If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my fellow homeschoolers these past couple of years, it’s that they are dedicated, passionate, and intent on figuring out what they need to do in order to best help their children learn.
Okay. Maybe that counts as more than one thing.
Out of everything I discuss either here on my blog or on my YouTube channel, the two topics that receive the most interest are relaxed homeschooling and notebooking. Since I’ve already dedicated quite a few videos and posts on notebooking, last week I decided that it was time to write a series on relaxed homeschooling, the second part of which I’m bringing you today.
In last week’s post, I attempted to explain what relaxed homeschooling actually is. (I say “attempted” because it really does look different in every family!)
Today I’m going to give you some tips on…
Setting the Stage for a Relaxed Homeschool
I’m going to venture a guess that when most of you picture “setting the stage” for a relaxed homeschool, you’re most likely imagining how to best create an appropriate learning environment in your home.
While I am going to share some thoughts on readying your home for this endeavor, there’s something else that is far more important than preparing your house, and that is……preparing your mind.
Get Rid of Those Preconceived Notions
The very first thing that homeschooling parents need to do in order to embrace this learning philosophy is to shed the school mindset. The fact is, most of us were educated in a factory-a.k.a. traditional- school setting. And it’s not just us. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and possibly generations more were also brought up to believe that learning happens in school at a desk with a textbook.
Education reformers like John Holt and John Taylor Gatto have completely opened the door to a “new way of learning” (that isn’t really new at all), and have reminded us that as human beings we were created to be naturally curious and intent upon finding out what we need and want to know.
No textbooks, school bells, assigned seats, hall passes, or arbitrary rules necessary.
That is the main philosophy behind relaxed homeschooling, and it is absolutely crucial that you are able to fully accept the fact that the school way of learning is outdated and ineffective. The hard truth is that if you cannot let go of the public school model, relaxed homeschooling will be only a dream and nothing more.
One of the key components of a successful relaxed homeschool is the ability to remain flexible. I’m not saying that planning is a bad thing. It can be extremely helpful to keep a homeschool on track, BUT if you hold yourself too strictly to that schedule, it can be disastrous. The thing is, some of the best lessons in life are those that are not planned for.
This is where ridding yourself of your preconceived notions about school come in, because if you cannot bring yourself to do that, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to find yourself constantly bringing back more and more of the practices commonly used in a school setting.
And if you think about it, schools are exactly the opposite of flexible, aren’t they?
Time to Research
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One of the best things I’ve done as a homeschool mom is to spend lots and lots of time researching. Whether it’s reading about education, learning, homeschool philosophies and methods, or curriculum, whenever I’m blessed by a spare moment or two, my nose will be in a book.
This is crucial.
Because I was one of those students who actually fit well with the school model, it took me quite some time to admit that schools have it all wrong. If you’re finding yourself with the same issue, I highly recommend any books by John Holt or John Taylor Gatto. When it comes to how children learn and education reform, these two authors are the cream of the crop.
I also highly suggest that even if you aren’t interested in unschooling, you would do well by your kids to read some books on this homeschool approach. After all, relaxed homeschooling really is a hybrid of eclectic homeschooling and unschooling.
My two favorite unschooling books are The Big Book of Unschooling by Sandra Dodd, and Free to Learn by Pam Laricchia. While I do not ascribe to everything they believe in about parenting philosophies (they are both radical unschoolers), their insights into how learning happens in everyday life is absolutely phenomenal.
What About a School Room?
When I first started homeschooling, I had your typical homeschool room. It contained little school desks I bought at a secondhand store, a chalkboard and whiteboard, educational posters adorning the walls, and even an American flag in the corner.
At first, I thought it was wonderful. It made me feel like a school teacher!
And therein lay the problem.
Since I felt like a teacher, I started to act like one. I found myself imitating school more and more with each passing week. Strict times and days for subjects. Raised hands for questions or to go to the bathroom. Homework for anything not done on time. I found that my kids were liking homeschooling less and less, until I recognized the problem…
I was more concerned with being a teacher than with being a mom.
So, yes. You will most certainly find beautiful photos of homeschool rooms on Pinterest and Instagram, and those types of rooms do work well with some homeschool approaches.
I’m going to speak from experience here, though, and say that if your homeschool room looks like a classroom, and you’re hoping to moved to a more relaxed homeschool, you might want to give that room a second thought. Because as pretty as those rooms can be, they may induce you to start bringing those old school habits back a little at a time.
After all, it would be a shame to not put those cute desks to use more often. And that chalkboard will look mighty empty when you’re not filling it with endless notes from your lessons each day. And you might be neglecting your responsibilities if your children aren’t saying the Pledge of Allegiance to that flag in the corner each day.
Without a doubt, those thoughts will begin to creep in as time goes on.
Am I saying you shouldn’t use a school room at all? Absolutely not. I’m simply suggesting that you rethink what is included in that room. Instead of desks, consider a corner with pillows and blankets for a comfy reading space. Instead of filling your shelves with textbooks, stock them up with puzzles, board games, art supplies, and living books. Fill it up with anything you think your kids might be inspired by, but- and this is very important- let them use it as they choose.
What If I Don’t Have a School Room?
Not a problem! Most relaxed homeschoolers that I’ve spoken to don’t. I don’t either, and I prefer it that way.
Learning isn’t something that has to be confined to one specific room in your house. It can happen in the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the yard, the porch, the park, the library, the grocery store, and any other place you can imagine.
Learning happens everywhere. It happens all the time- school room or no school room.
That’s all I have for today, and it’s a good thing because I think I’ve rambled on long enough! Tune in next week when I share some practical tips on implementing a relaxed approach into your homeschool.
If you’re looking for an encouraging relaxed homeschool community, join my FB group!