OUR MINIMALIST HOMESCHOOL

02.25.2017

UPDATED 05.16.17

There is no “one way” to homeschool nor one way to school in general. If you’ve been doing it at any length of time, you already know this. So the best way to process any homeschool post, is to take away from it what will benefit you and your family and leave the rest.

After many years of research and many years of having my children work through the many different curricula, I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect nor even close to perfect curriculum. I have been disappointed time and time again.

Another challenge is educating multiple children of all different ages. The majority of curricula is tailored for one year of use for one child. This means if you have five children working on five different subjects with about two books per subject, you have fifty books! This many books is impractical and completely unnecessary.

The way I homeschool now has been inspired by my faith, my minimalist lifestyle, the one-room schoolhouse and the importance of my family’s overall health and happiness. The homeschool curricula I use is faith-based which I know will not appeal to everyone and why I wanted to let you know in case this is something you would not be interested in reading. Also, homeschooling is a constant learning process and so my book list may change in the future as needed.

BIRTH TO 5 YEARS OLD

This is such a brief time in their childhood and I want to leave them with fond memories of natural learning. I didn’t do this in the beginning of my homeschooling journey and instead began formally teaching my oldest child at just four-years-old with a rigid curriculum which I regret. Natural learning in our family includes reading to them, praying with them, attempting to speak to them in more than one language, introducing the letters and numbers and exposing them to nature. This naturally encourages questions from them, with answers that will stick with them for a lifetime. They also listen to their older sibings’ oral lessons which allows them to absorb even more information.

The following is a list of books I read to my youngest children. They’re mainly a mix between Catholic and Mennonite books that I’ve used for many years and my children have always loved them. But keep in mind, homeschooling is not just about these books. Our family gardens, raises chickens, plays together, prays together and experiences every day life together that often teaches more than any book.

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ELEMENTARY YEARS (1st – 8th)

In my state, the compulsory age for attending school (whether private, public, homeschool or otherwise) is six-years-old.  My state has hundreds of preschools yet it is not required by law to enroll your child. So even though they are constantly learning informally, I begin formally teaching my children between the ages of five and six. Sooner if they tell me they want to.

PRE-READING

We begin our homeschool day in a group reading about and discussing our faith. My youngest are welcome to listen too or play quietly waiting their turn to do school. When it is their turn, we start out with orally reviewing Catechism questions and talking about the Mass. We move on to their phonics program which includes reading, handwriting, spelling and literature but none of these areas are worked on separately but rather weaved together in each phonics lesson. Then we skip count out loud, run through a few flash cards and finish up with their math workbook. Italian is last and we simply practice saying new words and phrases. This all takes about one hour a day but homeschooling doesn’t end with their formal instruction. At this age they’re like sponges and absorb all that is going on around them throughout the day.

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READING

We begin with their Catechism lesson and move on to English where I explain the lesson, work through some practice exercises with them and assign the rest for later. After English we begin our Italian lesson which is taught just like the English lesson. Once the group instruction is done, they each begin working on their individual assignments.

The rest of the subjects are less structured. Science is completed daily but this can be anything from planting seeds to caring for baby chicks to watching a video on Chemistry. After lunch we all take a walk or bike ride together for phys. ed. (gym class). We used to have our reading time for history and literature right after lunch but found it helps to have it in the evening after the main part of the day has quieted down. We have a small collection of fiction and non-fiction books that are available to them for reports, essays or just for enjoyment.

Then there are times when we get a call from my husband and he wants to have lunch with all of us, or we unexpectedly run out of something and have to run to the store, or someone needs a little more attention from me, or any number of other things that may come up and we don’t complete the day exactly as scheduled. But everything we do throughout the day is a learning experience and just one of the many reasons why I appreciate homeschooling.

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HIGH SCHOOL (9th – 12th)

This age is such an important time in their lives and why I believe in encouraging them to choose their own interest of study rather than have them trudge through a subject of no interest to them. Not everyone may want a career which requires you to sit at a desk eight to twelve hours a day and why for some, it can be stifling to study these subjects.  I provide them with a basic curriculum for five of the subjects but allow them to choose in what area they want to study for the rest. For example, my oldest son was interested in practicing law for a while so he enrolled in an online political science class at ASU and really enjoyed it. Another may want to apprentice with an electrician and want to take a class on electrical wiring. And another may be interested in agricultural ecosystems and spend the semester visiting farms working toward self-sustainability.

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FINE ARTS

My children have access to many instruments (ukulele, piano, guitar, etc.) and drawing books which they use on a daily basis. However I believe placing a structured curriculum over their artistic capabilities takes the enjoyment out of learning the fine arts. So rather than workbooks, drills and testing, they actually sing, play beautiful music and draw. If one of them wants it to be more structured or wants to dive deeper into the history of fine arts, I then provide them with the necessary books or online class.

PHYS. ED & HEALTH

With heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and other related diseases growing at alarming rates, our health lesson is not confined to just one book nor is it set for a specific time of the day. Mankind subsists on more processed and chemically-laden ingredients now than it has ever before in history and why I think it’s very important to educate our children on what ingredients are actually in the packaged food at the grocery store, it’s damaging effects and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The ways we achieve this are by walking/biking 2-3 miles a day and eating mostly 1-ingredient foods. The following are just some of the books we read on health and nutrition.

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Home education doesn’t stop once the books are put away but rather every moment of the day is an opportunity we take for learning. Throughout the day we are also raising and taking care of chickens, gardening, composting, cooking, we have building projects and so much more. Conventional education is limited where home education is limitless!

Thank you for reading and as I said in the beginning, I hope you are able to take something away from this post whether negative or positive, to enhance your own homeschooling experience.

Happy homeschooling!



21 comments

  1. Stephanie in Germany says:

    I am so happy you are blogging again! What are the illustrations like in Young Catholic’s Illustrated Speller * (book 1)? Do illustrations appear on every page?
    I bet you’ve learned so much over the years teaching your children. Do you co op for learning with other families for certain projects? I know a family whose children learn latin from their local priest…

    • Darci says:

      There are only a handful of illustrations so no, not every page and the book was published in 1884 so the images are of children from years gone by. I labeled it book 1 because it’s geared toward the younger ones but they’re not a series. No, we’ve never been in a co-op. I homeschool so that I can actually homeschool. 😊

  2. Tandra says:

    Thanks so much for this post!! I would love to know at what age you start to use the science and history books you mentioned? I know that you said between 1st and 8th, but I was just wondering if you could explain that a bit more?

    • Darci says:

      Right from the beginning because even though some of those books are meant for high school, it doesn’t mean younger ones can’t understand it. I’m either reading it to them in a group, they’re reading it by themselves (older ones) or they’re watching a video together. The younger ones may not understand everything but they’re fascinated by it all.

  3. Hannah Gonzalez says:

    This was a very interesting read. I was homeschooled myself 5-12th and am now studying education in college. I’m glad that you take a relaxed approach and let them study what they are interested in. Your family is very inspiring!!! Thank you for opening up your home and sharing your story

  4. Ingrid says:

    Grazie! Danke! As a homeschooling of two I really loved this article. I am a wannabe minimalist. Do you have any advice on writing. I love Andrew Pudewa and IEW but keep keep getting stuck after certain points. Do you have your children write book reports or essays and how often? Do you edit their papers and have them rewrite? This us my least favorite subject to teach. My background is more in the sciences and yet I know that writing forces one to think so I really want to work in this area yet not make it a dreaded subject.

    • Darci says:

      I absolutely LOVE writing. I come from a family of grammarians so if you catch a mistake in my writing, don’t tell them. 😊 My children compose in three different ways. They write essays as often as it comes up in their grammar and composition text, they complete book reports orally and write one-page daily in their journals. I edit their papers but only require them to rewrite their essays, not their journal entries.

      After purchasing, perusing and returning several writing programs over the years, I don’t believe it’s necessary to buy a separate writing curriculum if it’s already included in your English text. When I first started homeschooling, there weren’t any of these writing programs and homeschoolers still excelled. Just food for thought! And thank you for your comment!

  5. Bernie says:

    Love this! I don’t have kids yet but I know I want to homeschool when I do. I will be coming back to this page then 🙂

  6. MrsOgg says:

    Hi! My girls are 7, 5 and 1.5 years old. Would you still recommend doing grammar/English from the 10th grade book for my readers? Maybe if I could see it in front of me I could understand it better. I just wanted to have that clarified. Thanks!

    • Darci says:

      Welcome! The only readers I have are from the phonics program I use (Little Angel Readers). Once they’re done with that program, I have them go right into storybooks along with the Warriner’s book. So during English I have them either working in their phonics OR grammar, not both. If your 7yo is a fluent reader, then he/she will be fine in the grammar book. I just did a google search and found some sample pages from Warriner’s complete course (12th grade). It’s not the exact same book but it will give you an idea of what to expect. Would you like me to post some images from my Warriner’s book?

  7. Vieve says:

    Darci, this is my style. The more children I have to homeschool, the more I need to simplify. I’m going to pull out my high school Warners and look it over! Thanks for the idea! How do you use the Speller and Grammar book listed for 1-8? It sounds fabulous! I do love workbooks so that there is some independent work going on, but this post has given me ideas to simplify more, yet in other ways raise the bar for the children! Btw, love the Robert Hugh Benson books! I used to work at The Neumann Press before TAN bought it. I’m also going to use Warren Carroll’s books for HS History! He was a great man! For grade school we are loving TANs Story of Civilization. Awesome and non mom intensive! Just discovered your blog and YouTube vlogs! Thoroughly enjoying! Highly entertaining! God bless!

  8. Vieve says:

    An additional question: how do you use the two spelling books in grade school? Does one cover certain grades and the other cover the rest? I am completely sold on the idea of one or two books for all grades. We not only need to economize, but simplify.

  9. Kate says:

    In your vlog, you say you go somewhere to do school work. May I ask where you guys go? The library? Thank you for sharing your day, you are such an inspiration!

    • Darci says:

      We were going to the library but my daughter got a job working during those hours. My children really enjoyed it so I would like to get back to doing that again in the future.

  10. Abbie Reed says:

    Hey there! Wannabe minimalist mama of soon-to-be 7, All under ten-years-old here. I love your YouTube channel and have watched some of the videos multiple times. Especially the schedules one. Which leads to my question. On the video you say you’re going to link to the chore schedules on your blog in the description, but I can’t find it. And I need help with my chore/life scheduling SO BAD. Is it up somewhere and I’m missing it or is it not up yet? Thanks so much! Again, your videos are inspiring.

  11. Yvette says:

    Thank you for your posts, both here and on YouTube. We are homeschooling six out of our nine children at the moment. So I can learn a lot from you. Just having a newborn baby, I’d just wish you could still show that season of your life to learn from as well 😋.
    A question I have about toys and homeschool materials: do you use puzzles and that kind of learning ‘games’ for preschoolers and even the bit older ones? We mostly try to avoid toys, but I have a whole cupboard of such ‘games’; especially for occupying little ones during school time. But I HATE the way pieces etc get away and are constantly flying around.

  12. Claudy says:

    Hello Darci,

    Again great information in this post.
    It is hard to let go of not fitting inside any grade box that the institutions have established.
    Everybody wants to show us how wrong we are to homeschool but when they see how happy we are together and that kids as young as 9 or 7 have the chance to dig deep in their passion, they finally leave us alone !!!!
    One thing I am learning from you is to lighten up and really take time to smell the roses !!!! And we get so much more done when everybody is happy !!!!
    Thanks again from Guatemala !!!

  13. Lisa C. says:

    You are so inspiring.

    As a cradle Catholic, I had never read the Baltimore Catechism. I was going to purchase a used copy after your recommendation, but holy cow. It is expensive. Major bummer.

    Love your videos. Love your blog. Thank you so much for being such a good influence on this mom of 3 teens.

  14. Gretha says:

    Fantastic! Thank you for your videos and posts. This is exactly what I have been searching for as a Catholic, wanna-be minimalist mother of three children ages 2, 5 and 7 from the Pacific Northwest. So thankful I found you.

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