Learning Continually is Our Lifestyle


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I know you get them. I’ve been getting them for the past month. You know what I’m talking about. Newsletters in our email boxes. The ones that make you wonder if your family is learning enough.

Coming to Your Inbox

Not just any old newsletters. These are the “Back-To-Homeschool” letters. The ones filled with beautiful planners, shiny new printable lessons, and the latest wonder curriculum. It’s hard to resist. But I’ve managed by deleting them as soon as I come upon them without reading a word.

Please don’t misunderstand I’m not saying any of these are bad. I know some of those who write about the planners, lessons, and curriculum use them and like the products and ideas. For some of us, though, the articles and products are either a burden or a guilt.

Ease into Your School Year

Classroom to the Homeschool

I need to confess; I’m a recovering classroom teacher. I was required to have all the trappings of school because, well, I was teaching in a school. I’ll further confess, I enjoyed the planning, lesson creating, and opening a new teacher’s manual. When I began teaching my children at home, I learned they didn’t like it.

Two years into our struggle—yes, struggle — of homeschooling, I learned teaching at home isn’t the same as having a school at home. In fact, being a homeschool teacher doesn’t resemble being a classroom teacher in the least. I needed to toss the pre-printed lessons, the teacher’s manuals, and {gasp} the pretty planner.

Tossing Tradition Out The Window

Our family started the school year, such as it was, with only a notion of what was next. I say “such as it was” because the first change we made was to toss the traditional school year. We needed more time during Christmas than the standard two weeks. Dad worked a rotating shift, which meant sometimes he would have five consecutive days off during the week. Our family did things, like serving meals to senior citizens, during the “school day.” I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. All of this and more meant we were anything but traditional.

To complicate matters, each one of my kiddos had a different learning style. One loved her textbooks with weekly assigned lessons. Another could watch a caterpillar crawl up a stem for hours but couldn’t sit in a chair long enough to finish three math problems. I couldn’t handle different plans for each of my three.

Trying Something New

The first year we tried a more relaxed method, I still had a planner. One without dates or subject boxes, some might even call it a journal. I also clung to some textbooks for subjects such as math and science. The ones I felt the least confident in. I found a curriculum my structured child could use so she didn’t feel adrift.

We had mini-vacations when Dad was home. The Christmas holiday began the week of Thanksgiving. Snow day meant my son spent the day shoveling snow for neighbors to earn a little extra money, plus snowball fights, and lots of hot chocolate. After all who can sit with a history textbook when those luscious flakes are floating down.

Learning on Our Terms

The new school we had developed didn’t have dates. We, and I mean the entire family, found we were learning all the time. The majority of what we learned wasn’t in the curriculum, didn’t need a printable, and couldn’t be planned. Our lifestyle was learning.

Does the shine wear off your school year within a few weeks? Few days? Does that pretty planner sit under a pile of papers not to be seen for months? Is your family trudging through the curriculum because you paid for it and feel you’d be wasting money if you stopped? Go ahead, you can confess these thoughts to me. I won’t tell.

I challenge you. Try to not have a school, rather have a home. As a recovering lesson planner, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds. Remember, I’ve had years of experience.

Beginning Your School Year

Ease into the school year and a new learning way of life. Don’t dump your former way. Certainly, don’t dump anything that is working for your children. Instead change the one thing that is a stumbling block. In our family, our first move away from the traditional schooling was in literature and history. We began to read literature together. We even read Shakespeare’s plays aloud with each person taking several roles. History started to consist of more aloud reading, a timeline on the wall, and field trips. (I love field trips.)

How We Did It

As we moved from a structured school-like atmosphere, other subjects became less structured as well. That expensive curriculum? We soon began to see them as resource books rather than a lesson book that needs to be completed cover to cover.

It wasn’t an overnight change. Each one of the children benefitted and our family benefitted. A couple of things to consider while transitioning:

  • If your family is used to starting the day with math and then following a structure for the other subjects, some time away for all structure may be needed. With one change at a time, as it can be handled. But look out, learning may occur without the planned day.
  • Those who don’t homeschool won’t understand. For nearly one-hundred years, our society has been trained to accept learning taking place in a prescribed manner. Anything different is perceived as wrong and harmful. Don’t feel you need to prove anything to anyone else. Just as each person has a different working environment, each school, whether at home or in a building, can have a different learning environment.
  • Even some of our fellow homeschoolers will question your choice to have a more relaxed (read unplanned) way of learning. You don’t have to defend your choice for your family. Just let them know this is what working in your family right now.
  • Be open to continued change. As our children group, as our family changes, the way of learning may change as well.

Begin to enjoy your family again. Make home a priority. Relax and try not to stress about what the newsletter writers are saying and doing. And watch the learning begin.


Susan K. Stewart

Susan K. Stewart known for practical solutions to real-world situations. She has published five books, including the Science in the Kitchen: Fearless Science for All Ages, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook, Preschool: At What Cost? and Family Preparation in the City and Suburbia. She also teaches workshops for moms and homeschoolers online and in person. Susan lives in Central Texas with her husband, Bob, three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and two donkeys. The Stewarts have three children and six grandchildren. You can read more of Susan’s practical solutions at www.practicalinspirations.com. Join Susan at Harried Homeschoolers Facebook group.