It is the time of year that many families leave traditional schooling and swear that by fall they will be homeschooling. They rush around to all of the homeschool conventions, racing out to buy tons of homeschool curriculum, and designing their new homeschooling space. In the rush, most of my new homeschooling colleagues over do it. Over do their budget, over schedule, and over commit.
I love homeschooling. I love the journey we have been in. And I spend a lot of time meeting with other families, coaching them on what has been successful and what I would do differently.
Here’s my suggestions:
1. Find support. In the early stages, share your ideas with supportive family and friends. You don’t need naysayers scaring you away with random statistics or worst case scenarios. Supporters will be realistic and ask if you have considered different perspectives. For the most part, they will encourage or guide.
2. Find your flavor. There are so many different ways to homeschool. Homeschooling that looks like school with desks, a bell, and standardized curriculum. Homeschooling that spends part of the schooling at home, part in the community, and some in the car. Figure out if you have a certain education philosophy and/or a faith perspective to follow. Do you want curriculum that is multi-aged, or specific to the grade? Will you teach to your child’s learning styles or curriculum that meets your teaching style. Also, Minimalist Homeschooling can be part of your flavor. Once you know your “flavor” it will be easier to limit your curriculum purchase, or activities/classes you participate in. My style has changed slightly through the years; I enjoy reading supportive books and blogs, as well as listening to others perspectives to help balance my “flavor”. (Check out my favorite Blog for a similar article: Becoming Minimalist, “Rational Minimalism.”)
3. Quality over quantity. As minimalists, we are already working in other areas of our lives to reducing the distractions and clutter in our environment. When it comes to homeschooling, there is no reason to set aside that focus and go wild with purchasing four sets of addition flashcards, or hanging on to a set that just doesn’t work. Same with curriculum. I wish that I had spent more time accepting friend’s hand me downs, and quickly passing along the materials that did not fit our “flavor.” Instead, I have struggled with organizing and shifting through other’s cast offs (rejects). Trimming down the curriculum clutter has allowed us to really enjoy the best fit materials, and see the quality curriculum on the shelf, as there are no other items crowding out our favorites. (My sense of frugality kept me trapped to hold on to everything, because is was free and we might use it someday.)
4. One item in . . . one item out. Now that we have been focusing on minimalizing in our classroom, I have a rule of removing duplicate items that enter the house. Sometimes, we are given an incredible homeschooling manipulative or resource, better than what we own; out goes the lesser item, seldom a reason to keep both.
5. Make sacred free time. It is very easy to fill up the schedule with classes, co-ops, sports, music, and the required homeschooling. A full schedule is hard to step out of for large block events. We put into practice our first couple years of homeschooling, abandoned, and then returned to, one HOME day. Once we returned to one HOME school day, I saw a creativity return to our homeschooling that had escaped. Lessons would expand and cross curriculum. Our kids would read and create. They were inspired to research deeply on a non-school topic. I would lose my kids as they escaped with their school books and found interesting hideouts for schooling. Some of our best moments of homeschooling.
The Flavor of our homeschooling has taken on the minimalist quality. Minimalism not for everyone. I hear that “it’s too simple, too boring, not creative, or too limiting.” My non minimalist friends claim to be happy with their frantic schedules, and cluttered classrooms. (Check out Becoming Minimalist’s Unbusy essay.) I am no longer teaching from multiple books, or trying to find better lessons on the same topic. I am no longer ordering stacks of library books, to lug home and return unread, while three or four were enough. Instead of duplicate approaches in history, we are focusing on one event, and using the remaining time with projects and research. We have time for our instruments and a second language. It’s not limited, it’s not too simplistic . . . it is exciting, challenging, and engaging because we are more focused and can go further.
That chaotic environment is not for me, nor is it productive for our children. But when my friends and I get together, we cherish our relationship and the dedication we each have to homeschooling, and the quality of education that is being produced.
I’ll stick to the minimalist path. For me, it is quality over quantity. Relationships over things. Calm over the chaos.