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Does homeschooling sound like too much to add to your already full plate? Does your current homeschool schedule feel overwhelming? Minimalist homeschooling might be your answer.
Mama, are you as tired as I am of life being so over the top?
We are constantly being hit with the message that “more is better”. Everywhere we look, we’re being urged to get more done, make more money, and do more to make our children’s childhoods magical.
I have rebelled.
I got rid of most of my stuff. I started saying ‘no’ just because I wanted to. I cut everything down to the bare minimum. I’ve done this in every area of my life, including homeschooling.
If you’re already overwhelmed with this motherhood gig and worried that adding homeschooling to the list will send you to the loony bin, I’ve got good news for you.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to make you crazy. Minimalist homeschooling might be just the thing for you. And minimalist homeschooling doesn’t just mean less stuff. It means less of all of it. Fewer possessions, yes, but also less time. Less worry. Less effort.
Let’s unpack it.
Minimalism doesn’t just mean less stuff
When we think of minimalism, we usually think of clean white spaces, capsule wardrobes, and owning next to nothing. We get this idea that we’re kicked out of the minimalism club if we decide to keep a teacup collection, sport more than 33 items in our wardrobes, or give our kids more than a toy or two to play with.
Minimalism was never supposed to just be about ‘stuff’, though. As Joshua Becker, one of the grandaddies of the minimalist movement said, minimalism is “the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
Pause for a second.
Doesn’t that sound nice? Cutting out everything that doesn’t matter to you and just leaving the stuff that does? Good news. You can do that. Right now. I’m officially letting you into the minimalist club.
Minimalism involves asking ‘why’ all the time.
When you live as a minimalist, you question everything.
- Why do I have this in my house?
- Why am I going to this party?
- Why am I spending my energy worrying about this?
Minimalist homeschooling is no different. It is set up based on the things you value and leaves out the things you don’t—simple as that.
How to start homeschooling as a minimalist
So you want to start homeschooling as a minimalist? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Determine your why
Why are you homeschooling? If you have made this counterculture choice, you likely have a powerful reason. Reconnect with it. Anytime you consider adding something to your list, hold it up against your why. Does it fit? If not, consider cutting it off the list.
Let it go (crap, now I’ve got that Frozen song in my head)
It’s time to wipe the slate clean. If your child is just starting school, you’ll have a slightly easier time, but you still have an idea of how ‘school’ should look based on what your experience was. If you’ve sent your child to school, he has ideas and expectations, too. If you’ve homeschooled already, there’s baggage there, both positive and negative.
Let it all go. Nothing deserves a place in your new minimalist homeschool. It has to earn it.
Evaluate your space and materials
As I said, physical things are the first things that we think of when we think of minimalism, so here are some tips for cutting them down.
Get the heck off of Pinterest and Instagram
Pinterest and Instagram can make us think we need a lot of stuff. You don’t need a photo-worthy schoolroom, poetry teatime, or elegantly crafted unit studies. Just stop. If this stuff brings you joy, you can consider adding it back in. If it doesn’t, it hasn’t earned a space in your minimalist homeschool.
Limit your supplies to a small space
My favorite trick for keeping supplies from getting out of hand is to designate one space to hold everything. When it’s full, you can’t add anything else. In my old house, it was a rolling file box. When we were traveling full time, it was a particular suitcase. In our new house, it’s a cabinet in the kitchen.
Borrow things where you can
Use things you don’t own whenever possible. Borrow from the library or from your co-op. Rent some eggs to watch the chickens hatch and then give the chicks back. Practice good karma by sharing what you have, too.
Resist the temptation to buy all the things.
I know the struggle is real. I was just shopping for a microscope for the next school year and was sorely tempted by the kits full of extra slides, books full of experiments, and bells and whistles that I knew we didn’t need.
Well, we might need them. Maybe my children will turn out to be little Leeuwenhoeks. If that’s the case, I’ll get them all the microscope accouterments I can fit in our budget. For now, we start with the basics and get by with the very least that will get the job done.
Use everyday materials
I used to read unclutter.com daily (back before I had kiddos in the house). My favorite feature of the site was “Unitasker Wednesday” where they made fun of things like hot dog cookers that only had one function.
I laughed at them, but once I had homeschooled kiddos, I fully embraced the need for items like unit cubes specifically designed for counting. Guess what? Legos work just as well, the boys love incorporating them into school, and we don’t need to find space for another thing.
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Practicing minimalist homeschooling means that you are a strict gatekeeper for your time and your children’s time. You create your schedule based on your values and your goals, and you don’t assume any subject or any activity is a given.
Let prepared curricula help you
I am truly grateful to all the smart people who came before me who made all these excellent curricula and supplements that I can choose from. I spend zero time collecting things to make units studies or coming up with extra projects and extra read-alouds for us to do.
Our curriculum has adequate activities in it. If the kids ask a question, we look up the answer. If they’re really interested in something that isn’t already addressed in the curriculum, we’ll watch a Youtube video or check out a book from the library. I might even check to see if someone has an age-appropriate unit study on sale or ask on a Facebook group if anyone has resource suggestions.
Part of practicing minimalist homeschooling, though, means that I don’t sacrifice time doing any work that has already been done by others.
Combine children where you can
My boys are two years apart. Only English and math are taught one-on-one to each child. Any other subject, project, or experiment, is worked on together. This means that I don’t teach the same curriculum twice most of the time and my personal time investment every day is cut significantly.
Do your best to follow the ‘one-room schoolhouse’ model. Find a simple way to include everyone in each lesson as much as possible.
Don’t structure every minute
Part of being minimalist with your homeschool time involves not structuring every minute. Leave time to get outside, play pretend, and daydream. Learning is happening even when you aren’t trying.
Don’t force yourself to do every lesson
Choosing a curriculum isn’t like completing a prison sentence. If something isn’t working for you, chuck it. If the curriculum itself is good, but you hate one book, one math assignment, or one messy art project, I give you permission to cut it out.
Oh, and you are never ‘behind’ on your curriculum. Your school is exactly on its schedule. Your children are exactly where they need to be. Always. This is not a race. This is your personal family journey.
Don’t feel you need to participate in every activity.
You want your kids to be “socialized” right? So you schedule all the things. Now everyone is crazy. Especially you. Make those activities earn a spot in your schedule because somebody LOVES them.
And there’s nothing that says each child must have 10 things that he loves every week. Have them pick one or two. Teach them now that if everything is important, nothing is important. That time for rest and quiet is every bit as important as time for social interaction.
Simplify your schedule
I advocate coming up with some kind of a ‘rhythm’ to your day, but don’t make yourself crazy by trying to schedule things down to the minute.
The public school can have their bell schedule. You can be as flexible as you want to. Read 4 more chapters if your kids are loving the book. Cut math early if you and your child are over it. Spend extra time collecting leaves if it’s a beautiful day to be outside.
The schedule police aren’t coming to check up on you. Leave room in your day for flexibility, for discovery, and for joy.
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Simplify your thoughts
I already told you to get off of Pinterest and Instagram. Although I LOVE Facebook for finding your “people” in the homeschooling world, I’m going to caution you on spending too much time there, too. The same goes for any other social media sites you love, and for quizzing that perfect mama at your co-op.
There’s a fine line between “gathering ideas” and “feeling like complete shit for all the stuff you’re not doing.” As soon as your toes start to inch over that line—stop.
Don’t waste energy comparing your journey as a homeschooling family to anyone else’s. Your school is perfect, just as it is today. Should you choose to add something that fits in with your family’s why and your educational goals tomorrow, that’s great, but you are not less than in any way right now.
Don’t waste energy worrying about milestones
When should your child know how to read and write? When he does it. What should he know by the end of first grade? The stuff that he knows.
I know the temptation to be average is real, but your child is not an average, he’s an individual. Don’t let ideas of what he ‘should’ be doing make you crazy.
Schools need to worry about pushing kids through or holding them back. You do not. Meet your child where he is, and maintain sanity for both of you by accepting that exactly where he is right now is the right place to be.
Simplify your planning process as much as possible.
Save effort whenever you can. If your curriculum has a proposed schedule, follow it, unless it doesn’t work at all for your family.
Use any tools that can help make things easy. My homeschool planner has checklists of things to remember before school starts and once it ends, templates to use no matter your planning style, and even reminders for you to take care of yourself in the middle of all the homeschool craziness.
Consider having one place where all of your homeschool information lives—either in a binder in your home, a note on your computer, or my favorite, a Trello board. This way, you won’t waste any of your precious energy looking for that website password, YouTube link, or great picture from the Aquarium that you want to include in your portfolio. Aim to waste as little time in administration as possible.
Mama, despite what you see on Pinterest, homeschool doesn’t need to be over the top. Being more or busier isn’t necessarily better for your family. You are enough exactly as you are, right now. Minimalist homeschooling means whatever you say it does.
So what does it mean to you?
Want to make your homeschool a little more minimalist? Try this now:
- Determine or review your ‘why’: If you know why you’re homeschooling, you will more easily see what is essential and what is not.
- Wipe the slate clean: Take all subjects, materials, and activities off the table. You’ll add them back (or not) one by one depending on whether or not they resonate with your educational goals and your why, and whether or not they’re something that someone in the family truly LOVES.
- Pick out a storage container or spot for your homeschool stuff and vow to limit any materials to this space.
- As you plan future educational opportunities, look for spots where your children can learn together.
- Simplify your planning process with a pre-made planner and/or Trello board.