quest took us, where else, to Craigslist. One night we saw her, our beautiful little Airstream Argosy. We knew right away she had to be ours. Within a couple weeks we owned her and began researching a whole new kind of project. Our Airstream renovation took about a year and we moved in last fall. Currently we are stationary but we plan to be able to travel full-time in the next couple of years.
It has been an adventure for sure. An adventure in personal space, planning, organizing, and much more. It’s especially been an adventure in homeschooling! We can’t have a beautiful Montessori-inspired homeschool room in this tiny little home. I have to exercise a lot of self-control on what I buy. We’re having educational experiences we never could have imagined would come from this way of life.
My school day looks a little different than most
Homeschooling in general is a huge commitment. Trying it in a tiny space has major ups, and downs. For example, we have to “build” our classroom every single day. School happens in the living room. Which also happens to be the dining room. It’s also my office. Oh, and my yoga studio. Don’t forget, it’s also my bedroom. So… as you can see, we have to build and tear down everything. Every day. This adds a bit of time into our homeschool routine.
Everything has to be put away as soon as we’re done. In such a tiny space, it’s easy for things to get messy fast. Plus there’s no space to leave things out! During our school day, we end up spending a lot of time putting away books and materials after lessons are complete.
We don’t have beautiful Montessori shelving. This is something I often long for. Instead manipulatives are stored in the drawer that is next to my son’s jammies. Items we’re not currently using are stored in upper cabinets. Sometimes I don’t plan right and we have to spend extra time taking everything down to get what we need to finish our lesson. Somedays I love how neat and tidy we keep things. Other days I’m nothing short of annoyed by the extra time this adds to my day.
As much as possible, we have school outside. It’s not uncommon for us to haul everything out to a mat on the grass. One of our goals with living small was to spend more time outside. Our hope was to have a space so small we felt "forced" outside for more space. That has definitely been something we’ve experienced. Even with only three of us, space runs out pretty fast. We end up outdoors or loading up our materials and heading to a local park often.
Frustrations and disagreements are more acutely felt in a tiny space. If a lesson is difficult, or we’re disagreeing, it can get hard. Even though my son has his own room, it feels a lot more intense when that room is 3 feet away instead of on the other side of the house. We generally get along quite well but when we need our space, it can be difficult. Nothing can be left on the “back burner,” so to speak. We’ve also learned techniques for handling frustrations and disappointment.
On the flip side, homeschooling and living in a tiny space has made us so much closer. We have to have good, honest communication.
We have to deal with issues. We are grateful for the chance to snuggle up and read literature. We love laughing together writing silly stories. I know all homeschool Mamas enjoy these sweet moments. Somehow it feels different in a cozy, tiny space. I love the concept of Hygge that’s sweeping the nation. When we’re sitting inside having a great lesson together, I feel like I get the concept. When we were schooling in a more “normal” living space, it didn’t feel as Hygge and special as it does now.
My Encouragement to You
Nearly as often as I have people ask me how I do it, I have people say “I’ve always wanted to try that!” It is a HARD lifestyle, so much harder than we imagined it would be. It’s also so much more rewarding than we thought it would be. We love it and the pros definitely outweigh the cons for us.
It never hurts to give something new a try. Pack up your ShillerLearning materials, print a bunch of FREE printable packs (they hardly take up any space!) rent the house for a bit, and give it a trial run. There’s a whole community of Road Schoolers and tiny living dwellers, waiting to welcome you! Make sure to take advantage of the incredible community out there. It’s full of homeschoolers from all walks of life all over the world.
Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.