Homeschool parents can easily struggle with self-confidence. You’re going against the grain, you’re in the minority with how you want to educate, and you might have been judged hard by a family member or friend. You want to do school differently, but the pull is strong to conform a bit towards the socially acceptable expectation of doing more, performing more, and committing to more obligations. This looks different for all homeschool parents. You might fit into one or more of these categories: a.) You have so many ideas of what you want your homeschool to look like, and you want to implement them all today. Your kids are never without an activity! You always have something in your back pocket. Always! b.) You have a strong urge to keep your kids at or above grade level, at least to show others this homeschool thing is working. This means you keep that intensity up so you're never off-track with your scope and sequence for the year. c.) You are so overwhelmed that you just need someone to tell you what to do for each subject. You purchase a big box curriculum, because that company must know what they’re doing. And curriculum feels legit. d.) You’ve experienced all of the above at some point. If you answered D, SAME! We know how it feels to have all the ideas, feeling like you must keep up with other same-age kids, and feeling completely overwhelmed so you grab the nearest curriculum. Deep breaths. We’re here to say it’s okay to do less. In fact, it’s probably the most effective thing you can do for your homeschool. More does not always equal better. Intensity does not always equal high-achieving. Expensive curriculum doesn’t always equal nourishing curriculum. How do you do less? Here are some ideas to ponder. 1.Check in with yourself and your kids. What feels good? What feels like too much or too little? There’s a happy balance and it will take some time to figure out what that is for you and your family. 2.Start small. It’s much easier to add to your schedule gradually in order to find the balance. It can be a bit trickier when you’ve tipped the scales too far to the busy side. It’s harder to quit things. But you can do it if needed! 3.Write out your plan for what you’re doing now or what you plan to do and look at it. Make sure you have breaks and time for you and your kids to self-regulate, whether that’s getting exercise or vegging out with a good book, movie or music. Is there a good balance of structured vs. unstructured time for all of you? Is it logistically difficult to get from one activity to another? Do you look at your schedule with eagerness or angst? 4.Notice what time of day works best for certain activities. Does your most challenging brain work happen best in the morning? Right after lunch? Do kids need to move first thing in the morning? Do your kids need short bursts of academics in between their own interest-led learning the rest of the day? 5.Saying yes to something means saying no to something else. What are your kids interested in most? If your hockey league takes up three nights a week, and it’s a high priority, what are you willing to give up? You can’t keep up a hockey league pace all week long. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, DO LESS! And see how it feels in your body, mind, and soul. Angela often says, “Look at your schedule. Then cut it in half. Then cut it in half again.” My oldest went through a phase where she would spend hours cutting patterns in fruit. Another child spent hours designing and building beautiful structures with his citiblocs. The executive functioning, the self-regulation, the empowerment, the self-confidence, and the pure joy from these valuable activities would not be possible without paring our schedule so far down, that I often grew uncomfortable. I often fought the urge to add more, push more, do more. I'm so glad I didn't! The value of your homeschool is not in how much you accomplish. It’s in how it makes everyone feel. This is where the greatest learning is possible!

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I used to go through seasons when I didn’t feel like anything was going right in our homeschool. I was trying so hard (definitely too hard) to be Charlotte Mason-y, Maria Montessori-ish, unschool-like, or classical. I never did any of these effectively. Why? Because it wasn’t me!

What was my style? I would say I was a strong believer in the better late than never approach. This meant, for us, we would not be pushing academics if it didn’t feel right to us. I firmly believed in interest-led learning. This meant we would be investigating bugs, reading lots of fantasy, and singing every word of Hamilton for days.

It also meant we would try rock climbing and archery and camping. We would have afternoon quiet time (with screens) and tons of nature walks. Music would often be playing in the background, and we would change our plans at least twice a day. We would rarely sit at a table unless it was for painting or making slime.

We wondered about things all day long, and then we experimented. Our house was a mixture of messes. The cooking, the art, the blocks, the baking soda and vinegar.

Does this sound like your homeschool? Probably not exactly, because you’re not me! What is your flavor of homeschool?

Do you have Musical Mondays?

Are you traveling for soccer league?

Are you an RV family?

Do you love the classics?

Rock your strengths! It’s what makes you all feel invested and in love with homeschooling. If you’ve ever had those seasons of not feeling like you’re doing anything right, maybe it’s because you're trying to do homeschool like someone else. You haven’t tapped into your own secret powers. What’s your mix of favorites that makes you jump out of bed everyday and get excited that today is another day to do the things you love, together?

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On our first official day of homeschooling, I had created a “modest” to-do list of reading, spelling, writing, math and history. I had prepared an inviting table area, and I had snacks and music to support my mission. But instead of caring at all about my list, my oldest child made a mobile piece of art made out of… hangers. We didn't cross anything off my list. Not one academic thing. I felt helpless and overwhelmed. At the end of the day, I questioned everything. What had I done?!? We would slip into a routine of schoolwork at the table, right?

Nope, we never got into the habit of sitting at the table for very long, and I’m so thankful. Instead of more disciplined work time, we slipped into more play time. Instead of paper and pencil, we did more slime and sidewalk chalk. Instead of table work, we did more nature walks. I regret nothing!

Studying my kids that first year of homeschooling, I found that kids learn more when they’re following their own interests. I learned that a joyful homeschool is a learning homeschool. Creative play is Writing. Shopping is Math. Everything we did supported our kids’ learning differences, mental health, and critical thinking skills. I could not have dreamed of a better learning environment.

Several years later, our family, while in New York City, visited the Met Museum. There, I spotted a piece of art that looked oddly familiar. It was a mobile made out of… hangers. I stood in awe of this simple and stunning piece of art. Somebody had gotten paid big bucks to do the thing I dismissed in my child, because IT WASN’T ON MY LIST! How many brilliant ideas and activities have we pushed to the side because it didn’t feel like a real learning experience or it wasn’t on our lists?

What do your kids love doing? How can you give that thing the value it deserves?

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