Learning how to simplify your homeschool will simplify your life!
When I first started homeschooling, I purchased a boxed curriculum. To say I was unsure of my ability to homeschool was an understatement. As an overachiever and recovering perfectionist, I remember literally shaking with fear at the thought of messing up my kids for life. I had four kids under seven and already struggled to keep up with LIFE.
I never would have attempted homeschooling if not for the “training wheels” boxed curriculum gave me. Everything was ready to go, already planned and laid out for me.
Homeschool Made Easy – Sort Of
While I do credit that curriculum for giving me the courage to start homeschooling, I quickly became overwhelmed with the amount of reading and bookwork prescribed at such a young age. We fell behind within a month, and I felt like a failure most of the time, constantly playing catch up and wondering if homeschooling kindergarten and first grade should really be THIS hard.
I didn’t realize I still had a “school at home” mentality and desperately needed a period of deschooling .
While we managed to limp across the “finish line”, completing most of the readings and assignments, I knew something needed to change if I was going to homeschool for the long haul. I immediately started reading everything I could get my hands on about simpler approaches to homeschooling.
My nightstand held stacks of books about homeschooling – everything from relaxed homeschooling to unschooling to minimalist homeschooling.
Simplify Your Homeschool With What Works for You
Our homeschool style three years later is a combination of all three.
While I’m sure my approach to homeschooling will continue to grow and change as my kids move beyond elementary school, the core objective to simplify whenever possible won’t go away. As a minimalist, simplicity is one of my core values, and also one of the main reasons I chose to homeschool.
Simplify or Quality?
Before you ask, simplifying your homeschool is never about reducing the quality of your child’s education. The first step is always clarifying your homeschool goals, vision and mission, and only then determining the simplest and most efficient (not necessarily easiest) way to achieve those three things.
Simplifying your homeschool requires a mindset shift. It’s a way of approaching homeschooling (and life!) that becomes easier and more intuitive the more you do it.
Here are a few ideas to get you started with simplifying your homeschool.
1. Focus on the Big 3 Subjects
Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Those are the core things your child needs to succeed – that and a lifelong love of learning.
Especially during the early years, you can cover peripheral subjects like science through science board games, or history through picture book biographies of prominent (or not so prominent) historical figures, plus fields trips.
Even if state requirements say you must cover history and science as early as kindergarten, they often do not list a certain number of hours you need to spend on those subjects. You have a lot more freedom than you think in regards to how often and the way you choose to cover those subjects.
(See more creative ideas for outsourcing subjects in #4.)
2. Choose the Simplest Curriculum/Resource That Gets the Job Done
In homeschooling, there is always a wide range of curriculums with various complexities, ranging from extremely complicated with a gazillion pieces and steps, to the most basic of curriculums with a few books comprising the entire system (like Story of the World for history).
If you have a choice, choose the basic one!
For instance, unless you suspect or know your child has a learning disability, choose the simplest homeschool reading curriculum that gets the job done. You probably don’t need the multi-step reading program with cut-outs and projects that takes over an hour a day to get done (because that’s just ONE subject, busy mama!).
With five kids ten and under PLUS working from home, I’m a firm believer in the simplest possible system that accomplishes my homeschool goals.
3. Supplement with Subscription Boxes
Subscription boxes can be pricey. Otherwise, I’d have ten subscriptions right now.
Are they really worth the price?
When I get some of these boxes, I sometimes think – I spent how much on this?! But then I think about the time it would take me to research projects like this (not my strength) AND to shop for the materials AND to do it with them.
When you put all of that together, then it is absolutely worth the price!
Hands-on activities are NOT my favorite thing, and I don’t have time to DIY it. If that’s you, do yourself a favor and choose a few subscription boxes to sign up for. Rotate or stagger them if your budget is tight – I’ve been there!
We love Little Passports (both world and science expeditions), plus the occasional Kiwi Crate.
4. Outsource Subjects
When you think about outsourcing, you probably think: expensive (and therefore NOT an option). But outsourcing can mean a variety of different things.
You can outsource by:
- asking your spouse to take over a subject,
- using audiobooks to read aloud for you,
- using free online options like Kahn Academy and Youtube
- joining a homeschool co-op with formal classes (a more costly option)
There’s only one of you and only so many hours in a day.
Think outside the box and consider which homeschool responsibilities and subjects you can effectively outsource so you can devote more time to the ones that really deserve your full attention. When you simplify your homeschool you create more time.
And sometimes, the more expensive options are worth rearranging your budget to cover the costs.
5. Prioritize Your Children’s Passions
Depending on your homeschool style and family dynamics, you can often shape a lot of your homeschool around your child’s interests.
For example, does your child love to cook? Cooking can involve:
- Reading mechanics
- Reading comprehension
- Copywork (writing, handwriting and grammar)
- Art (frosting)
- History (of cooking)
With a trip to the library for cookbooks and books about the history of cooking, you should be all set for as long as that interest continues.
Don’t Quit: Simplify Your Homeschool, Instead
It breaks my heart to hear of homeschool moms quitting because they just don’t feel like they can do it all. Because they missed the whole message that you don’t have to!
You were never meant to replicate a classroom. That’s one person’s entire job, well over 50 hours a week (my parents were teachers: I know).
If you feel overwhelmed and constantly frustrated, try some of these suggestions. See if they make a difference. If you want to keep homeschooling, don’t let the actual education side overwhelm you to the point of quitting. A simpler homeschool is a healthier, more sustainable homeschool.
I really enjoyed this read. I just made the decision to pull my 9th grader for homeschooling. I've realized that I need to deschool my thinking. I'm a recently resigned teacher and raised will be slightly difficult for me. I want what's best for me son and he wasn't getting that in the public school setting. I need support for this venture. This article was a great start.