Big Family, Small Space: School Bus Q&A

Since starting our bus project, we’ve gotten a lot of questions. I mean, it is kind of hard to wrap your mind around a family of six voluntarily living in 275-ish square feet of space. Sometimes, I still wonder at how we’re able to do it, especially when the kids pull out their toys.

Big Family, Small Space School Bus Q&A

But it really is doable and yes, we really do like it.

That said, I thought I’d share our answers to some of our most-asked questions in case you’re curious. And if you have a question that’s not answered, feel free to ask it in the comments below.

When will you move into the bus?

Actually, we’re already in the bus. We moved in in June, after Ian got our bed and the boys’ bunk done. The girls slept on mattresses on the floor for a couple nights while Ian built their bunk (he finished their beds in half the time it took for the boys’ bunk).

We’ve still been using my parents’ house for things, like cooking and bathing. However, now that our kitchen is done, save for some cabinet drawers that need to be painted and installed, we’re eating most of our meals in the bus. We still like to have dinner or lunch with Grandma and Grandpa a couple times during the week.

Our shower area should be finished soon, so we can start bathing in the bus.

Where will you be traveling?

We’ve gotten invites all over the country from friends I’ve met over the past few years.  Colorado, Georgia and Tennessee are on the list, as is the Oregon coast. Really, though, we’re winging this whole thing and trying not to get too attached to our plans, as we’ve found in the past that they often change.

Recently I’ve felt like staying in central Oregon long-term is something we need to do (I’m sure Ian has felt this way all along but has just been waiting for me to catch up). We have a lot of friends in the area with whom we’d love to grow deeper relationships and “do life” with.

And I’ve felt such a strong need (I’ve been trying to ignore it, but it just gets stronger) to stay and teach people in our community about growing, preparing and preserving real food, living more sustainably and taking care of their families naturally. As I frequently tell my husband, I just want to feed people.

So traveling in the bus may look like something we do a few months out of the year while we park here and strengthen relationships in our community.

How long will you live in the bus?

When we started the bus, Ian said he’d live in the bus for at least one year, whether he liked it or not. Now that we’ve been in it for almost six months, I’m wondering if he meant a year from when we moved in, or a year from when it’s finished. Which is it, love?

Really, though, we don’t know. Our long-term goal is to buy some land and do the homesteading thing. It’s been a dream for a while now and we’re working to save up money for a down payment on some land.

We have yet to find the right spot, but when we do, we’ll most likely live in the bus on the land while we build, or if there’s a house there already, how long we stay on the bus depends on how much fixing up is required.

Will you sell the bus when you buy land?

Again, we’re not sure. I’d love to rent it out on AirBnB or use it as a guest house, as hospitality is really important to us.

How do you handle, ahem, intimacy on the bus?


This question always makes me laugh. We had four kids in five years and we’ve always been co-sleepers, with kids somewhere in our room, so this hasn’t been that big of a change for us.

Getting creative with when/where we have sex is something we’re, um, good at. Hence the four kids in five years.

Are you a tree hugger?

Um, no. However, we do believe that being good stewards means being intentional with all of the resources God has entrusted us with, and our planet is no exception.

Frankly, a lot of the simplifying and living more naturally came from a need to save money. Now, we still do it for that reason but also because we want to live as sustainably as possible. Just because we have a large family and a great excuse for consuming a lot of resources and creating a lot of waste doesn’t mean we should.

What about schooling for the kids?

We’ve always been homeschoolers and will continue to do so in our bus. Right now, we’re using Easy Peasy Homeschool, which I love. And my kids are even enjoying it! Yes!

Will you have any privacy?

Yes. For now, we’re using curtains for privacy (between the bunks and our room or between the bunks and the living area) and it’s working pretty well (Ian may put in doors in the future). The bathroom will have a door.

How do you keep it clean?

We don’t have much stuff. This helps a LOT. However, the kids do still have some toys and they cleverly chose Legos when I gave them each a small box and told them they could only keep what would fit in the box. (Our youngest daughter also kept a lot of stuffed animals that seem to be multiplying.)

We’re working on putting one thing away before moving to another activity. I’m sure they’ll get it someday. (Right?) A quick clean up at night is mandatory as I hate waking up to a dirty home.

Do you have a bathroom?

Yes, thank goodness. For a while, we didn’t, which meant walking to my parents’ house in the middle of the night if we had to go or going outside, which I am not good at. At all. (Ian’s sister sent me this to help, but I’m still too intimidated to use it.)

How will you make money?

My husband is a paramedic and has been working part-time while he finishes the bus. When we’re on the road we’ll have to figure something else out, though, as it’s not a job that’s easy to just pick up anywhere.

Thankfully, we’ve been blessed to have this blog grow a lot in the last year, which has helped us bring in location independent income. The main income streams are:

So please, if you enjoy this blog, please share it with your friends. :) (There are some social media share buttons below if you’d like to use those.)

Do you have any questions for us?

For more pics of the bus, you can check out my Flickr stream and follow me on Instagram. And see our latest updates here.

Want to learn more about living in a tiny space and catch a feature on our “home school bus”? Grab Issue 11 of Tiny House Magazine:

Tiny House Magazine - with a feature of the Shalom Mama "home school bus"

Nina Nelson

Nina Nelson is an unconventional mom determined to live a life of adventure and purpose. She does that alongside her husband, Ian, and their four crazy, adorable kids. She loves reading, snuggling and giggling at miniature horses.
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  1. says

    Are you writing a book about your experience? I see a lot of living off the grid sorts of FB posts and blogs these days, so I book about it would likely do well.

  2. Courtney says

    Just found your blog and I am loving it! If you happen to travel to TN, I would totally attend a seminar/workshop/speaking with some of your simple and healthy living experiences and advice…maybe speaking as another source of income???

  3. Cari M says

    How freaking cool is that?!?! If you ever decide to put it on airbnb I’m totally there!!! What an amazing adventure! Have fun!

  4. mymichaelrosenbaumCarol Ann says

    You are amazing! My hubby and I have talked about small living spaces, but didn’t think it was doable with two small children – LOL. I guess this just proves us wrong!

  5. Jennifer says

    I was forced to live on a bus (several different ones) while growing up. I didn’t like being made fun of or talked about. My brother and sister are much younger and it didn’t bother them the way it did me. However, i would do it as an adult.

  6. Karen says

    Whoa…I am totally on board for this type of living. In fact, I just sent my husband a text and told him how serious I am about this – I am a teacher for a public school system in Georgia (looking to get hired to teach via cyber academy) so I bet we could find a bus and do the conversion too! Since we’re planning to move home – well, to my husband’s home (he’s from Nova Scotia) we’ll need something to live in while we build our home once we make this huge move across the border. I am so stoked right now I could just burst! We want to get out of debt so badly right now so this came at a great time. I’d be so excited if you and your family make it to Georgia on your travels. :)

  7. says

    Hi, we’re doing the same thing with a double-decker bus here in SoCal :) I’ve loved seeing all your videos and you’ve given me a ton of ideas! Our bus was already converted when we bought it and we’re just fixing up what’s already there. I would love to connect with you some time and pick your brain.