Minimalism Took Over Our Homeschool // And This Is What Happened

UPDATE : We have moved deeper with our minimalist style of homeschooling and have updated what we use and how we do homeschooling now. It's quite a bit different than we were doing when I wrote this post. You can check that out HERE.

If you've hung around my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of minimalism. I feel like with less stuff, life is simpler. Life is hard enough without adding extra work and difficulties. It's easier and quicker to clean up because there's less to clean and organize. We don't need a storage unit or a have our closets full of boxes of junk we don't use. It's a liberating feeling.

However, there was one area that had been left untouched by my simpler, minimalist ways. Our Homeschool. We have a LOT of homeschool stuff. Or at least we did. I don't like feeling like I'm drowning in stuff and that's exactly how I started to feel with all of our homeschooling supplies. I used to justify the surplus, "Well, I'm homeschooling THREE kids! It's cheaper than private school!"

I would tell myself, "We'll use it again later! I have three kids, it will get used by someone!" and many other excuses. I think it comes from a root of fear, "What if we need it!?" We never do end up needing it and it just takes up space. There are some things that we will use again like the read alouds and readers on early American History. However, I started to pare those down as well. I LOVE books and have tons of them, so it's the hardest part of minimizing for me. Books make me super happy! I started keeping only the ones that we really loved; books that I know for sure we will read again.

Above : The girls on a camping trip with their American Heritage Girls Troop.

I love going to the library with the kids, but we always forget to return them on time. So we stopped borrowing from the library and just decided to buy books since we enjoy keeping them anyways. We just choose carefully on the books we want to keep. I try to preview them online or look at them at the library or local bookstore to decide if we'll purchase the book.

After we decided what curriculum didn't work and what we no longer used [or didn't want to use], we donated all of it. We could have sold it, but the longer it sat in our home, the more I resented it. This way I can think of it as paying it forward. Someone will get great use out of it. There was another area that needed a wave of the minimalist fairy wand: Our Schedule. I always start every school year with such gusto and high hopes and an overachievers dream.

Enough. We end up burned out by October.

Even though we study a variety of subjects, we no longer do them daily or even weekly. We just rotate the course offerings to give them a well rounded education without the overwhelm. And that's they keystone of minimalism : It eliminates the overwhelm; giving way to richer living. It's made our studies deeper because we don't feel rushed to stay on some arbitrary schedule. We get to feel more in control of our homeschool and come from a place of rest in stead of stress.

I'm going to show you what we're using and how often we use them. This is only a small portion of what I started out using this year....

Arts & Sciences.
We feel like art and science go hand in hand. We use water color paints, acrylic paints, oil pastels and colored pencils for our nature studies. Each kiddo has a small plain white hard cover notebook [from Target's dollar days] that is covered with fabric. They use those to write stories, write what they see and paint, color and/or draw. We are huge fans of the Nature Anatomy book by Julia Rothman [check out the inside at the link]. We are also going to be getting her Farm Anatomy book.

We still use our Nancy Larson Science every so often. We aren't strict about it, but we are mostly excited about the lady bug and butterfly units [our second time doing the butterfly kit!] We do science once a week maybe. Art most days. Some weeks we'll do less of another subject and do four days of science. We no longer adhere to a "MWF is Science" set schedule. Just listen to the stress disappear...

This is our most important subject. The girls use their Bibles that they've has since our second year of homeschooling. Last summer, I covered them with fabric and taught the girls to do Bible Art Journaling. We do that, and read lots of devotionals. I'll do a separate post on those and come back to link it. We are loving youth devotionals on the Bible App, a Surfer Girl Devotional, Bethany Hamilton's animated devotional, Princesses of The Bible, and a few new ones we are trying out. But basically, just The Bible. It's all you really need. Bible we do everyday, even on weekends, in some way. 

Grammar & Writing & Language.
Here's where we saw some changes. We have been all over the place with grammar. I thought they needed the top of the top in grammar, but it was just frustrating everyone. For Grammar we are using Growing with Grammar. Only my eldest, Lorelai, is using it. [ See Update] My younger daughter Brie is still getting the hang of reading. She's dyslexic and has the same learning disability my husband has. Baby steps with her, slow and steady.

My eldest is using Teaching Cursive! This Method Works! for her handwriting. BEST CURSIVE CURRICULUM. It's reusable and non-consumable. This one we, for sure, will be using with all three kiddos. Brie is using A Reason for Handwriting & does some copywork. Her handwriting has improved and she's learning basic grammar through copywork. You don't need to purchase anything special. We used what we bought a couple years ago for copywork. You can use the Bible or a book they enjoy. We do that as well. Each of these takes 10 minutes or less to complete. Grammar & Handwriting is done daily.

After agonizing over writing curriculums as well, we decided that the Charlotte Mason way was best for us there. We just let her write. Lorelai keeps a journal and has a blog where she gets to practice her writing skills. She writes about whatever she wants or sometimes asks for ideas.

We are starting a new method for learning foreign languages, but that's another blog post. It's not a curriculum. We just speak French, Hawaiian and Latin that we know around the house and on outings.

UPDATE : We now have this down to handwriting, spelling & copywork only. We don't really need the grammar books as it is picked up naturally from LOTS of reading and writing. For us, one year of "formal" grammar was all that was needed. From here we will just be reinforcing what was learned.

Spelling & Vocabulary.
Continuing with the ease of use and simple, short lessons, we use Soaring with Spelling. It's simple, to the point. We just started using this. I poured for MONTHS over spelling curriculum. We used to use All About Spelling. It's an excellent curriculum, but it's not for us. Soaring with Spelling goes up to level 8. After that we will be using Spelling Power. I would use it now if we didn't love Soaring with Spelling SO much. We do this daily. SWS has a weekly schedule for using their curriculum, but my kids ask for it everyday anyhow. That's how much they love spelling.

We were using CLE math. It's one of the best math curriculums. It's advanced and seriously awesome. I would call it Semi-Relaxed Saxon. It's rigorous like Saxon math but not quite as long lessons and review. The problem came when I decided I was losing my sanity. I was being stretched too thin trying to teach ALL OF THE THINGS. So I outsourced to Teaching Textbooks. We have used them before, but I went back to CLE Math. I should have just stuck with Teaching Textbooks.

It is not weak math like you may have read. It teaches topics on a completely different schedule than most maths. It's gets through everything if you just stick with it. We won't be changing our math again. We don't use the book, just the disks and some large graph paper notebooks for writing problems. You can also just use spiral notebooks or a dry erase board. We use a dry erase board a lot for math. I love that they can do math mostly independently. I'm here if they get stuck. And I get to keep my sanity.

My son, who doesn't officially homeschool uses this $6 Wooden Montessori Math set. It's perfect for our waldorf/montessori/charlotte mason inspired math for the early elementary and preschool ages. It's cheap, it's efficient, it's not a big mess & we love it! Math is done 3-5 times per week. It used to be daily, but both girls are two grade levels ahead of public school so we don't stress over it. Lorelai doesn't like math but she tolerates it with Teaching Textbooks. Brie would do math all day if you let her. 

My eldest has used various books for health. Mostly we chat about our views on healthy eating & fitness. We are still loving Bethany Hamilton's Body & Soul book. It's got fitness, nutrition, faith and more all in one book for teens. Well, I love it too. We do health when we remember it. Just keeping it real. I figure she's learning it from us as we go through our daily life. 

Handicrafts & Music.
We listen to hymns, Seeds Family Worship [to memorize Bible verses], 90s music, lots of classical music, Y2K music [ha!], pretty much anything to learn about all types of music. The girls still play their Ukuleles most days. We used Alfred's Kids Ukulele Course Complete to learn how to play, so now they just play. That course came with a book and DVD so they learned everything they needed to get started. We'll probably use some of the other Alfred's Ukulele music books at some point.

As you have seen in the above photos, our kids do hand embroidery, crocheting and knitting. They also learned to sew a couple years ago. I'd love to do some wood carving or soap carving with them. Sounds fun! Or maybe we can make some macrame things. I love macrame. We don't keep a set schedule for this [are you seeing a pattern yet?] and just do them a few times per week. Maybe more, maybe less. 

I ask the kids what they're interested in and then purchase books they'll love. Lorelai enjoys the Emily Windsnap series. Brie enjoys Minecraft books. Everett enjoys all books. Sometimes it has to do with what we're learning in History but usually it has something to do with their sports....like surfing. And more Surfing... :-) Shakas up brah! Reading is a daily requirement from everyone in the house. Reading leads to improved grammar and imagination growth. 

Honestly we have just been sort of using the old curriculum we have as a guideline as to which Netflix movie/special/documentary to watch next. We watched one recently on WWII that was heartbreaking, but they learned A LOT from watching it play out. There's also traveling to see some of the actual places in America [Kitty Hawk for the Wright Brothers & Williamsburg, etc] that really solidify any teaching.

One book the kids loved, that we all cried through, was Orphaned On The Oregon Trail. An amazing, yet heartbreaking, true story. We do history when we feel like it. Sometimes we get into a topic and do history every single day for weeks and then take a month or so off. The best part is that they remember more watching it come to life in movies or in person.

So, that's pretty much it. If it looks like a lot, it's really not. I could fit everything we need to do for school in one small tote. We only school for maybe 2 hours per day. It's very relaxed, easy going and feels like unschooling compared to what we were doing before. For the season of life we are in, this is what works for us. We went back to schooling year round and the kids are learning so much. If we need to take a day off, we do that. Sometimes the only schooling you need is to just sit on the beach and listen to the waves.  That might be my inner hippie speaking. We do have a tea time around 2pm to just chat. Yes, even my son. He loves it! Even if all he wants to talk about is robots and minecraft and some app game he plays with his dad. 

Have you let minimalism spill into your homeschool? Are you trying to downsize the amount of stuff taking over your living space and/or homeschool life? Tell me about it below!

Aloha, Jane

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