Homeschooling can often feel like a neverending to-do list. There are always lesson plans to be made, materials to gather, and chaotic mornings to get through. It’s enough to make any parent feel frazzled and exhausted. But what if there was a way to homeschool with less stress and fewer overwhelming days?
Essentialism may be the key. By becoming more selective in what we take on, we can create calmer days and a more peaceful homeschooling experience for both ourselves and our kids. Let’s take a look at how essentialism can help us streamline homeschooling so that it feels less like a juggling act and more like a joyride.
Looking for more information about relaxed homeschooling? Check out these articles: Relaxed Homeschooling: What It Is and Why You Want To Do It, Homeschooling Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful!, and 10 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy Your Homeschool.
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What is essentialism?
The business book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown teaches readers how to prioritize productivity and live a more meaningful, intentional life. The author describes essentialism as the act of doing less but better. It involves identifying what is truly important and eliminating everything else.
Using essentialism in homeschooling
As a homeschool parent, balancing teaching multiple subjects, ensuring your kids attend all their classes and activities on time, and dealing with whatever life throws at you can be overwhelming. However, the principles of essentialism can help simplify your approach and allow you to focus on what truly matters.
Implementing McKeown’s advice in our homeschool has helped me to prioritize the most important tasks and focus on what is essential while letting go of less meaningful activities.
This way, I am able to give more attention to the areas that are genuinely beneficial for my children. I can now create meaningful and engaging experiences for my kids without feeling overwhelmed or distracted by other activities that aren’t important. Essentialism has really been a game changer for our homeschool life!
In addition, essentialism has helped me be more mindful when it comes to creating our homeschool schedule. By following McKeown’s idea of “doing less but better,” we have cut back on activities and topics of study and have devoted the perfect amount of time for our family to learn, explore, and play. This ensures that my kids are able to focus on their studies and interests without feeling rushed or stressed out.
Here are some ways you can apply essentialism to your homeschooling journey:
The first step to essentialism is to journal and reflect on your homeschool to identify areas of both stress and joy.
Keeping a journal of your homeschool journey can help you see what works and what doesn’t. Write down any changes you make so that you can look back and remember why you made them and if they helped or not. Reflecting in this way can be a powerful tool for homeschool success.
In addition, take time to assess your mental and emotional well-being and your kids. Set boundaries with yourself and others to ensure that you have the space, energy, and resources needed to stay physically and mentally healthy. Identifying areas of stress can help you focus on developing strategies for dealing with them head-on. Working on ourselves allows us to find ways to hold space for our kids and their emotional needs.
Identify your priorities
The second step in applying essentialism to your homeschool is identifying what truly matters — your “why” or your homeschool mission.
Each of us has our own unique set of core beliefs, so it’s essential to take the time to reflect and identify these as they will form the foundation of your homeschooling journey.
What are your priorities when it comes to educating your children? Is it mastery of specific skills, character development, or something else? What values matter most to you as a parent?
Once you have identified your homeschool priorities, you can focus on those areas and let go of the rest.
Invest in yourself and your kids
Sleep, exercise, nature, and play are essential to a homeschool family’s success. Getting enough sleep is vital for concentration and focus, while regular exercise helps to keep energized throughout the day. Play allows for creativity to flow and to practice problem-solving skills.
Regular breaks throughout the day are also crucial for your family’s well-being, allowing you to refocus and recharge your batteries.
Incorporating outdoor activities into a homeschool routine can benefit both physical and mental health. Nature walks, hiking, biking, gardening, or even just playing in the backyard are all great ways to get children away from their desks (or kitchen table!) and out into nature.
So, consider ways you can invest in your and your children’s well-being to help you live a meaningful and intentional homeschool life.
It’s important to remind ourselves that not all opportunities (even good ones!) are essential.
You don’t need all the homeschool resources, books, and curricula that other families recommend. You don’t need to do all the fun activities you see others do on Instagram Reels, especially if it gives you stress trying to organize it. You don’t need to go to all the different homeschool conferences or online summits if it takes time away from what you and your family really need.
What others do or have may not be what your family actually needs or wants.
Having a packed schedule with activities that stress you out or don’t provide joy is nonessential. Stick to what you and your kids genuinely enjoy and take the time to explore their interests in depth.
Fortunately, homeschooling allows you to tailor your child’s education in a way that is uniquely suited to their individual needs and goals. Your children will gain an invaluable boost of confidence when they realize they can learn on their own terms, at their own pace, and without conforming to traditional educational expectations.
You don’t need to say “yes” to every opportunity that arises. Trust your instincts and remember that saying “no” is okay if something doesn’t feel right. Saying “no” now can help your family make room for new, better opportunities in the future.
Be clear on your goals
Your homeschool vision should be based on the values that you and your family hold dear. Once you have identified these values, you can use them to shape the direction and structure of your homeschool.
For example, if one of your core values is to provide a creative learning environment for your children, you may decide to focus on incorporating activities that foster creativity and exploration. You can also use these values to help make decisions about the curriculum or resources you will use.
It’s important to remember that no two homeschooling families are the same and that you don’t have to follow a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to homeschooling. There’s a reason why most homeschoolers identify as eclectic!
By reflecting on your family’s core values and using them as a guide, you can create an educational environment tailored to your children’s needs and interests while still staying true to your beliefs and values.
Cut out the trivial
One of the critical principles of essentialism is eliminating non-essentials. In a homeschool setting, this might mean letting go of extracurricular activities that don’t align with your priorities, axing the curriculum that does not work for your family, stepping away from the co-op or playgroup that doesn’t provide any educational or social benefit, or cutting back on subjects that aren’t as important.
Focusing on less allows you and your kids to slow down and go deeper into each subject so they can understand each concept more thoroughly.
This idea can significantly benefit homeschoolers since home education isn’t necessarily confined to a set curriculum or timeline.
Additionally, with fewer subjects, you can focus more on hands-on learning experiences like field trips or projects to help your children better understand the material.
The advantages of having fewer subjects in your homeschool don’t stop there. Allowing more time to be devoted to essential subjects will enable you to get creative and integrate different skills into a single subject or lesson plan.
For example, the same lesson could incorporate both skills instead of teaching math and art as two separate topics. This encourages cross-curricular learning and teaches your children to think critically about the material and how it relates to other areas.
On top of that, having fewer subjects allows more time for students to pursue individual interests, such as exploring a particular hobby or area of study in more depth. This type of self-directed learning is invaluable for developing lifelong skills such as self-motivation, time management, and problem-solving.
Ultimately, the flexible nature of homeschooling allows parents to create a well-rounded educational experience for their children in a way that best suits their individual needs.
Remember, less can be more when it comes to homeschooling!
Say “no” more often
Saying no to things that don’t align with your priorities or goals gives your family more time and energy for the things that do matter. It can be hard to practice saying no but staying true to your values and what is most important is essential.
We can use a few strategies when deciding if and how to say no.
First, take the time to think through your priorities and what you really want out of your homeschool. This will help you make decisions with more confidence and consistency.
Second, be honest with yourself and others when saying no, but at the same time, you don’t have to explain yourself when you do say no.
Finally, be kind about saying no. If you encounter resistance, it’s probably because the concerned person isn’t used to dealing with boundaries, so take a deep breath and respond as calmly and kindly as possible.
By following these strategies, you will be better equipped to say no when needed and ensure that your family’s time and energy are going toward the things that truly matter to you. So take some time for yourself and set those boundaries- it will be worth it in the end!
Create a buffer
Life never goes as planned. Homeschooling is no exception. You can plan and prepare as much as you want, but life reminds you that you can’t control everything. This is why it is essential to create a buffer between activities.
Giving you and your kids a buffer allows for the extra time needed to complete a task or to take a break between activities. Allowing extra time to get your kids out the door and to drive to a class or practice can also help reduce stress.
Your homeschool schedule does not need to be packed and scheduled down to the minute. Allowing yourself some flexibility with your homeschool day will let you and your kids take time to explore topics of interest without feeling rushed.
Routines can simplify homeschooling. Establishing a routine or rhythm helps children know what to expect and when. It can also help them stay focused and give parents time to work on their own tasks without interruptions. The key is finding a rhythm that works for everyone in the family.
A routine also helps eliminate decision fatigue and reduces stress. In particular, it can help us homeschoolers (hello, me!) who don’t have a lot of energy and focus when they start the day.
Knowing what we need to do without much thinking on my part is a huge relief! Instead of wasting energy on things like figuring out what we need to do next or supplies I need to gather, I can focus on what is essential and ensure it gets done.
Having a routine also helps me stay organized, bringing peace of mind—because homeschooling more than one child or little ones can get really messy!
Creating a homeschool routine will differ for every family. Your routine also doesn’t have to include the same daily activities. For us, each day brings a different rhythm based on our scheduled classes and activities.
While a routine is essential, we should also remember to allow for flexibility. As life circumstances change, a routine may need to be adjusted accordingly.
Finally, you should remember that regular breaks should be a part of your homeschool routine. Breaks are essential for refreshing our minds and bodies.
We have found that setting aside time for self-care activities such as exercise, reading, and playing are great ways to recharge. Taking the time to do these activities has improved our mental health and overall well-being.
Focus on the now
It’s so easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” and the “what should’ves” that we aren’t fully present in what is happening around us now.
To be an essentialist, you must focus on what is essential now, prioritize your priorities, and align your actions with what matters most.
Essentialists are able to make the most of their time, not just in a physical sense but also in a mental sense. They aren’t overwhelmed by too many choices or decisions because they have already filtered through the non-essentials and chosen to focus on what is essential.
Moreover, essentialism helps to prioritize relationships over tasks.
Essentialists recognize that what matters most is not the task itself but how it affects their relationships with family members, friends, mentors, and other community members. Where traditional education might focus solely on grades and achievements, essentialism encourages homeschoolers to approach learning with a different mindset emphasizing connection, understanding, and lifelong growth.
At the same time, it’s vital not to forget the big picture when incorporating essentialism into your homeschool.
Essentialists strive to stay focused on the bigger picture, which means setting goals and plans that are realistic and achievable. Instead of spending hours daily on mundane tasks, essentialists can focus on what matters most – learning experiences that will help their family reach their long-term goals.
By breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, homeschoolers can build in time for review and reflection, leading to deeper understanding.
Embracing an essentialist homeschool means we need to let go of perfectionism.
Homeschooling is about learning together as a family, not about attaining perfect grades or studying the most impressive range of subjects. Letting go of perfectionism and embracing relaxed homeschooling, where children learn what interests them and parents focus on relationships, is part of the essentialist approach to homeschooling.
It might feel strange at first to do something different than mainstream schooling has taught us, but taking a relaxed approach to homeschool has immeasurable benefits for both children and parents.
Enjoy the journey
Take time to sit down with your family and discuss what went well and what needs improvement in your homeschool. Asking questions such as, “What are some of the challenges we faced this year?” and “What was one of the most rewarding moments that we experienced together?” are simple ways to start reflecting on your homeschooling journey
Additionally, be sure to give yourself and your family members credit for what you’ve accomplished. Celebrating the small wins throughout the year is a great way to stay motivated! From completing projects and overcoming learning challenges to just making it through another day of homeschooling – there are countless reasons to give yourself and your family a pat on the back.
The memories you make can be compiled into a homeschool yearbook, scrapbook, or photo album. A physical book is excellent for revisiting the memories and stories created throughout the school year, plus they can be passed down to future generations as a historical record. (Sorry, the history nerd in me couldn’t help it!) It also serves as a tangible reminder of what everyone accomplished together.
Finally, it’s essential to maintain a positive outlook throughout your homeschool journey. Keeping a gratitude journal, or sharing what everyone is thankful for each day, can be a great way to stay focused on the present and appreciate the good moments within each day.
Incorporating the ideas of essentialism into your homeschool can help you set realistic goals, simplify your curriculum, and create a daily rhythm that allows for flexibility.
Most importantly, it can remind us that homeschooling is not about perfection but about learning and growing together as a family. When we can let go of preconceived expectations and welcome in the essentials with open arms, we can make room for valuable moments that will form our unique homeschool journey.
Do you need more help leaning into a relaxed homeschool mindset? I’m here to help you – let’s chat!
Xuan Klevecka is a Southern California-based homeschool mom, wife, and Holistic Homeschool Mindset Coach. She’s an Enneagram 5w4, a lover of good food, and a former middle school history teacher. You’ll either find her looking at road maps and daydreaming about her family’s next epic adventure or perusing recipes and cooking up a feast for the brood.