Yes, a yurt can be turned into a non-traditional homeschool space! We love the idea of having an all-season spot for learning in the midst of a more-natural environment! This post describes our family’s new-to-us “school room”, which is a 17′ diameter yurt in our backyard!
It’s true that as a family, we’ve been intrigued and thrilled with many aspects of what many would call today – “a homesteading or natural lifestyle”. Really though for us, it is just continuing and adding to how I was raised in a rural community. My parents and grandparents enjoyed larger gardens, canned, fixed things themselves, invented or made do with many things, sewed clothing, quilted, baked bread, etc.. My husband and I have raised our kids most of the years, in a log home. It’s just something that we all happen to really like!
(Note: To clarify what a more natural or homesteading lifestyle means to us, it is NOT about being a “prepper” type. Instead, it’s about simply putting into practice what our bodies do well with (e.g. less EMFs more fresh air) alongside home and land skills that people have been using for centuries in order to work with their hands (1 Thes. 4:9-12). A Christian homesteading lifestyle should reflect dependence on God and love for people, NOT self-sufficiency, isolationism, or fear for survival.)
When it became very apparent that living more naturally in today’s world was not only “fun and helpful”, but also necessary for better health for our family, we began thinking about ways we could include more time in homeschool life for being outdoors in a natural environment. (In 2017 and 2018, it was discovered that I was severely affected by electromagnetic frequencies – most severely by radio frequencies (EMF-RF) (e.g. wireless technologies, smart meters, cell phones, cell towers, microwaves) which burned/peeled my eyes (causing a functional blindness at its height of damage; considered corneal disease as a result of environmental injury), my face, and other parts of my body and resulted in a frequent ebb and flow of damage then healing/recovery in a non-wireless environment. Electricity itself (another form of electromagnetic frequencies), also influences both my tolerance of and rate of healing from those injuries, as well as adds to the “overall body burden” or “bucket” as I explain in my blog section called EMF MCS. Thus, being away from ALL forms of manmade electromagnetic frequencies for longer periods of time, is a very beneficial choice for my health, and of course, for our children too).
Of course, we still DO use electricity for some things and obviously, I’m writing this blog post on a computer (all wired, not wireless). And we do live in a normal house most of the time. But, now we can also spend hours each week, in a variety of weather, away from electricity, with yurt schooling!
What does ours look like inside? Well, for the most part, it essentially resembles a dedicated homeschool room which some homeschooling families have in their family room or basement or office space in a house. But it does have a few differences…
- There are no corners in a yurt. That means, my high schoolers can’t have their “own corner”! 🤣 It also means that there was some creative thinking going on to try to figure out how to arrange rectangles in a circular space! With 6 students plus 1 parent/teacher, that meant that desk areas were not all straight but rather staggered a bit, to allow for walking space on angles.
- There are no computers or wires of any kind in our yurt. (It’s true that some people who actually live full-time in one of these shelters do have wireless technology and/or electrical wiring through an extension cord, but we’ve chosen not to set-up for that.) That means that when we have multi-media as part of our lesson work, we have to go back into our house for that portion. And that means careful scheduling, to think ahead, so that we aren’t going back and forth a lot during the school day, especially when we anticipate winter months ahead with boots, mittens, and jackets.
- Thinking of winter (and even fall and spring), a yurt is a place that can be used during four seasons, even in Canada! A tiny woodstove will heat it when it’s cold. (A special cone for the stovepipe was included in the yurt kit for that purpose.) The insulation is natural wool-based. And the sun will help to heat it during the daytime too.
- And for warmer days, we need to take a few moments each day to open the windows and the large dome on the top, for cooling air circulation. An added bonus is that flying insects tend to swoop upwards to that dome and out into the open air, rather than bugging us inside the yurt. I’ve been in the yurt also for rainy and windy times and the yurt is fine for that kind of weather too. Because we live in an area where high winds (“les suetes”) can occur, we keep the center strapped down as an extra precaution.)
- There were a few reasons why we chose a yurt built by yurta.ca (not an affiliate link), rather than a typical rectangle outbuilding…. large amount of natural light for day-use, lack of chemical off-gassing in its materials, lack of requiring electricity for a space big enough for our larger family (since it isn’t under any building code because it’s considered a non-permanent structure), usefulness for year-round including in cold Canadian winters and warmer summers, portability if we ever choose to move it elsewhere, ease of assembly (we didn’t want a long building project for a school-room), durability and maintenance very reasonable.
- Sometimes we will need outerwear to “get to class”, instead of just going into a living room or around a kitchen table, but that short walk in the fresh air is shorter than walking to a bus stop and will be good too!
- Oh, I won’t be able to “multi-task” as easily (e.g. can’t mop, fold laundry at the same time as a class in a yurt). But then again, my kids can’t disappear as easily, to be distracted on something else while waiting a few moments for me to finish helping a sibling. So, with the times indoors for meals and media portions, this will likely allow for sufficient multi-tasking for “mom”.
Because we also wanted the yurt to function as a multi-purpose space for sleeping (guests or ourselves) at times, most of the furnishings in it, can be condensed into a smaller space for those times.
Rob built a two-sided blackboard/bulletin board on wheels so we can simply wheel that piece to the side. The top ledge is wide-enough to be a bookshelf too. We need to still add an “old-fashioned schoolroom” coat-hook on one end (which can hang multiple coats) and a pencil sharpener on the other end.
I found some clips which can attach onto posters too. (As time goes on, some posters go on the bulletin board but right now, we aren’t doing “full-school” because we still have applesauce and tomatoes to can, peppermint to harvest 😊, etc.. So our focus isn’t on a lot of academics with posters at the moment.)
We need to still find a futon somewhere to be a more comfortable place to read stories together and be able to be converted into a better overnight bed (compared to air mattresses which can leak). But in the meantime, the first “sofa” Rob and I owned from years ago is still around so it’s at least a seat for the littles and me.
Three of the desks are nest-able together. (Rob made a few nest-able desks when we lived/homeschooled in a smaller log home years ago when we needed to think how to make a very efficient use of space too.) The other desk can nest under the 2 stackable desks, if needed. Chairs can be stacked too. (I like the idea of giving each student his/her own space, rather than just one large table. And I wanted chairs which are comfortable for good posture, not benches.)
My grandma taught her young granddaughter (me!) how to sew on her treadle machine and now that serves as the “teacher’s desk”, with chalk, pens, stickers, etc. in the drawers. Maybe it will be motivating for me to get my paperwork done sooner since I do also like to sew. Hmmm…
The brown cupboard contains books, binders, manipulatives, and other supplies (even a couple of puppets!) for most subjects. And we’re making use of all sides of this piece of furniture.
My writing boards can slide in-between it and the yurt wall, next to a meter stick, a thermometer, and our child’s size broom/dustpan.
The windows/screens have awnings for warmer months and clear coverings for the cooler months. (When I took the photos, it was a windier day so I didn’t open all of the windows.) The natural light inside is very pleasant, regardless of how bright or cloudy the sun is. Sometimes, I’ve had homeschooled in a greenhouse in the winter for a short break from indoors, and while that has been good in many ways, the brightness of the sunshine was sometimes too bright on white paper. But in the yurt, the lighting is great!
The door is OK for my height but the “tall people” have to “duck”. So, I put a special Bible verse decoration above it to help to highlight the door’s height. (You can also find it here in our online shop.)
The yurt was made for us by the people at Yurta.ca in Ontario, Canada. We were and are very impressed with the quality of workmanship and ease of assembly. It is a fantastic design and Pat and his team worked very hard with the various handmade components that it has. (This company has been very busy in recent months so, if you are also wanting a yurt from them, consider ordering far in advance from when you expect to use it and show them some patience throughout the process. It’s a great product but it takes lots of time to build all the pieces. For us, we ordered last fall and it arrived late spring. The platform we assembled it on was built by local contractors and that part took a few days. We had a couple of friends help us put the yurt up one morning.)
So, that is our “beginning to homeschool in a yurt” story! 😊
An Update to this post (as weather turns windy, rainy, colder):
It takes about an hour to warm up the yurt with the small woodstove we’ve put in there but it’s nice and cozy by the time the kids and I go out there. We’ve learned two things for homeschooling in it during this season …
- In the high winds (e.g. “Les Suetes”), the yurt remains stable (and we’ve followed instructions to add the interior posts for those times). However, the noise of the wind against the canvas is very loud and so we’re now inside the house on windier/stormier days. But we go back out for the calmer days.
- The higher humidity of the our climate and the temperature difference between the cold nights and the woodstove on during the daytime ended up creating significant moisture/condensation on some books so we brought the brown cupboard and most paper-based items inside the house for this season instead to protect them from damage. We were already taking pencil cases that had inks or calculators in and out for each school-day once weather had turned colder and we’ll just continue using backpacks for this season. The bulletin board continues to be fine for posting paper on it though. (And I really love using the blackboard and going through lessons sitting together on the futon we got from friends of ours!) Homeschooling thus far has been one of my favourite years!
You might also be interested in my posts about…
Simplifying Homeschool “Schedules” (coming soon)
Simplifying Home Meals (coming soon)