The lazy girl’s guide to home education

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Written by contributor Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane

A big forest behind our house, lots of free time to read, a garden, science fairs, a playhouse, maps on the wall, Legos, an old piano, sketch books, almost no TV, and a library card.

These were the key components of my homeschool education growing up. In fact, when I’m asked what my homeschool days were like I usually respond, “I remember home but I don’t remember any school.”

My mom loves that.

mary pride homeschooling book

She enthusiastically led us in a joy-filled, relaxed approach to learning.  “Doing school” did not dominate our days.

Last year I ran across my mom’s worn and tattered volume by Mary Pride, homeschooling guru from the 1980s, who raised seven kids, wrote books, and taught countless seminars. On one of the many dog-eared pages I discovered part of the inspiration for Mom’s philosophy.  When asked, “How do you do it all?”  Pride responded,

“The key is … laziness! The best way to teach is to not have to teach at all. Ideally, our children should learn how to learn and begin to teach themselves.”

I believe this is why some moms can have a gaggle of kids, homeschool, volunteer, maintain friendships, and be active in their communities without collapsing. (They might have housekeepers too; I’m suspicious.)

We give our kids the key to learning and then relax a bit. Here are a few ideas to make this work (Thanks, Mary).

The lazy girl’s guide to home education:

1. Give Access

Pride says the key is access: 

“Human nature being what it is, you can be sure that if it is hard to find, hard to get out, or hard to put away, children will avoid it. But when parents make the materials of learning accessible, amazing things start to happen!”

Thankfully, we do not need to be the source of all our children’s information. Our kids will learn more when they’re motivated by genuine curiosity and empowered to acquire skills and information on their own.

Therefore, having educational tools easily accessible to children will encourage them to discover and learn on their own.

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Photo by Lacey Meyers

For us, this means making our entire home conducive to creativity and learning. Our house isn’t large, but we dedicated a small loft-area (and every other nook and cranny we can find!) to encourage learning and discovery.

Even if you don’t have the dream “homeschool room” you can create fabulous Discovery Zones throughout your home (great ideas in this book!).

We also let the kids decorate and display their interests and creations freely.

Let me tell you, their room does not look like a Pottery Barn catalog, with walls covered in artwork, Cartesian coordinate systems (yes, my 6-year-old son loves math), and treasure maps scotch-taped all over their walls but their love for learning and creativity is alive, and that is beautiful to me.

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Photo by Lacey Meyers

2. Create Order

A little work at the beginning will enable you to make a pot of tea, put up your feet, and perhaps … read a book (or this blog!), while your children are happily learning.

The key is order. In our home, these 4 simple rules—memorized along with our Bible verses—enable our children to have free access to toys, crafts and learning materials:

  1. If something has no home it goes to another home.
  2. If we don’t use it we give it to someone who will.
  3. Put everything to bed before we go to bed.
  4. Put away one thing before moving on to another.

We must not be lazy about teaching order early on so our children can enjoy the freedom of access to learning tools. If we can train our children from a young age to exercise basic discipline in these areas, they can enjoy the limitless freedom of exploring the world around them all their days. The toddler who can put his toys away becomes the teenager who can teach himself trigonometry.

Finally, one last Lazy Girl must-do:

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Photo by Lacey Meyers

3. Allow Boredom

I distinctly remember my ever-tender-hearted mother having zero compassion for bored children. She was not responsible for entertaining us, and since electronics and media weren’t options, we were doomed …

to learn.

Yes, necessity is the mother of invention, and when children are allowed to face boredom, do you know what happens? They invent things to do! They create! Discover! Imagine! Learn!

I believe that the hectic overfilled schedule of most kids these days is actually hindering their ability to learn. Boredom is a blessing; it forces kids to think, create, learn.

As I type these words my children are going on 3 hours straight of having a backyard archeological dig, taping together dinosaur bones (sticks) and drawing maps to document their findings. Actually, now I don’t know where they are; hold on …

These 3 simple steps set children up for a lifetime of learning because they’ll still have the tools and the discipline long after they spread their wings and leave homeschool behind.  And, we might even make it to graduation day with a few non-gray hairs if we cut ourselves some slack and employ a little strategic lazy-girl philosophy.

I’m certainly no expert, but Mary Pride is. It’s worth a try.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find my children…

Your turn! What “Lazy Girl” tips can you share with us? Thanks for reading.

About Kari Patterson

Kari Patterson and her family are unschooling, church-planting, smoothie-drinking, frugal-living weirdos from Oregon. As a 2nd generation homeschooler, Kari enthusiastically espouses the same delight-directed method her mother did in the 80s. She celebrates life's messy glory over at Sacred Mundane.

Comments

  1. Jessica says:

    I love this, Kara! I am hoping to homeschool my little girl, she is only 6 months old at the moment so it’s a little way off yet. I do have moments of doubt though and the idea ‘but I’m too lazy’ has sprung to mind a few times! Great to know I shouldn’t let this put me off!
    Jessica’s latest post: {Be Inspired} Redefined by Cryptic

    • Thanks, Jessica! Good for you for planning ahead the kind of education you want your little darling to have. Thanks for reading!
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Home Education

    • Brandy says:

      Jessica
      I hate to break this to you, but you already ARE homeschooling your little girl! You have been teaching her since the first time you held her… Teaching her lessons in trust and communication (life skills class, if you will), teaching her to use and develop her physical strengths (think tummy time, helping her sit up, soon you’ll be encouraging her to crawl, then walk– that’s physical education class), you’ll soon be teaching a nutrition class (introducing new healthy solid foods), you’ll be teaching a beginning grammer course (“OK, sweetie, say ‘mama’”), reading and spelling class have already begun, as well ( bedtime stories, singing ABC’s, etc), math classes often begin with counting Cheerios onto a high chair tray… you get the idea.
      Have faith in yourself and your abilities, but most of all have faith in your daughters natural curiosity and desire to learn. You’ll do fine. ;-)

  2. sheila says:

    These are great! I will definitely check out Mary Pride.

    My best “lazy” tip is to teach your children to cook. It is a great skill for them to have and is a huge help in the day-to-day running of the household. I wrote a blog post about it here http://sureastheworld.com/2013/05/20/the-cowboy-boot-contessa-sons-cooking-with-children/
    sheila’s latest post: Shout Out: Lantern Festival Webinar

    • Great idea, Sheila! Yes, yes! Just the other day my 6-year-old asked if he could cut the carrots for the soup I was making. I wasn’t sure whether I was being a good mom or a terrible mom, but I let him do it (I was right next to him) and he did great and didn’t cut his finger off! ;) Thanks for sharing your post!
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Home Education

  3. Kate says:

    Good words.
    And so true.
    Especially the boredom thing. It never fails – when my kids come to me saying they are bored….moments later I find them completely engrossed in some project or game. Filling every moment to the brim for them…..just leaves all of us wilted.
    Thanks for the post :) Perfect read for me this morning.
    Kind Blessings,
    Kate :)
    Kate’s latest post: Wave and Sea

  4. Crystal says:

    I love this, and do this with my children. Where I struggle is in the order part. We are soooo out of order, it really does make life very difficult. Can you point me toward some resources to help start some type of system like that? We’re so behind on all types of house work, etc., that it seems such a daunting task to start, let alone, tackle. Thank you!!

    • Ahh yes. Well, I told my husband this morning that it’s unfortunate this post is up today because our loft area is a mess! I need to practice what I preach! I take one full day a month (Jamie’s idea–see her post on this!) to clean and one full day a month to reorganize and create order. Then before dinner we spend 30 minutes picking up and tidying. I’ve enjoyed Organized Simplicity book, Jamie’s Steady Mom book. Pick one small area each day (even just a drawer) and clean/organize that area. Little by little! Hope this helps a little. Some people enjoy Fly Lady for cleaning and organizing tips. Perhaps others have ideas (others, speak up!). Thanks for reading, Crystal!
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Home Education

      • Crystal says:

        Oh my, this is the first time I’ve heard of a one month cleaning day!! Thank you so much. Seems like everything I’ve tried has failed, because I’ve been trying to do an everyday list kind of thing that drives my family crazy. I’ll look up that post of Jamie’s, thank you!!

    • Dina says:

      Try flylady.net she helps set up basic routines until your home runs like clockwork. We are still learning, but it has made a huge difference in our home.

    • Denita says:

      I feel compelled to comment about how to get in order, though I rarely comment.

      Firstly, each of my kids (it’s easy that there are three of them) takes a turn cleaning up after each meal. I rotate them so the same child doesn’t always have dinner. What this means is 1. Clearing the table and counters 2. Wiping them down 3. Loading the dishwasher and 4. Sweeping the floor. We do this together because of their ages, but it’s ultimately their responsibility. This alone helps me feel like I am not drowning simply from meal prep and clean up and that’s a big load off my shoulders!

      In addition to meal “duty,” each child has chores they do daily (make bed, pick up their room, wipe down a bathroom sink or counter and fold/put away laundry) and weekly. Daily chores equate to: clean up after yourself, but because my kids are still pretty young (9, 6, 5) I spell this out for them. I also find that if I let these slide, they then get overwhelmed with the result of these chores piling up.

      For “weekly” jobs I identified the things that were stressors for me but also my kids could do relatively independently: toy clean up and vacuuming (a clean floor = clean home for me) were the top of the list. Each child gets toy clean up duty twice per week and vacuums a portion of the house (we have a big house with lots of carpet) once per week. Then there are a few other things like taking the garbage out, tidying the art area, cleaning the car out and dusting that gets thrown into the rotation. They only do ONE weekly chore PER DAY instead of doing them all on one day.

      I do the heavy lifting with cooking, mopping, laundry (except putting away and sometimes folding), cleaning bathrooms and all the miscellaneous things that come up. I also help my youngest with his jobs and ignore the things my kiddos didn’t quite do right. ;-) My hubby takes care of the yard and car and home maintenance.

      I stuck all this info onto a spreadsheet and posted it on the fridge. You, of course, will have to tweak things to fit the number of kids you have and your hot-button chores or areas in your home. I know it sounds like a lot, but really my kids do a few daily chores first thing in the morning, do one weekly chore every day and help clean up after one meal every day. It amounts to less than 30 minutes a day if they don’t drag their feet. They love it because the chores are spread throughout the week and don’t seem overwhelming and I love it because they are actually helping me with the stuff that makes me feel like the house is in order. The hard part is identifying what YOU really need done to help you feel like things are in order! Now organizing? I definitely recommend one room or area at a time!

      • kris kincaid says:

        I think you are one of the first I’ve have seen who agrees kids need to do some of the household work. So many of my homeschooler friends(yes I homeschool our 5 kids), think I am a terrible mom because my kids(10-15) have a rotating 5 wk schedule for kitchen(wash table, sweep floor, wash dishes, dry/put away dishes, off a wk). They are all responsible for their own laundry and 2 household chores a week.(trash, kitchen floor, bathroom, etc). So many I talk to say let kids be kids and those are the kids who have no clue how to do anything when they do leave home.

  5. Oh Kari how you have encouraged me! I strive for a lot of order, so much so that I tend to hurry and try to do it myself rather than give my children grace and allow them to learn it on their own. I do however, have zero tolerance for boredom :)
    Nikki @ Christian Mommy Blogger’s latest post: Check Your Page Load Time {31 Days to a More Reader Friendly Blog}

  6. Loved your post, Kari. Thanks for sharing!
    Jolene @ The Alabaster Jar’s latest post: Day 30: Taking Up Of the Cross In Marriage

  7. jill says:

    where did you find your world map?
    Thanks! I need one!

  8. Melissa says:

    I loved this Kari! I need to implement some laziness in our day. It seems like most days I am hurried to get through our school lessons (workbooks and such) and forget to slow it down and encourage them to explore a little more. I love this philosophy! On a side note: Right now all three are downstairs playing Legos nicely together, so maybe I will let them play a bit longer before we start “school” while I catch up on your blog :-)

  9. Melissa says:

    I was just reading through the comments and read Crystal’s response about organizing and getting organized. I just worked through Unstuff Your Life and it REALLY worked for me and mine.

  10. I love this! but I also cringe when people ask my kids what they do all day? and yes–people ask ALL THE TIME! They reply differently each time but it is always something like, we played all day, I just sat on the couch and read a pile of books, we took a field trip to the grocery store . . . or the worst one (as seen by others!) I just played Stack the States all day long!

    Great Post!
    renee baude @joyfulmom’s latest post: Food School: a 31 Day Course (day 21 Cooking with Kale)

    • Haha, oh yes I can relate to your cringing Renee. Sometimes I say to my kids, “I want you to understand that what you’re doing FEELS like playing but it’s actually LEARNING! So when people you ask you what you do all day you can say learning.” ;) Haha!
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Home Education

      • shelley says:

        I have the same problem. My kids tell people, we haven’t done schoolwork all week! Drives me crazy, but they don’t understand the unstructured learning part. And I loved the part about boredom. I purposely make my children bored. Sometimes at home, in the car, waiting places. They either learn to keep a book with them at all times, or I have heard my daughter teaching my son games they play in their head to pass the time!

  11. I so enjoyed this post! I am on the precipice of changing our eclectic school style (about 2-3 hours, 3 days a week) to give the kids more freedom about what they are learning. They have so much passion and interest that I’ve been thinking, “Why not let them make more choices?”

    Anyways, I so agree about the importance of having kids contribute to the family for mom’s sanity. I call it “putting my kids to work”. They cook and clean, do laundry, and generally contribute. It’s amazing how much kids are actually capable of – just last night by 8 year old made dinner all by herself! But, the cincher is they still have lots of time to play and learn and be with friends because we don’t do very much “formal schooling”.

    By the way, I noticed the quilt blocks on your wall. I’m a quilter myself (and I blog about it). Lovely work!
    Rachel at Stitched in Color’s latest post: Penny Patch: Quilt Design

  12. Jenny says:

    Great Post. Thank you. I like the ”allow boredom” part. :)
    Jenny’s latest post: Thinking About Starting A Homeschool Blog?

  13. Tessa W says:

    I adore this post and it sounds very much like our lives. My boys spend an amazing amount of time just exploring their world and imaginations.. I can relate to needing to find out where your kids are too. They play outside for hours at a time, on warm enough days. I’m going to request that book from my library. Thanks for this excellent post.
    Tessa W’s latest post: D is for Diapers – The Best Style and Brand of Cloth Diapers

  14. Lesly says:

    I love this, Kari! Your mom and I were probably kindred spirits without knowing it. How I would have loved access to these encouraging online articles back then (although I’m glad now that we didn’t have the internet; what a temptation it can be, and then a whole afternoon is gone!) I relaxed-homeschooled six now-adult children, and am still homeschooling my last child. I think mine feel as you do about their lives growing up – I know they are all strong homeschool advocates. Keep up the encouragement!

  15. Caila says:

    Kari, even though I’m not a homeschooling mom (oh no, I’m on the dark side! lol) there is so much I can use from this post. Thank you! I love the lazy-girl’s strategies and will be implementing them with my two preschoolers at home. We do plenty of home learning, even though my oldest is in private school. :)

  16. Faigie says:

    Hmmm I was always told I was lazy growing up maybe I should have homeschooled my kids. The truth is after spending 2 days in my daughters home with her 4 kids ages 6 and down and basically spending most of the time protecting the 7 month old from the 21/2 yr old…I don’t know if I could have done it…no matter how lazy I am.

  17. Tiffany says:

    This is so good!! I LOVE that people validate my feelings on homeschooling. My main goal is to teach my girls to LOVE learning and to use that to figure out what God has planned for their lives. I have no interest in filling their heads with rote facts when it now takes 10 seconds to look something up on Google! They have access to all the info they need, but they need to have the desire to know it.

  18. I’m a little lazier about clutter in kids’ rooms (Firefighter Rule, if an emergency squad can’t get through it has to be cleaned) but otherwise our philosophies are the same. Yay for lazy parenting! Sharing your wonderful post Kari.
    Laura Grace Weldon’s latest post: No Parrots Here

  19. JenP says:

    Thank you for this post! This is our educational philosophy too, and though my oldest is only eight, I can see that it is working beautifully. My pet peeve is well-meaning relatives who constantly ask my kids “what did you learn in school today?” Or “it’s only noon, have you already finished school today?” We still don’t know how to answer these “silly” questions!

  20. Fatcat says:

    My kids have taught themselves Python (a programing language), how to use GIMP (software), more about computers than I’ll ever know, how to crochet and knit (neither of which I can do) and a multitude of other things.

    We do need to work on the orderliness though.

  21. Sarah says:

    My husband and I are seriously leaning toward homeschooling. Our 4 kids, ages 7,9,11,12 have gone to a private christian school since kindergarten. I love the idea of my time with our kids being less rushed and always preparing to go to school and making sure all homework is done for next day’s school. Seems like our life revolves around their school day, and that seems wrong. They need time to be kids!! However, our oldest, 12 yr. Sam, is smart, motivated, quick, independent, and skipped a grade, so that puts him entering gr.9 at a young age 13. He is not keen on being homeschooled. Do you have any resources, any advice, that we can start with, to help make this transition more positive for him? And how would an ‘unschooled’ approach work with high-school, when the requirements for a high school diploma are credits and hours of class, etc. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this! Tomorrow is my daughters last day of public school and I’m planning on an unschooling approach, but I’ve been kind of worried because I tend to either schedule schedule schedule, or do nothing. My new mantra is relax and let her choose her path and trust her to know what she wants to learn. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Thanks, Elizabeth. There are so many wonderful resources out there to help you stay balanced, and you’re right–balanced is important. Providing structure but allowing freedom. The cool part is that YOU know and love your daughter more than anyone else, so you’re the best person to figure out what will help her flourish! All the best to you on this adventure!
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Home Education

  23. educator says:

    I loved your article..,especially the part about allowing boredom. I pinned this article for other home educators.

  24. LauraBeth says:

    Oh, Kari, I loved this! And I loved your 4 rules for creating some order. What great advice! And I totally agree about boredom. My children are very rarely bored . . . probably because I have clearly communicated that their boredom is not my problem to solve. :-) Wonderful, wonderful post. I’ll come back and read it again and I’m heading over to follow your blog.

  25. pracades says:

    We classically educate, with a bent towards interest-led learning. My kids have a lot of free time, but I still find it difficult to let go of control of things like math. How did your six year old son find interest in cartesian coordinates?

    • Great question! We DO have structured learning time in the mornings for the 3 R’s — we do math, spelling/writing, grammar, and reading … although “doing” reading it silly because they read all day. He discovered the coordinate system in one of his books–it’s actually a reader book with a story about Rene Descartes. Fabulous book! There’s another one about Sir Cumfrence and the knights of the round table that teaches about math. Love those of books! Basically just lots and lots of books. Our structured time is from 8:30-10:30ish, then they’re free to LEARN more. ;) Oh, BTW–I modeled almost everything after the book The Well Trained Mind. Love the classical model. I’m a Classical Unschooler. ;)
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: When everything comes crashing down around you…

      • Pracades says:

        Kari, I thought I had read that on your blog at the beginning of the year but thought maybe you had read something recently that led you more to unschooling! That’s great encouragement, thanks! I think I am a classical unschooler myself. We have been using Life of Fred for math which has really helped with Living Math. We have read Sir Cumfrence, as well. Will have to check out the book on DesCartes!

  26. Sally says:

    I agree 100% about having order. I can’t function in a home that is cluttered with stuff. Thanks for the inspiration about access. This is something I am working on for sure! Love this post.

  27. Cherub says:

    I loved this post. When I saw the title I knew that it was a post for me! Sometimes I feel quite lazy not “doing school” with my girls, but I’ve seen what a long way they have come and don’t feel do guilty anymore. They love learning but hate “doing school” on the regular. They love the occasional unit studies we do that are full of hands on activities, experiments, and field trips, I love them too. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your post. I loved reading it :-)

  28. Heather says:

    Great post! I frequently drop by this website for inspiration and homeschooling guidance, and, so often, I find exactly what I need. Organization is probably the thing that I struggle with most. There’s always soooo much to do that sometimes the basics like categorizing and organizing get overlooked. Thank you for the reminder!

  29. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have found your blog, Kari! I have been reading through your posts. Thanks for sharing your testimonies! I subscribed via FB feed. And, I have been encouraging others in my local homeschooling community with this very post! I pray for God’s richest blessings to continue to follow you all the days of your life! :)
    The Crunchy Mama’s latest post: Pregnant with the joy of the Lord

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