Less Is More When It Comes to Schoolwork

After over 20 years of homeschooling (8 kids) with 8 years to go, I can’t help but have a very different perspective than when I started.  If only we could begin our journeys with that  wisdom.  Instead we have to make our own way, occasionally listening to those further down the road who are calling back to us with words that will make us braver and give us the courage to forge ahead in our homeschooling pilgrimage.

Less is more when it comes to schoolwork

I am most thankful for those who told me over and over again that the authentic fruit our children would bear after all these years of home learning would not be a result of the “right” curriculum, the perfect co-op, or the mother who drove them to finish their workbooks.

Not even close.  That long list of things we start out thinking are important fall into the shadows as the years go by.  We realize that our children are not machines.  They are all uniquely designed for different purposes.  The real job is to find out what our kids are passionate about, what piques their interest, what makes them want to get up in the mornings.  What were they made for?

If we take the time to study our children as individuals and where they are developmentally, we can learn SO much.  How do they respond in different situations?  What makes their eyes light up?  What interests keep their attention longer, and which ones do they keep returning to?

We want our kids to become life-long learners. This requires time. It involves patience. It also requires that as parents we don’t chain our children to a long list of subjects they have to cover daily.  That method will only produce weary parents and burnt out children who have no desire to learn.

Children are natural learners, but they learn best in an environment that allows them to pursue their interests.  Over the years, I cannot tell you the countless hours our children have spent building forts, drawing, playing instruments, playing outside, riding bikes, taking things apart and trying to put them back together, making cities in the dirt, doing their own science experiments, and the list goes on.  I can honestly say they spent more hours on these things (especially through their elementary years) than you might think a “conscientious” homeschooling mom should allow, but guess what? It’s what our adult children are thanking me for now and what is making them successful, life-long learners.

There is something about being a “kid” that greatly encourages learning in our children.  It also prepares them for higher learning.  There will be time for more bookwork down the road when they are ready.  Workbooks have their place, but we cannot overlook the incredible value of having time to explore and experiment. By doing so, our kids engage in the world around them in a real and tangible way that prepares them for more “cerebral” studies down the road.

the unhurried homeschooler Take some time to think about what unnecessary subjects you may be trying to force, and let your kids initiate part of their learning. You may just find some hidden gifts just waiting to be discovered!

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If you love Durenda’s perspective and veteran-homeschooling-mama wisdom, you are going to be THRILLED to learn she has a new ebook that just published… The Unhurried Homeschooler!! Durenda gently reminds parents about the things that really matter, as she offers a clear portrait of what a life-giving home life can be during the homeschooling years.

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  1. Thanks so much! When I started homeschooling my kindergartner four years ago, was determined to have the most rigorous homeschool in town. By the time my daughter started school two years ago, my perspective had already shifted more toward the tone of this article. I have watched them thrive with time to explore what they love. My house is filled with the sounds of Star Wars coming from the piano. I realize developing my son’s musical ability and interest will serve him better than cramming his head full of facts. To do this, we did have to simplify and eliminate some curriculum. However, we are still super rigorous about structured math because we feel it is foundational to a child being able to explore scientific interests later.

  2. I have been homeschooling since 1984 and will graduate my last student in 2018. It’s become a lifestyle, if it doesn’t you can’t keep at it!

  3. I started HS last year and as the days are going by we are leaning more and more towards this. I am starting to see that we learn and retain more when we are not following strict schedule, rather our own interest! Thanks for writing about it!

  4. I am thrilled to know my perspective on educational values has been solidified with your story. I was a K/1 public school teacher for 11 years and it broke my heart year after year to see what was/is happening to our children. I did not go back this year! I chose to homeschool my granddaughter in kindergarten, as I could not stand by and watch her creativity, genuine love of exploring, and excitement of learning be squashed by robotic, menial busy work! Thank you so much for writing this article; I will be purchasing your writings!

  5. How would this look for middle school age child? Our first year homeschooling…had a lot of “missing education” to catch up on, is, math and basic grammar concepts. She is much more comfortable with high structure…any suggestions? Thank you for a sharing your positive experience.

  6. Love. Love. Loved this! I’ve been able to once again breath in this home school journey. I appreciate all the pod casts as well with Heidi, you ladies are so encouraging and love your approach!!

  7. As a new homeschooler, starting this July with a 6th grader and 3rd grader, who have been used to very structured wirkbook type learning, what does this look like?
    I agree on all your points Im just not sure how to let them pursue their interests and still have them learn what they need to learn? ( though the more I think about it, lots of the history, geography, etc. You dont necessarily have to have unless you pursue higher education?) I guess im wondering how much you cut out or how you incorporate their interests?
    I am not organized enough and get overwhelmed with the idea of creating a unit study, so im trying Paths of Explorationat first.
    My 6th grader loves to read, draw, and ride horses. My 3rd grader loves anything mechanical, helps my husband on our farm and is pretty knowledgeable for his age regarding equipment, basic mechanical processes, etc. And BOTH LOVE LEGOS.
    Legos are sort of a double edge sword around here. My daughter designs elaborate houses, towns, etc and my son comes up with vehicles, boats, etc. At least once a day we have to stop them while playing Legos to do chores, eat, and often they start with them first thing in the AM before breakfast even.
    Any ideas, places for me to look for help?
    Im guessing this is delight directed learning?;)

    1. What you kids are doing is absolutely wonderful. I think it would be helpful if you would take a look at my short book on homeschooling. It’s called The Unhurried Homeschooler. There is a link at the bottom of the post I wrote.
      I am not an advocate of any certain style of homeschooling. I think you need to be a student of your kids and do homeschooling in a way that works for your family…but this is all in my book. I think you will be encouraged!

  8. I agree with this so much! We are not in a position to homeschool right now but I wish my daughter would benefit from this philosophy!

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