How We Do Relaxed Homeschooling: Life is Our Classroom

Lindsey commented on “Summer Family Happenings at the Crawfords” and asked a question I thought I would answer in a post. Here is her question:

“I know you have often posted about non-book learning being a great education, and I clearly see through your children’s talents that’s working well for you all, but wondering specifics of how to do this. Example, say my son wanted to take pictures all day I’m not sure I would happily say yes as I would feel there are other things in the day to accomplish. Or letting my kids get on the internet…I’m super stingy with the internet and screen time in general. I just would really like more specifics if you ever get the chance.”

For someone not familiar with what I call a relaxed approach to homeschooling, there are lots of posts like “Schooling Has Nothing to Do With Real Education, parts 1, 2 & 3” as well as my ebook Think Outside the Classroom, to familiarize yourself with this multi-faceted approach which I won’t have room to fully explain here.

But to answer some specifics about how we implement it, even though there is no one way and every family will look quite different, I offer the following ideas:

  • First, we don’t “take off” from school, though the level of structure may vary throughout the year. Since we embrace the idea that learning happens all the time, school is always in session.
  • We implement some structure while still allowing plenty of freedom for individual pursuits. Our day typically begins with Bible (all of us) followed by a read aloud (the older ones may not stay for this), chore time, copy work, math and silent reading, during which time I may work with a younger child with reading or I may pair up an older child with a younger one. Other than those constants, most of our learning involves reading, hands-on-learning, games, video tutorials/documentaries, and discussion, not necessarily all in one day.

I’ve done different things with different children for our structured part of the day. Some have followed a few subjects through All-in-One-Homeschool. We’ve used a variety of curriculum (I like A.C.E. math) and for the younger ones, we’ve implemented games and real-life activities to teach math. Also, I’ve loved the books in A Math Adventure which offer a creative, literary spin on teaching math concepts. We don’t discredit things like construction for valuable lessons in math as well.

I add things along too, like a simple typing course which I require all my kids to learn before they can start emailing and such.

  • I give them lots of freedom to pursue their own interests, and I greatly encourage their creativity and productivity.
  • I let them try new things and make messes. Sometimes they’ll ask me if they can do something and my first inclination may be to say “no” just because it seems too hard or they’ll make a mess, or whatever. But more often than not I’m inclined to go ahead and let them. My son who loves machines wanted to try weed-eating when he seemed too young. But we let him try and his determination was enough to help him hold a machine too heavy for him. He learned very early and became good at it. Now he can not only do it well, but at the age of 9 he can also fix the machine. This applies to my girls too, with whatever endeavors they want to attempt. I have found great value in helping our kids figure out they are capable of big things. Whether it’s chopping up vegetables in the kitchen or building a table, I say give them a shot.
  • A huge part of our education paradigm involves a level of trust unfamiliar to the way we were taught to think about education. We’re so geared to the idea of “teaching children” that we forget they were created to learn and do remarkably well on their own. I am always battling my own notions but so far, I can see that there really is something miraculous in a child’s curiosity and his drive to find answers to life’s questions.  Which is probably the best summary of a relaxed-learning approach: raise questions and trust that the pursuit of finding the answer is an adequate education.

For example, I’ve mentioned previously how naturally children learn to tell time, add and subtract, tie their shoes, grow their vocabulary and a thousand other things without much deliberate effort at all. There is great freedom realizing that we don’t have to teach them everything.

  • My disclaimer: I have a child who, though she loved the idea of relaxed learning, preferred more structure. This wasn’t a problem, I simply let her follow that style.
  • The best environment for any education is a rich one, which simply means children have access to conversation, good books and tools.
  • We don’t have gadgets (i.e. phones, games, etc.) besides a computer, which we monitor and try to utilize for educational and enrichment purposes, and while every family feels differently about technology, my thought is to keep as many distractions away that would prevent them from reading books and living life as possible in the growing years. It’s just simpler to me. My older children do have an MP3 player they are allowed to use when they mow grass or do similar work, but not any time they want.
  • We try to give them all different opportunities to create products and sell them, no matter how small the scale. There are great learning opportunities in a business model.
  • We give a lot of room for play time with the younger children, a time when their imaginations are full throttle and they are exploring, problem-solving and creating through imaginative play. We try to keep crafts and toys available that would facilitate that play, but the best kind is done when we are hands-off.

And I think it was my favorite education reformer, John Taylor Gatto who said “we don’t have to worry so much about educating children; a normal child would have to be locked up and away from life itself to keep from learning.”

Life is our classroom. Talk, read, look, listen, discover, make, build, create, play, think, tell stories, write stories–we were made to learn what we need to learn. Education doesn’t have to be so hard.

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40 Responses to “How We Do Relaxed Homeschooling: Life is Our Classroom”

  1. 6 arrows says:

    All of our children have benefited from relaxed homeschooling, and it certainly did not hinder those who have gone on to higher education.

    I think the biggest benefit has been for our child with developmental delays and other special needs. Relaxed homeschooling affords him lots of time with his siblings, and he has developed important language skills in relating to them, and has learned to use his imagination as he engages in pretend play with his younger sister, a skill he developed much later than is typical.

    There isn’t much time for those kinds of interactions when children have their noses stuck in their own textbooks and workbooks for hours and hours each day.

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