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Conference Lessons: Relax About Schoolwork

033 (500x500)“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.

This post is linked to the Carnival of HomeschoolingFinishing Strong , Trivium Tuesdays, Works for Me Wednesdays, and Raising Homemakers

5 Comments

  1. Good for you. I appreciate that you write about your struggle with this so we can learn from your experience, too.

  2. Laraba says:

    Thank you for writing about this. As you know, my background is highly academic as is yours (PhD in materials science for me, and…physics for you? Chemistry?) Anyhow, I keep having to pray about what God’s plan is for our homeschooling and of course for us, part of the answer is baby after baby When I had my first child at age 30, I never dreamed #9 would arrive when I was 44. It has thrown so many monkey wrenches into my plans for homeschooling and I still find it stressful that I can’t do everything I want to do academically…but I have to keep trusting the Lord will guide me and my husband and the children so that each precious child is getting what he or she needs. Not what the culture says, not what I in my own personal wisdom think — what the Lord knows each child needs.

  3. Annie Kate says:

    You’re welcome, Nelleke.

    Yes, Laraba, often our plans are not God’s plan. We do need to make plans carefully and wisely, but we must also be willing to let go of them when God’s plans are obviously different.

    I find the hardest part is deciding when I should give up on my plans and when I should persevere diligently.

    In your case, with a new baby on the way, that decision is made for you; right now you obviously need to take it easy and your homeschool is therefore automatically more relaxed. But, yes, I understand that it is still not easy for you.

    We can be glad that the Lord does know what each child needs.

  4. Amy says:

    This is the kind of thing that is easier said that done for me. I feel the same way after talking to others about homeschooling, but when we get down to it at home, it is hard for me to give up the more structured routine! I am really trying to do it for the summer, though. I’m calling it my Charlotte Mason Summer. I’m hoping to have lots of good outdoor time and read lots of great books with my kids! I can’t wait to hear what you think after a little while of your 80/20 plan =)

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Enjoy your summer plans! Outdoor times and great books are ingredients for a lovely summer.

      I’m planning a post on how Charlotte Mason’s ideas mesh with classical education, because there is a very close connection, and CM ideas lead to classical results.

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