Simple, Awesome Ideas for Whole-Schooling (Relaxed Homeschooling)

Simple, Awesome Ideas for Whole-Schooling (Relaxed Homeschooling)

We practice relaxed homeschooling which is somewhere between traditional schooling and unschooling. What drives our educational philosophy is simply the fact that the goal of education is to learn (not to take a test or get a job), learning happens all the time, from the time we are born until we die, and a well-rounded education prepares anyone for anything they want to do. We also school year round for this reason.

The freedom that comes from grasping how natural learning is, is, well, freeing. And that is good news for homeschooling!

We are constantly changing things, tweaking and trying new approaches, and I thought I’d share a few ideas we’re adding in this summer:

  • Youtube for Science. On these long summer days, take advantage of the Internet and add some videos to your curriculum. There are some really fun, interesting videos (requires a little searching/reviewing) that especially capture the attention of your visual/auditory learners. Don’t underestimate the power of it. My kids are constantly asking me, “Did you know?” from things they watch. This summer, I’m focusing on the systems of the human body and first aid. I’m working it into our schedule, 1 day a week.
  • Composer Study. This is actually simpler than it even sounds, Charlotte Mason style. Ready for how to do it? Listen to great works from great musicians. Studying their lives is optional. We’re reading one book on each composer, and we may make some lapbooks with pictures, facts, etc. To help them retain what they’ve learned, your children could do a presentation to grandparents at the end. But the goal is simply to familiarize them with different works until they can distinguish between composers. We’re adding the composer study in 1 day a week.
  • Writing thank you notes. We’ve done this on and off for years, but I think it’s a really important practice, both in the honing of writing skills and the deliberate habit of expressing gratitude. Also once a week. It could replace language for a season, especially if you want to edit them and work on problem areas.
  • Teaching each other. This one is harder for me to implement, but in theory, there is no better way to learn than to teach. So, one child teaching another child a math concept, or telling him about something he learned can help solidify the information in his own mind. Narration is a similar concept.
  • Make history a family affair. Choose a living history book like Story of the World or The Light & the Glory and make it a nightly family reading. That frees up more time in the day without forfeiting an important subject, plus it gives Dad the chance to learn alongside and share in the discussion. It could be a dinner table reading or a before-bed read.
  • Memorize what needs to be. Personally, I think we spent way too much time in school memorizing dates and events that I couldn’t recall now if I had to. The instant access to the Internet makes storing information largely unnecessary. But there are some things. So I’m keeping a running list and setting aside one day a week to work on them. (This doesn’t include Scripture memory, which we try to work on every day. Oh, and have you checked out our Scripture Songs CD?) For example, this summer we are learning/reviewing states and capitals, reviewing continents and oceans, and doing a general overview of geography. Also, I’m doing an informal study with my younger ones about the basic classification of animals, which will be as simple as reading books and discussing what makes an animal belong to a certain class.

And finally, this short message from Michael Farris helps me keep the proper perspective. In a nutshell, he encourages us to remember that having a good grasp of language and math is the foundation for learning anything else. No one can master everything. Nor should they try. But mastering the basics lays the foundation for everything else. You can listen at Homeschool Heartbeat. (As a side note, we are created to master language and problem-solving (the essence of math) and begin to do it quite early, in a natural setting. We continue to master language when we read good literature, copy good writers and practice, and we master problem-solving by living life, and being allowed to create and figure things out on our own. Essentially, mastering comes more naturally than we think.)

So, what are your ideas for simplifying school life? I would love to hear them, and I’m sure others would too.


21 Responses to “Simple, Awesome Ideas for Whole-Schooling (Relaxed Homeschooling)”

  1. […] Simple, Awesome Ideas for Whole-Schooling (Relaxed Homeschooling) […]

  2. Kristen says:

    Your science suggestions reminded me that NASA’s expedition to Pluto is happening this summer after however many years in the making/traveling. On NASA’s website there is a great video on the New Horizon’s project and ‘m sure as the summer progresses we’ll be getting some great images from the probe. What a great way to study science as it’s happening.

    We also did composer studies using you-tube videos. There’s so much great stuff out there.

  3. Heidi Kaldenberg says:

    I love all your ideas!
    Here are some of ours:
    -Your Story Hour audios. My kids know most of their history from listening to these. Also just some great stories of character.
    -Library Summer Reading program. The prize incentives have my kids reading their little hearts out. And the teen program requires my 12yr old to write short book reviews. 😉
    -Check with your county conservation or state DNR for volunteer opportunities. We are currently doing some real life science by volunteering to help monitor frog species in our state. The program requires being trained to recognize frog calls and then going out on survey routes to collect data. Many states have this “NAAMP” program or others! It’s been so exciting to do “real” science that matters!

    This program through Cornell University is on our list for this fall. It is also an opportunity for real life hands-on science as kids collect data on feeder birds for a national database.

    Happy Learning!

  4. Shelly says:

    We’re going into our 7th year of homeschooling, and after trying unschooling for the past year, we’ve decided to use a relaxed homeschooling approach instead. It’s obvious that the kids have learned tons, but I have 10 kids (and 1 adult child), and we really need some structure back. We’re probably going to be about as relaxed as you can get, but here’s our plan:

    -M,W,F- One activity from a creation science unit study that covers K-12th grades
    (These are cross-curricular and cover everything from Language to Music)
    – read aloud to elementary age kids while 13 and 15 yr.olds read silently
    – M and F- go to a park or for a walk as weather allows
    -T,Th- Life of Fred math
    – same reading routine as above

    And…that’s about it. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but here are just some things my kids have been up to:
    -building claw machines, gumball machines, and bristlebots by watching youtube videos
    -making animation flip books
    -making play furniture and other odds and ends from recyclables around the house
    -they’re currently attending their 2nd VBS in 2 weeks and attended a sports camp last week
    -my 13 year old is currently on a junior high missions trip helping with our church’s VBS and serving in various ministries around the community; my 2 high schoolers will attend a missions trip to Rochester, NY next month
    -we currently have a family membership to the zoo, so we’ll visit there often as well

    I should add that my 16 yr. old remained pretty structured throughout our time unschooling, so she’ll continue doing things independently. She prefers it that way. She is fascinated with anime and manga, which has led her to learn Japanese, she draws anime style characters on a drawing program on her computer, and she attends anime conventions several times a year for which she’s started sewing her own costumes.

    Oh, and as unhappy as I was with my 13 yr. old’s love for online fan fiction, the latest story she read prompted her to borrow 8 poetry books out of the library when she’s never been interested in that before. I guess what I’m trying to say is just follow your child’s lead because they can take you to places you never expected.

    • Thank you for these ideas, Shelly. I was just thinking today, about the tragedy of most people not thinking about “noneducational” things as educational. Like some of things you mentioned, which are excellent things to learn/know how to do, not to mention the problem-solving skills they’ll acquire which span across any type of learning. My son works with his Dad some, and I can imagine that most people don’t think of that as being very educational but oh, how much he is learning, and how valuable the ability to learn to build.

      • Shelly says:

        That’s true, and that’s something that I’m really able to credit towards unschooling. The knowledge that if you are living, you’re learning.

    • Heather Austin says:

      HI Shelly, Can I ask what program your daughter uses for drawing on her computer? MY 13 year old is also into drawing anime and she recently wanted a program for the computer but I have no idea what to look for or where to start. Thank you:)

  5. Karena says:

    Great to see you are using one of Cornell’s free resources! My husband and I are birders and their program, eBird, is a powerful tool for both citizens and scientists. Also, if you are keeping with the bird theme into December, consider participating in a Christmas Bird Count. Oh, many cities/regions also have birding clubs that hold monthly meetings where a guest speaker will talk on a specific topic.

  6. Misty says:

    My children learn so much more through relaxed homeschooling. It is just a part of our lifestyle and a lot less stressful than “teaching to a curriculum”. My 12 year old son is always thinking of “contraptions” to build out of whatever he can find-a boat out of plastic barrels, a shelf out of old pallet wood with used rifle shells used as pegs to hang his caps, etc. He is also learning taxidermy by working for a local taxidermist a couple mornings a week. He loves it! This is a child that learns best out of a classroom. He loves to read popular mechanics yearbooks, watch you tube videos on “how to” do or build anything, has his own garden, and wants to learn gunsmithing. He is faster than me when it comes to figuring math in his head. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to homeschool him especially! As a past public school teacher, I know he would be a bright child who would drown in the “sit in your seat and fill in the bubbles” classroom. Loved this article!

  7. Carolina G.C. says:

    Hi Kelly,

    The Light and the Glory is waiting for us in the shelf, and so is From Sea to Shinning Sea. Peter Marshall was in our church some years ago, with a great message and a great book table. My oldest has enjoyed reading his historical fiction for young readers, and learnt a lot through it. Historical fiction brings History alive.
    By praying for different countries and missionaries we learn Geography. We draw the flags sometimes too.
    Something I do to gain time is to use the car time to do academic stuff sometimes. Like reading, or memorizing poems, or checking spelling.

    I do not homeschool year round. I do take a summer break, but do somethings that could not finish during the school year, or where my children need more help.

  8. Grandparents are visiting from Brazil so the kids are busy filling them in with all the activities they did throughout the year. DD12 is busy crating Polymer Clay dragons and setting up an Etsy shop. DD5 is copying her and making polymer clay creations too, as well as teaching Grandma how to. DD7 is busy reading all the great books our library has recently acquired. DS9 is busy coding and creating on Minecraft. We are still doing math, history and science but we are not strict on the schedule. Swimming, lots of free play, learning on YouTube and cooking together. WE like to take it easy all year long and just go with the flow.

  9. I forgot to mention chess! Grandpa loves chess, so he challenges the children and help them up their game by playing with each child every day. We call it critical thinking or logic! 🙂

  10. Janet says:

    Kelly, I don’t know if you belong to a cover group, but we do. I have to fill out quarterly reports. They are simple, for example I would list ” math–Teaching textbooks 3 p.45-122.” How would I document relaxed homeschooling? Thanks

    • Janet,

      We do, but they don’t require curriculum reports. (By law in our state, you are only required to submit attendance reports, though each cover school can request additional information.) To document relaxed homeschooling, keep a journal of activities and include any books/videos/projects/field trips your children do, classifying it under the appropriate subject.

  11. Sarah Schoolcraft says:

    Thank you all for your encouragement. Some of us moms of many children thrive on that!

  12. I see the writer has floor knowledge it the topic in addition to
    some practical experience. This type of info
    is more beneficial than copypasted blog posts ideas.

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