How do you simplify when you homeschool? The cooking and teaching and playing all seem to require more and more things. More books, more tools, more toys, more… everything. Crystal Wiley offers eight tangible steps to help you minimize the stuff and make more space for life, love, and learning. 

Image: Crystal Wiley

By Crystal Wiley | Simple + Free


“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” (Socrates)

Minimalism sounds great, except, we homeschool…

I want to say it’s harder to be minimal while homeschooling because:
1. Our kids are generally at home, not off at school 6+ hours each day.
2. We’re in the kitchen making and cleaning three meals a day, plus snacks.
3. We need curriculum, manipulatives, books, stuff to help them learn.
4. Basically, our homes are almost never picture perfect unless we leave the house!

The good news is, minimalism isn’t an end goal, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a mentality.

Minimalism, to me, is overcoming our inner desire to keep spinning the hamster wheel – a wheel our western society promises will make us feel good, useful and important.

We choose not to believe this lie. And homeschooling doesn’t change this. Because no matter where we are in life, consumerism tugs at us like a strong ocean current until we figure out how to swim sideways and escape the pull.

I’m constantly battling my inner consumerism demons as I scroll through flashy new curriculum sales in my inbox, as I browse sparkly artsy materials when I stop by the craft store just to get glue, as I get wind of new, exciting educational subscription boxes, and even as I watch YouTube videos featuring young prodigies who’ve perfected random musical instruments I have yet to introduce to our kids.

The truth is, our kids don’t need all these flashy things. Sure, some of these distractions help us mamas get through the – often long – days. Distractions like clay and flashcards and games and books. Yes, we need many of these items to help instruct our children. But we don’t need them all at once, and we don’t need to mimic a school room (unless we want to). I’ve found, in our pursuit of a minimal lifestyle, it helps if we do the following...

Only keep books we’re currently in love with and using.

And for the most part, they come from the library. Easy peasy. The ones on our bookshelves are timeless and/or are used many times per year.

Commit to a minimal wardrobe.

No, we homeschoolers don’t sit around in our sweats all day (okaaaay, sometimes we do). But more often than not we’re out and about every day, so we have to look civil. I’m still pairing down my items, but you’ll generally find me in black pants and a grey or white top (with another neutral layer if it’s chilly), and boots, flats or sandals, depending on the weather. Throw on some deodorant and mascara and viola! Simplifying my wardrobe has dramatically helped me not stress over something as trivial as my appearance. If I was in the workforce, I’d probably veer toward this brilliant mama’s plan.

Simplify our materials.

We have one handy art cart that’s always accessible, complete with most everything a school room would have (paper, stickers, paints, stamps, pens/pencils, glitter, stencils, etc.) as well as a bin of additional art materials I bring out to spice things up. Sure, my aspirations to have a dedicated art room complete with Jackson Pollock-like walls showcasing a history of amazing art/science experiments still exists. But until I can calmly close the door on that dream, literally and figuratively, it stays a dream and we stick to our fun little cart.

Sell or donate curriculum and materials we no longer need.

There are more curriculum sales than I know what to do with. There are also thousands of other homeschoolers looking for discounted and free materials. Isn’t it lovely to know what helped your children at one stage went on to help another family?

Keep meals simple.

Breakfast can be the same each day so as to take less brain power first thing when you wake up. Lunch doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it need to be artistically appealing – I’ve never cut my kids’ sandwiches into animals. Sorry, kid. That’s your food. Eat it or you may get hungry. The end.

Plus, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are still in style to all us mamas who never cared for Martha Stewart (who had only one child – just sayin’). Dinners can be planned/delivered/shopped for in advance and on a schedule. We like ACME and Organics to You – these companies literally saved my sanity.

Outsource what we don’t want to acquire.

Our son loves drumming. Also, this mama would go insane listening to a drum set every day. So we walk to a local non-profit building with a music tutor, where our son takes drumming lessons. Each child is going to go in and out of seasons of enjoyment with different interests. It doesn’t mean we need to always acquire these items. Which brings me to...

Stick to one or two (max) extracurriculars per kid.

We keep our calendar as clear as possible! While our kids are still young we stick with one sport and one musical outing each week (after our child turns 4/5). No mama should be a permanent and constant chauffeur. Plus, in the long run, our kids will look back and appreciate the days they had hours to explore and play, not be shuffled off to keep them busy and entertained.

It’s always easier to layer on more activities once you settle into a simple routine – and you may always decide to keep it that way. In that case, hooray! Many mums I know don’t even begin introducing their children to extracurricular activities until they are 8 or older. I secretly admire these brave warriors for pushing back on society even more than our family does!

And now for my personal favourite...

Learn from our amazing WORLD as much as possible.

Loads of workbooks will never fully teach our kids what they can (and should) learn by exploring and studying nature, walking through museums, traveling to different cultures, having mentors, playing with a variety of children (the larger the age gap, the better!), pursuing their personal passions, and being active physically as well as in the community.

“The world we live in is not friendly to the pursuit of minimalism. Its tendencies and relentless advertising campaigns call us to acquire more, better, faster, and newer. The journey of finding simplicity requires constant inspiration.” (Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist)

With Love.

Do you try to keep a simple, minimal homeschool atmosphere? What are your tricks?


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Crystal Wiley

Contributor | Blogger at Simple + Free

Crystal Wiley is wife to an exceptionally gifted and patient husband with whom she's owned and sold several companies, and a mother to two adventure-seeking children in the Pacific Northwest of America. She loves simplifying through minimalism and slowing down to enjoy each season in life all while focusing on God's big plans for her family's eclectic, interest-led homeschool. Depending on the day, you can find her hiking, snowboarding, camping, mountain biking, reading a plethora of books (to herself and her children) or writing about whatever strikes her heart.

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