The Model Homeschool

I am a huge fan of model homes. I love visiting them and poring over photos of perfectly arranged rooms with that too-perfect-to-be-lived-in quality.

I know that many of these are set up for a spectacular photo shoot — I’m sure if you could see the other side of the photographer, there’d be a pile of mess that had been shoved aside! Obviously, the imaginary occupants of these fantasy residences don’t homeschool.

However, just because we can’t live in the perfect model home, doesn’t mean we have to wade our way through a cluttered one.

Removing clutter from your home isn’t hard in theory. If you don’t find it beautiful or useful, then get rid of it. There are plenty of books and internet sources showing you how to accomplish this.

But for the everyday, slightly messy, order challenged homeschooler, it isn’t so easy. What do you do with all the curriculum that is not in use but might be one day?

I set out to answer this when I got rid of as much junk as I possibly could. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. It all started with mold.

The weather had been particularly wet and the moisture seemed to have bred some mold onto various walls throughout my home. We didn’t even see it at first, just smelled it — that slightly musty odor whenever we walked into the bedrooms.

Unable to live with the thought of my kids inhaling disgusting spores every night, I armed myself with a spritz bottle and set out to uncover the source of this unwelcomed intruder.

After the first hour of tossing scrap paper, used tissues, and orphaned toys, I came across a beautiful wooden Papo Buccaneers pirate fort. As I was cleaning it, I turned it over and was shocked to find the entire bottom covered with fuzzy green mold. After that, something overcame me and I started working with a frenzy.

My friend, after hearing of my project, later said she envisioned a Tazmanian Devil whirling through the house, cleaning everything in sight, and that wasn’t too far from the truth. I suddenly lost sentimental attachment to 90% of everything I touched. Old artwork that I had already scanned? Toss.

Odd pages from workbooks of years past? Dump it! Scooby Doo books we’ve outgrown and have no desire to read again? Donate it all. It felt great.

Being homeschoolers, we had educational supplies tucked and distributed throughout the house. As I was going through the shelves and closets and drawers, I thought about what I really needed to keep.

Library discards are often fantastic bargains, but do we really need to have a copy of The Inside-Out Stomach when we’ve never had a lesson on invertebrates?

If we did come to that point, I’m sure there’s another copy at the library. The books I ended up keeping were the field guides, science books, and well-loved ones, like The Wizard of Oz collection and Rosemary Wells Nursery Rhymes.

The toughest decision turned out to be the World Book Encyclopedia. It was from my own childhood and in mint condition. The fact that it was in mint condition, probably should have been a good indicator.

If I had never bother to read it all these years, what was the point in taking up an entire shelf to store it? Would any of my kids even use it in this Age of Google? Probably not. Alas, it was time to bite the bullet and just pack it away.

I think I’ll keep that spot cleared forever as a reminder of what little we need.

And indeed, we don’t need much at home in order to homeschool.

I’d much rather spend the day tromping through the outdoors exploring or excitedly reading the next chapter of our latest library book, visiting museums, walking through parks, conducting wild science experiments, painting a masterpiece, banging away at the keyboard, or inventing the next big game.

Homeschooling doesn’t happen on the shelves.

In the end, I donated an entire bookshelf worth of books, tossed a bin full of old schoolwork, and got rid of every piece of educational material I had not used in the past year.

The fact that our latest routine requires the use of less workbooks was enough reason to stop hoarding them for the day my younger children might use them. I filled that newly emptied bookshelf with beloved boardgames instead–a reminder to enjoy our time together.

So stop living in the classroom and free yourself to better things. Let go of the unsuitable curriculum, half finished workbooks, and never-opened encyclopedias weighing you down.

Play a game that you had forgotten you owned. Get a whiff of that fresh, uncluttered air.

Start filling your children’s minds and lives with learning, not their bookshelves.

How about you? How do you handle curriculum clutter?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.


  1. It took years of homeschooling to come to this: Ditch the stuff you don’t use!!! I know how obvious is that… I had shelves of spelling programs and math manipulatives and flashcards that we never ever used but I thought we should so I kept them… One day in a moment of passionate decluttering I packed the lot in a box or three and passed them on. Never ever missed them but sure enjoyed the freedom of not having them “look” at me constantly!!! And the fact that it all cost money is heart breaking but I passed it onto a worth cause and suddenly that heartbreak was a blessing instead!!! Now I know: Use it or Lose it.
    .-= se7en’s last blog: This Week At (5 April) At Se7en… =-.

  2. Your last line is just perfect. I did this recently myself, letting go of the encyclopedias, outgrown picture books (ouch) and curriculum we will not use again. We reduced five bookshelves down to two. As much as homeschoolers love books, we need to remember that learning comes in many different forms. The objective is to teach our kids, not collect books.
    .-= Sandy’s last blog: The Year In Focus =-.

  3. I agree that shelves should hold more than books — games, science experiment equipment, math manipulatives, craft supplies. Bring it all out into the sunshine where it can be seen and used.

    The photo in the post looks cold. I’d never want my home to look like that. No life. Give me cluttered any day.
    .-= Jimmie’s last blog: Two New Articles Up =-.

    • My kids would have a ball in that cold room. I can totally see them running wild, rolling on the floors, jumping off the chair… and leaving nothing for me to clean up! Ah… a mom can dream. 😀
      .-= Amida’s last blog: Rainy Afternoon At SFMOMA =-.

  4. At one point, a few years ago, I decided I was not buying more bookshelves so if books come in, then others must go out. We have designated spots for other materials (games/art supplies) as well and if they get too crowded then we clear out ‘stuff’. I also have some storage cupboards for ‘curriculum’ type books for the younger kids but I am learning to be fairly ruthless about clearing it out; if my oldest or myself didn’t enjoy using it (for the most part) then I doubt I’ll use it with a younger child. I’ve offered this type of material to other homeschoolers but usually people don’t want/need it and I do feel sad about discarding it. I am hoping that, in time, I’ll be able to pass along some of our storybooks and nice toys to my neices and nephews that are being born this year!

    • That is a good system! It reminds me of the number system of keeping clutter under control — you pick a number for whichever category of stuff you have — books, plates, toys — and never allow more than that amount to enter the house. For every item you bring in, you must get rid of an equal number of items.

      I find storybooks really hard to giveaway, but after three kids, I now know which ones are the keepers!
      .-= Amida’s last blog: Rainy Afternoon At SFMOMA =-.

  5. This could not be more timely for me as I start our Spring Cleaning today. Just this morning I’ve been looking at the bookshelves and the things stored away in totes thinking, “well, maybe we will use this someday” and yet at the same time thinking how silly it is to let things take up space we need – especially as we aren’t using them ourselves. Time to let go.

    Filling children’s minds and lives and not the shelves – great reminder!
    .-= Kara’s last blog: Music Review: Dan Zanes Concert DVD and a Surprising New Find =-.

    • I’ve had sooo many things stored in totes for sorting “someday”. I finally got around to them and found that most of it was pretty much unexciting, so I got rid of them. It’s too easy to put things into a box or bag (while cleaning the living room, for instance), and then forget all about them. Next thing you know, you have a garage full of mystery bags and boxes!
      .-= Amida’s last blog: Rainy Afternoon At SFMOMA =-.

  6. We are in the process of switching over to a new curriculum – and this was the perfect post for me to read.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Leigh Ann
    .-= Momma Roar’s last blog: Wordless Wednesday =-.

  7. I’m quite guilty of the whole saving-educational-items-for-the-next-child-who-will-SURELY-appreciate-it racket. Thanks for helping me rethink this. Is there a 12-step program for addictions to Educational Stuff? Because you’re right, the clutter can get out of hand in a hurry!
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: The Von Trapp Family Bikers =-.

  8. What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for making such a simple concept so clear…our world is FILLEd with all the learning “materials”…we just need to actually be hands on and out there to experience it and learn and enjoy it! I love being outdoors,or on field trips with the kids…but my down fall is my addiction with books…I have come to realize that I almost try to vicariously “live” through books rather than just jump into the world and live for real…or to teach my boys through books instead of more hands-on,real world eperiences. I find that somedays I am just so tired,or sore that it is much easier to just pull out a trusted old book and teach, rather than play, work or experience something! Just a part of being an older Mom that I must conquer..not give into! Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Here, here! To the outdoors.
    Why is it that de-cluttering feels so good? It seems to free up your space and your mind to start living, instead of organizing all that stuff!
    Wonderfully written!

  10. i need the support group too. i am so so guilty of this. i would be embarrassed to give details.

  11. This post was exactly what I needed! I am a former public school teacher turned part-time teacher and homeschool teacher and I have LOTS of trouble ditching educational stuff! But, seriously, when in my homeschool (or one day a week class) am I ever going to need a Sports/Health bulletin board set?? I just went downstairs to our school room and cleared an entire bookshelf in 5 minutes. In included, of course, a completely outdated set of kids encyclopedias. Ha! It feels good.
    .-= Paula@Motherhood Outloud’s last blog: Eating At Home Without Going Insane! Part 1 =-.

  12. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs/websites! I just added you to my favorite websites on my sidebar, thanks for the great posts!
    .-= Erica’s last blog: Download –N- Go: Expedition Australia =-.

  13. I am so thankful for all the fantasic resources now available. Chloe is 3 and though we do have a few workbooks (that she thinks are a blast to do!), by the time that we are really ready to start school, I know I will be well prepared. Not with textbooks but with the proper perspective and tons of ideas of how to school in the everyday!
    .-= Jenn @ Beautiful Calling’s last blog: I Hope Your Day is a Piece of Cake! =-.

  14. I loved this post! I have homeschooled for 10 years and now that I’m down to my last child, I have finally realized how little we really need. Honestly the only school supply we use on a regular basis is her laptop. The rest of the time we are out in the world or borrowing from the library. It feels so good to let go of all that “stuff”, textbooks and flashcards and workbooks, but I still panic-what if I need something I gave away? Your post makes me feel better about out radical de-clutter!

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