The “How” of Relaxed Homeschooling

Several people have asked what it means to be a “relaxed homeschooler.”  Here are some (hopefully) helpful things for you to think about…

First off, let me just say that “eclectic homeschooling” is basically using a mixture of curriculum, books, and methods.  You might pick A Beka reading, Bob Jones math, IEW writing, Apologia science, etc.  You might follow a schedule or not.  You might be a relaxed homeschooler or follow a traditional school model, be registered with your local education agency (LEA) or a church related school, participate in co-ops or not, but all of these are choices any homeschooler might make.  “Eclectic homeschooling” is in reference to the items you use to teach your child.  If you use a variety of curriculum or books, then you’re an eclectic homeschooler.

Relaxed homeschooling is in reference to your teaching style.  You might sometimes follow a schedule and sometimes not.  You might use a structured curriculum or perhaps not.  You might attend co-op or not.  You get the idea!  : )

So if that’s the case, exactly how do you homeschool if you want to be a “relaxed homeschooler”? 

For many relaxed homeschoolers, there is a desire NOT to be associated with the “unschool” movement promoted by John Holt.  There are some terrific ideas related to unschooling (like students are encouraged to pursue individual interests), but there is also an underlying theme that children can figure things out without adult guidance. 

The Bible tells us that we should “train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him (Proverbs 22:15), and “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).  For Christians, it is clear that caring parents with more wisdom must guide the child until he begins to show wisdom as he matures.  For this reason, a strictly unschooling approach as advocated by John Holt isn’t really acceptable.

Now that you know what a relaxed homeschooler is not, here are some ideas on what a relaxed homeschooler is

–  The relaxed homeschooler appreciates the fact that you don’t have to get up at 6:00 a.m. each day to get ready for school.  Some days you get up early.  Other days you sleep in late because you stayed up late the night before looking at constellations. 

–  The relaxed homeschooler loves books, but they don’t pick all the books their child uses.  They make sure the child has access to great books on a regular basis (through a decent home library or visits to the public library) and they occasionally buy workbooks or worksheets for things like math or foreign languages.

–  The relaxed homeschoolers knows that you can learn a lot more when you use more senses.  In other words, hands on activities, field trips, active participation in experiments are all things the relaxed homeschooler enjoys!

–  The relaxed homeschooler encourages and supports the child in pursuit of individual interests, hobbies, gifts / talents.

–  The relaxed homeschooler participates in outside activities, but not always the same as other relaxed homeschoolers.  Some might do co-op.  Others participate in a support group with play dates.  Others volunteer at the food pantry, play sports, or allow their child to do an internship or have a home business.  Many homeschoolers do these things, but the relaxed homeschooler typically counts these things toward the “required instructional hours.”

–  The relaxed homeschooler is frequently of a “better late than early” mindset when it comes to what children should accomplish at what age.  It’s ok if the child learns to read at age seven, learn multiplication tables at age 12 and writes his/her first essay in tenth grade rather than sixth.

You get the idea.  These are things that describe relaxed homeschoolers.  A relaxed homeschool family’s schedule might look something like this:

9:30        everyone gets up and finds their own breakfast (part of life skills)

10:00     family might do chores or other children play while Mom practices phonics with child who is learning to read or family might do read alouds and some group school time (usually history, science experiments, and Bible are group activities)

12:00     family breaks for lunch which children help prepare and then clean up

1:00        free time while mom rests, does bills, or whatever 

2:00        Mom has rested and spends time with children – working on a project, playing a game, doing a math worksheet, doing geography, etc.  (Older students might work independently during morning and/or afternoon on more structured schoolwork.)

4:00        Mom prepares dinner and children are excused to go play

5:30        family eats dinner together

6:00        in nice weather, children might go outside to play, sometimes with Dad; some days children might come in and play computer games (educational, not violent) for a while

7:30        family watches a show together (again, something educational, like Mythbusters, History Channel, Answers in Genesis lectures, etc. or something family oriented like Little House on the Prairie)

8:30        Dad / Mom prepare children for bed and read bedtime stories

10:00     Everyone in bed where they can read, play crossword puzzles or other word type games or go to sleep

Now remember that this is an approximate schedule and is certainly not meant to be strict since the whole point is to be relaxed so that people can do what works for their family.  It’s going to be different for everyone.  This just gives you an idea of what some families do.  (This is a pretty close approximation of my family’s schedule, actually!)

So now you know what a relaxed homeschooler is and what a relaxed homeschooler’s schedule might look like.  I thought it might also be helpful to know some useful products for the relaxed homeschooler.  That’s a big part of the question of “HOW” do I become a relaxed homeschooler.  After all, you’re going to need things around your home so that your child can have fun learning all the time without even realizing that you’ve carefully prepared the environment in advance for them.  : )

Here are some ideas:

–  Adventures in Odyssey CDs (life skills, discernment, decision making, some history, some Bible, entertainment)

–  Your Story Hour CDs (terrific audio history, biographies, Bible, quality fiction stories as well)

–  Wrap Ups (make math FUN)

–  Mad Libs (make grammar FUN)

–  Brain Quest (every subject, review, fun to see what they know)

–  practice standardized tests (yes, some kids like these; available in any subject; easy to do on their own with multiple choice answers, for readers only)

–  NEST educational videos (Bible, history, biography – BEST children’s animated educational DVDs on the market)

–  Answers in Genesis DVDs (science, history, Bible, biography, lecture format, great for older students, younger kids might like them as well if they’re interested in topic)

–  Legos (thinking skills, building skills, fine motor skills, great for students of all ages since their building skills will progress with age, math – colors, sorting, sizes, matching, etc.)

–  Lincoln Logs (history, thinking skills, building skills, fine motor skills, cooperation if they have to share)

–  Playmobil (same as Legos and Lincoln Logs, but also a LOT of pretend play, which is great for child’s brain growth as they determine how to interpret world around them and how they fit into that world.)

–  Tinker Toys (building, fine motor skills, cooperation, imagination, etc.)

–  pets (animals, science, responsibility, accountability)

–  board games (teamwork, cooperation, learning to lose, learning to win politely, fine motor skills, math, science, etc.  – There is an endless number of benefits to board games, depending on the one you’re playing since many incorporate math, history, etc.)

–  puzzles (fine motor skills, cooperation, visual aptitude, etc.)

–  math manipulatives (math, fine motor skills – Remember that you don’t have to use these with a curriculum for them to be beneficial.)

–  flash cards (math, science, history, foreign language, whatever – Again, remember that you don’t have to do these formally for a child to pick them up and have fun with them and LEARN.)

–  maps and globes (geography, math, measurements)

–  rulers, calculators, clocks (analog and digital), abacuses (math, measurements, time, etc.)

OK, so I think you get the idea.  That’s just a general list.  I could seriously go on all day with the kinds of things you could just have sitting around your house that could encourage your child to learn. 

Some of you who are just now planning to become more relaxed in your homeschooling may wonder about two main questions.

1.  Will my child ever really learn anything?!?

I guarantee you that if you create an educational environment – largely by having many of the resources mentioned above available and NOT providing “trash” for your child, then he/she will become accustomed to playing with what’s available.  If you’re starting this after your child already has developed bad habits, then you’ll need to remove the source of the “bad habit,” whether that’s a Nintendo that the child plays every time you turn around or a negative comic book with lots of violence.  You are the PARENT.  This is why relaxed homeschooling differs from unschooling.  It is your responsibility to remove things that are harmful to your child – whether in a physical sense, academic sense or spiritual sense.  We (and our children) already have enough temptation in this world without providing things that aren’t wholesome.  Provide wholesome things for your child and you’ll be training your child about what’s acceptable in a subtle, non-preachy manner.

2.  I’m required to do four hours of school per day.  How does this fit in?

If you are homeschooling and you’re actually home with your child, you will do four hours of training in a day.  It might not be the typical instruction that someone with a master’s degree at the superintendent office agrees with, but on the other hand, their style isn’t really working all that well…  You’ll be training your child in life skills (helping you cook, clean, learn obedience, public service, communication skills, etc.).  You’ll read aloud good books, which means you’re introducing literature, history, biographies, fiction, etc.  Through that, you’re also showing child good grammar, sentence structure, etc.  The resources I’ve mentioned will help with sciences, math, history, Bible, etc.  You’ll also take your child to church and participate in outside activities sometimes.  All of these things will mold your child into the well-rounded child you want him/her to become and therefore you are in fact instructing him/her for four hours per day.  If someone is unsure about this, e-mail me or call and tell me what your day was like.  I’d be happy to tell you what was “educational.”  : )

That’s about it.  There’s actually so much more I could write, but that’s all for now.  Hopefully this will help some of you who didn’t want to follow the rigid traditional school-type schedule, but didn’t really know how to do it.  Now you have some ideas.  I’ll post some more later.

Sonya Haskins


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