Words by: Jessica Sarchett
Five years ago we were ready for a new adventure. We’d spent almost a decade raising our kids on one-income in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S. We were tired of being forced to move every couple of years #rentersproblems and wanted more control over our living situation. We’ve always lived frugally, paved our own way, and thought outside the box. So after a year’s worth of research, we decided to buy an RV and take on the challenge of living tiny and even more frugally. I knew that four people living and homeschooling in less than 350 square feet would mean no more dedicated homeschool room, playroom, or bookshelves, so it was time to level up my minimalistic efforts and free digital homeschool resource game.
We traded in loose papers for notebooks and sketchbooks, purchased a couple of tablets and hotspots, loaded up on library cards, and dove into the wonderful world of ebooks. I quickly realized that utilizing tech (tablets + a computer) would be a big part of our homeschooling experience, and I began hunting down all the free online resources that I could find. Let me tell you there is A LOT out there.
I quickly realized that we could continue our homeschooling journey without spending very much money and by having less stuff. We’ve learned to be more intentional about how we spend money and how we use our very limited space. With our unique living situation, I found that one quality app/website can easily replace 10 books. I call this Freeschooling. It’s about not only utilizing as many free resources as possible, but freeing our minds, time, and, space to approach learning in a new way.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a bookworm. My love of reading goes way back. There’s nothing like the smell and feel of a book in your hands. Me and my pops used to go to bookstores together on the weekend, and I would sit and read a whole book in an afternoon while he browsed the aisles. We still have a small home library in the RV and borrow books from libraries when we can. I strive to instill a love of reading and books in my kids. We won’t always live in the RV, but with limited space this is how we make it work for now!
Not only do I find free resources online but the kids also learn so much through hands on apps and websites. I am fully aware that tech is a touchy topic among parents. To screen time or not to screen time? What is too much screen time? Is screen time safe for kids? While I fully respect and understand families who keep their homes low tech, I’ve come to embrace that tech is a big part of our homeschooling experience, and that works for my family. But, I believe, there can be a balance. For example, after living tiny for the past four years, the outdoors has become an extension of our home, and we spend loads of time outside! So, even though from the outside looking in there is lots of screentime happening, it doesn’t mean we don’t get outdoors. We do both, and it fits our family well.
Over the years, I’ve learned that our homeschool can have everything it needs through Freeschooling. We don’t feel we are missing out on anything and have even gained more because of it! Being frugal, embracing tech, and practicing minimalism through thoughtful purchases has been a game changer for our family. Whether you’re trying to save money or ready to lessen your load, Freeschooling can work for anyone!
Jessica Sarchett is a partner to one, a parent to two, and a lifelong learner. She has micro-blogged about everything from everyday life to homeschooling for years and recently started wefreeschool.com where she shares tips on homeschooling for free. Follow her on Instagram.