How to avoid homeschool overwhelm: Become a curator

Curate1picmonew

Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins.

I love getting catalogs in the mail. Not every catalog, but the good ones that are full of things like board games and butterfly nets and prepared microscope slides and books. So many books! Shiny, happy new books.

But as I flip the pages, my excitement turns into a nagging worry that I’m not doing enough. There are so many options! Maybe we need more stuff, to learn all the things!

Sometimes a new tool or toy or giant box of books is just what we need, but not always.

And if I’m hearing that chant of not enough, not enough, not enough in my heart, a box of supplies is probably not going to fix it. (That insecurity isn’t about my shelves, anyway.)

That’s my signal to remind myself: I am a curator. It’s not my job to give my kids every option ever invented. My goal is to curate my kids’ environment and their experiences.

Think of a museum curator. She’s the person who chooses what the museum contains, and what it displays, and how it’s all presented.

– A good curator has a specific point of view.

– She has limited space and certain ideals, so not everything gets in.

– She understands her patrons (or in this case… her kids). She’s familiar with their level of interest and experience.

– She has an eye for what will inspire, and she presents those things in a way that invites patrons (still kids) to engage more deeply.

That’s what I try to do. I try to be a good curator of our environment. I choose what we’re surrounded with, I remove what isn’t helpful or inspiring, I organize what’s left, and I make sure there’s time to explore.

You don’t have to amass a giant collection of homeschooling STUFF. If I’m overwhelmed just looking at all the options in a catalog (or on a convention floor, or online), then bringing all those choices home with me would surely overburden my kids.

Too many choices can be just as frustrating as too few, and kids are as prone to decision fatigue as the rest of us. So instead we curate.

How to mindfully curate your environment:

– Choose what books, supplies, and tools you offer.

– Remove anything that isn’t helpful or inspiring.

– Arrange what’s left in an inviting way.

Leave time to explore.

Preparing a child's environment.
When I’m choosing what to bring in to our environment and what to remove, I ask questions like:

– What do we need to learn? What do we want to learn? What are we ready to learn?

– What is likely to spark curiosity?

What’s important to us, at this time and in this place? (That could be this season, or it could be this car ride, or this next meal. We can consider the big, the small, and the in-between, if we want to.)

– What kind of tools or supplies or space will help us explore our interests right now? What will help us to grow in our skills?

What are we not using, that could be removed to make way for something else?

You don’t have to curate everything, but you can choose to curate anything.

You can bring your thoughtful intention to any of your spaces or activities.

You can curate your home by bringing in a selection of music and books and art and games and tools.

You can curate your time by deciding how often you’re at home and how long you’re away, how much free time your kids have, how much time is available for their own projects.

You can curate your family’s home library. You can curate your kitchen cupboards. Your art supplies. Your science tools. Your backyard.

You can curate anything, really. You choose what to include, what to remove, and how to present what’s left: that’s curating.

How to be a curator of your home.

You know your child, you know what they need, you know what will interest and delight them. Or maybe you’re not sure, but you are willing to look for those things together. That’s good, too.

You can ask other curators to point you toward living books, or engaging board games, or enlightening experiences. Since each child has their own personality and interests and skills, though, you get to make your own choices about which of those things to pursue.

When your kids are small, you get to curate by virtue of being bigger. You decide what to buy, what to schedule, where to go, when to leave.

As they get older, this shifts. The kids become your partners in curating, and then they practice becoming the curators of their own lives.

Just like every museum is different, each of our homes will look different. As you thoughtfully curate your spaces, they come to reflect the individual character of your people and their interests.

We don’t have to worry that our choices are not enough. (That sounds suspiciously like asking whether we’re enough.) We can put aside the whole question of “enough” and ask: are these choices a good fit for my people, right now?

What do I want to include, what do I want to exclude, and how do I want to present what’s left?

Making thoughtful choices is not always about buying more. It’s not about packing our days with every activity that comes along.

It’s about finding the right fit for right now.

What spaces need curating in your life?

About Melissa Camara Wilkins

Melissa Camara Wilkins is a homeschooling mom of six in Southern California. She writes about being who you were made to be and letting go of the rest.

Comments

  1. This is a wonderful perspective–one I will strive to remember.
    Anne’s latest post: Boy Inspiration

  2. Thanks, Anne! I hope it’s helpful.
    Melissa Camara Wilkins’s latest post: The thing about time

    • I just spent a little bit of time over at your blog–the one where the comments are turned off and you write essays. You’re quite good. You get me to slow down and actually read the words rather than skim over the top for quick content-gathering. I’ll be reading what you write there . . . looking forward to “the pause that refreshes.”
      Anne’s latest post: A Week, Briefly (#22)

  3. Kimberly Reece says:

    “That’s my signal to remind myself: I am a curator. It’s not my job to give my kids every option ever invented. My goal is to curate my kids’ environment and their experiences.”
    My new favorite quote! Thank you!

  4. I also LOVE getting catalogs in the mail! When I do actually order something, I love that feeling when it arrives. It’s shiny and perfect, and I enjoy spending time looking through the pages:)

    But when it comes to implementing it, often times, it looked better in the wrapper:) I saw a suggestion on a blog recently (it might have even been here!) about writing down all those new “wants” on a list and letting them sit for a while.

    This has been so helpful for me.

    I find that as the really cool curriculum idea, or new homeschool class, sits for a while the “newness” wears off. Then I can think clearer, and see if it really makes sense:)

  5. If I had to distill my homeschool philosophy to one sentence, *this* would be a pretty good one:
    “I try to be a good curator of our environment. I choose what we’re surrounded with, I remove what isn’t helpful or inspiring, I organize what’s left, and I make sure there’s time to explore.”
    Thanks for this deep breath of sanity!
    Peace keep you.
    Kortney Garrison’s latest post: My Well-Trained Mind

  6. Christine says:

    I really needed to read this today. As we wind down the “school year” I know my kids and I are feeling a little burnt out. This is the perspective I needed to look at things differently. Thank you!!

  7. I really needed to hear this post as I’m thinking through our school plans for next year. Its hard not to want everything!!!

  8. Wow!!! Melissa I love your idea…. my kids get bored during vacation, so I decided to follow your way to keep them busy and learn something. Your blog is really helpful for me….

  9. Arianna Fontenot says:

    Thanks for articulating my thoughts and feelings. It is as if you took out part of my brain! I have recently been feeling overwhelmed with plans. As an elementary teacher, former foster mom of four, and now pregnant mom with an opportunity to start at the very beginning with my own child, navigating through idealistic and practical has been weighing on me to try and prepare for “perfection”. I appreciate your blog and sharing your insights!

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