To be honest, I personally cannot understand those other homeschool mothers who create a homeschool schedule at the beginning of the school year and stick to it all year long. My Type A side does like the idea but my Rebel side (which is stronger) can’t handle the idea.
Our homeschool is constantly evolving as we are.
We have tried a number of different homeschool styles in the last few years, from the more traditional school method, to unschooling to the Charlotte Mason method . . . I have nothing against any of those styles, if you’ve been around here for awhile you’ll probably actually know that I really wish we could follow the Charlotte Mason method but none of those methods really work with my, or my kids’, personalities.
If we had to follow a particular method I am sure we could. I did manage to attend school from K-12, go to college and university, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling (I actually have a lot of favorite things) is that we can do what works best for us.
And what works best for us is a relaxed, simple/minimalistic homeschool approach.
Somehow I forget this each year and at the start of each year I want to try all the things and end up realizing a month or so into the school year that a more minimal approach works best for us. I guess I’m constantly learning too.
WHY I LOVE OUR RELAXED AND MINIMAL HOMESCHOOL APPROACH
- I am more relaxed – a mom who is not stressed is going to result in a better learning environment
- we get to learn about fun things we are interested in
- we can make changes on the fly – if I had planned something for the day but the weather had other plans we can adjust things no problem
- it’s a well rounded experience – contrary to what many people believe, taking a relaxed approach actually results in a well rounded educational experience
- sick days don’t mess with the “schedule” – sick days are no fun but at least I don’t have to feel stressed because things aren’t going according to plan, we just move around whatever we had planned to the next non-sick day
- it gives my kids plenty of free play time to use their imaginations and deepen their friendship
- we can “do school” anywhere – from our couch to our car to an airplane to a different country!
WHAT IS A RELAXED AND MINIMAL HOMESCHOOL?
NOT FOLLOWING A CURRICULUM
A big way we keep things relaxed and minimal is by not using a curriculum. I know not following a curriculum can start the feelings of anxiety for many homeschool moms. I wish I could chat with each and everyone that felt that way because not following a curriculum is actually a lot more relaxing than trying to follow one.
When following a curriculum many people feel like they will know if their kids are “on track” but that’s a slippery slope, because whose “track” are they on? There is a standard set out there for the school system so teachers have something to grade kids against but one of the benefits of homeschooling is not having to fit your kids into the curriculum mold.
Both of my children are “advanced” in certain areas and “behind” in others, but because we don’t follow a curriculum they can continue to advance in their strong areas and work on the weaker areas without feeling less than other kids their age.
FOLLOWING THEIR INTERESTS
If we were following a more traditional school approach I know that I would feel the need to “check all the boxes” and we wouldn’t have time left over to pursue my kids’ interests.
My son is a very hands-on kind of kid and a good portion of his kindergarten year has been taking apart a tape deck and old alarm clock to see the circuit boards and other parts inside. As well as learning about circuits by playing different games, using his LittleBits R2D2 and other STEM types of things. This is not the typical kindergarten experience but another benefit of homeschooling is being able to create a custom educational experience for each child.
We are going to be taking the next few months to go deep into learning about France and Italy since we are planning a trip there for the fall.
As a former teacher I know a lot of teachers get annoyed if a child is out of class for a few days, never mind a few weeks. And when a child is on a trip the teacher will often send worksheets along so they don’t get “behind” – what about all the child will be learning about on their trip?!?!
I love that we have the flexibility over the next few months to learn about geography, history, landmarks, language, currencies, etc, it’s educational and helps prepare the kids for the trip which I think will also sweeten the experience when we are there.
HOW WE KEEP THINGS MINIMAL
It can be so easy to fill up rooms of homeschool supplies. I’m pretty sure a good part of the reason I became a teacher to begin with is because of my love of stationary and school supplies.
We keep things minimal by not having a curriculum, making use of our library and keeping most of our school work in composition notebooks (I hope to have a post about our composition notebooks up in the next few weeks).
That being said, we definitely still do have some homeschool supplies. I do keep a good stack of chapter books (pretty much all purchased from the thrift store for $1 or less a book) and we have a variety of other things as well.
I like to keep our focus a little more narrow each month so for the past few months I’ve been creating a Brain Box that holds most of our supplies we will be using for that month.
WHAT ELSE A RELAXED AND MINIMAL LOOKS LIKE & MEANS TO US:
- not worrying about spelling in elementary school – I plan on modelling good spelling and allowing for plenty of reading time but spelling tests and practicing incorrect words over and over again isn’t going to happen.
- allowing for plenty of free time – I used to think play based learning was a hoax, but I’ve since learned my lesson
- reading and listening to a lot of books – our homeschool is very literature based and we always have an audiobook on the go as a family and the kids each have a number queued up on their tablets thanks to our library
- playing games – there are so many things kids can learn from playing games and we have a ton of family favorites (so, our games may not be so minimal)
- it’s a lot about just enjoying the season and moment we are in and learning about the things that are around us, in the winter this also means a lot of educational tv shows, in the summer it’s a lot more about exploring the outdoors
This sounds exactly like us and I’ve been wondering so much lately if it’s enough. It feels good and the kids are doing well with it and obviously learning a lot…but…it’s so different than how I grew up (public school) and how Nathan grew up (classical homeschool) that I’m just not sure how it will play out in the long run. It’s so good to hear about other people living and learning like this when so often I hear about this curriculum or that program and we’re just not there. So thanks.
I totally understand, honestly had I not been working in the school system for a few years I don’t think I would feel as confident in our homeschooling. There are so many kids falling through the cracks or on the other spectrum, bored, in school. Even with a relaxed homeschool approach you can cater your child’s education to their needs/interests and that’s so much more than they can get in the school system. It also amazes me how much a child can learn and then forget about it if it’s taught to them before they are ready or interested. You are doing a great job, keep it up!