Sometimes as mothers, we aspire to minimalism because things in our own lives seem complicated. I recently started a thread on a Facebook group I am on, about paring things down for the school year, especially for those of us who are are homeschooling older teens who have to be places but can’t yet drive, and for those of us who are homeschooling larger families (way larger than mine) and having the activities of the older teens impact the family all the way down to the littlest ones.
Can you really have simplicity and minimalism with homeschooling and parenting older children and teens, with multiple children of large age ranges? Some families make a very conscious decision to roadschool or wildschool and have the work flexibility to do that, and I think many of us think that is what minimalism looks like. However, many of us don’t have that kind of lifestyle, and I think we need to remember that minimalism can look different to each family because each family is different!
So, as many of us are planning for the fall, I wanted to throw out some ideas I am toying with. Last year was our absolutely most complicated year ever, largely not due to anything within our control, so those years happen, but for a “normal” year… here are some ideas! Share yours!
- What are your values and your most valued communities? Pare things down around that. You don’t have to do all things. There are often all kinds of things that look great for homeschooling families or even when children attend school. There can be pressure to keep up. The more we rebel as this generation of parents and say that our children don’t need 20 activities during the school year to “keep up” or “get ahead” or “get into a great college” (when they are 10 years old!), the easier this will become over time. In the meantime, be a rebel and pare down to your most valued things. Find out what your children value! Our girls value being home and with us, church choir and that community, and their horses. Our littlest guy values being home and playing! As parents we value being outside, our community of friends, music and yes, learning! So making priorities around those things makes sense for us. Minimalism begins with priorities!
- If you live in a community where the driving factor is high, you are going to have to say no just on the basis on the drive sometimes. I went through a phase where I was done driving, and chose everything to be within a 15 to 20 minute drive (because in our area, driving forty-five minutes to an hour for something isn’t unheard of). This year, we will be branching out a little in driving to a homeschool enrichment program one day a week that is 40 minutes away, but this is the first time in several years we have had a drive like that.
- Figure out what you need – does it bother you to go out daily? Can you homeschool in the morning and go out in the afternoon and feel fine or do you need days where you don’t leave the house? How many days? If this is what it is, then you have to have a schedule that reflects that you need to be home three days in a row or whatever it is that makes you feel good! If you need to be home, cross days off on your weekly calendar so you don’t normally schedule things on those days!
- Streamline your stuff. We spend a huge amount of time in the United States managing things like a home, the stuff in a home, a car, etc. Pare down! Summer is a great time to do this! You can’t organize a mountain of stuff. Just get rid of it!
- Enlist help in cleaning and cooking. Everyone in the family can help in some way!
- Plan margin. Margin during the day, the week, and the year. Plan 32-34 weeks of school knowing it will stretch out into the full number of school weeks you need. Plan four days a week knowing that is enough. Plan margin for the day – rest times, down times. That is just as important as learning times.
- One way to get down times during the school day is to COMBINE children in lessons. See my back post about some ideas regarding the Waldorf Curriculum.
- If you have appointments for health care, try to get as much done in the summer as possible. That is what most of the families I know whose children go to public school do. I know so many homeschoolers who feel like we should be super accommodating to appointments and things because we have potentially have that flexibility (and then we feel stressed we aren’t getting enough done!) Use summers, breaks, one day a week once a month that is planned ahead for appointments, errands, etc as much as possible.
- Make the mail your friend. There are so many things you can order on-line. See how many groceries you can get on-line and if you can’t get the rest at your local farmer’s market.
- There are seasons for things. Don’t feel badly about what you can or can’t do right now. Parenting is a season!
Please share your favorite minimalist tips!