on doing less


doing_less_homeschooling-5doing_less_homeschooling-3 I have a personal drive and eagerness to try and do everything, and of course also to do it perfectly (some of which I wrote about here). It is our cultural assumption that more is always better, that quality and quantity can pleasantly co-exist. And perhaps in some instances they can. That is not my story. More often, doing more things taught me how to skim well, how to cut corners and brush over details. Sometimes that type of learning or living is necessary and fine, but this was the whole of my living. And after while, the lack of balance left me wanting and exhausted, even at times, isolated from my own need.

How does one ever do it all? Sitting just outside my back door, I watch the leaves break loose and float through the sky. How frustrated the trees would be if they tried to accomplish their annual cycle in a single season.

I mentioned on Instagram a couple of weeks ago in regards to homeschooling “what I wish I could tell my younger self again and again is: do less. You don’t have to conquer everything at once, to learn all the things in a week or a month or a year. Keep some room in your day for the unexpected, and watch how your children grow and flourish with room. And watch, Self, how you will grow, too.” I’d like to say that I live daily from this revelation, that I am always confident in what we are or are not doing, but the truer statement is I still have to encourage myself in this truth. 

I don’t have to do it all to offer my children a quality education. And neither do you. There are and will be areas of learning we skim and some we skip entirely. There will be areas that feel organic to our home culture, easy to expand on and delve into more deeply. There will be areas that I will always need and prefer a scripted path to follow (math). But in different weeks and months and years, we will have capacity to learn something different. What I can now understand on this journey is that as my children grow so does their capacity to learn. 

There is freedom in this journey for everyone to bend as each home needs it, whether your family uses a boxed curriculum or none at all. But on occasion, I begin to lose heart or soul or patience and need to reevaluate what brings quality to this journey in our home. Here are a few small thoughts that I have returned to when I have lost perspective or possibly my way: 

  • Teach your children to read as soon as possible. This may take one year or four, but in the process you will introduce them to more teachers and also show them how to learn. 
  • Open the door to nature and you will teach them about order in chaos, and also how to restore their souls.
  • Leave space in the day for them to make something with their hands–maybe a meal, a fort, a puzzle, a garden–and you will teach them about purpose the joy of creating.
  • Practice something hard daily, and you all will learn something about perseverance. 
  • Talk about all of it often.

You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to measure yourself by someone else’s standards, even your own. You simply need to look your child in the eye and listen. In response, you might offer them a book, a pencil, an encouragement, or even perhaps a door outside. When in doubt, take a gentle look into the mirror and do just the same.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your insight, Bethany! As a momma who feels the pressure to “teach it all” I appreciate your perspective, especially the reminder to leave space in the day for creativity.

  2. Bethany, thank you for this. So much. I have a heavy heart tonight, new at homeschooling, wondering if all I am doing is enough. Thankful for your post and for God’s grace!

  3. I really enjoy of reading your blog and looking your Instagram photos.Be happy.

  4. PS – Bethany, I loved this post! I constantly have to remind myself this kind of thing too. It’s nice to know I’m not alone! ;-)

  5. “You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to measure yourself by someone else’s standards, even your own. You simply need to look your child in the eye and listen.” oh, goodness this is so poignant in our lives right now. I struggle daily with taking on too much and feeling that fear of missing out for myself and my children so we pack our days with so many things and usually end up feeling drained or, like today, sick. Thanks for this reminder! We’ll be taking it slow and easy this weekend as we recoup and regroup. Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. I love this. I’ve just starred consciously learning to do less and it has changed my life and view of the world. My son is only two and I never considered home schooling, however this new journey has sparked my interest. Thank you for sharing!

  7. My son is 9 and has been in a Waldorf school since preschool. When he was eager to learn to read, around 5 years old, his teachers requested that I not teach him. Now, in the fourth grade, he reads very slowly and hates it. He has trouble with reading comprehension and almost always ends up in tears. I regret not teaching him sooner! I have just taken him out of school to offer him homeschooling, which he’s been asking for since he was in 1st grade. It is my hope that he will learn to love reading. Right now I am simply reading aloud for many hours a day and he read to me for about 20. I am very excited for this journey and yet it saddens me to see how he loathes reading at this stage. I am open to any suggestions!

    1. Author

      I’m so sorry to hear this, Kaia, but I assure you his love for reading can and will grow with time. Perhaps in homeschooling he will have a bit more space to discover something he enjoys reading and also not to compare how he reads with other students in his class. When my boys were younger, they fell in love with Calvin and Hobbes, even though many of the words were above their reading level at the time. Their volumes are tattered now with so much use, but I think it helped their fluency grow quickly. I know there are stigmas with graphic novels and comics, but in my opinion, if they are reading or listening to quality literature it can be a positive push struggling readers need to connect with the text. I’d also encourage trying some plot-driven narratives like the Harry Potter series (if it’s not too dark), Gregor the Overlander series, the Warriors series, or Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather series (this one might be too high of reading level yet). Sometimes the plot driven stories can carry struggling readers in momentum, help them want to keep reading. Again, it’s not a sustainable diet of literature, but it is fun and can help their fluency and also create an appetite for books. If he’s struggling with the actual deciding part of reading (breaking words down and sounding out), you may consider a higher level of All About Reading or purchasing a deck of sight words to review for fluency and quicker word recognition. I hope this helps! It sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job.

    2. Kaia!

      I want to throw in my 2 cents on boys & reading as well! Growing up my brother HATED school reading. He hated text books and he hated plots. He thought he hated reading, but as a man he has realized he loves reading, as long as its the right stuff: for him that is science and history. Not boring text book stuff, real stuff!

      I used this with my own sons: find what works and use that to spark their love of reading. (Bethany’s totally right: there’s nothing wrong with using Calvin & Hobbes to build your reading skills!) And you know what? One of my boys was originally turned off by adventures and plot driven books! But he finds mechanical stuff and geology fascinating (boys)! I let him read those to his hearts content, building up his confidence and reading skills, and now he’s branching out.

      Don’t give up! If my school/reading-hating brother can grow up to love reading, your son can too!

        1. Anna and Bethany,

          Thank you both for your encouraging replies! My son adores graphic novels which is fine with me and I am currently reading the Warrior series aloud and he is completely captivated. Maybe I will intentionally stall on beginning the third book and see if he will pick it up on his own! Again, thank you for the replies and Bethany, thank you for being such an inspiration and light!

          1. Kaia,
            I have one son (10) who reads everything in sight all the time. He loves fiction and will happily sit for hours reading.
            His brother(9)? Not so much. In fact, until I quit offering novels and shared more non-fiction books with him, he was resentful each time it was time to get books from the library, or to just quietly read. Now that I encourage him to read “stuff he can learn from” and wilderness survival books, he reads lot on his own time. He just prefers non-fiction. Though he is working his way through The Hobbit this month, which he was never interested in before.
            His little sister (6)? We’ll see. She loves a lot of graphic novels and stories. She’s all about action & adventure right now. :)
            And all three kids love C&H, too. ;) Though we did let them know that if we saw them IMITATING C&B, the books would disappear.

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