As I reported yesterday, I decided not to go the local homeschool conference. The biggest draw in the past, has been the incredible convention room of vendors; tables piled high with manipulatives, spinning kiosks filled with curriculum, and presenters ready to answer questions. Money to be spent on things needed and things just wanted.
There are so many benefits to minimalizing our homeschooling. Money saved because we spend less. I had a whole day to do other activities with or for the family. And today, I am not spending time trying to organize or find homes for my new purchases.
At some point, a new homeschooling family has to purchase their first books and curriculum. It is like the new mom and having that first baby. Everyone has suggestions on what worked best for them, everyone showers you with their favorite items, in their favorite styles that may or may not match yours. After looking through the “gifts”, some can be returned for items that match your needs or style. Some items you just use because it makes no difference or you don’t know the difference. And there is also a pile of appreciated “gifts” that just hang around starring from the closet and taking up space.
At some point the new mothers/newbie homeschoolers must start buying their own items that fill in the needs (or satisfy a want). Either rushing out to buy curriculum to start homeschooling in crisis the next day or strategically planning for the upcoming term and researching all the options, slowly accumulating everything needed.
Either way, “stuff” gets bought that sits in the closet starring at us when we open the doors, taking up space, and occupying our time as we shift the items from one location to another or organize the materials until we finally use or give away.
The conventions, the catalogs, and the websites all have a mission to convince us that if we only bought their one special product, our homeschooling needs would be met. There are so many items that I have picked up through the years, new or used, that I was convinced was the right match for us. Either a friend recommended, or I researched and believed this item/book was the answer to our academic need. And then the item failed to deliver the results and sat on the shelf or in a beautifully organized box, being pushed from one location to another.
Talking with each of my homeschooling friends, it is very hard to find the balance of meeting the individual homeschooling needs of our children without overwhelming the budget and cluttering the classroom. There is just too much stuff to choose from and too quickly, our homes can begin to turn into chaos. It takes time and a conscious effort to maintain frugal purchasing to hone in on the real needs that match the child’s learning requirements.
Mid afternoon, three of my friends returned from the convention, complaining they had spent way too much, and excited to hit their classrooms to reorganize for the coming year. For a moment, I missed the adrenaline rush of opening the bags of new supplies, “Why did I skip this year?”. And then panic set in that I might have missed finding a better curriculum.
I stopped myself, thought of this Minimalist Homeschooler blog I am writing and the goals I have set. Instead of the convention, I had spent the afternoon with another homeschooling mom that also chose not to attend the sale. We tried a new box of Rooibos tea she had bought, talked over a Charlotte Mason book I saw on her shelf, we pulled out some Story of the World materials and planned out the beginning of a US History study using my old Sonlight curriculum from older son. Money saved from using what we have.
We pulled together the best of two programs to make a stronger curriculum that works for our daughters. And we build a deeper relationship for ourselves as well as giving our daughters some girl time while we met. We accumulated the “things” we needed and wanted, without accumulating the things that would clutter our homes.