Are you a newbie or established homeschool mom overwhelmed with the plethora of curriculum choices online and at conventions?
Maybe you are not even looking forward to a new school year around the corner as the monumental task of planning an entire year is daunting.
Maybe you are frustrated with not enough time to get it all done.
Been there. Done that.
But, there is a solution to this problem and its called homeschool minimalism.
Ten years ago, I began my journey of exploring the possibility of homeschooling. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. However, I immersed myself in reading as many books as I could for months determining if it was a good fit with my background and (lack of) teaching skills.
Obviously, I took the plunge several years ago to educate my kids at home, but it was a struggle. It was hard determining what to buy on a limited budget when you have a TON of options.
I bought so many books and curriculum the first couple of years it would make your head spin. I bought planners and downloaded free calendars filling them in an insurmountable amount of subjects. I wondered, how will I get through it all?
As each year came to a close, I re-evaluated my options and wrote them down for the following school year as a guideline. I finally realized about 3 years ago, I wasn't getting to all of the subjects and needed to focus on the core subjects and then add in what was a priority for me.
Based on my own experience and research, I found there are 4 main ways to avoid the stressful, cumbersome planning books and guides. And, some might suggest this is how to become a homeschool minimalist!
Here they are.
Focus on the three main subjects: Reading, Writing, and Math.
Pour your research into those 3 important subjects before committing to any other subjects. Base your curriculum decisions on their learning styles, your time/effort, your circumstances, and of course, your budget. Then, add in the subjects that YOU deem as important and determine an allotted time and number of days per week within your schedule.
Consider Loop Scheduling with the "elective” subjects.
What is Loop Scheduling you may ask? Basically, it’s rotating a chunk of subjects rather than teaching them on particular days.
As an example, let’s say you add Spelling, Copywork, Grammar, Science on a Loop rotation.
(Notice I have Spelling and Copywork listed twice which means it’s considered a higher priority compared to Science and Grammar.)
Let’s pretend it's Monday and your students have completed the core subjects (the 3 R’s) from 9 to 10 am. Now, you move onto Loop #1 from 10 to 10:30 am and you check off spelling, copywork, and science. For Tuesday, during Loop time #1, you would move onto spelling (the second spelling on the list), grammar, and hopefully copywork. Wednesday would begin foreign language, and you would start over to the first subject on the list. Hopefully, that makes sense!
Did you notice I named it Loop #1? You can have more than one Loop rotation. Let’s say for Loop #1, you allotted 30 minutes. There are 30 more minutes in your daily school schedule so you add another loop. Let’s call it Loop #2 (creative, I know) and the list includes music theory, typing and geography. The process would be the same after your Loop #1 rotation (30 minutes) is over.
This is a great option for busy and large families whose schedule changes daily or have little ones to interrupt. Let’s say I knock out music theory and typing in Loop #2 but the baby wakes up from her nap before I “finish” #2 rotation. I would then pick up on geography the next day and if time allows, go back to the beginning of the loop (which would be music theory). Some days I might make it through an entire loop, some days none at all. Either way works fine because you know it's going to be covered the next day.
When determining what subjects you should reserve for looping, consider the type of lessons you typically would not schedule on a daily basis. This way, if you skip one or two, you can be assured they will eventually get covered the next day.
If you would like to dive more into this subject regarding Loop Scheduling, please consider reading a great resource called Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie. I highly recommend it!
Minimize your spending and look for FREE or inexpensive USED educational materials ONLINE and OFFLINE.
Review free curricula that require very little preparation on your part and not a lot of resources. For upper elementary and up, consider downloading books on a Kindle or ipad and utilizing online learning tools.
Some FREE examples are:
Ambleside Online - includes all your subjects along with a detailed and simple schedule. It does require some thorough review, but its free and based on Charlotte Mason’s methods!
Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool - We used this last year for Grammar. It’s free, minimal (lessons take about 20 minutes) and you can print a workbook that includes everyone here.
Discovery K12 - Online homeschool platform & curriculum for pre-k to 12th grade with 7 standard courses: Language Arts, Reading/Literature, Math, Science, History/Social Studies, Visual/Performing Arts, and Physical Education.
Virtual Homeschool Group - Virtual Homeschool Group is 100% volunteer-run and are typically middle and high school age classes. They offer 'at your own pace' (AYOP) and live online courses for homeschool families for 12 years.
Also, http://homeschoolteachers.com is not free but a great bargain for about $10-$12 a month if you get in on their specials. You can also join for free for 30 days using code LIMTRIAL. We are using this online option for writing, foreign language, and computer classes. Their course list continues to grow each month and currently have 350+ courses in all subjects. Check it out!
Consider buying used curriculum to avoid killing your budget and/or if it's not working well for your children or lifestyle, you're not out a lot of $.
Here are some online vendors:
Also, sign up for local homeschool groups where homeschool families will advertise great prices on their unwanted and unused homeschool books and curricula.
My saving grace in the early years was buying mostly USED material (except for consumable workbooks) just in case it didn’t work out for my “students”. I was able to resell most of my materials either at the same price or at an insignificant reduced amount. Homeschool materials do hold their value.
PRINTABLES AND DOWNLOADABLE FILES
Don't forget FREE and inexpensive PRINTABLES! You can print them yourself and only the pages you want. Invest in a binder to keep your printed materials organized and easy to find. Take advantage of online sales and freebies, but only if you need them. Don't waste your time signing up for freebies or great sales just because they are...just that. Instead, write a list of what you need, and do a google search on freebies and inexpensive printables.
Include Homemaking Skills on a daily basis.
This teaches your children early on to be responsible and embrace hard work. Some ideas would be allowing your middle school or high school child to learn the entire process of cooking a meal. Start with choosing a meal, write up a plan, buy groceries, and then execute the meal in the kitchen. It gives them independence and a sense of accomplishment. Don’t forget to talk about what’s a healthy meal and what’s not.
Ask your husband to teach your upper elementary or middle school student to landscape the yard or change the oil. Show your lower elementary age son to rake leaves and take the garbage out. Based on their age level, choose the appropriate type of chores with this guideline.
Another idea may be to walk around the house or yard to see potential homeschool projects. If they are old enough, you can give them a task and ask them to find out instructions on their own using multiple resources like the library or online(with supervision, of course).
Speaking of chores, this morning my daughter was playing with a couple of kids outside and looked out the window. I noticed she was showing them how to weed the flower bed. It looked spectacular when I came outside to see the results! She is not afraid of hard work because she started at a young age!
Please note, it’s never too late to train them on chores as long as their still under your roof!
Homeschooling can be a true joy, just plan ahead, prioritize, pull out the weeds (any stressful subjects), and play with your kids as much as you can. As you probably know, they grow up way too fast! Until next time...
Psalm 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.