Simplified Homeschool, Peaceful Homeschool (and six great curriculums for minimalists)

Homeschooling is one of the things that adds beauty to the simple family. While definitely not a necessity, it’s just one of those extra choices that can help a family to slow down, embrace each moment, and draw near to each other. I hear so often though how people come  to homeschooling imagining this beautiful, togetherness experience, and end up with stress, overwhelmed, and way. too. much. stuff. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “stuff” of homeschooling, just as it is with everything in life. These mamas buy loads of curriculum, art supplies, manipulatives, set up a classroom, more curriculum, then more curriculum, and just when they are sure they found the perfect curriculum, they buy more. They stress themselves out thinking they have to do dry brush painting in nature journals at least once a week, read aloud daily to children who are breakdancing on the floor and don’t seem to be hearing a thing, and feel guilt if they use too much technology. Where’s my peaceful homeschool and why do I feel so overwhelmed all the time, they wonder?

I have long espoused the concept of simplicity homeschooling, or as my friend I’ve never met (thank you social media!) Jane over at Salty Tribe Co has coined, minimalist homeschooling. Our homeschools are just another area of life where we can simplify, strip things down to the bare bones, find what brings us peace and joy and USE ONLY THAT. Only two things are needed when you simplify your homeschool; atmosphere and tools.

Atmosphere

What I consider to be the most important aspect of a homeschool, atmosphere is literally the environment we create in our homes for living and learning. Mamas are uniquely capable of creating atmosphere, and honestly, it rests on our shoulders. We decide what we want learning and life in our homes to look like, and we make it happen. If we are not diligent, the atmosphere we desire fails. In my home, we look to the philosophy of Charlotte Mason for our atmosphere, a philosophy which embodies the simple and lovely. Great literature, artwork, music, handwork, chores, poetry, working together, having discussions, spending time on nature; these things make up our atmosphere. We spend our days surrounded by that which matters to us, creating the perfect environment for us to live and learn. There is no stress in trying to force something that we think we should do but doesn’t fit us, there is merely the choice of what we value and want for our family, and the implementation of that.

*To help create your atmosphere, name three adjectives that describe what you want for your home, family, and life. Then, figure out what you need to let go of in order to bring these adjectives to fruition and then, actually let them go. Determine if there is anything you need to add to help in creating your atmosphere and implement it.

Tools

Second to atmosphere comes tools. Tools are the physical objects we use for learning in our home. For some, their main tools are curriculum, while for others such as unschoolers, tools are whatever is needed for their current learning path.

While looking to simplify our homes and homeschools, we seek to only utilize the best tools for our family, accumulating as little stuff as possible, and ridding ourselves of that which 1) we don’t use 2) we don’t like 3) doesn’t fit our chosen atmosphere.

To my knowledge, the best curriculums for a simple little homeschool are:

•A Charlotte Mason curriculum such as Ambleside Online, A Gentle Feast, or Wildwood Curriculum. These are great for a simplified homeschool because many of the books used in the curriculums are in the public domain and so you will be able to download for free on a tablet instead of adding to your bookshelf (although, I know, if you’re like me, adding to your bookshelf makes you happy). Other work can just be done in composition books. The guides that go along with A Gentle Feast are PDF and can just be used off the tablet or computer. Artists, composers, even nature study resources can be found online.

Easy Peasy All-in-One Curriculum. Most everything is online but the content is lovely and user friendly.

The Robinson Curriculum. While I don’t necessarily endorse the actual curriculum (the creator had some very interesting ideas and lifestyle rules), the concept is very simple and very helpful. Read, write, math. All other subjects learned through reading. Reading is done for hours a day, from mainly older books which would all be in the public domain and free to download on a tablet. You can find the booklist he uses in his curriculum online, or make your own booklist choosing from Ambleside, Wildwood, and Robinson. Other materials would be composition books and math books.

The Good and the Beautiful. This is an amazingly beautiful curriculum designed by Jenny Phillips. Not much is required other than the course books and (few) materials that go with them. Many subjects are combined; the Language Arts course includes literature, grammar, composition, art, and geography. They are very affordable (some are free!) and some of the most beautiful, high quality curriculum I have ever seen. You can watch Jane’s TGATB reviews here.

In our home, we combine all of these curricula in our own way, utilizing the tools that work for our family, bolstered by the foundation of our atmosphere. Things run smoothly and simply, we work together and individually, and all of our materials for 6 kids (including art and handwork supplies) fit in four small baskets and three drawers. We have a rhythm to our days, weaving the usage of our tools throughout, focusing on the simple, gentle, lovely things in life.

Homeschool really can be simplified, materials minimized, and life made peaceful. Create your  atmosphere and use the tools that work for your family.

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A simple life, an abundant life

 

I was raised with everything I wanted. A lawyer dad married to an incredible woman, and a mom married to an optometrist who owned his own practice. If I wanted something, I asked for it and typically received it. I didn’t feel spoiled or overwhelmed, in fact I never really contemplated my stuff much at all. What I did know was that I liked having the things I wanted, I liked being comfortable, I liked life. So when I became a parent at the age of 19, I knew three things… 1) Don’t spank. 2) Be nice. 3) Buy things for your kids as much as possible. Fifteen years into this parenting gig and I still wholeheartedly believe the first two, but number three, well, that idea was retired.

My husband was raised completely differently, and yet, when we married, he had come to the same conclusions. He was the youngest of four children with a single mom. His family wasn’t close and they had no money, or at least, he never saw the fruit of any money. Never getting new shoes or Christmas presents, having electricity turned off in the middle of winter with snow on the ground, having to scrounge for his own food at the earliest age, he determined to have his own family one day and to give his children everything they wanted. He felt lack of care and attention, he didn’t know comfort, and he imagined that gifts and things would show a love and care that he never knew.

So we began our family and began to buy things as much as we possibly could. We accumulated. And as child after child came into our lives, it was like this invitation to accumulate more.  Fortunately we discovered simplicity and minimalism around the time when we were feeling consumed and drowning. It was this obvious, eye opening thing; my husband felt anxious at home, my twins were having difficulty controlling themselves and communicating, and everywhere around us was stuff. There was nowhere to go to find peace, there was nowhere in our home to breathe. It was finally enough.

We went through and continue to go through the usual process, the piles of things, the sorting, the consideration of purpose and joy. Little by little, we are creating an atmosphere of peace. With nine people under one roof there is plenty of chaos, and the stuff was just adding to that. Slowly it is calming. Slowly we have found a new way.

My husband still gets feelings of guilt. He doesn’t want to deny the kids things, he doesn’t want them to feel as he did growing up. I am constantly reminding him 1) You are not keeping things they need from them, merely limiting the excess, the unnecessary. 2) You are an amazing, loving, attentive parent. You were not only denied material items as a child, you felt a lack of love and care too. You are giving them the most important thing.

He’s not alone in feeling the guilt. Society teaches us that giving things to people shows them you care and that getting things from people shows you that you are cared for. When we remove that aspect of relationship, we have to take a step back and start over. We have to find other ways to show care, and we have to remind ourselves that a listening ear from someone shows us they care for us.

Creating a simple life for our families does not mean lack, in fact it’s the exact opposite, it means an abundance, but an abundance of what really matters; love, peace, consideration, time, room to think, freedom to grow, a place and relationships where you can simply be.

Stick around at the Simple Little Life blog, follow me on Instagram @simplelittleamy, and I hope to inspire you in your journey towards a simple life for your family.

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