Imagine having a big family — make that really big, as in seven kids. Now picture a small house — like, tiny: 230 square feet. And now think about taking a nine-month road trip with your big family in your tiny house…which used to be a school bus. It would drive most parents to the brink, but with a lot of organization and a little delegation, Julie and Shane Good stay admirably calm living this way. "Our kids are accustomed to not having a ton of space," says Shane, 39. "It comes naturally to big families. And being able to get out and see the real world and let kids experience what it's like to climb hills and see rivers is exciting."
Six years ago, the Goods sold their home in Alabama and souped up a 35-foot International AmTran Genesis school bus. Julie homeschools the kids (Isaiah, 13; Arwen, 12; Ashton, 10; Ethan, 8; Elisha, 6; Kiera, 4; and Seth, 2), and Shane and Julie make money through various jobs; their YouTube show, ; and performing contemporary Christian music at churches. This lifestyle is the couple's version of living their values: "I never saw my parents when I was growing up, because I was so busy with activities," Julie says. "When we started having a family, I wanted to be a part of my kids' lives as much as possible."
Isn't there such a thing as too close for comfort? Sometimes, Julie admits: "I don't care if you're a saint — living in a small space has its moments." All kids, of course, squabble at times. Still, the payoffs are worth it, Julie says: "The greatest lesson in our family is learning to respect and love one another."
The "skoolie's" interior is highly compartmentalized. The rear is a 71/2-foot-long bed where the couple sleeps and everyone snuggles for movie nights. Above-bed cabinets store clothes (each child has a few outfits), and the hallway is flanked by two sets of bunk beds for five kids; the two middle boys sleep on the dining table, which converts into a bed. The full kitchen, which has a deep sink that doubles as a baby bathtub, allows Julie to whip up meals from scratch.
All nine Goods share one toilet and shower, though there is also an outdoor shower. Clutter is kept to a minimum: Each of the younger children has a decorated oatmeal container for storing LEGO and other toys. "Once in a while I'm tempted to go shopping, but I'll talk myself out of buying things," Julie says. Depending on their plans, the Goods drive all night or park and sleep under the lights in a supermarket parking lot. If the couple leaves on foot to run an errand, the kids may surprise them by tidying up. "A small environment gets messy, but seven pairs of hands can clean fast," Julie says.
The Goods know that they won't be able to live like this forever, but for now, they cherish the closeness. "Parents today are so disconnected from their kids because of schedules," Shane says. "Whatever we do, we do it together."
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of GolfHr.