Less homeschooling . . . for more learning?

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.

Colored Pencils

  • 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.

 

7 Comments

  • Valerie

    April 27, 2016 at 8:38 pm Reply

    Just found your blog. I am only in my first year of homeschooling my youngest is just finishing K, but I am trying to use the philosophy you describe with minimizing material and maximizing learning. I am enjoying all that we can do!

    • Anne

      June 17, 2016 at 5:32 pm Reply

      Isn’t homeschooling amazing! We don’t need “stuff” to do a great job. Or when we do get “stuff” we can use and pass along when we are finished. I love homeschooling and look forward to the beginning of each year, as well as the end of the year.

  • Shannon

    June 11, 2016 at 7:12 pm Reply

    I could have written this article myself! ?????
    I use a Scope and Sequence chart that we designed specifically for our family lifestyle and that’s it.
    This concept goes well in many areas of our lives.

    • Anne

      June 18, 2016 at 12:12 am Reply

      Curious . . . what does your scope and sequence page look like? Do you keep it where everyone can review or just for your eyes only?

      • Shannon

        June 18, 2016 at 7:37 am Reply

        I gathered several types of Scope & Sequence charts from various styles of education that we liked. I then made a list of our daily and weekly routine that we’ve done out of habit for YEARS, like farm, household & things related. I also made a list of what things we ultimately wanted out children to achieve and/or master by the time they graduated homeschooling. We needed our homeschooling to be very flexible and non burdensome because we have 7 children (ages 26 yrs- 9 months) and 6 grandchildren. Plus we love to travel and do ministry work.
        After my basic outline of all the important things was finished, I created our ultimate Scope & Sequence Chart. I kept it simple. I start with each grade/ age level in a column and then under each subject I list what we would like to achieve for that grade/age group.
        Not sure how to post a photo but I would love to share.
        Our Scope and Sequence intertwines with our ministry, farm business and daily household activities so that we we can incorporate hands on lessons as we work as a family. This has really eliminated the homeschooling pressure. We start off in the toddler years and assign learning tasks that are farm, home, ministry and business related. Then as the child grows we add deeper concepts to those tasks and more responsibility.
        We make sure there is a lesson in the task. Plus its repetitive so what they learn becomes habitual and they learn contentment as well.
        I keep one large 3 ring binder that contains everything we need for school, home, business and ministry. Our Scope and Sequence is only 5 pages from Toddler/ Preschool to 12th grade!

        • Shannon

          June 18, 2016 at 7:39 am Reply

          Also a very important part, we only keep things in our home that is directly related to our ultimate goals for our children and family. Everything else goes!
          This motto really keeps things in perspective ?

        • Anne

          June 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm Reply

          I’d love to see it . . . maybe even post it to show others. Not sure how to get it through wordpress . . . Let me check on this.

Please take a moment to share your minimalist homeschooling ventures.

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