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.
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.
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 or you can buy them printed and bound. 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 Peaceful Press. My friend Jennifer created this incredible curriculum. You can print it up or keep it on the computer in pdf format for a more minimalist option. Crafts are simple and required books can be purchased, read on kindle, or borrowed from the library. And the aesthetic is so beautifully simple, it really is a minimalist’s dream. Try The Peaceful Preschool, The Playful Pioneers, or The Precious People.
- 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.