Homeschooling your children can be difficult. It’s easy to let your concern for your kids’ education lead you to overwhelm them (and yourself) with more work than is realistic.
Pretty soon, everyone’s burned out and frustrated, and that love of learning you had hoped to cultivate in your child, has been replaced with a kid who is grumpy and stressed as soon as it’s time to sit down and complete their school work.
You can create a simple homeschool by focusing your energy and attention on one or two key subjects, grouping multiple children whenever possible, and approaching all remaining subjects in a hands-on, discovery-style approach where you and your children explore new topics and interests side by side.
I’ve fallen into the trap of overcomplicating our homeschool and I’ve watched it happen to others. More often than not, these are the homeschoolers who quit after the first year. They’re convinced it’s just too hard.
I believe we often make it too hard and end up sabotaging ourselves. Yes, you can homeschool simply, but you’ll need to have clear goals and expectations, and be willing to set aside some common beliefs about education which may be holding you back.
ESTABLISH YOUR PRIORITIES
For my own children, my key homeschool goals are to be consistent with their math, train them to be critical thinkers, and teach them to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.
Sure, I have other goals too. Things like cultivating a love of reading, discovering their unique talents, and being kind people. However, I feel like these goals have more to do with my responsibilities as their parent, and not my duties as their teacher.
I’d still be their parent, even if we didn’t homeschool, so I’m keeping the “parent responsibilities” in a separate box, so to speak, and only focusing here on my goals as their homeschool teacher.
As my children’s homeschool teacher, my focus is on reaching whatever math level they are capable of attaining (recognizing that will be different for each child), and teaching them to be critical thinkers and good communicators. I believe that if I can help them succeed in these areas, they will be capable of tackling any job or pursuit they choose to do in life.
To that end, when I want to get all strict and teachery, I focus that energy on their math and language arts curriculum. Not only are these two subjects the ones that are most closely tied to my goals for them as a teacher, but they are also the two academic subjects that build in difficulty each year of a child’s education.
For example, say your child was in a traditional school and for some reason, had to miss science class every day of their fourth grade year. For that one year, they did not cover any science lessons at all, while the rest of their class spent the year studying the layers of the earth, and the different classifications of rocks and minerals.
The next year, your child enters fifth grade and is able to make it to science class every day. This year, the class is learning about the human body and its various systems. Will your child be able to keep up with the class, even though they missed every lesson on rocks and mineral in fourth grade.
Yes, of course!
Certainly, you don’t want your child to have any gaps in their education, but with subjects other than math and language arts, it’s less critical that a certain pace or timeline be maintained because missing a section of information will be less likely to hold a student back from learning other areas of that subject.
In other words, it’s easier to catch up in these subjects.
On the other hand, a student who misses months of language arts lessons and does not learn how to properly structure a sentence, is going to struggle significantly later on when he or she needs to learn to write a paragraph. A student who misses out on learning multiplication can’t simply skip that section of math and move on to learning how to calculate the area of a square. These skills build like blocks one upon the other. If math or language arts are not worked on daily, even at a slow pace if that is what the student requires, it will be very difficult for the student to even begin to master that subject.
Long answer short, I recommend maintaining a consistent schedule for math and language arts. If your day blows up after that and you can’t get to any other subjects, you can probably skip something or make up for it later. You simply don’t have that kind of freedom with math and language arts.
GROUP MULTIPLE STUDENTS AND GRADES TOGETHER
Once you’ve found a program for each child’s individual math and language arts needs, you can probably group several children together for subjects like history, science, art, and phys. ed.
This is the point at which you need to let go of your preconceived ideas of what school is “supposed” to look like if you want to be able to homeschool simply.
Many parents homeschool as if they were running a small private academy in their home. They buy a curriculum used in private schools, and each student has a different textbook for each subject. Each of those textbooks also comes with a separate teacher’s manual.
Multiply all those books by however many children are in the family, and you have a great recipe for burnout.
Sure, you know a family who does exactly that and they love it. Everyone’s happy and their kid just won the National Spelling Bee.
If you’re that family, great! Do what works for you! I personally find that approach unsustainable and life-draining, but I know families who thrive and their kids are receiving a fabulous education.
But there’s another way, and the key is picking the right curriculum.
I highly recommend that you look for curriculum written by homeschoolers, for homeschoolers.
Other parents who have been in the trenches of homeschooling understand the unique needs and challenges in a way that a large curriculum company writing for a traditional school setting simply cannot.
As a starting point, I’d recommend you look into Sonlight, My Father’s World, Beautiful Feet Books, and Gather ‘Round Homeschool. All of these curriculum companies are writing for homeschool families and are structured to group several or even all the children together for many of the subjects.
To homeschool simply, get each child working on their own math and language arts programs at their appropriate level, and encourage older children to spend at least part of that time working independently. That will free up the parent to work one on one with younger children, or an older child who needs help with a new concept. Then, group as many children as possible (again, check out the curriculum companies I’ve recommended above) for all the remaining subjects.
Now you can homeschool simply, and hopefully save your sanity too.
There’s a bonus to grouping your children together.
Learning together will encourage close relationships amongst your children, as they discover new things, work together on projects, and make memories.
I know for my family, I envision a homeschool situation where family time is key, and the love of learning is discovered with all of my children together. I hope that what my children learn in that kind of environment will stick with them in a way that information acquired while working alone at a desk never would.
DON’T TEACH, DISCOVER!
As you’re grouping your children together to learn, you can make homeschooling simple by taking the pressure off yourself as the teacher.
You might be thinking, I can’t teach my kids about the Revolutionary War for history this year! I don’t know anything about it myself!
You don’t need to be an expert to guide your children through a new learning experience.
You’re an adult, with more years of education than your child (even if you secretly think your kid may be smarter than you), a wider life experience, and the maturity and wisdom to know where you need to look to begin uncovering new information.
That’s all you need!
If being the “teacher” intimidates you, homeschool simply by thinking of yourself as the leader of discovery!
You’ve got a team of learning detectives (your kids), and you are their fearless leader! Together you are going to dive into this unknown subject and discover new information side by side.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be complicated. By prioritizing a few goals/subjects, grouping your kids to learn together, and letting go of the pressure to be an expert in every thing you teach, you can relax a little, enjoy the journey, and homeschool simply.