The second topic in our series of Minimalist Homeschooling 101, tackles the most popular question that I get emailed on a near daily basis : How Do I Get Started?! [If you missed the first post describing what minimalist homeschooling is, start here.]
The emails typically go like this, "Hey this sounds great and super awesome but....how do I do this in my homeschool?!”
There are two ways to go about it that I'm going to outline in this post. The first is through using what you have already on hand [curriculum wise] and the other way is by starting from scratch.
The first way is how I started. That's how I tested the waters to see if it would work. I didn't want to go out and purchase new things until I was sure this would work for us. I say "us" as in I need it to work for my teaching style and I need it to work for my kids' learning styles.
Both are equally important. If it doesn't work for you, the parent, you won't want to do it and then your kids aren't getting anything out of it anyways. If it doesn't work for your kids..well...same result.
Before you can decide which option to take, you need to figure out your end game. What is your goal with homeschooling? You have to start with the goal setting! Some of us start out with goals for our homeschool and then get lost along the way.
Make sure you keep coming back to them [so write them down] to make sure that you're staying true to the overall picture.
My goals are for my kids to know God, have a relationship with God, communicate well, have math skills without hating math, enjoy reading, cultivate a lifestyle of constant learning, and have fun.
I want to achieve this with as few curriculums as possible, lots of literature and picture books [even as an adult I love picture books as much as novels!], reading aloud to my kids, lots of hands on experiences, art infused, organic learning, room to explore and investigate. We want our kids outdoors in nature as much as possible, too.
There might be a few more details, but that's pretty much the gist of it. Without your goals laid out, it is very easy to get into a curriculum and supply buying frenzy, purchase things you don’t need and start worrying.
Stop worrying. Just, chill. Take a deep cleansing breath and write down [on paper] the big goals for your homeschool. If it doesn’t fit your goals, don’t bother buying it. Or keeping it if it’s something you have already.
Using What You Have
If you're someone that likes to follow teacher guides strictly or "needs" to check off all the boxes, this suggestion might give you a rash. I used to be this person, so I get it. But if you truly want to go minimalist on your homeschool, you're going to have to Let It Go.
Yeah, I just went Elsa on you.
You are not a slave to the curriculum. It's time to simplify. This might even help you actually use the curriculum you purchased. You know how sometimes that fancy curriculum doesn't even get used...? No? Just me? Hmm.
Or if a curriculum that you bought and were excited about but you don't like one aspect or you don't like it as written, here is your freedom! You Don't Have To Use It That Way.
Either use the parts of the teacher's guide that you like and forget the rest, take a black permanent marker to it if that helps you. If, for example, you don't like the workbook of the curriculum you're using but you love the text you're using to cover the basics of the topics, start there!
Use what you have as a guide rather than a demanding to-do list. For example there was a history curriculum that we loved that had a text and a workbook. The text was told in a Charlotte Mason-y storytelling way.
We have enjoyed notebooking but not in the way with boxes and lines for things. We felt confined and not feeling our artistic selves. So we ditched the traditional notebooking and read from the story book text, then we artsy notebooked without lines and boxes.
You could literally hear my kids and I breathe easier. I felt less rushed to check the boxes off. They didn't feel pressured. Instead they dived deeper, researched on their own and learned far more than what was planned in the boxes.
I highly recommend combining the aspects of language arts and then integrating into every subject. However! This is a case-by-case basis. I have a feeling that my younger daughter might need worksheets for some things in grammar because of how she learns.
She might not, but I have no hesitation to provide exactly what she needs to understand. Then again, some videos on youtube could help her get it in a few minutes, no worries.
Stay tuned to your kids' individual needs but don't be too quick to plug in a curriculum. This has been a problem in the past for me. The best curriculum is the one you stick with. Going minimal on reading curriculum used to worry me.
Not anymore. Without the stress of the curriculum, my daughter with dyslexia has flourished in reading. This is basically a miracle. No, really. No more tears, no more frustrated mom, and she's reading. AND ENJOYING IT.
Starting From Scratch
If you just want a completely fresh start, and budget isn't an issue, this is what you want to do. Sell or donate the curriculum that isn't working for you or your kiddos. Channel Elsa again if needed.
With your written down goals in mind, start deciding what you really need.
Make a list.
Go back over it and remove things.
Remove a few more.
You can always add more, but too much will overwhelm. And you don’t need a ton.
I don’t give full on curriculum options here for this, but if you have no idea where to start, I’ll help you out.
1. Choose a math. Pick only on your child’s learning style. One of my kids uses Life of Fred with Waldorf math. One uses Teaching Textbooks with Khan Academy [online, free]. And one uses Math U See. Life is just simpler this way. No one hates math now.
2. Choose how to teach them to communicate effectively. If you need something semi structured like Learning Language Arts Through Literature do that. If you want to go it alone [but are still freaking out] take a deep breath and trust the process of choosing great literature and doing copywork/notebooking/projects/related research. Trust me, your kids are going to pick up A LOT through reading and being read to.
3. Choose a science to study. We do nature study, Wild + Free Group, Wild Explorers Club and then we pick a science to piece together. This year it’s some Earth science and astronomy. I picked out some books, a couple experiment kits, and planning a planetarium field trip.
4. History : Pick out some books. Fiction, non-fiction, picture books, novels…whatever helps them! We love Beautiful Feet Books guides for this [also helps with writing assignments]. I also love the idea behind Story of the World and Mystery of History [without the activity guides]. You can also use the Bible for History, it’s a great source! Choose a couple fun activities from pinterest to go with the time period you are studying. Just a couple projects and then add in some fun picture books and novels. Maybe a timeline if that is something your kids enjoy. BF Books comes with timelines.
5. Then, if you so choose, character study, missionary studies, faith/bible studies, world religions and cultures, apologetics. It doesn't have to be a huge production. This stuff is infused in our other subjects as is art and music [ukulele] so it’s not a separate class. We do some work with root words [latin and greek] and foreign language [click here for foreign language post]
After that, it's pretty much just anything that interests your kids. Use youtube videos, netflix, hulu, etc and the library to learn about anything extra. My girls are interested in being child entrepreneurs so we bought books on the subject and do business math. Then they actually build their own businesses.
So, deep breaths, write your goals down, pick what works, sell/donate what doesn't, simplify, simplify some more, relax, let the learning happen, be their guide. You got this, mama.