Minimalist homeschooling is less of the extra.
The term ‘Minimalist homeschooler’ is far beyond meaning, using less paper.
- It’s an attitude, become intentional by asking yourself the why behind your homeschooling choices?
- A way of thinking, a mindset shift from information cramming to intentional learning that a child can take and expand with the skills you impart.
- It’s being intentional with your time, and choosing to focus on less, to therefore have your child recall more of the items being taught.
- Doing things that bring awareness to the why of your homeschooling, why are you here? why are you choosing to homeschool?
- It is removing distractions. You can’t do big things if you are distracted by small things.
As a homeschooling mother of five, and having been homeschooled myself, I have first-hand knowledge of how minimalist homeschooling, is a sure-fire way to avoiding burnout, getting results and keeping your sanity.
I am no minimalist in my home, but in the homeschooling arena, I am careful to be..Minimalist.
It means I can get it done.
I can deliver a refined education to my children, with patience and consistency.
And that’s what it’s all about.
Homeschooling is a gift, to be able to be home, with your children during the fleeting childhood years.
In our busy lives, we are told to work harder, be more, want more, dream bigger.
Not bad qualities.
But they don’t belong in homeschooling.
I choose carefully to have an uncluttered, simple approach to filling the minds of my children with knowledge, everyday in a way that is sustainable and joyful.
I do this, by choosing to be minimal.
The retention rate of children should affect your approach
before we go on I want to let you know a fact, a fact about children and their retention rate, published in the journal Neuron, neurobiologists Blake Richards and Paul Frankland found that children remember barely half of what they are taught.
57% is lost after an hour.
66% after a day
75% after one week.
I have always been a minimalist homeschooler, My boys thrive with a less is more approach, we revisit small chunks of information over and over, not moving on until it is mastered.
I knew it worked, but it wasn’t until recently that I found this study, which only strengthened my belief that while it can feel like you could get more, achieve more, but I know that long term you won’t if I taught for several hours everyday, 75% would be lost each week. I would have to teach it again, and then again.
Hours, and hours of work.
I rely on the persistence of memory forming over time, the brain rewiring until a subject as critical as reading, language and mathematics, are hard-wired. I don’t bother with history, science, social studies and geography.
not yet. I want my children to be able to read to critically analyse, to be able to problem-solve on their own, when they have developed these skills, the learning world opens up.
You have to trust the process.
It can be slow going, I avoid long-term planning and the list of subjects to tick off each day, I trade that in for a higher retention rate over time, which leads to children who can read well, problem solve and think critically.
It leads to a lifetime of learning.
How minimal should you go to be a minimalist homeschooler?
Some may go more minimal than others, there is no one size fits all, it depends on the family, the main teacher at home, the child/children’s learning styles and age.
I think it goes without saying that a teenagers approach to minimal style education is different to that of an 8-year-old.
Be as minimal as you want to be
I do not stress about what comes next, about how to be ‘minimal’ when my children enter a different stage of education because the emphasis won’t be so much on me as a primary teacher.
The reason I started this way of homeschooling, was because while my children are young, the emphasis is very much on ME and I knew I needed to get the most out of the time I have every day.
How to become a minimalist homeschooler?
Start with the child.
It is about analysing your child and assessing what you want to focus on.
- Are they strong readers?
- Does handwriting need work?
- Do they struggle with math?
ask yourself these basics, and for now, approach your homeschooling with nothing but the basics.
I don’t do history.
I don’t do daily science lessons.
I don’t do music
I don’t do art
I do nothing in my homeschool time but the bare basics.
I do this, not to be boring, but to be intentional with the CORE learning subjects, these subjects will shape your child’s education, being able to read to teach themselves, absorb information, being able to problem-solve with mathematics, creating thinking skills to last a lifetime.
You don’t need to spend time cramming history.
Ditch the ‘School in the home’ mentality.
Did I get your attention?
NO, I am not an unschooler.
But there is a major problem I see in homeschoolers.
They think they have a school in their home.
And, yes, I do mean the schoolroom, and the excess of stuff, and trying to juggle five hours of curriculum each day to multiple children, sometimes even situated at different desks, to mimic the physicalities of the school environment.
But I am also talking, the system that the mainstream school system uses, which, unfortunately, homeschoolers are willingly adopting.
The grade by age system.
The very system was created to fail, the school system uses the “average” to grade children, to decide where they should be according to their age.
It was designed by a public system, which had a problem.
A problem that came from trying to educate children en masse, and so tests were done on the countries children, there was two groups that emerged, half tested well, top of the class, the other half they were at the bottom for the grade they were tested in for the age bracket.
And so the school system drew a line in the middle and called it the national average, even though no child even tested there in the first place.
that’s how you rank your child.
By a system that was created for a problem, you don’t have.
you aren’t educating the masses and trying to find the average, you are educating your children.
Break free of the age-grading, where they should be versus where they are?
No one learns the same, no one sees the world the same way, we don’t all share the same interest, the same drive, acknowledge that, and work with it.
So how do you break free of the school system?
I understand you can’t escape grades, and you don’t need to. I am not against them but I don’t ascertain my child’s intelligence by them.
Already in my children, I see their strengths, their difference and their weaknesses.
I can use myself as an example. I suck at math, I really hate it, I don’t at all enjoy the way it works. I can do it, I can sit and figure it out, but I will do anything rather than math.
As a teen, my maths grades were barely passable, but I really didn’t give a hoot.
I love good literature, history and biology.
Could I have gotten better maths grades? sure, if I had have worked harder, spent more time on it.
but how does that help me now?
I hate maths, would I have ever chosen a career that involved maths? No.
Instead, I fed my interests, in those, I got ahead, way ahead. I can remember what I read, the notes I took, I can still recall and teach my kids today from the biology that I learnt as a 16-year-old.
I am not saying your children should avoid what they don’t like. I did the math, but I knew I would never really enjoy it, nor would I want to pursue it, so I didn’t spend any extra time on it.
Minimalist homeschooling is starting at the child. you’re creating a thinker, a learner, and that is done by sticking to what drives them, as an individual, not a national average.
Ditch the classroom
The modern school has indoctrinated us to think we need to separate ages into classes and that children of different levels can’t learn together, well I am here to dispel you of that notion, and it works well, and you will find that your younger school children get smarter, as they naturally hear all that your teaching your older children.
you don’t have to ditch the schoolroom, but I do think you should practice the one table, one learning time for your children, especially if they are close in age, it saves time, it’s a sustainable way to teach, and it’s good for the children to learn together, in fact, a proven way to have your child better recall what they learn is to teach someone else, and often I prompt my boys to teach each other, to help each other, as teaching someone else to strengthen the connections in their own brain for better recall of that subject.
Ditch the schoolroom and you will ditch the extra stuff you really don’t need.
You gain space, you gain time, and you gain money because you aren’t trying to fill your school room with all the things you think are required for delivering a varied and thorough education.
Most importantly you gain your sanity.
Stop spending half your days in the schoolroom ticking the boxes you made yourself to be sure your child will know enough.
How much time should you spend homeschooling?
Read this post, how much time should you spend homeschooling?
You need to plan a sustainable amount of time for the family you have.
young children need less time at the table learning from the age of 10 and under I am talking an hour a day.
teenagers (11-12 up) require more.
This is obvious.
How to stay minimal when you have teens?
you stick to the basics, let them lead the way into the extracurricular, and don’t freak out about college and testing later, you need to master the basics, which will have them pass any standard tests and let’s face standard testing these days? the number of kids not passing it is crazy growing and these tests are bare basics, schools are cramming kids with things they don’t need and they aren’t able to deliver on the fundamentals, and with those fundamentals, kids can take on learning for the rest of their lives.
Encourage reading, but don’t worry not everyone loves to read, everyone can benefit from reading aloud from you, (even teens) and you could take on a book list you truly want to, or you can listen to something from audible.
So how much time?
For me right now, homeschooling three children I have 1 hour a day as at the table sit and learn time.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t school going on that doesn’t require me to sit and be THERE.
Maths can be done while I wash dishes or while I make lunch.
Dictation or me listening to them read aloud, can be done as I fold washing. Incorporate what you can with life.
I focus on the basics. Reading, writing and math.
For 20 minutes a day, we listen to a book on audible, or on a good day, I will read aloud, while the kids colour or build lego.
For young children up until young teenage years (11-12), an hour is a perfectly acceptable time, broken into each subject, with a small break in between if they are very young. But as they get older, my boys no longer need the break.
They are happy to work through it so they can get back to doing whatever they would rather be doing.
School for life, not for a year.
Homeschooling is trying, but should not be hard.
I mean trying in the way that exercise is. Most days I enjoy it, but some days. I. could. Not. Be. Bothered.
Homeschooling is the same, some days it’s just ..blah.
That being said, It shouldn’t be difficult, you should not feel like every day you are running a marathon. Some days are tougher than others sure, but if you are so drained you cry at the thought of continuing on. You’re doing it wrong.
Do you feel burnout? I have a post on burnout here.
Don’t plan a year of homeschooling!
You’re sitting down during the summer holidays, excited for the new year. You have the goals, the plans, you went shopping, everything is fresh and new. It’s like Christmas morning!
How do you feel three months in?
If you’re like me, you may have come to the realisation, that the woman who sits down and does the planning, is not the woman who is doing the executing of said planning.
I didn’t reach the goals I had set, I started missing days because I was tired, and eventually, I felt like I had lost control and was failing.
I learned to plan my life and not a school year.
Plan, an hour a day. A perfectly reasonable amount of time. On good days you’ll do more without noticing, on bad days it’s doable.
SET SMALL GOALS
Read this post, Effective planning strategies for homeschooling
- Make new habits. reading aloud or listening to books, encourage question time, take nature walks, there is always some growth, some seasonal changes in your year that you can work and adapt, change is good, you don’t have to be permanent in all things.
- A morning baking bread with me in the kitchen is a morning of school, plan to ditch.
- Plan rewards for small goals. Ice cream when you get to page 12 of your reader, pocket money when you can make pancakes on your own, screen time when you can sweep the floor and not leave crumbs. ALL are worth rewarding, and all are teaching skills.
Before you know it the year is halfway done, and little by little, each day, each hour, every bit of earned pocket money, every walk and talk, every 15 minutes spent listening to good literature, every question, has led to a child who is getting a personal education, from you.
Set your own schedule.
This goes with the school in the home mentality.
Who made school terms?
I doubt it was a homeschooling mother.
If you have young children, school-aged and under, then a ten-week term is loooong! It’s hard to show up for that long, and I find that even with all the above points, it’s still harder than it needs to be.
Ten weeks with two measly weeks holiday, I feel like I have barely breathed and we are back in school.
No, not for me.
I now do, six weeks on two weeks off, with the same summer holidays. (although now I am phasing into year-round homeschooling, I don’t make rules, it worked this year might not next year!)
It’s 6 terms of 6 weeks, which equates to 36 weeks. A perfect school year if anyone were to ask.
I do this because it is manageable for me with young children, and because it means I can loop of some things I do incorporate as an extra, for example, we are currently working through a human anatomy book for this six-week stint, we open this book when we have time after our main lessons are done and we read and draw the picture, perhaps watch a video on youtube.
I chose this book because the kids love it, it’s child-led learning, and it’s a sure-fire way to have everyone at the table enjoy what we learn, and the fact is, that we as humans, retain what we learn when we truly enjoy the subject.
Minimalist homeschooling is child-led learning for the extra curricular
It’s homeschooling to its full potential for a family.
So how do you become a minimalist homeschooler?
I see some posts say “use less paper” I mean sure if that’s a goal of yours, go for it!
But it’s not true Minimalist homeschooling.
- Use exactly what you can. What you like. it’s not about just using less
- Ditch everything but the basics, reading, writing and math until these skills are mastered.
- Ditch the classroom
Teach your children at the same time, in the same space.
- Teach for an hour to two hours a day, even with multiple children at the school table.
- Set smaller goals, ditch the year-long plans, ditch the workload that comes with seperate curriculums for each child
- Set your own yearly schedule free you mind from the constraints of modern schooling
Collect what you like, encourage what brings your children joy.
I suppose, the essence of Minimalist homeschooling is doing exactly what you are capable of and not what is expected, most often by a world still very much on the fence for homeschooling being an adequate form of education.
But being different is not less.
I don’t believe that cramming information into a child is an education.
It’s not sustainable.
It’s not enjoyable.
If you are curious as to what I use in my Minimalist homeschool approach, then I have a post for you!
I hope this answered the question, how to become a minimalist homeschooler!
If you want to contact me leave a comment or subscribe to my email if you are interested in learning more and check out my other homeschooling posts!
thanks for stopping by!
The Simple Mamma