Relaxed Homeschooling: Creating a Lifestyle of Learning

child-hand-w-plant-crpd-web_wvg6Relaxed homeschooling, for us, doesn’t mean we don’t sit down and do “school work”. It just means that we also “think outside the classroom” and text books and worksheets are tools, while our education extends far beyond them.

A lifestyle of learning seems to me not only more natural and comprehensive, but easier to implement as a busy mom.

Mary Hood said: “God didn’t create classrooms, He created families.”

The sensibility in that statement meets me as a mom.Β  Mothers are often overwhelmed by the task of homeschooling because they are trying to run both a family and a school.

What if much of the education of children just happened naturally inside family life?

Especially for little ones, there are many things that can be taught in casual conversation, multi-tasking during a chore, etc.

A few random things we do:

  • Sing learning songs together during chores or play time. We’ve been singing the “Months of the Year Song”. We also enjoy singing Scripture this way as well.
  • LISTEN. God bestowed the wonderful gift of curiosity into children which, if we are available and ready, can be an important key to knowledge. Hear their questions and be ready to help them find answers, even if you plant seeds by giving them an overview of what you know. I said the word “electricity” yesterday, and my 4-year-old asked, “Who’s ‘Tricity’ “? She wasn’t really interested in electricity, but she listened intently as I explained how it was responsible for turning on things.
  • Ask questions. Whatever is in front of us, I try to get into the habit of asking, “Do you know why ……?”
  • Do math. Math is everywhere and it makes better sense when it is taught in the context of real life. Even the rote stuff–multiplication tables, for example, can be practiced while we fold laundry or do dishes together.Β  It just takes remembering to “redeem the time”.
  • Make good use of writing opportunities. A card or thank-you note makes a great use of time and energy and can double as language, writing and grammar. It makes better sense to have a reason for writing when possible. After all, the only reason grammar, spelling and language matter is so we can communicate our thoughts to others.

Sometimes I just need to revisit the reasons we educate in the first place. Learning can take many forms. Don’t be afraid to tailor it to your season of life, not only giving yourself a break if you can’t duplicate a classroom, but possibly even finding that it’s better that way.

What are some of your “real-life” learning strategies?

Check out the great, practical tips and learn more about a lifestyle of learning in my Ebook, Think Outside the Classroom!

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47 Responses to “Relaxed Homeschooling: Creating a Lifestyle of Learning”

  1. Our oldest is only 2.5 years old right now, so I’m no expert, but something I have done with my daughter that my parents did for me is: Never underestimate your child’s potential! When my daughter asks us quesitons, we always use proper grammar and answer her as accurately as possible. I never used “baby speak” with her. I also make sure to answer all her questions–even the ones she asks fifty times a day! She has already learned all her letters (she can identify any one at random), she is beginning to learn phonics skills, and she can count to 10, among many other things. We treat math and language arts just like anything else (learning to get dressed or drink from a cup, for example), and she is invigorated rather than intimidated by the learning process. It gets me excited to homeschool more formally in a few years!

    I can’t wait to hear everyone else’s advie!!

  2. Christie says:

    We drive by a spot regularly where they’re building a new building. We’ve discussed “foundations” and walls and the order in which things have to be constructed. I also stop or detour to look at or drive by roadside construction and discuss what they’re doing and why. We once watched a backhoe fill up a dump truck and the truck drive the dirt away, only to be replaced by another dump truck. πŸ™‚

  3. EmSue says:

    I’m with you Bethany. We do much the same with our oldest (now 3) and it really is amazing how much they can learn & remember if you incorporate them in your daily tasks instead of letting the TV babysit them for you.

    -Disclaimer- not saying TVs are explicitly evil, just very much overused. Didn’t want to start a roaring debate with that one πŸ˜‰

  4. Heidi says:

    Animals are a great thing to have in our family..They have really taught the kids responsibility….Kelly, Do you have a post on the curriculum you use? Just wondering…Heidi

  5. Word Warrior says:

    Heidi,

    We don’t have a curriculum, per se. We use Rod and Staff Math and English for my middle children, (my oldest is finishing her School of Tomorrow math paces) We do copy work from Scripture or a selected reading source, and we do lots of random reading from historical biograhies, etc. My little ones have handwriting sheets that help with their letters and we just “hodge podge” like a big buffet πŸ˜‰

    I will add that my last three children who learned to read had no “curriculum”. Small, sporadic amounts of time spent on letter recognition and learning their sounds is all we did.

  6. Kim M says:

    I think what you all said about conversation is so true.

    I’m starting to relax more as this is our second year of home-schooling. I am also starting to have a lot more fun!

    Something we have done a lot of lately is to let my kids do something creative in relation to whatever they are learning.

    For example, I found a huge roll of craft paper for a little of nothing at Walmart (bottom shelf near packing supplies. Dollar General sells smaller rolls too)

    We draw a continuous timeline on it when we are learning history. My kids draw the characters.

    Most recently for science, we made a model of the solar system out of corn starch dough. (salt, cornstarch and water). It air dries hard, but you can paint it before it is dry!

    Recipe is here… http://www.teachnet.com/lesson/art/playdoughrecipes/cornstarchclay.html

    FUN stuff.

    I also love lapbooking (lapbookinglessons.com) and we are currently doing the fruits of the Spirit.

    Heidi, we are planning on getting chickens soon. My boys are so excited, although I keep telling them “No you cannot lasso them” (this has been their plan).

  7. EmSue says:

    β€œNo you cannot lasso them”
    Funny. Our daughter has tried to ride our goats.

  8. Kelly, you’re the best – I think the best advice I got, and it essentially clenched the deal in our decision to homeschool, was something like “your lack of ability/experience to teach does not diminish your child’s ablility to learn.” Meaning, a)learning is accomplished through a variety of means, a teacher in the formal academic sense is only one, and b)there isn’t anything a child needs to know that an invested parent cannot help her glean.

    I can’t play piano, but I can buy my child lessons – or I can encourage her to approach the organist at church for a referral to an instructor, calculate the expense of the instrument, music, and lessons, and participate in scheduling lessons and practice.
    In one simple everyday activity (that we likely would not be doing if in a traditional school setting, due to time constraints) she’s gained competence in areas many adults haven’t – scheduling, time management, networking, budgeting (negotiating w/Mom) – and learning to play the piano besides, beneficial both culturally and academically.

    Sorry for the long thought, but I’ve learned in this first year that the “relaxed” home school model is actually the most learning intensive, and have a heart of encouragement for parents who think school at home and home schooling are the same thing. It can be, and that works for some families, I’m certainly not knocking anyone’s approach, here – just offering support for anyone who is struggling to find the right fit.

    I’m researching a claim I read, if anyone else has heard it or analyzed it I would love to know….something to the effect that if an elementary aged child explores a chapter of the KJV Bible (meaning the language, the history, and the culture) and prepares a meal every day, they’re experiencing a more academically sound curriculum than the average traditionally schooled child. I find that intriguing.

  9. I should qualify my own relaxed approach with the disclosure that we live in Texas, where home school is not heavily regulated. I certainly sympathize with those who live in states where home school is in fact required to be first and foremost traditionally structured school at home.

  10. Jennifer D. says:

    Hmmm….my comments seem to be getting stuck in cyberspace…lol.

  11. Kelly L says:

    This is a great thought and encouragement. I wish I had heard it when I first started HSing. I spent the first 2 years trying to prove how great HSing was to the outside doubters. This included field trips once a week, way too much school for a 5 year old and an enormous amount of stress and feelings of failure.
    Now we learn relaxed. I feel she is learning way more than ever. We still do Abeka math and A Reason To Spell for worksheets, but that is it. Books on a history topic of the month comprise that subject and experiments comprise Science. She will finish 5th this year and is so well rounded I CAN”T stress about school.

  12. Word Warrior says:

    cottage child,

    Oh man…I love the very thought of that claim and I don’t doubt it to be true at all. Gets my wheels turnin’! (The curse of my brain: “Ooooh…I should not only try it but then package it to sell as a unit study ;-))

  13. Word Warrior says:

    cottage child,

    Oh man…I love the very thought of that claim and I don’t doubt it to be true at all. Gets my wheels turnin’! (The curse of my brain: “Ooooh…I should not only try it but then package it to sell as a unit study” ;-))

  14. Kelly/WW…I should have bookmarked it – I think it was an online discussion, prompted by a Beechick book…I’m still looking. Or could it have been an old FotF? Who knows πŸ™‚

  15. Kim Walters says:

    We’re in our 23rd year of homeschooling (I’m either a veteran guru or just plain old!) and we’re all about the relaxed homeschooling style around here. At this moment, in fact, my 8yo daughter and 16yo son are out delivering the first baby goats of the season :). Nothing like real-life learning……..
    One caveat…..be sure of your spiritual foundation! Bible/prayer/Scripture memory/worship/RELATIONSHIPS are the most important things we do all day. If we’ve done nothing else, we’ve done the best, first. And isn’t that why most of us homeschool anyway?!

  16. SavebyGrace says:

    Cottage Child, I’d like to read about that link as well. If you find it please post it.

    We keep the Bible as our core and all the rest gets worked around it. I’ve had a problem with science and history so I stick mainly to Apologia and Answers in Genesis / Diana Waring. Love thier stuff! Johnathon Park is great for those car rides too! I’ve learned as much as my children and we have some great conversations.

  17. @Kim Walters – you’re my hero! RELATIONSHIP, indeed.

    @Kelly/WW – I tell you what – my daughters (and hopefully my son will have some interest)are developing an outline for a blog/book/etc. called A Measure of Learning, that includes cooking, sewing and even shopping as a home school math/handicraft/writing/etc. adventure and enterprise, combining academic learning with practical skills. We’re always looking for brilliant contributors (keep in mind, they just started March 1 – so far the brilliance is limited to them).

  18. Jennifer D. says:

    I’m a big fan of relaxed homeschooling as well. However by the end of the “school year”, I start to feel the pressure of the standardized tests the kids are required to take every year in NC. I try to keep a balance but it can be difficult. For the littlest ones in particular, we go really light.

    Unfortunately homeschooling isn’t going very well for us right now at all. I’m pregnant with our 8th blessing and not feeling well, we are having discipline and obedience problems from some of the children(particularly from my autistic son who is 10), they are constantly fighting and lashing out at each other, and to be honest they couldn’t care less about learning! They would much rather color or play with toys than hear a good book or do anything that looks like learning. It’s been a REAL struggle this year and I’m not sure how to fix it. I’m ashamed to admit that most mornings I would prefer to the pull the covers up over my head and stay put, even though I know that isn’t the answer : )

  19. wordwarrior says:

    cottage child….wow-keep me posted on that one! I’ll be the biggest fan.

  20. Kelly L says:

    Jennifer D,
    First, it is cyclic. You can make up in 3 months what some kids learn in a year.

    Second, give yourself a break and have a lesson on love from all Bible Scriptures. Then, give everyone one task a day of showing love to each other. In a short while with God’s help, they will be trying for new ways to get the most praise for being most loving and showing the fruit of the Spirit.

    Make it a game, and offer coins as rewards. See who can get the most at the end of the week, then the month. Then decide what the special reward is: one on one with Mom or Dad is a cheap one ;). Let the siblings praise each other at the end of the day, too. It is good for them to learn to glean the good out of each other.
    I’ll be praying for you.

  21. Kelly L says:

    I forgot: Shame is not from God, conviction is. Take correction from God when He gives it, but do not receive the comments of the accuser and father of lies. It won’t do you or your kids any good.

  22. EmSue says:

    Kelly L,

    I am so glad you posted that about shame not being from God. I know that was directed @ Jennifer & this is waaay off topic, but I’ve been beating myself up and feeling ashamed that I’m about to have to quit breastfeeding since my milk supply took a hike about a month ago. I’ve tried everything to get it back up and it’s just not happening. Your comment helped me get some perspective that the thoughts of being a failure are straight from the enemy.

    God just multiplied your encouragement!

  23. Linda says:

    Thank you for this post. Our homeschooling has really involved too much book work and as I am teaching more children it has become a frustration. It is not as exciting for the children as I would like, and there is not time for the other things I would like to teach them that do not fit into the “traditional structure”. I have been praying about alternatives that would still enable us to have a workable transcript for college. This is a real encouragement to me.

    Kelly, I am slowly working my way through your Charlotte Mason series, but it is hit and miss with the link within. I do not know how hard it would be for you to do now, but it would be really helpful for those of us going back to read different series if there was a link at the end of each post that takes us to the next one in the series. Maybe helpful to add after the end of future series. πŸ™‚

    Blessings!

  24. Linda says:

    Oh, I just found the search box. That works really well too. LOL Thanks!

  25. Kelly L says:

    EmSue,
    Thanks! I am glad to know I got to be used by God in someone’s life. He is so great and merciful!

  26. Angela says:

    Jennifer D,
    One of the things I really look forward to when each baby is born is to be able to do lots of reading aloud to the older children when I am breastfeeding the baby. One of the top priorities for our home education is to read aloud Classics and other quality literature eg poetry and the Bible, and I find that when I am breastfeeding is a perfect time to do this. The older children may play quietly, do handcraft, knit or draw etc while I read. This way they get to play and learn something of what you would like them to.

    Something we have done successfully in the past is have the children rule up a page of paper into say 6-8 sections. I read a short section out of the Bible and they illustrate what I have read about in one section of the paper. (Sometimes I read the passage through twice.) The next time, I carry on with the next part of the Bible story and the children draw in the next section of their page. It can be quite interesting to see what parts of the story each child picks up on.

    Blessings,
    Angela

  27. Jaime G says:

    Our oldest is only five, but we’ve been integrating counting and reading into daily life, as well as trying to cultivate a love for God and family. We’ve also really enjoyed using the book “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” It gives us the structure we need! :o)

  28. Margaret says:

    Great post! This fits my developing theory about homeschooling too.

    Now, my dh is *intense* about academics (and has very good reason to be). So we use a cyber charter school, have a very set curriculum, etc. But to be perfectly honest, even with skipping grades their formal schoolwork takes very little time at the table.

    I’ve seen my children learn soooo much from conversation and just life. It’s astounding. For me the easy part is language arts/social studies. We just talk, and talk, and talk, and talk in our family. About everything. If they have questions, we answer. If they want to talk about something, we discuss. And they learn.

    Math is not my interest area, but my kids are learning in spite of me. And I’ve decided to include math in our conversations because it’s obvious to me that my middle son really has a desire to learn it. His current favorite game is to ask me addition problems. He tries to think up really hard ones, to stump me (like 9+2+1, lol). This has opened up a lot of different facets of math basics to teach him. Like what’s a real number (ninety-two) and what’s not (a-hundred-three-seven-thousand-million!), how we say numbers when they get past the ones we know (if we write a 3 and another 3 next to each other, that’s thirty-three)

    My “baby” (almost 3 yo) has just been following us around absorbing all this and basically teaching himself everything he wanted to know by observing, listening, asking questions, participating in conversations, and puzzling things out.

  29. Bobby Bambino says:

    Hi all.

    You mention mothers homeschooling. Do any of the dads help with the homeschooling? The reason I ask is because my two children are 2.3 years and 10 months, and we’re thinking about homeschooling. I would really like it to be a joint effort, though, where both my wife and I share as much of the load as we can. Any thoughts? God love you.

  30. Heidi says:

    Kelly -Thanks for responding..We do book work but also a lot on our own…
    @Bobby Bambino, My husband does Bible study and Algebra(with oldest)..He helps were he can…

  31. Katie says:

    My husband does some of the Bible teaching, and will be teaching the theory side of music when dd is a bit older (3.5 right now.) Actually, music will be largely en famille, because we’re both musical.

  32. Carrie says:

    What great timing! I’ve been thinking recently on how I want to homeschool our sons. My oldest is only 2, but I want to begin now making learning fun. πŸ™‚ I knew I didn’t really want to start out with sitting down and doing school, but I was afraid they wouldn’t learn something important. I was talking to my mom yesterday and she was saying exactly what you’re saying. Make it fun and tie it in to every day life. πŸ™‚ I’m so much more relaxed about it now…and excited!

  33. Word Warrior says:

    Bobby,

    Depending on the family’s particular situation, Dads can (and should) be involved on several different levels.

    No matter his physical presence, a dad should be very much involved in the decision-making process regarding curriculum choices, your family’s definition of education, etc.

    I think a couple should jointly consider what their educational goals are and how those goals will be met.

    If it is physically possible, some dads want to and are able to actually faciliate certain subjects. (Again, this could depend on how “textbook” oriented your family is.)

    If you’re of the more relaxed variety, any presence the father has in the home is “school time”. Also, if the father can take any children with him to work periodically, he has a whole new realm of educating available to him.

    I’ve mentioned before that Geoff Botkin says most of their children’s education took place in conversation around the dinner table. Truly.

    My husband asked me to find a book that would help him faciliate thought-provoking conversation at the table. A queston and answer/trivia-type book on nature or history is good for this.

    In the book The Family, J.R. Miller suggests that learning one new fact at the table every night would, over a lifetime, accumlate into quite a store of knowledge.

    The ideas keep coming, but time forbids me write more. I love that you’re asking this question!

  34. Kate Scott says:

    EmSue,

    Please don’t beat yourself up about your milk supply. I did that to myself both times my milk supply dried up (with each of my children, but especially with my 2nd child) and agonized over the lies that breastmilk can’t dry up unless you’re just doing everything wrong. Ummmm…..yeah, it can! Despite exclusively breastfeeding round the clock, sleeping with my baby so she could latch on whenever she felt like it AND pumping in between, my milk dried up soon after my fertility returned (2 months after giving birth despite b-feeding). I tried so many tricks to keep it up and even tried relactating. NOTHING worked. I was nursing my screaming, hungry baby every hour and pumping afterwards to no avail….and she lost so much weight her skin sagged on her body. At the sight of her sagging skin I knew that I could no longer listen to the uber-breastfeeding only crowd and I had to make sure my baby was well-fed and cared for. A few days on formula and she was plump and happy again and I stopped agonizing. My daughter’s health is more important than the breast feeding agenda.

    Yes, I am a firm advocate of breastfeeding. I am pregnant once more and plan to breastfeed only. If my milk wanes again, I will fight it. But I will NOT let my child go hungry.

    If you would like to talk to me more about it, please feel free to e-mail me at seamstresslady at yahoo dot com.

    Sorry this is off-topic of homeschooling.

  35. I think that, if it weren’t for my husband, I would be stuck in text book prison! Odd, considering I am the more relaxed of us both in a general sense.

    It was my husband’s plan to cut back on ‘book work’ and set up more unit studies. This plan gives us the freedom to study things that may come up in current events or just happen to become an interest for our 10yo daughter.

    He also takes the lead in Bible studies/discussion – although with the english program from Rod & Staff, Bible discussions happen naturally each day.

  36. Margaret says:

    My husband plays a part in our children’s education. I “manage” the homeschool thing, but without him, their education would be lacking. With the young ones it’s often just discussions with him, or him taking time out of repairing something to show them how his tools work and how math applies to a measuring tape. Even this is great because he’s really not a guy who “knows what to do” with a toddler/young child. It comes more naturally to me, so for the young one I am primary teacher by default. But as they get older, he will be able to be more involved. I am absolutely going to need him when we get to math beyond Algebra II. That’s not my strong suit, but it is his. πŸ™‚

    Right now my husband is out of the country, so we live with my parents, and my parents and siblings all participate in my children’s education. It is really neat to see and I love it!

  37. Lindsey says:

    My son is 4 and asking alot of questions about numbers. I printed out a free “100 chart” and put it on the fridge. I don’t teach him specific things about it; rather, I just wait for him to ask questions about it. For example, how many days until Doug’s birthday party? Will you count to 23 with me? Is 19 bigger than 15? etc. I am amazed at where a child’s natural God-given curiosity will take him, and how much he learns just by asking questions! Yay for real-life learning!!

  38. missy says:

    I so enjoyed this conversation and all the comments. We use textbooks but enjoy school so much more when we have free time and just learn about everything. But now my oldest is starting high school next year. I am so afraid I am going to start boring her to death and have to go back to textbooks for high school just to get the credits for TN laws. Any suggestions from anyone?? And also I wanted to say to Kelly you mentioned the book The Family. Oh my, my husband and I have been reading that book together since Christmas. I would recomend that all parents should read it. It is just the best. But be ready it is also very convicting and has sometimes left me in tears as I have noticed that a lot of what it says cuts straight to the heart. But such a great book. Thanks, Missy

  39. Angela says:

    Another very easy idea which stimulates so much learning – we have a world map on our table. The one we have also has flags printed along the bottom. I blue tacked the map to the table with very small blobs of Blue Tack (this stops the map moving when the table is wiped) and covered the whole table with clear PVC plastic (which I folded under the table edges and attached with masking tape). Slightly thicker PVC lasts longer than the thinnest one. You could use this idea for many other educational posters etc, but we really enjoy having the world right there in front of us and it stimulates so many discussions. We also use it to play games like ‘name the country and its capital’, ‘point to a particular country’ and ‘what continent is this country in?’ etc.

  40. Marcee says:

    If I ever were to H’school again, I would do it the way you spoke about. My first two tries were a disaster! I thought I had to stick strictly to the Teachers Guide. It was absolutley horrible for my DD. I would go with a different curriculum and not be in such a hurry to complete everything. I was so naive-I thought that my DD was supposed to enjoy every little thing. Realizing later that the level of curriculum I purchased was above her level of learning. One of the best books I have read this year is The Homeschooling Book of Answers : The 88 Most Important Questions Answered by Homeschooling’s Most Respected Voices by Linda Dobson. It gave me such a better understanding of what learning style and teaching styles would excite my DD. I thought I had to stick with only one style*sigh*
    At this point I don’t know if I will ever H’school again, but I do feel I would be better prepared:)

  41. Becky says:

    Would the relaxed approach work when your children are in the upper grades like 8th through 12th?

  42. Relaxed Homeschooling: Creating a Lifestyle of Learning | WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. … Regards, Furniture Manufacturers

  43. Alida says:

    I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this site ! We’ve been doing relaxed homeschooling (just LOVE this name, we thought of it as unschooling, but since we’re learning, it cannot be UNschooling per defenition !). I’ve read all the comments in one go, such a blessing, a fresh breeze ! I’m pregnant myself with our fourth (sixth pregnancy, two with Jesus) – and am desperately tired most days, having the squabbling siblings and loss of structure and discipline myself. Thank you for instilling some perspective in my muddled mind again :-). We also use no curriculum at all, our only ‘formal’ education is Scripture. My 7-year old proved the God-given natural learning ability of children to learn, by teaching herself to first write, then read, and now she’s memorizing the whole alphabet out of her own, just for fun ! My five year old son follows her lead and started writing long incomprehensible ‘sentences’, actually practicing his letters. 2,5 Year old sister, playfully ‘reads’ letters and loves it when we read simple books. Thank you for the wonderful idea of reading books to the older ones while feeding the baby, I will certainly do that – that’s why you need others’ input – because you don’t think of it all yourself !
    We do math when making pizza, having to divide a piece of someting, or two pieces, between three children, haha πŸ˜€
    The principle of waiting for them to ask questions and using it as a learning moment, is invaluable. On that topic I do recommend the book: How Children Learn, of John Holt. Completely swayed my view of homeschooling, since I ‘always knew’ I would love to homeschool my children, but as the time came near, I panicked. And prayed fervently, and I believe God blessed me with this book. It made me free to think as most of you think, set me free to ENJOY guiding my children through the learning years, instead of making myself responsible for every thing I’m told they ‘should’ learn. To God be the glory !
    PS: I know I’ve resurrected an ‘old’ topic, but I just wanted to add …

    • Word Warrior says:

      Alida,

      So glad you were encouraged! Sounds like you’re living proof of this often-scary detour from the conventional way of doing things. You do not want to miss the post I have written for Monday…much of the same thing with a link to a fabulous website that will inspire your socks off. If you haven’t subscribed to the email feed in the sidebar, that’s a good way not to miss any posts like the one coming up πŸ˜‰

  44. […] A lifestyle of learning affords freedom and flexibility. […]

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