“If I had to do it over, I’d relax more about schoolwork.” I heard this several times at our homeschool conference, but it’s a hard thing for me to accept and actually live with. I prefer rigorous academics like classical education, especially for my teens. My kids are bright, and I want to give them the best education I can, the best preparation to love the Lord with their whole being and their neighbors as themselves.
But when I hear a message year after year from parents who have finished their homeschooling journey, I start to think. Perhaps being more relaxed about formal schoolwork will meet our goals more effectively. And I think back to the past when my kids were young and I had energy. In those days we dabbled in unschooling and it was wildly successful academically.
As I wrote earlier, this year my conference goal is to apply a few things I learned by implementing some ‘low energy tweaks’ in our homeschool. Relaxing about schooling is low energy…if I can let go of the goals we had for the year which, for various good reasons, we cannot meet anyhow.
So, here is how I aim to make this very difficult (for me) concept real in our family without giving up on my children’s education.
First of all I will apply the 80/20 rule to our schoolwork and see what can safely be cut out. And then:
We will relax about schoolwork…and go visit our friend with the new baby.
We will relax about schoolwork…and spend more time in the garden.
We will relax about schoolwork…and play cribbage and chess.
We will relax about schoolwork…and go on field trips and have picnics.
We will relax about schoolwork…but will focus very hard when we do study.
We will relax about schoolwork…and read more, craft more, bake more, walk more, and make more music.
We will relax about schoolwork… and reduce our already minimal screen time
We will relax about schoolwork …and go visit those dear old people who keep on asking us to.
We will relax about schoolwork…and spend more time with friends.
What will happen when we do this? Will the sky fall down? Will the children stop learning? Probably not….
I expect Miss 11 to become happier and learn all sorts of non-academic things. She’s already bookmarking pages in our prettiest cookbook. That’s good. I just hope that she will catch up on her academics eventually because she is far behind, especially in math.
Miss 13 will probably keep on learning inside her head in her own quiet way, because numbers and ideas and patterns are everywhere. That is good, too, although it cannot be checked off on any lists. At this stage that’s my problem, not hers.
Miss 16 will likely keep on going as she has been, which has been relaxed in one sense and extremely academic in another sense. When she’s too tired to study, she lies in bed listening to an audiobook version of War and Peace (48 CDs!), or she plays cribbage, or she reads about math discoveries. Is this classical unschooling? Is there even such a thing?
And how about Mama? How will I deal with this relaxed approach? I will have to give up on my goals for this year, something we knew would happen although I have not yet really accepted it in my heart. I will need to maximize educational opportunities in everyday life.
And guess what? I feel as though an enormous burden has been lifted off my shoulders.
Today we began our more relaxed approach and went visiting, leaving school books behind. Later this week—or next week—I will have to look at our school lists and think about that 80/20 rule. And sometime in the future, I’ll let you know how it’s going.
This is the second article in a series about our homeschooling conference. The first was After the Homeschooling Conference, and over the next few months I plan to write about two or three more conference lessons we are applying.