minimalist influence: homeschooling

My mom, who is “walking down her 88th year” as she says, often tells those familiar stories about her life as a child, how she walked 5 miles to school in snow and how the girls in the family had to wear boy’s galoshes because it was during the Great Depression. Typically these tales are brought on by hearing someone in the family talk about some newfangled this or that, something she finds to be unnecessary.

As I started thinking about minimalist influence on homeschooling and family life, I found myself sounding like one of the old timers, waxing eloquent about the good old days and proclaiming some of the new-fangled ideals in homeschooling circles as “unnecessary.” I hope you will indulge me.

It was interesting for me to read the reviews and see pictures from the Cincinnati Homeschooling Convention. What a tremendous event and amazing opportunities for the nearly 15,000 moms and dads, sons and daughters who attended. It certainly brought back a lot of memories for me from conventions we attended over the past two decades and reminded me of just how mainstream, if not trendy, homeschooling has become.

In the olden days of homeschooling, circa 1980’s, our first exposure to homeschooling was actually one workshop that was offered as part of the Central Illinois Sunday School Convention. A couple who had been homeschooling a few years talked about their convictions and offered a very short list of books and magazine articles to read. The 15 or so of us who attended chatted about homeschooling and the resources we had found available, mostly Christian school curriculum we would have to adapt for home use, and we each went our separate ways. A room full of novices and dreamers, we were.

As time went by, a local support group was formed and began hosting a small convention. Over the years, they brought in speakers who promoted the priorities of building character into children, becoming strong as families, and making the study of God’s Word central to all that we did.

The exhibit hall offered a handful of items to purchase but mostly the speakers were there to encourage and cheer us on; few had something to sell or promote other than the value of homeschooling. By necessity, we had to creatively find ways to teach our children the things we believed they needed to know and, in the process, learn ourselves.

I am in no way disparaging the wonders to be found at conventions, in the many homeschooling supply companies, or even the home businesses that started in the basements and garages of homeschooling families. In fact, I always take every opportunity to encourage moms to attend these wonderful events. Today, the possibilities are endless and the resources are awesome. But I think it would be in our best interest to consider how a minimalist influence in homeschooling, not only in curriculum purchases but in lifestyle, is needed to bring us back to the basics of why we educate our children at home and the priorities that bring about the best results of our efforts. Here are a few areas of concern that I have:

1. Homeschooling is becoming curriculum driven rather than an opportunity for children to explore and discover themselves. This was really confirmed to me a few months ago when I chatted with a mother of pre-schoolers who was intent on purchasing a curriculum package for her little boys. As I asked her about their interests and about the type of learners they were, encouraging her to not push an intense reading program on boys at too early of an age, it became obvious to me that her agenda was to purchase and proceed through a curriculum rather than to assess each of her children individually for what would be best for each of them. I smiled and nodded, any suggestions of reading a book by the Moores being rebuffed and I was told “Oh, I have heard of the Moores and we would NEVER be interested in what they have to say. We believe in early childhood education.”

This is exactly why I think curriculum packages can be so counterproductive. They assume that learning and education are somehow equated with formal school and seatwork. They promote doing public school in your home, assuming that all children learn in the same manner and that it must come from textbooks and worksheets. There is the assumption that if a book is completed during the school year, learning and education have occurred. This is the reason both moms and children, especially boys, often burn out in the early years.

On the other hand, real books from the library, a tub of art supplies, being read stories rich in vocabulary, a variety of good music, the daily discussion of God’s Word and how it relates to the world around him, and the attention of a loving parent who includes him in all the activities of real life are the secrets to a great learning experience for children. Winston Churchill once lamented, “My education was interrupted only by my schooling” and how very true that can be, even for homeschooled children.

2. Along with this notion about curriculum comes the one that the more money that is spent on teaching children, the better educated they will be. I remember hearing a homeschooling leader and conference presenter once admonish parents to understand that they would need to spend the same amount of money on home education as they would on tuition in a private school if they wanted to provide an adequate education for their kids. I can only imagine how discouraging that statement was and how many families ultimately decided that cost would prohibit them from homeschooling.

A few months ago I wrote about attending a local school board meeting and tediously listening to the bureaucracy that IS the public school system. I sat in amazement as teachers and principals talked about their various programs and the need for money to fund them. I kept thinking about the emperor’s new clothes, watching as one by one school board members and parents, ie taxpayers, nodded in support, clueless as to how unnecessary much of this funding truly is. Why is it that one room school houses were able to provide a far superior education to our grandparents than our grandchildren would receive today in school districts around the country, and all on a shoestring budget?

3. Filling days and nights with activities outside the home is now equated with a “well-rounded” homeschooling experience. How often I have heard homeschooling moms lament how busy their weeks are and how much time they spend in the car rather than at home. One mom told me how their family gives one day each week to her co-op and that it takes her at least one other full day and sometimes two days prior to their class day to help her children prepare. Other moms have 4 or 5 children to taxi to various lessons and practices each week and when added to church activities, family meal time and free time to just live in the world around them is often compromised.

Having older children who desire fellowship and friendship is a good reason to get involved in occasional outside events and classes where particular skills can be honed is often a great idea. But the subtle pressure to provide “enrichment” for our children can often turn into an endless list of outside pursuits that steal away the hours of family living. Any time spent away from home should be measured by the benefits. Does it leave time to explore and learn new things on our own? Does it inspire creativity and further study? Does it promote a healthy lifestyle or does time outside the home mean that McDonalds and Burger King provide frequent meals for your family? Does it mean that younger children spend endless hours strapped into car seats while older children are taken to one event after another? Do you find yourself looking for ways to offer your children all the amenities of the public school system or are your children having time to serve others? Do your children spend most of their time with people who are a variety of ages or mostly with peers? Are you the one providing most of their Bible instruction and discipleship or is it done by your church? Do your children know that you always have time to listen to them and pray with them every single day?

4. What is the goal of a real education?
One of the common concerns often expressed to us over the years about homeschooling is whether or not we could possibly teach our children everything. My answer is always “no” followed by the correct observation that there is no teacher or institution or family who could possibly teach everything. And it shouldn’t even be a goal! The vast amount of information, especially technological information, that is generated increases exponentially each year. Rather than worrying about knowing it all, our goal as homeschoolers ought to be to raise and become, ourselves, lifelong learners. This is accomplished first by providing an environment rich in life experiences and then giving our children an introduction to ideas and concepts outside of those experiences. By teaching and training in research skills and not uploading them with information and allowing them plenty of space to study things they are curious about (delight centered learning), we have given them the tools to be successful no matter where the Lord leads them.

Let me encourage you to take the coming summer months to consider the following:

1. What are the areas of your life as a homeschooling family that are the most important to you?
Brainstorm, making a list and narrowing it down to your top five priorities. Consider how the curriculum, programs, activities, and learning methods you now enjoy either enhance or detract from these goals.

2. Begin to eliminate those things that are not beneficial or that take time away from accomplishing these five goals.
Ask yourself if those goals can be better met at home rather than outside the home and be honest. Remember that life is short and life with our children at home is even shorter. Imagine yourself, 25 years from now, talking with your adult children who are raising your grandchildren. How can you spend your time today that will best prepare them for that task?

3. Say “no” to new things that come along that also won’t help you accomplish your goals for your family. There is a plethora of opportunity for homeschooling families but ask yourself which options are the best choices for yours. Don’t succumb to the latest curriculum fad just because it is popular and appealing. Don’t jump on any homeschooling lifestyle bandwagon without evaluating it according to your goals. Don’t sign up for a single thing that will not help you accomplish one or more of your five goals.

4. Make time for those things that are important. Never allow yourself to say “I don’t have time” if it is something that will help you attain your goal. For example, if you want to develop a new family habit, wrap that activity around something you do every single day. For years we began the day as a family with Bible reading and prayer but found it difficult to keep as a routine because of Clay’s work schedule. A few years ago we decided to include it as part of something we do together every single day so we incorporated it into our evening meal. Success!

5. Throw yourself into accomplishing those five goals. Read, study, and learn everything you possibly can about things related to that goal and see how it changes your life!

6. Remember that the eternal always trumps the temporal. This will be a continual battle as long as we live in this world but purposing to live each day with this agenda at the core of your life will be worth it all. As I have been making these evaluations for my own life and family, the Lord brought this old hymn to mind. So often I am distracted by the “sights that dazzle” and the “tempting sounds I hear” but know that my calling as a Christian means that my goals and priorities are not to be shaped by the things of this world.

O Jesus I Have Promised Hymn

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be thou for ever near me,
My Master and my Friend:
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my guide.

O let me feel thee near me:
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.

O let me hear thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
To hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
Thou guardian of my soul.

O Jesus, thou hast promised
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in glory
There shall thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end:
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my friend.

O let me see thy foot-marks,
And in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in thy strength alone:
O guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My Savior and my friend.

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  1. says

    Right on, Karen! This post should be required reading for every homeschooling family.

    My heart broke recently as I listened to a home school mom talk about how busy she was carting her children far and wide to round out their education.

    In the next breath she told me the struggles she has with her husband. Their marriage is on the rocks. She did not make the connection between her hours and hours and hours away from home and the sad state of her marriage.

  2. Michelle says

    Thank you Karen! I just can’t say enough what a breath of fresh air you are! I would love to know what your top five priorities would have been when you had little ones (say when they were all under 10 years old). Also, I hope this doesn’t sound like it’s running counter to all that you just said, but I’m thinking for the first time of going with an all-in-one cirriculum that follows history chronologically and has a daily plan with a lot of “living books” and hands-on activities (which doesn’t include math and language arts). I just feel at times like so much of my time is taken up as “teacher” (teaching and researching and learning myself)and so much less time and energy is available fo just being “Mama”. I’d love to know your thoughts.

  3. says

    Cheri and Virginia,

    It is interesting but those of us who have been doing this for a long time “get it” about these points. We know how fast time flies….there you are helping children sound out the words in your Alpha-Phonics book and the next thing you know they are doing the same thing with your grandchildren! (I am enjoying this phenomenon this week with Mollie and her group here. Listening to Henry read to me made me get weepy. Where DOES the time go?) Younger moms need us, they really do. I am so sorry when I see “retired” homeschooling moms have no interest in encouraging this next group of moms behind us. The perspective we have at this point in life, whether it be in homeschooling or marriage or raising children is so very different and, I think, necessary to share.

  4. says


    Such a great question!!! (more details on this can be found in these podcasts:

    If I had to narrow it down to five, I think this is what they would be:

    1. Family Bible reading, Scripture memory, and prayer time…the highlight of our day. When the kids were younger Clay sometimes did overhead projector lessons and even went through a period of doing chalk art. It was fun but best of all was just the fact that he did the Bible reading with us. When we celebrated our 25th anniversary, each of the older children gave testimonies about our marriage and family and this was the one point they each made that I valuable that was to them. I see it reproduced now in their own homes.

    2. Family supper time. I think we sometimes underestimate the value of this. (Read my intro on the recipe page.) I have many fond memories of long discussions around the dinner table, especially as the children get older and are interested in current events and theology.

    3. Lots of hands on opportunities and experiences, more mess making, even more real books in our personal library; salting their oats and making them salivate to learn something and using those interests to get them to learn other things.

    4. Being in a stable church. Sigh. Hindsight is always best but we would have come to our current church 25 years ago had we known then what we know now. (see family integrated church article.)

    5. Ministry opportunities for the whole family but especially for the kids. Learning to serve others and to put them before ourselves (my definition of kindness) is truly the key to a successful life both personally and in work. My husband is such an awesome example of this and as I have watched my children take on the responsibilities of work and family, I see his influence in their lives that has been a blessing to their spouses and employers. This has to begin at home and then it will flow organically to those outside our families. It begins with the simple things…taking a loaf of bread to a neighbor or shoveling a sidewalk. Each small act of kindness grows into a way of life that blesses others.

  5. says

    Michelle, I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with a complete curriculum package. In fact, sometimes having it all in front of us does free us up to do the mom things. I hear you on that one,let me tell you. I have really tried to have a “school time” in a “school room” but, thankfully, it never lasted. We “schooled” most of the time at the kitchen counter while I cooked or washed dishes.

    I think it all depends on how we use the curriculum and what we expect from it. I have been using the Notgrass History but instead of seeing it as a year long course, I used it as my basic jumping off point and allowed us plenty of room to explore the rabbit trails that interested us. When we got to World War 2, for example, there were just so many great things to enhance our study…documentaries on the building of the Alaskan Highway and the North Platte canteen and movies, oh my the wonderful movies that brought to life aspects of the war we would have missed had we stayed “on task” with the curriculum. (The Best Years of Our Lives is as applicable now as it was then for understanding the problems of GI’s assimilating themselves back into the civilian world.) As long as you don’t let any of it dictate what your own children will learn or make you feel guilty if you go on an interesting tangent, I think it is fine. I will be anxious to hear you use it for your own family!

  6. Michelle says

    Karen those are fantastic goals! See, I love listening to you older (just a bit!) and wiser (a BIG bit!) Mamas for some balance and perspective. I’m going out of town for a couple weeks and I’m going to get quiet with God and my journal (as best I can – kiddos are going too 🙂 ) and really assess what my goals are now. I’ll tell you one thing they are really different than what they were a couple years ago. Thanks again so much – for everything! (And I’m working on listening to all of the podcasts slow but sure) Have a blessed week!

  7. amanda says

    I loved this article. It is so encouraging. Can you give me an example of what some goals might be? Is it strictly academic or life skills too?


  8. april says

    Thank you so much for this post. I have left this cued up in my reader for the last few days, waiting. Waiting for a time when I could read it fully and process what it has to say. I had skimmed the first couple of paragraphs and knew that it would require more of me than I had to give at that moment. This morning, I finally had the time to sit down with this. I can’t wait to share it with my husband.

    We are new to homeschooling, just finishing up “Kindergarten” with our oldest daughter. We have really fudged our way this year….me worrying constantly that I’m not doing enough for my girls (4 and 6), while at the same time reminding myself that it’s just Kindergarten–they are supposed to learn through play. My reassurance throughout our first year of school has been that at least she’s reading……self driven to learn with minimal help from me and that through the little work we put into her learning to read, our youngest is already learning to read on her own as well.

    I struggle constantly with comparing our family to other homeschool families and feeling like we need to “keep up with the Jones'” (expensive curriculum, lots of paid activities, tons of time spent at co-ops, lots of driving around). This past week, my husband and I have been evaluating what it means to homeschool for our family and starting to process some of the helps that you included in this post. It is so comforting to know that I don’t have to buy expensive curriculum or get them involved in tons of extra activities. We don’t have a ton of money to throw away on these things, so we rely a lot on free internet activities and resources. We also have been given lots of old curriculum from other folks. Sometimes we use them, sometimes we don’t. We also use the library a TON!

    We are trying to clarify for our family; what are our educational goals, what is our homeschool philosophy, why are we homeschooling, and how are we going to keep ourselves on track with our goals and philosophy. Praises be to God for the timing of your post to my life and to these decisions. It is helping me to shape the way I educate my children.

  9. says

    April, some days I wish I was right where you are, just starting out this wonderful adventure!

    I would encourage you to try to listen to these podcasts with your husband.

    This one is a series that addresses writing your philosophy of education, things to consider as you “weed through” all the options, etc.

    This is the series with Ellen Dana, the assistant to the Moores and Kathie Kordenbrock,the Moore’s daughter and homeschooling mom. They both talk about all the simple educational things to do with kids and Ellen’s insights on educational research is amazing. All the modern formal education practices fly completely in the face of sound research.

  10. says

    I think it is so interesting how those of us who have adult children who were homeschooled and many years of experience under our belts “get” this. I know Virginia, Meg, Cheri, we all know how fast time goes and what matters. So glad you all have commented and can be an encouragement to younger moms!

  11. says

    What a great post! Thank you SO much for taking time to write that. We have been homeschooling for 9 years, and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have several friends who are home schoolers, and they seem so busy running to and fro to this sports practice, or that activity. I wonder how she has time or energy to do it! Whatever happened to the “home” in home schooling? I love the minimalist approach. Too many buttons and whistles is like overstimulation. There is nothing wrong with a “slower” and more relaxed approach, which is what I love about good books and art kits! LOL If you don’t mind, I’m linking this post on my blog.
    In Christ,

  12. says

    Karen, a homeschooling mom came up to me at church last Sunday to tell me that she’d found your blog via mine. With tears in her eyes, she said that this particular post of yours was exactly what she needed. She shared the link with some of her friends who were also feeling overwhelmed. That’s just one small example of how your blog is reaching the moms who need it. You are making a difference.

  13. susan t says

    What a blessed post Karen. A gentle blessing to the younger overwhelmed moms, who are literally being shouted at by *some* of the vendors and a reminder to those of us about to finish, to just stay the course, stick to what God has for us, and let each family be called and equipped by God to let our children be finished by Him to be the adults He needs them to be in this present world. One of my take-aways from the Cincinatti conference, Summit talks, was something like that… as uncomfortable as postmodern America & the world can be and even though we want to protect our kids … God is in control and He placed our children here for “such a time as this.” And our children are each unique, they don’t need to be exactly like anyone else… so it is certainly more than OK for their education to also be unique and not need to be the same standards as Mr. & Mrs. Jones. And yes the years are fleeting and we don’t want to miss this opportunity to teach & learn from our children….

  14. Lori says

    Thank you so much, Karen, for extending your heart & wisdom to us younger & inexperienced moms! What an awesome blessing it is to actually find someone willing to fill the godly role of mentor as laid out in Titus. I’m so thankful to have found this site before I get started homeschooling next year. I’ve been a bundle of nerves trying to figure out how I’m going to go about all of this “homeschooling” stuff. I feel so much calmer & reassured after reading this post, many of my preconceived notions of homeschooling have been dispelled, thank you! 🙂 I know God is calling me to homeschool our sons & I want it to be an awesome experience for all of us, I just don’t want to mess up! I pray God continues to bless you like crazy for all the help you are offering us by being such a faithful & obedient servant to our Father!

  15. says

    One of the best posts on homeschooling EVER. Back in the day, soon after college in the 80s I read the Moore’s books. That plus my own hatred of the 13 year prison sentence that was my public education and an admiration for Marva Collins work with urban underachievers, led me to want DESPERATELY to homeschool my children. I honestly can’t say that the “liberal agenda” or fear of anything motivated me–I just knew there was a better way. Fast forward to find me embarking on homeschool in 2004-1005 as a single mom to two recently adopted kids! It was a disaster lol! Happily, we went back to public school, gained ground in every way and my daughter came home last year for 7th grade and it was wonderful. She went back to school this year [her choice] My son is now at home for high school. I don’t like the whole “test homeschoolers” and “school in a box” movement. Curriculum has it’s place, but it’s usually not nearly as big a place as many families make it. Less is more would be the best thing.

    Great Post! I’ve been away from your blog for a while and I’m glad I came back today!

  16. says

    Meg, thanks so much for sharing that! While we were on vacation and I only dropped into FB a couple times, I have been re-evaluating the blog ministries and the podcasts etc. Spending LOTS of time with our older children and grand-children has confirmed to me, once again, how truly valuable homeschooling is and how liberating and life-giving it can be to our children when they are given the freedom to learn as they are gently guided by loving parents who also love to learn alongside them. I will be blogging about some of that in the next few weeks and sharing some of the things I have observed.

    Also, I spent some time with a dear friend of many, many years who is also a wise pastor. He offered some simple and clear perspective on some of the “issues” I write about and I have come home invigorated and ready to jump back into my writing. I keep coming back to the purpose of homeschooling and the relationships among family members as well as the tremendous value of homeschooling moms to the body of Christ!

  17. says

    Lori, I will be anxious to follow your journey! You are in for a real treat! I just spent several days doing educational site seeing with our older children and their families, including all 10 grandchildren who are all homeschooled. It was so fun listening to all their comments and questions as we went through one museum after another! Children are natural learners and are so full of enthusiasm that if we approach them the way God has designed them,homeschooling is so enjoyable!

    Keep me posted……

  18. says

    Susan, we will have to compare DC notes one of these days. We got in really late last night and I all I can think about is the piles of laundry to do when I really want to dive into the great books I picked up in the museum book stores!

  19. says

    Excellent, excellent, article, Karen. I am especially challenged by #3. Nothing makes me happier than a snow day, when everything is cancelled because I absolutely love to stay home. Yet with six children ages 11-15, it’s so, so hard to limit the activities enough to be home for extended time. I’m always evaluating and re-evaluating and yet we are still “on the go” too much.

  20. says

    In my above comment, my six children aren’t 11-15. That would be awfully close spacing. 4 of them are 11-15 and then we have two younger 🙂

  21. Mary says

    Thank you for posting this wonderful article. I am in my 10th year of homeschooling and some of what you shared was given to me briefly as a new mom when I started but I did not heed the advice nor did I believe it at the time. I was sure that I needed to reproduce the public school life and it was all I knew. Even now I am using our break to look over what I am trying to do with the kids because I believe I am missing out on the true blessing of homeschooling them because of some agenda I need to complete. As if I need to prove something to others or myself. This article came on a day I had called an no activity or going anywhere day. Oh what a joy it was. I even made them the best breakfast I could, eggs, sausage, homemade hashbrowns, and toast. We had a great day!
    I just spent the day reading so much on your website. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I felt you were here sharing with me in my home.

  22. says

    Very well put! You gave me a lot to think about, and to quote! 🙂

    I find so many hs’rs that tend towards the school-at-home model and I find it very sad, as I hear the moms lamenting the same problems that public schooler moms lament: that their kids fight doing their work and hate doing the activities. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    And yet I too fall into this mode when I look at what we aren’t doing and feel that I am failing my kids. Its a tough road to be on…being a product of an education system that I don’t want to replicate and yet, tends to be my fallback thought process because that was how *I* was taught. Doesn’t help that my husband is more of a school-at-home type mentality and sees more often what we’re NOT doing than what we ARE.

    I always appreciate reading (and sharing) articles like this as it helps me to think and opens my eyes to some things I might not have otherwise thought of. Thank you!

  23. Misty says

    I’m extatic! I’m planning on homeschooling (have two boys 5 and 2) and just googled “minimalist homeschooling” as I’ve been feeling all the things you wrote about in your blog. I WILL NOT do public schooling, but even with all the homeschooling info out there I’ve been feeling like so much of it is a huge waste of time. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m not one who is terribly creative, I don’t “play” well, I feel like I have no idea where to start when it comes to figuring out my own “curriculum”. Our family is very involved in ministry work and it’s our ardent desire to be able to continue in that as much as possible; I don’t want to take time away from it to teach my children things they don’t need and will never use. I’m looking forward to exploring your website, I have a feeling it will be a huge help! I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone in all of this! Thank you so much!!

  24. Kellye says

    Thank you for this article. We need to get back to this plan in our home. Like Mary, I have been homeschooling for 10 years. (Actually, the other day, I realized that I have really been homeschooling for over 15 years, as I started teaching my daughter the English language as soon as she was born! lol)
    We, too, will spend some time ‘getting back to basics’ soon.

    I am sharing this blog page (and your site) with my friend that has a 4 year old, and wants to know where to start to homeschool…I told her she has already started!

    Thank you again…I look forward to exploring more of your thoughts and ideas.

  25. Catherine says

    Hi Karen

    Thank you for giving us young homeschooling moms such encouragement. My boys are 5 and 2. I am a huge believer in the Moores, The Successful Homeschoolers Handbook was the first resource I read about homeschooling and how pleased I am that it was. I enjoyed your podcast series with Ellen and Kathie. It is still a struggle to relax and let my boys be boys and learn through daily living and playing but I believe so strongly that it is the best way. This list is confirmation to me that “School can Wait” and not to “school at home”. It is also a huge challenge for me not to be so busy with play dates and sports activities so that is something I have tried to work on this year. Devotionals in the evenings is a great idea.

    God bless you for your willingness to make time to be a mentor to us young moms starting out on this journey.

  26. says

    Catherine, I am so glad to hear from someone who loves the Moores, too! One f the most interesting things I learned from those podcasts is that all the research the Moores did 30 plus decades ago has now been confirmed through MRI technology!

    I also think it makes no sense to make your life so much more difficult….why do it? Your boys are going to really love you for this as they get older! If you haven’t yet listened to the podcasts with Shelly on The Blessing olf Raising Sons, I think you enjoy those, too. Shelly’s boys are great (so are mine!) and it was so fun to swap mom-of-boy stories with her!

    Thanks for your kind words,btw.

  27. says

    Excellent post! I am always telling moms to do less – less curriculum, less projects, less activities. Yet, your post has spoken to even me. Thank you! I will definitely share this post in the weeks to come!

  28. Summer says

    Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts with the world. I’m new to homeschooling. This is the end of our first official school year. I too feel completely stressed out when I hear families running here and there to “do school”. We tried co-op for a few weeks and noticed it did not fit into our family culture. My youngest was under one and she woke up with breakfast thrown down her throat, popped into the car seat, taken out and popped into the stroller, and then sat for several hours while her older sister attended “school”. I knew in my heart it wasn’t working for our family, nor was it working for my younger daughter who went along with our craziness.

    After a few short weeks, we let the wonderful leader know we were choosing to leave the group. We took a week to regroup and then continued on with what felt right in our hearts and what fit into our family culture. I’m still overwhelmed when I see everyone going crazy for the latest and greatest curriculum and covering school. What works best for us, is HOME.

    Oh and it doesn’t hurt that we have the best guide books around…Common Sense Excellence: Faith Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade (and) The Real Life Home School Mom (It’s a life in ReVision), by Virginia Knowles.

    Thank you for posting.


  29. Laure says

    We have just finished our second year of homeschooling after taking our now 13 and 15 year olds out of PS. I love this approach but what if you live in an area where your schoolboard demands a “curriculum list”. Do you have suggestions to make Algebra more interesting for example…..

  30. says

    Laure, I highly recommend Teaching Textbooks.

    Here is something we did for History that you might find helpful for both of your children together. Using any basic textbook(to appease those who insist on formal education as the only way) go through the book and make a list of the basic topics and list subcategories under them. Decide which ones you think will be the most important to know or most interesting to your family. Be sure to include names of people along with events and locations becasue history is the most interesting when you realize it is just a series of stories about real people. Do some googling and look for books or DVD’s that expand on what is in the few paragraphs a textbook covers. Look for interesting rabbit trails. Netflix has some wonderful documentaries that will make the whole study more interesting. Be on the look out for exhibits near you that are related or people who have some experience or expertise in something on your list.

    We used the Notgrass high school history textbook as our basic curriculum but only as a step-off point. As we studied WW2, for example, we watched a documentary on the North Platte canteen and another one on the building of the Alaskan highway. We included Ken Burn’s series on the war as well and listened to a veteran of the Battle of the Buldge tell of his experiences with prisoners of war. We also read The Hiding Place which led to research on those in the resistance. This is just a tiny bit of what we did and we spent several years using that one textbook so we could really have a fuller understanding of American History. Since typically American History is covered in Junior High and High School, why not do it this way? Of course this could be used to cover language arts, art (even fashion design if there is an interst), music, geography, and civics, too.

  31. says

    One more note about my original article: Waiting for Superman has since been released and we watched it. What a great and eye-opening film; I highly recommend it for every single taxpayer! If you question your decision (or sanity) in regards to homeschooling, this film alone will confirm your choice! I had thought it was going to be another liberal teacher’s union propaganda piece but it anything it is a wake-up call to what the teacher’s unions are really doing to American education! Must see!!!!!

  32. says

    WOW! What a way to spend my quiet time tonight! Just found your blog and am thanking Jesus for that! We have been a homeschooling family for 2 years and I pick up things here and there that I agree with but you are really hitting the mark on it all and making me think about some important issues. By the grace of God we have kept it very simple, but it is a fight to do so, always coming back to the vision God has given our family and sticking with it. Thank you for taking so much time to encourage us mamas!

  33. says

    Rebecca, I am so happy to “meet”you. Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas!

  34. says

    Thank you so much for this. The longer I homeschool and the older I get the more I see the validity of your article. We enjoyed the journey before, but are thankful to see more of the eternal perspective in what we are doing now!


  35. says

    A friend just shared this post with a few of us for encouragement, Karen. Thank you for your words; I fully agree with you! We have a small family farm and that takes up most of our free time…but it’s something we do *together*. The only outside activity we are involved in is barrel racing 2 Saturday nights a month–again, something we do together. Our kids are 5, 7, 10, 12, and 14, with all but the middle child having summer birthdays coming up. What did you teach your upper middle school and high school aged children? I’m having such a hard time with this. They don’t want to be doing “school” all day, and I agree with them! Any thoughts, ideas and/or suggestions? I want them to be prepared to go to college if that’s how God leads, but I don’t want them to hate “school” in order to get there!! Help!! =)

  36. says

    Dede, thanks for the kind words!

    Let me give you a brief overview of what we found helpful. Wish I could sketch this out for you; I think I am a visual teacher!

    We drew a circle and inside it listed everything we believed all our children should know before they left our home. It wasn’t detailed but was comprehensive. Then we drew a circle around it and within that space we wrote things that some of them might need to know. Then the last circle included the things that were possibilities but extras. Since we could see particular bents in each of them, by the time they were high school age, we tried to give more time to developing those gifts and interests that were particularly theirs. We also used those interests to step off into the areas we believed they needed to have.

    From there, examine the curricula you are using. How labor intensive is it? How individualized can it be? Obviously some methods of learning/teaching are going to require more seat time and I believe many of those things can also be taught by “stepping off” into areas of interest. Let me give you an example of this. History can be dry if not taught in context of the bigger picture and especially if not presented through the lives of real people. One year I chose a particular history curriculum but rather than going straight through it at the recommended pace (one school year), I divided it up and slowed it down, adding all sorts of things to study, write about, and research that went along with that time period and that I knew would be of particular interest to each child. The benefits were awesome….they were able to understand many things that happened by putting them into context of other things. We could spent more time on things that fascinated them while not sacrificing learning the basics. There was no complaining about dry, boring, answer questions at the end of each chapter. I even did some searching around for documentaries available on Netflix that could bring more of what we were learning to life, ie, a documentary on Hershey and candy factories when we examined the second industrial revolution and why unions were established, etc.

    Another aspect of this time….you can help your children be better prepared for further study in areas and fields they want to pursue. Our daughter loved piano from her very first lesson and ultimately got a degree in piano performance. We gave her lots of time to practice and even helped her take cello lessons as her interests expanded. Her piano prof in college told us she was well prepared to study with him because of this. We did not, btw, have this child study any lab sciences, apart from reading, as we knew it wasn’t on her future. I know that horrifies some people but it didn’t us. The secret is to figure out how to accommodate the required standards in your state, by law, and then pick and choose toward specific bents.

    I have also known families where the older children had very definite interests in woodworking, car repair, and other practical skills. They, too, were given lots of time to pursue those things, resulting in learned skills and future employment. I often watch homeschooling families furiously rushing around to be sure their children “don’t miss anything” and the result is that they miss all sorts of things!

  37. Jennifer says

    Thatmom, you said “to me made me get weepy. Where DOES the time go?) Younger moms need us, they really do. I am so sorry when I see “retired” homeschooling moms have no interest in encouraging this next group of moms behind us. The perspective we have at this point in life, whether it be in homeschooling or marriage or raising children is so very different and, I think, necessary to share.”

    In my 13 years of homeschooling my children I have not met ONE mom “graduate” with that sentiment. You are one in a million.Believe me I have looked, tried and outright asked for mentorship to no avail.

  38. says

    Jennifer, it makes me so sad to see the lovely, organic nature of older women/younger women relationships become nonexistent in so many places, especially the church. Why does it happen? Lots of reasons I think. The fact that people keep too busy leaves little room for real relationships and real fellowship that leads to real heart level discussions is probably the main one. I also know older moms who feel obsolete and like they have nothing to offer and others who are disinterested because they have moved to a new stage of life and don’t see the value of investing in the lives of younger women. And then there are the younger women who consider older moms not hip enough and dismiss the thoughts of older moms. Lots of thinking to be corrected for sure!

  39. says

    Wow. That was a great article. I have been homeschooling on my own for a few years, my oldest is 4.5 and cannot start a charter school until she is 5. I LOVE what you shared. I was starting to think like th lady you described, that I needed to buy a good curriculum and complete it. I love including my kids in everything we do. We teach them everyday just in our experiences and having fun together. You have encouraged me to keep doing that. I certainly will. Thank you for the great article and encouragement, I will be back!

  40. Sandra says

    I came across your blog a few days ago and have been wishing I came across it many years ago! From what I’ve read so far you and I are two peas in a pod! haha!
    I have homeschooled our 4 kids for 14 yrs. now. Our oldest two are graduated and in a few months our 3rd will be graduating.
    I can really relate to this post. I never heard the word Minimalist homeschooling but that is exactly what we are.(I never heard of relationship homeschooling either and that is a perfect description of us as well =) At first I HAD to have a boxed curriculum all packaged out for me. I was so afraid I was going to miss something and my kids education would be ruined forever. Our first born was an very quick learner. So the boxed education was a good fit for him. Our second born was a preemie and had a hard time at learning. He also ways all boy and loved to play outside so he saw no value in sitting at the dinning room table and learning to read. So, I had to take a completely different approach with him. That was the beginning of our mixed curriculum approach.
    With our oldest teaching him the ABCs was easy peasy. Our second and fourth children not so easy. A traditional approach would have been a good fit for our third child. She easily followed the boxed curriculum whereas our first would have been bored to tears and our second and fourth would have been lost early on.
    Math was especially hard for the two of them. It took 6 mths for them to grasp division but that’s the beauty of HSing. We get to take the time needed to master a new concept. I get to use real life experiences to teach them not just pages and pages of problem for them to solve.
    The minimalist approach allows you the freedom to teach your children what they need to know when they are ready. That is why, IMO, traditional schools fail so many kids. Not all kids fit in the box schools try to place them.
    I didn’t intend to rattle on but I like to say thank you for your encouragement to fellow HSers. =)

  41. melanie says

    I don’t know how to make 5 goals. I do onot know what is important anymore except salvation. Surely education has to be more than that, huh?

  42. Granddad says

    The minimalist approach concerns me. My granddaughter will soon by 9 and her spelling (from e-mails she sends to me) is not what I would expect to see with someone her age. I know her mom has previously stated they take a minimalist approach. “Better to know the books of the Bible than the times tables”, she once said. I do worry about the rest of her children, as well (each younger). If my granddaughter is an example of what comes out of this approach I am very much against it.

  43. says

    Melanie! That list of goals will be different for each family. Let me explain how we decided what our goals were going to be. My husband and I brainstormed and made a list of every area of study we felt all children who come through our household ought to have. We drew a circle around it and then outside that circle, made of list of all things that would not be top tier but would be helpful for at least some of them. (Piano lessons were in that initial tier, for example.) We then made a list of things that a couple of them might be interested in and that we could pursue if we had time. We reevaluated this list every June and readjusted as needed. (Our daughters gifts and interests in music caused us to bump piano and cello lessons up to their top tier.) Eventually there was a similar list for each of the children.

    Does that help as far as academics?

    We also did the same for nonacademics…Awana, sports, etc.

  44. says

    First of all, I think you have misunderstood what I am talking about as far as minimalist homeschooling is concerned. I hope you will go back and read the article again. What gave you the impression that being accomplished in academics is not central to this approach? What I am advocating for is homeschooling parents thoughtfully determining how they will prioritized their time and energies so as not to compromise the truly important things. In the past few years I have been amazed at how busy homeschooling moms are and at how busy they keep their kids. In some families it is to the point that “home” is not even go en a priority. Everyone gets burned out and so many of the ingredients that build friendships are excluded.

    As far as being concerned about the academic skills of a 9 year old, I think you should not worry. Spelling in particular comes naturally the more one reads whether it is for school subjects or for fun. Every child has their own inward time table and this is the reason “grade level” is such a silly notion.

  45. Granddad says

    I guess I was unduly influenced by the term “minimalist”, which to my ears sounds like “do just enough to get by”. I shall reread your article. I accept the “slap on the back of head”. 🙂

    As for the spelling: we are giving her books (Little House..) and I’m going to find a suitable science book. I’m a big science buff and I think she leans in the same direction.

  46. Casey says

    What an encouraging read. As I venture into my first year of homeschool, this was a real blessing

  47. says

    Casey, I am so excited for this new adventure you are taking! Praying for the Lord’s blessings on you and your precious family!

  48. says

    Thank you for your encouragement because my heart resonates with what you wrote! I am still trying to figure out what homeschool looks like for our family and I always seem to come back to these same exact thoughts. It is just New York you have to write what you are doing, so I have to try to do different things to try to fulfill standards.


  1. […] During the past 10 years or so, I have become increasingly alarmed at the number of homeschooling families who have allowed curriculum companies with their institutional approach to education to shape their views and practices of homeschooling. The loveliness of learning at home has been replaced by the notion that homeschoolers must follow the same path as their public school counterparts. It is my hope that every single homeschooling mom will put down her red pencil for a moment, reevaluate what she is doing, and consider whether or not she has been driven by this system. For more insights into where to even begin to do this, please consider my thoughts on minimalist homeschooling. […]

  2. […] Simplifying ought to be done in our churches as well and families shouldn’t feel obligated to be in the church building every time the doors are open. Providing lots of programs does not indicate a healthy church body and should never be a substitute for family worship and true fellowship with one another in our homes. Sometimes this means we will have to forgo good things in order to enjoy what is really the best and… […]

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