How to homeschool without actually homeschooling

how to homeschool without actually homeschooling
Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

At the start of the new year many of you completed a survey for those of us who blog under the Simple Living Media umbrella. I admit to being rather surprised when I found out that a significant percentage of those who read this blog regularly are not actually homeschoolers.

Let me say it once and for all: Homeschooling or not, you are welcome here!

At its core, homeschooling is a lifestyle of intentionality when it comes to our kids’ educations. Being intentional doesn’t mean sending our kids to the school around the corner just because it’s around the corner. Being intentional also doesn’t mean homeschooling just because all your friends homeschool.

Intentionality means taking the time and effort necessary to give thought to what is best–for your children, yourself, and your family.

Maybe you went through that intentional process. Maybe the concept of homeschooling even intrigued you, but you ultimately decided it isn’t for your family at the present moment. Yet you’re always looking for ways to cultivate an atmosphere and a love of learning at home.

Did you know a new word has been invented to describe what you’re doing?

It’s called afterschooling. Here’s how to do it well.

1. Create the right environment.


It’s true that your child needs to decompress after school, but if that decompression only consists of plopping in front of the television you are missing a fabulous opportunity.

There’s no way around it–traditional schooling leaves you fewer hours in the day with your kids. In order to be intentional about both your child’s education and their relationship with you you’ll need to be strategic about what you fill those hours with.

This isn’t about implementing a structure for home learning; this is about cultivating a love of learning. It’s about filling your home with learning tools based around your child’s interests and passions. Books, good food, good conversation, well-chosen media–they can all work toward this goal.

Ask yourself this question about each activity and item filling your home and your days: Does this point my family toward or away from a love of learning?

2. Let free play reign.

If your child is in traditional school, their educational hours are highly structured–with significantly more “head” time than “heart” time in their day.

By understanding this, you can balance that extra mental focus. How? With the opposite of head time–free play.

Don’t fill your children’s after-school hours with back-to-back activities and lessons. Fill their after-school hours with freedom.

3. Model passionate living.


If your children spend most of their day at school, it may be easy to fit your interests, work, and other tasks into the time when they’re gone. That way, you reason, you can give them your full attention when they return.

But if they rarely see you doing what you love, will they really understand the concept of authentic, wholehearted living? Involve them in your work, your passions, your interests. Talk to them about how you’ve spent your day–just like you hope they will fill you in on the details of theirs.

4. Have a plan B in mind.

If the schooling choice you’re making currently wasn’t an option, what would you do instead? It could be that your educational plan works out wonderfully for years–all the way through graduation. But what if it doesn’t?

What if something inside tells you it’s time for a change? What if your own child asks for a change? Burnout isn’t just for grown-ups. Sometimes our kids show us signals of overload and it’s our job as parents to pay attention. (My first severe school burnout season happened in the 8th grade.) At times like these, it’s good to know that we have options, and to have decided ahead of time what those options are.

Being intentional about our children’s educations means being willing to pay attention–to not seek convenience but clarity, to not allow our hopes for higher grades to override our kids’ passion for learning.

Welcome to a lifestyle of intentional education–wherever your kids go to school.

Welcome to afterschooling.

Resources to inspire afterschoolers and homeschoolers alike:

How do you incorporate a love of learning into your child’s afterschool hours?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. Hiya Jamie:
    You know I don’t homeschool but I love hanging out around here. My parents are taking the boys to Guatemala next month, and we’re starting a book about the Maya called THE WELL OF SACRIFICE to get their juices flowing. To help them process what they’re reading and learning, I’m having them work through an assignment I created during my teaching days called Where in the World are We Reading. I’m looking forward to it!

    By the way, I love that Jonathan is reading the Doctor Dolittle series. Please tell him I devoured every book when I was around his age. Happy reading, Martins!
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Quotes from The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, Volume II

  2. Marianne Parker says:

    We don’t homeschool either. Many of our homeschool friends call us hybrid homeschoolers. We are both engineers, my dad is a physicist, and my brother is a musician. We are active in Boy Scouts and two sports etc. But, like you suggest, we do alot of broadening their horizons. We talk about the physics of cheerleading, we talk about the physics of soccer, we talk about how many m&ms are on a pallet, etc. etc. Everything is life is an opportunity for exploration and conversation. :)!

    Just because my kids go to public school doesn’t mean that we don’t keep up with the learning at home!!

  3. Just because my kids go to public school doesn’t mean that we don’t keep up with the learning at home!!

    Preach it!
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Quotes from The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, Volume II

  4. HelenaS says:

    Hi Jamie, I am one of the ones who doesn’t homeschool. I simply love your writing, I bought your book and have found immense peace (and courage) to strive to be the best mom I can be. It won’t all be Pinterest-worthy for sure, but I have made peace with that. So I really just wanted to say thank you for writing.

  5. I think many of us that read this blog who don’t home school either wish we could have or wish we had been homeschooled

    • I wish I could have been myself, Faigie! Actually there were a few years between 8th and 10th grade when I begged my parents to let me be homeschooled, but it never worked out.

  6. I’m one of the non-home schoolers who enjoys your blog! Life is always a learning opportunity! I look forward to summer break (four more days for us) when I get to spend time learning and exploring with my kids!
    Cori’s latest post: One More Time

  7. I don not homeschool my kids (even though I am not ruling that out for the future, but right now we are very happy with our public school) and I am very grateful for my public school education (I went to a prestigious private university and I felt that my freshman year was easier than some of my high school years). I love reading your blog because it gives me great ideas of how we can learn and enjoy being together when we are home.

  8. Thanks for this post! I actually don’t even have children, let alone homeschool, but still enjoy reading! I have a background in education that I chose to not pursue as a career and instead stay at home and take care of my two year old nephew. While he is not in school yet I love using that time to take my background and implement it in how we spend time together. It is far from structured with the attention span of a two year old but I am often impressed and surprised how much he is learning things through playing. It is true, with the right toys and structure of a home, you can create an entire learning environment just by being there!

  9. Bethany Gillespie says:

    Jamie, thanks so much for this post! I have been reading for around 18 months, and I’m not a homeschooler. I have great, wonderful friends who are, and my husband was homeschooled. But in our little English village, we have a little Christian school of 60 children that is a wonderful place. He is in a mixed classroom, and one of the traits that we love is that the older children learn to look after the newer, little ones, and continue that cycle. It is a lovely community.
    But when Tsh talked about Afterschooling last year, it really put a word to how I see my role in his education. We take trips, go for walks, make a meal, play and have fun, and are always looking for learning. We are intentional about the rest of our time, but like you said, that doesn’t have to be more lessons.
    I love this community, and love that you welcome us too!

  10. Im another non homeschooler of 3. My oldest will be doing independant studies this coming year for middle school. Ive enjoyed reading your blog and feel like its my job as a parent to reinforce what they are being taught or prepare them for the next year. I found on pintrest a saying……a child only educated at school is an uneducated child (george santayana) thanks for great post

  11. Thank you for this-I keep erasing everything else I try to write, so I’ll just say, thanks.
    Parents ARE responsible for their children’s education, no matter where they attend school. It’s all about giving your child what he/she needs.
    Thank you as always for thoughtful, thought-provoking and sincere posts.

  12. I love this concept of afterschooling! I am a new mama of a 2 week old little girl so nowhere near the stage of schooling yet however I am very aware that I am her first teacher and take this responsibility seriously and want to be intentional about it! In the past I would not have considered myself capable of homeschooling however as my new family is prioritising intentional and simpler living, homeschooling is definitely something that we would now consider as a love or learning is a key value of ours. Thanks for making ‘intentional education’ open to us all through this blog!
    Jessica’s latest post: Behind the Name

  13. Rebecca says:

    I am another non homeschooler, and we do intend on sending our kids to a public or private school, but as others have said, we as parents are responsible for their education. Especially beyond the ‘books’. I follow your blog for my 3 and 4 year old, and actually have for two years now. We have had a ‘learning board’ in our kitchen/dining area for the last 18 months. I was doing a color, shape, number and letter of the week but now my 3 and 4 year old are bored with that so I have been seeking more advanced things for them. As parents it is frustrating for us to see how ‘late’ things seem to be taught, when our children are so eager to learn (and they can retain it so easily) When our kids take an interest in things we encourage it, field trips, books, hands on experiences…. It is blogs like yours that encourage us to continue our ‘after schooling’ and get us thinking outside the box too

  14. My husband and I are seriously considering and researching homeschooling at this time (we actually saw you at the Cincy conference last month!), and I think the question, “Does this point my family toward or away from a love for learning” is fantastic. Sadly, much of what my son encounters in school (including the homework I can hear him and my husband arguing over at this moment) seems to point him away from a love of learning. His weekdays are usually spent in school until he gets home around 4 and then he works on homework for 2-3 more hours until we have dinner and he goes to bed. There’s very little time for him to explore and nurture his interests and natural curiosity, which feels very wrong.
    Emily @ My Love for Words’s latest post: Permission to Quit

  15. Our boy loves school (very gregarious) but we do lots of learning at home too. As a fellow adopter, I\’m finding I need to do things differently – lots of practice at home on some things that take him a long time to learn, but also creating chances to experience new things at a time when he\’s ready for them (rather than just when school offers it). I appreciate the welcome, and advice for us too!

  16. I adore the idea of after schooling. I also think it prepares students to continue learning throughout their lives… not because they have to but because they want to. Due to the fact of being taught to do so at such a young age.

  17. Hi,
    I also do not homeschool, but I am an elementary school teacher and I so appreciate your views on “after-schooling”. I believe in free public education, but I also appreciate that it can’t be everything for every child. It’s impossible. I accept the short-comings in what I do everyday, and that what I do just might not be the best fit for some kids. Home-schooling can be a wonderful option… more than just an alternative, but an option. “After-schooling” is yet another one, and I believe to be an important one. I check your site out for ideas to do with my class, ideas to do with my kids, and ideas to pass on to parents to do with their kids. I am glad and relieved to hear so many of your readers do not homeschool – in the sense that it perhaps means that parents recognize that public education and home schooling are not mutually exclusive, and are not two things a parent necessarily must “choose between” or “choose a side”. Hope that makes sense… and thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

  18. I am One of those that wishes to homeschool…as of now my only child is my stepson and because we aren’t the only ones that get to decide, he is in public school. I definitely would call our home an after schooling home, as of now. I know when we welcome more kids into our family I will be homeschooling. Any suggestions on how to encourage the love of learning while he’s away from home? I feel like he misses out on so much. I am new to your blog and loving it!

  19. I love this post. But as I was reading the comments from non-homeschoolers, I was thinking, “Where the heck do these people live where their kids have *time* to be afterschoolers?!”

    My two teens started out in the public school system. They both have learning disabilities; my son has dysgraphia and inattentive type ADD, and my daughter is dyslexic.

    Not only were they given ridiculous amounts of homework to begin with, but it would take them at least twice as long as the student without learning difficulties to finish the work. They’d come home from school and have to immediately start working on the their homework. This would last until at least 8 p.m. or later. Most of the time, they wouldn’t get it done. Then we’d sometimes get up early in the morning to work on it.

    I would have to go in to school and explain to their teachers why they didn’t have their work done. I did try to get help. I had official diagnoses done. I went to the meetings with the school. They refused to comply. The next step was taking the district to court, and at that point, it was no longer about helping my children. One of the teachers actually told me to read to my daughter more and that would fix her dyslexia.

    This is when I pulled them out to homeschool. Spur of the moment kind of thing. I was sick of it. There was no way *we* would have had any time for “afterschooling.” 🙁
    MJ’s latest post: So You Want To Attract Some Ladybugs?

    • Catalina says:

      Hi MJ,
      I’m not a homeschooler, but often wish I could be. I have three daughters, all very different. My oldest is 12 and has struggled with school, especially this past year when she started 6th grade. I believe she has executive functioning issues that make it difficult for her to keep up with her classwork and homework, and I help her as much as I can. But I’m so frustrated at how much time she has to spend on homework and still not be able to keep up. And of course, her grades don’t show all the effort she has to put in. But she’s been tested for a bunch of things and doesn’t qualify for any special help, so she’s the type who falls through the cracks. I’m curious how your spur of the moment decision to pull your kids out of school went for you. Especially because they were older and what they have to learn becomes more complicated, difficult, etc.
      Thanks for sharing.

  20. Jeraldine Tan says:

    I would love to home school my kid but I need to work due to bread and butter issue. My daughter is going to a few hours school, after that she has all the free time to play until I’m back from work to do afterschooling. It’s very tiring as I need to give up my personal time but on the other hand, I’m glad I can do what I can to teach her new things or follow up from school.. 🙂 Even though it’s only an hour or two.

  21. Just found this site and am looking forward to peeking in. Any idea where I can buy the wall map with continents and flags shown on #1..Creating the Right Environment? Thanks in advance…

  22. Hello hello….also not a homeschooler.
    My five year-old goes to regular public school kindergarten two full days a week and my four year old goes to Montessori preschool two mornings each week. Personally, I love this schedule and wish we could maintain it much further into their schooling and am tempted to do just that. Right now, I view it as a nice supplement to what we do at home. In no way do I put the responsibility of my children’s learning in the hands of the school system. That said, if the teachers cover something that strikes their fancy that we can explore further or cover a concept in a different way than I have that clicks with them, that’s great!!! With both the boys’ personalities, there are certain things that they are much more willing to be taught from their teachers than myself, so the time with them has proven beneficial in that respect. They both enjoy going, but if my hubby’s going away for work, we want to go on holiday, or take a day off to go to the rock climbing gym or whatever I don’t hesitate to pull the boys from class and just go! I feel there’s so much more opportunity to learn out and about. My five year old is obsessed with carpentry right now, and spends endless hours in the garage with his handsaw and hammer creating little masterpieces from the scrap wood pile. My four year old has been riding a two wheel bike proficiently since his third birthday and spends tons of time building little jumps and developing those skills. Stuff that certainly isn’t part of the regular school curriculum. The fact that my oldest is supposed to be starting full-time five day a week school next year has been weighing heavily on my mind. I really just don’t think it’s the best idea and certainly don’t want his love of learning extinguished by the system and pressure to meet milestones established therein.

  23. Thanks Jamie,
    It happens that I’m choosing to send my kids to school this year. Intentionally, for a more balanced life. Our life. Your post comes just at the right time. Thanks and blessings to you.
    Lisa 🙂

  24. So glad you reposted this today! I work to emphasize a love of learning at home, and would love to do afterschooling in the future to help supplement a few aspect of a classical education that my kids won’t get from our public school, but I’m worried about burn out. I think kids need time to play and just explore and I don’t want to force them into 10 hour school days via supplementation.
    Molly’s latest post: My Favorite Place

    • Hi Molly! Free play is so important – the supplementation I’m talking about is mainly taking advantage of the natural learning opportunities that arise in day-to-day life, not any kind of forced assignments. It’s the fun stuff that enhances family time and free time.

      • Thank you! That’s just along the lines I was thinking; my parents did similar things when I was kid and it was all “under the radar”, we just always had books, puzzles, audiobooks, documentaries, etc. around and it was basically learning without realizing it.

        Now, if only I can figure out how to work Latin into it all 😉
        Molly’s latest post: Making Do and Making the Best

  25. Karl Bielefeldt says:

    Once, on a parenting forum, I described a daily learning activity we do with our kids, which we actually were doing long before we started homeschooling. I received the response, “I find what you are doing slightly weird,” with two other users agreeing. I felt pity for anyone who so completely outsources their children’s educations as to find someone spending a few minutes a day teaching their own children in their own home weird. These learning moments are the best part of my day.

  26. hi jamie! we homeschool, and i have followed your blogs since you began. you have inspired our love of learning in our home for years! thank you. now…i need to know…where is the wall map from? the first picture. THAT is the map my boys would LOVE. they have out grown the animal map we have had forever, and they have a love of different flags! thx

  27. Nancy Taylor says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I really enjoy your posts too! I am a retired charter school teacher who “plays” with her three young grandsons three days a week. I guess you would say I’m an afterschooler for my 6 year old grandson and a preschool homeschooler for the younger two boys. As a teacher I used Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner’s theory) when planning my lessons for my 4th and 5th graders. Since I never taught kindergarten or primary grades, I love looking at homeschooling websites because they are a wealth of resources for lessons and activities that are perfect for Multiple Intelligence advocates such as myself. My grandsons and I have so much fun together and I’m so happy that my grandsons find such joy in learning new things. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  28. Another non-homeschooler, lover of writing in here. 🙂 We have a great small, private, Christian school here that is meeting our child and family needs quite well but I would absolutely homeschool of that changed. We after summer and after schoolers as you have laid out here. We’re using Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World to supplement history and open opportunities for discussions about other times and cultures. I also love classical education lists for books and our daughter is reading Life of Fred because she thinks they’re hilarous but doesn’t like math. 😛 The beauty of the hybrid approach is that I feel like we’re teaching our kids that, just as in life, there’s no ONE way to learn. Life is learning and the opportunities are everywhere. Thanks for another great post.

  29. It’s nice to know I’m in good company with other non-homeschoolers who love this blog. I’m ready to homeschool my kids when public school stops working for us, but it is working right now. (State testing starts this next year for my 3rd grade daughter…that may put me over the edge!) We do lots of activities together after school and during the summer. But I do find those evening times, after school, so hard to balance and keep positive. I really wish I had more time with my kids. If I could change one thing I would have my kids only go to school half days until they were about 8 years old.
    Kiasa’s latest post: Easter 2014

    • I second the half days! That would be my ideal until about third or fourth grade. We still have a few more years to go, but I’m hoping to at least do half day kindergarten if we can and then look into our dual enrollment program to see if we could work out something half days for the first few years —> it’s a dream!
      Molly’s latest post: Making Do and Making the Best

  30. Hi jaime! I have been meaning to comment on this great post for awhile. I am so inspired by your blog and love to read every post. We live in NYC and happened to get in to the most amazing public school that we absolutely love. It’s a progressive public school called Midtown West which focuses on community. I’d love to share an article with you just so you can see how amazing a public school can be…that’s the ONLY thing I cringe at is sometimes it feels like there is a generic distrust of public education or public school and – at least our experience – has been so overwhelmingly positive and inspiring that I just dont hold that view. HOWEVER, I think of every hour I spend with my kids as homeschooling! Every summer or vacation break, every weekend, every after school is an opportunity for me to share my love of learning and learn along with them. I LOVE TO BAKE and as soon as my eldest son turns 8 I am following in your footsteps and sending that invitation to baking school to him! We love nature and do a lot of projects towards “living off the land” and daily arts and crafts project are our go to activity. Now that both my kids are out of strollers I aim to use my wonderful city even more as a learning tool and plan on visiting one new neighborhood a week with them, along with our membership to the Natural History Museum and free Fridays at MOMA. I have confidence at some point of our lives we will actually homeschool, and I feel so inspired and encouraged by all of your posts. Thank you for welcoming us all! And if you and your tribe ever come to NYC (I’ve already invited you to my parents farm in CA to learn candle making! ha ha) PLEASE let me know. I would love to take you around and honestly you could even crash in our living room. You feel like friends to me! Take care and thanks again Jaime!

  31. Cheryl Kilgore says:

    Thank you so much for this. We do a mix of home school and unschooling. Basically when I have to be gone they do normal school work that’s available.. otherwise it’s all about what they are passionate about. I’ve been chastised a few times for allowing my son who is 8 to have tools in his room. For him life and love is about building.. He lives it everyday. My middle daughter is a brain and loves doing worksheets, crochet and other mind challenging activities and my oldest is 14 and loves to cook, can, work in the garden and read.

    We do our best to make sure each is apart of the activities the other enjoys and they are encouraged to follow what they love. We add bits of extra information in and it’s amazing seeing how much easier it is for them to remember it then when they were in PS. So blessed to be able to do this. Thank you so much for the awesome articles that you write!

  32. We’re not a homeschool family…yet. But we’re definitely afterschoolers and summer schoolers. With the lazy days of summer, I have set up our house (dining room and living room mostly) to engage my children and point them to a love of learning. They each have their workspace next to mine, and we work on academics and things they need to practice, and we also spend time in conversation at that table, figuring out what we want to learn more about. We also spend many days each week at the local library, talking to the librarian, participating in the book club, learning about library resources and tools and all the fun things that libraries can help us do and learn, and reading books of course, and researching topics that have sparked our interests during our many conversations (my 7-yr-old is currently researching the Mayan civilization and creating Mayan artwork and teaching her dolls how to write their names in hieroglyphs). I work from home during the summer, so my kids see me engaged in the work that brings home the money and the work that I love (I’m an editor). They also have learned how to structure their days themselves with the freedom of summer and the lack of structure from the school classroom. We have done projects and nature hikes and bike rides and all sorts of food related activities. I do many of these things during the school year but don’t always have time for all of them. Summer gives us that closeness to lean on each other as we learn. I’ll be sad when school starts again in September. I really think homeschooling is for us, but the time is just not right. I believe it will come soon, though.
    Nancy’s latest post: Division in School

  33. Also, I absolutely love your blog and everything you write about it so inspiring. I wish I lived in the States to take advantage of some of the deals you post, though. But it’s still great to read about them.
    Nancy’s latest post: Division in School

  34. Crystal says:

    I love the homeschooling stuff, too. But for us it is about early intervention and playing catch with a fun science theme of course:).

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