A one-room schoolhouse philosophy


The following is a guest post by Cara Thompson of Write Season.

There are so many amazing home school moms online.

So many, that my first year of active educating in our home, my heart was given over to finding out how the majority of those moms set up their homes for school.

I zeroed in on the moms who have personalities that I idealize, and I read all their posts and watched all their vlogs. I wanted to join the ranks and provide my family with the best homeschool set-up possible.

I researched and added many voices to my philosophies. Every day I pushed myself to add more good stuff to the list of things to do, to buy, to organize.

And that good stuff began to pile up: Desks. Bulletin boards. Alphabet signs. Hanging card holders. Chore charts. Calendars. Lists. Planners. Oh, office stores. How I over-spent…

One problem: our home has less than a thousand square feet.

So as the pile continued to grow, so did the wedge between us and our priorities. You know, the real reason we do this.

In an effort to perfect our space according to what so-and-so was doing, I organized my children right out of the space that was intended for them. In my good intention to make our space perfect, I actually lost my focus on what was best.

And that’s when I realized the power of focused attention. That only one room matters in your home when you’ve taken the path to educating your children: the room you are in together.


Home is wherever you are, and education is dynamic. Education can be whenever you’re engaged in the process of question and answer over any topic.

Don’t neglect this process in order to set up the perfect space. It isn’t the space that counts, it’s the people in it who make all the difference. So just remember that together you are the home, and school is where you are.

Here are some action thoughts that help me keep focused:

Stop idealizing someone else’s space.

Hear me: inspiration is a miracle! For goodness sake, keep seeking inspiration and keep gaining insight but “research” can be an excuse to delay engaging in right now.

Make it fit your family.

Make a mental list of what inspires your children and organize your space to encompass their imagination. Don’t form your home after someone else’s gifts.

Be open to change.

Don’t get hung up on making your space look like the “right space.” It just has to feel like your space.

Recognize your limits.

You can’t create more space, but you can cultivate a better atmosphere.

Remember inspiration doesn’t cost money!

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that the newest organizational trend will solve your space problems.


Photo by Jodimichelle

Accept and attack a certain amount of daily mess.

Accept people with their stuff. Attack the clutter that has been left behind.

Remember that the home trains the heart.

What is on the outside has a dynamic effect on what is on the inside.

We need to take time to evaluate our priorities and then take the steps necessary to make our family life reflect the simple life we crave … You want a simpler life at home for your family – a home that is clean and organized and fits your life’s purpose … It won’t happen for us – mature adults proactively make decisions and form habits to shape their home lives into the lifestyle they desire.”
~ Tsh Oxenreider, Organized Simplicity

So how did we solve our space and school set-up problem?

By following these action thoughts and by settling into the atmosphere of “togetherness.”

Attitude plays a more important role in education than order.

Stay simple, stay small, grow contentment. This might just be your year to embrace your space.

How have you learned to make peace with your homeschool space?

About Cara Thompson

Cara loves three creative kids, one man, and One King. She cloth diapers, makes yogurt, home educates, and blogs about life at The Home Learner. She is learning to live with one main goal: be present not perfect.


  1. This is a great post, and a great lesson.
    Anne’s latest post: Baby Robins–The (Joke’s On Us) Conclusion

  2. I always wanted to hang up all the cute calendars and signs too, but they would always get torn down by a rambunctious little boy, so I had to go with a minimalist style!

  3. I totally get this! Two things came to mind while I read this- first was when you said “accept people and attack a certain amount of daily mess”. I had a little laugh…since its so easy to attack the PEOPLE who leave the mess! And if we do that, then we wreck the home atmosphere, no matter how organized and decorated everything is. The other thing is that I often feel down because I can’t afford for my house to look like the ones I see that are all the example of “organized.” I even have a book that says that if I choose the right containers, the ones that “speak” to me, that I will feel good about using them and stay more organized. Well, the thing is, that those containers have a price tag. Somewhere I read that its better to be organized with a cardboard box system than to not be organized since you can’t afford all the pretty containers. I agree! I would much rather have those pretty containers but I instead work at accepting what I can have and being thankful for the organization I can create with that. (Again, the theme of accepting the situation like above with accepting the people).

  4. I needed this reminder! So easy to get caught up in all the blogs and the perfect little school spaces!

  5. Thank you so much for this. We have a small home also and our school room has been torn upside down for the better part of this month because I can’t seem to make it look like the inspiring ones I see online! So glad I’m not the only one who has gone through this! Love this reminder.

    • Carrie,
      “torn upside down…” That is where this post came from in my life! The insight here wasn’t gained through getting things right the first go. I’ve learned to be okay taking baby steps. Growth is growth! Doing nothing is, well, depressing.
      I hope you see even the smallest glimpse of growth today! Keep learning and leave the “ideal school” out of it. 😉
      Cara’s latest post: how organizing held me back from my calling

  6. Great article. It’s an ongoing process, but I am learning to make peace with my (messier than I would like) space by focusing on how much we are all learning (the process that creates the mess) instead of the mess.
    Amy’s latest post: A Birthday Party Project

  7. This is a really sweet article with a family first focus. i love it! It’s what homeschooling it all about-keeping your focus-on why you’re doing this, who you’re doing for, and what really matters in the whole big scheme of things. I love the “don’t get caught up in getting too organized” idea, too.

    • Cynthia,
      It’s been truly life changing for me to keep my kids home and be responsible for their learning and development – it’s been a window into my own past to see and address the reasons why I get “caught up” in many distracting activities.
      I sincerely hope this article is a boost in the arm for all those who are feeling their energy sapped by the wrong things.
      Thanks for commenting!
      Cara’s latest post: how organizing held me back from my calling

  8. I am struggling severely with over-researching and planning as an excuse to not engage and just “do”. I have been beating myself up over it, feeling really stuck and burned out. Every time I pare stuff back and determine to only do what’s necessary, I always end up adding things back one at a time, saying, ” we’ll, we HAVE to do this and it would be so disappointing to not do that… I just don’t want to compromise anything but I know I have to. My clutter is in my brain, not on the tables and desks. I wish it was. It seems with every idea my brain sort of explodes with THINGS that I want to buy and get ready so that when we all sit down together, everything will be ready, and beautiful and fun… And perfect. Ha! And when it never is, never does… It’s discouraging. Any advice how to stop the over planning madness? 🙂 thanks for this timely post!

    • Jenny,
      First, let me just put my hand on your shoulder and say “thank you” for being honest and raw. It’s so hard to be vulnerable when things are cluttered in the brain. I know, I’ve been discouraged far too many times, and I consequently feel the urge to “hide” any evidence of failure so that I (and everyone I value) continue to believe that we have something “perfect” going on at our house. So, thank you for peeling a little of that false perfect off. It’s a good exercise for us all.
      Second, to answer your request for advice on how to stop the over planning madness, Here are some suggestions:
      1st I would take a screen fast. Sign out, log off, power down, and get some distance. For me, that looks like an hour of complete silence in the morning, or 10 minutes in my bedroom alone in the afternoon. Silence will work wonders for your brain! If you make this a habit, I would bet that over time you’ll see that clutter slowly clear up. Not all at once, heaven knows that all those good ideas can’t just disappear in a day. But giving your mind some consistent space and time to evaluate your own thoughts, ideas, dreams, etc. will empower you to make the excellent choice for your home, your children, and for YOU. Excellence is the goal – not perfection.
      Excellence is doing the best given the situation and resources; it allows grace.
      Perfection is bossy and says there’s only one right way to do it. No grace allowed.
      2nd I would work on anchors. The things you have to do each day just to survive: eat, sleep, and hygiene. Knit reading, singing, and problem-solving into the fabric of your routine. And while you are doing this knitting, stop doing all the other “good things.” Put down the Instructors Guides and walk away. We sing in the morning when we have certain activities that call for us getting ready quickly like: “chomp, chomp; chore, chore; get out the door, get out the door.” That’s one of my kids’ favorite chants – our family’s anthem cry for early morning commitments that work against the grain of lazing around in pajamas all morning. It reminds us all that we are on the same team. Another one is we work through read alouds at lunch. We eat everyday, and we want to read everyday. But if we don’t knit the reading to something essential, sometimes it doesn’t happen.
      3rd I would remove any and all thoughts of competition. This may not be something you wrestle with, but I have found it in myself that when I am looking for inspiration or ideas, I unwittingly start to compare and compete in order to feel competent. Hear me when I say, that is not where your competency comes from! No one can hand you their competency nor can they take yours from you. If you start to feel discouraged before you even begin, stop and regroup before seeking inspiration again. You may be surprised to find the inspiration is already inside of you – and just by giving yourself that silence I talked about 1st – the next right choice becomes clear.
      You have my hand, friend. Let’s walk another mile together.
      Cara’s latest post: Monday Mindset :: Vol. 3

      • Thank you, Cara, for such a thoughtful response. Your statement… “Excellence is doing the best given the situation and resources; it allows grace. Perfection is bossy and says there’s only one right way to do it. No grace allowed.” … is what really hit home with me.

        I think it is some form of perfectionism I am dealing with. I am not a type A person, but I am an anxious, “all-or-nothing” type person. I will stay locked in procrastination and planning for way too long until I feel everything is good enough to present, or go through with. And it is a fear of failure as well. I don’t want a day or week of schooling to go bad because then I struggle with worries that it will someday be a failure overall. All these things just keep me thinking, and planning, and arranging, and researching, and organizing… but not DOING.

        Now, don’t get me wrong, we do our schooling. But this “thing” rears its head a few times a year. I get into a rut, and all my plans get messed up, and we get behind. Then we are driven by what we have to do just to finish on time, and there is no time for the beautiful or creative. It’s self-sabotage.

        I will try to apply what you said above. I will post it in my office. You pointed out that perfection and excellence are different and a light really went on for me. Thank you so much!

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