Relaxed Homeschooling: How to Fuel Your Children’s Passions

Relaxed Homeschooling How to Fuel Your Children's PassionsI suppose it is the greatest blessing and also the greatest curse that homeschooling affords so much freedom. Instead of the mythical idea that “only experts can teach”, homeschool moms face the often-overwhelming dilemma of sorting through the ocean of teaching resources, styles and approaches.

But if there’s one freedom for which I’m thankful, it’s that of allowing my children to pursue their passions. Children need room, tools and lots of time to grow and develop their gifts. And they need to be told that those gifts are important and can make a difference in how they live.

Through years of research, we decided long ago that the traditional classroom approach wasn’t the best method of educating children. (Read John Taylor Gatto for more information.) We take a more relaxed approach that frankly pulls ideas from Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, unschooling and traditional, tailoring it to our family’s needs, and changing through the seasons.

If the relaxed approach of homeschooling appeals to you, my book, Think Outside the Classroom is a great place to start, giving an overview of what it is and then practical ways to put the style into practice.

As I frequently get asked to explain exactly what we do in school, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what we’re doing this year, as I’ve added a slight twist to the plan. Just remember that your family is different, your children are different, your season is different, and take joy in the freedom and discovering what works best for your family.

Math

We are sticking to a traditional curriculum. Most of my children use A.C.E. paces, with a few exceptions. Remember, especially with younger children, that math is everywhere, and it’s important to help them see how math is used in all of life. I usually don’t begin math workbooks until they are 8 or so, using practical math until then. Counting, addition, subtraction, fractions, etc. can all be taught in the natural progression of life.

I also don’t stress about higher math. We have tools now that make it possible to function in society without being Pythagoras, and a child bent toward that field will thrive without much pushing.

Writing/Spelling Grammar

We are continuing what we’ve always done, which has proven sufficient for producing a foundation for good communication. Copywork. My children begin copywork as soon as they can form letters and continue through high school.

Bible

My three older children will begin an in-depth Bible Study. I created a plan of study and designated several passages of Scripture I want them to go through. They will also write summaries at the end of each study.

Main subjects

The previous subjects shouldn’t take much of the day to complete. The rest of their time I’m giving them to pursue their personal passions. My four older children have super-clear passions and thrive in each of them. I have mapped out a course of action that involves research, experimentation and/or a project.

  • Ashton: Art–He is to choose and study 5 different mediums of art, answering the questions I’ve written about each one, reading and researching which may involve visiting/interviewing other artists. Then he must experiment with each medium. Because he is an artist, we want to give him every advantage in pursuing his life work around his passions.
  • Alexa: Crafting–Her ultimate project is to open an Etsy shop. She will study branding, product creation, tips on selling through Etsy and business math as it applies to buying and selling.
  • Avalee: Fashion Design–She will study design through youtube videos, research color, shape and trends, and take some private sewing lessons and ultimately design and create an article of clothing.
  • Brooks: Mechanics–He has already learned (through youtube) how to dismantle things such as a carburetor and put it back. His greatest passion in life is to operate and/or repair heavy machinery. He will do some reading on mechanics of different types and then put it into practice in actual repair work. We have an advantage that my father lives close by and has lots of machinery that, unfortunately, need lots of repair.

Science, History, Geography

Everything else will be left to a more unschooling (with direction) approach. Between individual reading, family reading, documentaries and conversation, these topics are covered with surprising ease. The more to which we are able to introduce them in the course of interests and living, the more “stickable” they are.

Younger Children

My younger children do copywork, simple math and reading. They sit in on family read-alouds and they get massive amounts of time to do art activities and crafts (I try to keep them supplied with materials for creating). They watch some science shows, cook alongside me or an older sibling, do their chores, build, and play.

So that’s it for these next few months or maybe the whole year. It will change. There is so much to do, so much to explore and discover. Relax in the journey and remember your children were created for learning. It will happen.

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47 Responses to “Relaxed Homeschooling: How to Fuel Your Children’s Passions”

  1. Carolina G.C. says:

    Hi Kelly,

    do your older children do book reports?

  2. Carolina G.C. says:

    I forgot to say that you book Thinking outside the classroom is great!

  3. Misty says:

    It is very encouraging and reassuring to hear from someone who is homeschooling kids older than mine this way. My oldest are 11 and 9. We have grown to a place where life is learning, and it is so natural! (However, it is misunderstood by some.) My oldest is learning taxodermy hands-on by working for a neighbor who is a taxidermist several hours most days. He LOVES it and has learned so much-measurement, communicating with people, etc. It is also great motivation to finish his traditional “school” before he goes. My 9 year old helps my mother-in-law by washing hair and taking out rollers in her beauty shop on Saturdays. It is great for her. All the ladies are elderly and have a lot of wisdom to draw from. They also look forward to seeing my very talkative red head! Thanks for the encouragement that your blog is to me.

  4. Sandy says:

    Ashton’s artwork is fabulous! What a gift! Your post was inspirational. It is fun to imagine what my littles will be doing in the next decade or so!!!

  5. 6 arrows says:

    We school like this, too — in a very eclectic style — and try to leave plenty of spaces around the necessities, to encourage the children toward creatively using their gifts.

    It’s hard, though, when you have an older child who doesn’t seem to gravitate toward any particular area outside of the usual chores and school routine. What to do then?

    This describes our 13-year-old. She willingly does what is expected of her, but she needs a way (or ways) of filling the extra time well without our micromanaging her. More academics or more chores to completely fill the time doesn’t seem to be a good solution, IMO.

    I want to give her the freedom to explore avenues of her own choosing, but of course with freedom comes responsibility. If we didn’t establish any limits on electronics, she could easily spend all her free time connecting with friends electronically (and has, when we let it slide).

    She has enjoyed doing some cooking and baking projects, and that is something I’ve resolved to do more with her this year, but I can’t see us spending hours and hours doing that together each day. In moderation, it would be enjoyable for both of us; but all her free time? for neither of us.

    We’ve tried encouraging her in several different areas, trying to stay with those things for several months or even years, instead of frequently bouncing from one thing to another, but none of those extras have really panned out. Maybe I’m being impatient while we wait for God to reveal His gifts in her?

    Anyway, it’s an interesting adventure, this homeschooling (parenting) gig, and if this mom has learned anything, it’s that, after almost a quarter-century of parenting, she doesn’t have it all figured out yet! 😉

    • Hmmm…so does her passion seem to be on a social level? I wonder if she would enjoy debate, or maybe writing (maybe a blog where she could get feedback)?

      • 6 arrows says:

        Very definitely she loves to socialize — she and her church friends Skype every night! 🙂

        Yet most of the time, interestingly enough, she exhibits a quiet demeanor, and seems to, at home anyway, “blend into the woodwork” so to speak. Does that sound contradictory — quiet AND social, LOL? Let’s just call her my uniquely paradoxical child. 😉

        So debate would not be her cup of tea. I did ask her what she thought about writing a blog, though, as she is quite a good writer. She wasn’t keen on the idea, however. She’d rather communicate verbally with local friends than in writing with who-knows-whom.

        Which is just as well, anyway, as her dad would probably be hesitant about the idea of her (or any of us, for that matter) having a blog. Plus, it’s good, of course, to have local connections, in-the-flesh friends with whom to meet now and then, which she does on occasion.

        And she makes friends easily, and chooses them well, so I also, like you, Kelly, started thinking along social lines, pondering how she can further that gift. And I do believe it is a gift, which could possibly lead to…something. 😉

        More thinking (and praying) to do on the matter. I appreciate your thoughts — thanks for sharing them! 🙂

  6. Penelope says:

    I urge you to give your children more instruction in science and higher math. I know these subjects are more difficult for moms, but children will rarely “ask” for them on their own. Too many homeschoolers realize as adults that their education in these areas is inadequate because their parents were waiting for them to ask for instruction.

    Education is not just about preparing for a future career. It is so much more than that! The fact that your girls may never use biology or chemistry on a day to day basis as housewives is no reason not to teach them these subjects as diligently as you seem to teach the liberal arts.

    • “Studies by education researchers indicate that to learn science concepts well, students must confront their preconceptions of how the universe works, compare these with what they glean from books and hands-on experiments, and then discuss discrepancies among themselves and with teachers. Often, however, textbooks and classroom activities don’t allow for such analysis or reflection, and instead, simply present statements, questions, and experiments with little view of “the big picture.”

      For students to have the time needed to acquire essential knowledge and skills of science literacy, the sheer amount of material that today’s science curriculum tries to cover must be significantly reduced.� Effective education for science literacy requires that every student be frequently and actively involved in exploring nature in ways that resemble how scientists themselves go about their work.

      But for the most part, the nation’s curricula, textbooks, and teaching continue to lack focus and emphasize quantity over quality, often emphasizing the learning of answers and memorization more than the exploration of questions, and reading rather than doing. They fail to encourage students to work together, to share ideas and information freely with each other, or to use modern instruments to extend their intellectual capabilities.

      In a classroom where science literacy is the goal, teaching should take its time. In learning science, students need time for exploring, making observations, taking wrong turns, testing ideas, doing things over again, asking, reading, and discovering – not just memorizing scientific facts.” TryScience.Org

      “More instruction” doesn’t necessarily equal a greater understanding of a subject. My children already have a far greater understanding in these subjects than I do, because traditional school instruction left me memorizing, not learning. (I was an A-B student in both high school and college, a member of the math team, and finishing Calculus 2 in college). And further education in a given subject, if/when necessary, will come natural, depending on their course of action for higher education. This has been proven in the lives of many students; it’s not just a theory.

  7. melissa c. says:

    Hey Kelly, LOVE your blog!! Just wondering what are the ages of your children? My olders are 13/11 and my youngers are 7, 6, 6, 4, (all boys, with one of the 6 yo having autism) 2 (girl) and 11 mo(boy). As you can imagine school can be a nightmare most days!! I feel so overwhled and under qualified!!! Any way just wondering what you consider your “youngers”! thanks!!

    • Melissa,

      I have children ranging in ages from almost 2 to 15, at home. Yes, it’s most definitely a challenge. But I’ve seen over the years how much the younger children learn from each other and the older ones, with little deliberate effort, and that has given me great reassurance. All those little things parents labor to teach their toddlers sometimes (letters, adding, telling time, etc.) all those things my children have learned naturally and that gives me a little breathing room.

    • Jamie says:

      This post was a serious answer to prayer. I knew this concept was right, but now it’s validated. I’m currently praying for an “older” HS mom mentor that thinks like this

  8. Kelly,
    When I visit, I seldom have a moment to leave a message, but I just have to say ‘Thank you’ for what you do to pour into the lives of women and mothers, particularly. As one other reader said a while back, you are refreshing and convicting. Thanks for encouraging me today, too 🙂 May the Lord bless all you dear Mamas that are so invested and intentional as to teach their own children at home. I’m so glad I did.
    God’s blessings (and hugs) for the new year ahead!

  9. Kim M says:

    Thank you again for encouraging me with your blog. <3

  10. Lisa says:

    Thank you! I needed this today! Struggling with one of my children on long division today… made me feel like a failure. Your post made me remember the big picture! I actually sat and thought of all the things that they are really good at. 🙂 Made me smile. I’ve been encouraged!

  11. Jennifer says:

    Kelly,
    Thanks do much for your encouraging insite! I always find your posts so encouraging and challenging!
    We have 5 children with #6 on the way! They range from age 1 to 7. I very much want to encourage my children in their passions as they get older and develop. I was wondering about what age do you really start to look for your childs natural bend? I’m sure it varies from child to child. Maybe its better to ask if you have a certain age you start to let them really develop that bend in a academic sense?
    Also, what christian based educational videos does your family find helpful? We are always looking for some good rich DVD’s for our kids to watch that are educational! Thanks again!

    • Jennifer,

      Years ago, we loved the Moody Science Creation videos, but recently, I don’t know what’s available. I would do a Google search and see if there are any free resources online. We look up various videos/documentaries that correlate to what we’re studying, but they aren’t always from a Christian perspective.

  12. 6 arrows says:

    Speaking of practical, real-life math for the young ones, today my seven-year-old figured out that -5° is warmer than -7°, unlike 5° being colder than 7°.

    One of the perks of living where we do — our kids get real-life experience with negative numbers in the winter. 😉

    • Thankful for God's Grace says:

      You wouldn’t happen to live in Minnesota, would you? ;D. We are forecasted for -40 windchills tomorrow! Brrrr!! We also are eclectic relaxed homeschoolers and so appreciate the wisdom and encouragement I receive here at Generation Cedar! God’s blessing to each of you dedicated home educating mamas!!

      • 6 arrows says:

        TfGG,

        Brrr is right! I know Minnesota winters, having lived there part of my life. (Not anymore, though we’re in the vicinity, and, with -38° windchills predicted tomorrow, I’ll be suffering right along with you!) 😀

        Nice to know another eclectic relaxed homeschooler! I suspect we won’t be taking any nature walks tomorrow, though 🙂

        Blessings to you!

  13. Claudia says:

    I would also add that sometimes a bent/niche/interest can find your children in unexpected ways that may involve struggle/hardship. One of my sons, though bright, was struggling a lot with academics. We weren’t too concerned, as he was fascinated with repairing things, particularly heating and AC. However, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and hypothyroidism and became very interested in the medical field. The combination of interest/motivation, and getting his thyroid and blood sugar in order made learning so much more exciting, particularly in math and science. Still, as the article you quoted expressed, Biology I covers a LOT, so we have, just recently, decided to take two years to complete Biology. I realized I needed to be more intentional with study skills so that he learns to study smarter rather than harder. I think teaching our children strategies for organizing new learning, studying, taking notes, articulating (beyond paper pencil) new learning, and even memorizing is invaluable. It will prepare them for any kind of new learning. Your philosophy, Kelly, reminds me of Plutarch’s, and I quite agree: The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. Press on!

    • Claudia,

      I love this. I really see the need for motivation. My brother HATED math in school (he’s an artist–I think that’s relevant) but as a (insert fancy word here) computer programmer/something at a major airline and now as realtor, the math he needed, he’s learned because he had motivation to do so. I’m holding out for my artist who hates math 😉 I just have to make it make sense for him somewhere besides a piece of paper. Love the quote, too. Thank you!

    • 6 arrows says:

      Claudia,

      That’s a great quote! And I agree with you that it’s good to learn to work smart and make efficient use of time.

      My oldest daughter worked two jobs to put herself through veterinary technician training school, and definitely had to find an efficient way to study and absorb all she was learning!

      But she made it, and passed her board exams, and is now a certified vet tech working for a major veterinary teaching hospital in the U.S.!

      (This from the girl who was known to shed tears in the early years of her math studies. But not after the fire to be a vet tech was kindled in her!) 🙂

  14. Claudia says:

    Oh and darling picture of your daughter~ and tell her I love the dress she is working on – particularly the colors she put together!

  15. I have a 5 y.o. who loves fashion. She creates the most amazing outfits combining the pieces of clothing that she has. (Did you know you could use a t-shirt as a skirt? Or pantyhose as a head accessory ?) Now she is asking me for a sewing kit like her oldest sister’s (11 y.o. daughter) because she wants to sew too. My dilemma is that she keeps losing her needle around the house. 🙂

  16. danni says:

    Can you email me for advice I was raised on ace and loved it. But I saw thebiblicalscholar.net or org amd was intrigued and you reminded me of it. I’d love some advice on what to do.

  17. laura says:

    i love this idea, but also wonder how to go about supplying kiddos with supplies/tools needed to hone their skills. The dressmaker’s forms you show are not exactly cheap… neither is a constant supply of art supplies (good ones-oil paint, brushes, good paper or canvas, etc), or the many tools needed to work with wood or machines… i don’t exactly know how to go about procuring such items…

    • Laura,

      It is a challenge. But there are things to consider. First, most parents spend a certain allotment on school supplies/books, so that could be shifted to supplies. Keep your eyes out. The dress form is a salvage item we grabbed before our neighbor threw it away. It leans and needs repaired, but it is something and we got it for free. Collect things a bit at a time, and look on ebay and amazon for better buys. Our parents usually ask what they can get the kids for Christmas and that’s an excellent time to list some of these items. We are blessed with free piano lessons from an excellent teacher. It was all providential, but she is an elderly lady who was SO thrilled at the prospect of being able to use her skills she wouldn’t hear of me paying her. Perhaps there are others people like her, her feel a little discarded, who would love to invest in the lives of the younger generation if just given the chance. Maybe that helps a little?

  18. Robin says:

    Excellent post! This is very similar to they way we homeschooled our daughters. It creates a love for learning that will last a lifetime.

  19. danni says:

    I guess you don’t care to respond to me huh

  20. Danni,

    With all due respect, I’m a busy mom who sometimes forgets/isn’t able/isn’t obligated to respond to every comment. You asked: “Can you email me for advice I was raised on ace and loved it. But I saw thebiblicalscholar.net or org amd was intrigued and you reminded me of it. I’d love some advice on what to do.”

    I have no idea what kind of advice you are asking me for. Could you be more specific? I write a blog for the purpose of giving advice. It isn’t possible for me to email and answer every question, especially when the question is vague.

  21. Kim M says:

    I just wanted to say that you have no idea what a blessing this post, and other posts in the pasts, has done for me.

    I think if it weren’t for your encouragement, I might still be using that boxed curriculum I used to think was the only way to go.

  22. Kristina says:

    Kelly,

    This post has meant so much to me and has taught me an abundance of needed information. We place our oldest son, age 7, in public school after much frustration with homeschooling him through a schedule based curriculum. He did great for a few months (while I studied like crazy on the different ideas and ways of homeschooling) however today he requested to stay home and I heard the Lord say yes and to try out your “relaxed” version of homeschool. He not only did amazingly well but requested to continue homeschooling! You desire to pour out guidance in such a loving way has greatly touched my heart and therefore has benefited my children!

    I do have a question though. Within the relaxed setting how do you assess grades when the time comes to turn them into the states homeschool office?

    Thanks again for all you do.
    Kristina

    • Kristina,

      This brings a great joy to my heart. To answer your question, we aren’t required in our state to submit grades. Some homeschooling coverings require more than others, so I suggest you try to find one that requires a minimum amount of paper work since it takes some stress off. However, there are ways too do it. Here is one link I found. I didn’t read it entirely, but a google search will render some additional help if you need it. http://www.leapingfromthebox.com/art/kmg/recordkeeping.html

  23. Andie B. says:

    Hi Kelly, love encouraging Mom’s like you! Couple questions for ya: 1. Have you ever dealt with one of your homeschooling children struggling with dyslexia and or auditory processing? If so, did you use any special curriculum for them and or how did you help them with this struggle? 2. You said you’ve used the more traditional ACE PACES for math, did you start off with the lowest 1st grade math kit that includes all subjects and goes through the phonological/teaching reading part? I know you said you didn’t use a reading curriculum but have just read A LOT to them and teach them as you go but I guess the ACE pACE doesn’t recommend just math alone unless they are efficient readers. If you didn’t start with the pre-reading part to the math, did you just read the questions to them or did they already know how to read the math questions? 3. Have you ever heard of and or taught Math You See? If you have used it or are familiar with it, what advantages/disadvantages to ACE PACE math compared to the Math You See? Thank you again for encouraging Mom’s!

  24. This works well and meet so many lovely customers with recording and publishing free

  25. excellent suggestion thanks

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