Are you practicing sustainable homeschooling?

Are You Practicing Sustainable Homeschooling-
Written by Purva Brown of The Classical Unschooler

If you’ve walked into a grocery store lately, you’ve seen items marked “sustainable.” They’re everywhere, it seems.

Even our Facebook feed is full of the concept of sustainability. We hear about “sustainable crops,” “sustainable housing,” “sustainable teas” and even “sustainable budgets and economies.”

All this has led me to think: What about sustainable homeschooling?

Now wait a minute, you say. Sustainable homeschooling? I’ve never heard of that before. But think about it.

The definition of sustainable is either:

  1. able to be maintained at a certain rate or level, or
  2. able to be upheld or defended.

And isn’t that what we all want for our homeschools?

We want to be able to work consistently, to accomplish tasks without burning out ourselves or our children. To do our job in the best way possible so that we can uphold and defend our values.

We all want sustainable homeschooling.

So whether you’re sitting around the fire this Christmas reminiscing about the year gone by, or planning for the year to come, here are four practical ideas for making your homeschooling sustainable.

1. Communicate & manage expectations.

Much of the strife of day-to-day homeschooling comes from not communicating and managing expectations. Of course there will be trials and difficulties when we undertake such an important and grand thing as educating our children, but many of them can be avoided by defining what it is we’re doing.

Sound too simple? Perhaps. But it works.

One of the ways we do that in our homeschool is by writing down the schedule and putting it in a place where it is visible to the children and me. That way, expectations of what is to be accomplished are clearly laid out. It reduces complaining – on both sides – and makes for smoother days.

Of course, it’s also a good idea to remember to manage these expectations.

While I could communicate as effectively as possible to my 3-year-old that I would like for him to be able to read by the end of 2016, it’s not going to happen. I must balance those expectations with each child’s ability.

2. Plan days off, but don’t necessarily plan what to do on those days.

At the beginning of the year it’s easy to overplan, overcommit and think we’re going to get it all done. Sometimes, we even realize we’re doing this. At that point we guilt ourselves into clearing up some time on our newly bought planners. And then, guess what, we fill those with “spontaneous” field trips and activities.

Why do we do this? As homeschoolers, we’re so concerned that we might be wasting time that we don’t like giving our children time off school.

As a year-round homeschooler, I completely empathize with this feeling. We don’t take the summer off, every holiday is filled with historical detail, and sometimes, even on Saturdays, I feel a little twinge if the children ask to play Minecraft before the afternoon.

But I am beginning to realize that it is necessary sometimes to leave room for boredom, for spontaneity.

It is more than a necessity. It is a survival mechanism.

Without the freedom of “doing nothing days,” your homeschool becomes unsustainable. So resist the urge to stuff your calendar full and leave margin in the week.

3. Leave room in the schedule for conversation.

I know how crazy this sounds. After all, aren’t we talking all the time? Do we sound like the adults in Charlie Brown to our children?

But this is important, you guys. Listen. Every week, the children and I go grocery shopping. And I have to tell you, I could write a curriculum around the questions they ask me while we’re in the car.

We have had conversations about justice, the government, laws, God, various events in the Bible, children and parents, friendships, marriage… I could go on. We’ve had conversations about big things – the things that matter, the ones that parents make time for and try so hard to bring up.

What a privilege to be able to pour truth into my children! And to think these “just happen.”

They happen because we’re not doing anything else. I’m learning to leave room for this kind of education. I’ve leaving room for conversation.

4. Encourage responsibility and self-direction.

I have one child who will do things on her own, but she needs to be encouraged as well. It’s an odd combination, but isn’t one of the reasons we homeschool to recognize and acknowledge these so-called quirks in our children? So I encourage her. And she thrives.

Some don’t need as much encouragement as they need a challenge. So provide it. The more responsibility you hand over to your children, the less you have yourself, and the more successful and sustainable your homeschooling gets. So trust the process, and above all trust your children.

Needless to say, the biggest thing about sustainability is balance, so take care of yourself as well.

All of the above that pertain to your children pertain to you as well. Don’t leave yourself out of the equation.

What are you doing to make your homeschool more sustainable this upcoming year?

About Purva Brown

Purva Brown is a writer and homeschooling mom to three. She writes on a variety of topics across many genres and lives with her husband in Sacramento, California. Her most recent book is The Classical Unschooler. She blogs at


  1. I love how you included those big juicy conversations that happen in the space between all the other, scheduled, things. So true!
    Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s latest post: Bring Books to Life with Ivy Kids

  2. Love this, especially #3! It’s so true, those priceless conversations are never planned, they just take place “on the way” when we leave enough space for them. Thanks for sharing!
    Kari Patterson’s latest post: A Decade of Dutch

  3. I love the whole concept of sustainable homeschooling! I’ve never thought about it that way before, but it’s so true. Here’s to more interesting conversations!
    Kelly’s latest post: Homeschool Day in the Life Collection 2016 – a free ebook

  4. Curious to know more about how you write out the schedule – do you write out a fresh one everyday? Is there a separate one for each child? Just a loose rhythm or specific assignments? We definitely need expectations to be more clear and I would be so glad to benefit from your experience of what has worked well…

    • Thanks, Cailan! I write a schedule every 6 weeks. The weekly schedule is basically just a template and I mention how many chapters they are required to do (or how many pages) but I do not specify the pages. Otherwise the schedule begins to feel very rigid. For example, I will say, “Complete 1 chapter in Science textbook” but not “Complete Chapter 3” – otherwise, it would need constant revision. We typically buy new curriculum every 6 months and homeschool year round. I hope this helps! Thanks for reading!
      Purva Brown’s latest post: Self Directed Education Means Never Having to Ask for Permission

  5. To make our homeschool more sustainable in the coming year, we will probably “outsource” a couple subject areas to be taught by someone other than me…giving both my kids and I a more positive (and sustainable) experience as a family and in our homeschool experience.
    Katie May’s latest post: The Truth about Homeschooling

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