More with Less. It’s been eighteen months since I really started striving to have less homeschool stuff and replace the stuff for more homeschool learning. Not only stuff, but also less on the schedule.
At first I was afraid that the quality of our homeschooling would suffer. The general public mindset is that doing more makes you/your child better. Doing more will mean more scholarships, college choices, future career options, and better status of life. Families are racing their kids around to elite club sport teams, junior symphonies, chess competitions, youth group, writing clubs, and school socials. Homeschooling has become just as frantic.
What if we did less? What if we cut out curriculum? What if we dropped some subjects and focused on fewer? Would our homeschooling suffer? What would we gain?
Comparing our schoolroom to the garage of Becoming Minimalist author Joshua Becker, we were spending quality down time sorting through the homeschool clutter. We were moving boxes of great homeschool “stuff” from under one school table to behind the reading chair, or under the desk. What I wanted was to have “space” to do the projects and unit studies that pulled me into homeschooling. To go deeper or to get out and make real life connections.
To get there, we needed to dump some of our homeschooling.
- Dump the time filler workbooks. The basics are necessary to get launched into reading, to cover the the scope of math, but do we need all the add-ons that were only created to sell more product?
- Dump the single grade curriculums. Go for real books that can be found and returned to the library. Books that can be read at one grade and enjoyed again and again. Declutter our shelves of “textbooks”. I kept a couple guidebooks on teaching concepts and critical thinking..
- Dump the school supplies and manipulatives. Dried beans work just fine for counters (as do chocolate chips). Keep quality colored pencils. A good pair of scissors. Paper. Glue. Basic office supplies.
- Dump the packed schedule of “must-do” activities to be good homeschoolers. Each of our children have talents, and focusing more on those gifts has meant a trimmer and calmer schedule.
As we decluttered. Dumped. Recycled. Passed along. Sold off. Loaned out. Gave away . . . the school room became peaceful and useable. Still, I struggled giving away things that I bought for my former teacher days, the money associated with those items, as well as the mental tug of “maybe we will need them someday.” Balancing the peace of our classroom and refined schedule eventually helped me to reshape my frugal mindset.
This past year we have returned to the simple way we started homeschooling; reading great books, discussing, using paper and pencil to write and do problems (math or physics), edit and rewrite, follow our passions, and now we are getting out to do real things. More experiential stuff, more activities that connect subjects together, more outdoors and nature activities, more cooking/home-repair/sewing/bicycle maintenance skill building. More opportunities to meet adults living their careers and building relationships with many ages of folks.
I still have my stack of favorite guide books for homeschooling that help me at create our scope and sequence, a few resource books, and some basic core math curriculum. We are definitely not unschoolers as we take classes, assign home lessons, practice music lesson, have chores, and do required reading. There is a lot of driving to ballet discussing books and science projects, but we are no longer spending the drive cramming in workbooks pages to be doing something productive. No longer is every weekend filled with taking care of our homeschool stuff by pushing it from one side of the classroom to the other as we get ready for the next week. We are using most of our time to be the life-long-learners we set out to be. Life is still busy, but filled with real stuff.
It’s still a process and hard to explain how we are getting “more out of doing less” when standing in line next to the over-achieving homeschooling family at the library. Is it worth it? I am sure enjoying homeschooling more, and my children have not suffered for following their passions and reading more.