Written by Sarah Mackenzie of Amongst Lovely Things
We’re tiptoeing to the end of summer, and if you’re anything like me, you’re looking over your plans for the school year, making sure you’ve dotted your i’s, crossed your t’s, that you’ve stocked up on 10 cent notebooks and colorful pens.
And maybe… juuuuust maybe… you’re sneaking a few extra things into the curriculum.
After all, you want this to be the BEST homeschool year ever, right?
Me too. But I’ve been down this new-year-of-homeschooling road a few times, and I want to tell you the secret for setting out for a new school year with mindful intention that has the staying power to carry us through the year– that will get us through that November slump and even the February burnout that threatens us year after year.
My husband enjoys backpacking in the wilderness. The first few times he went, he packed up his backpack like any other ordinary hiker and set out for his weekend with everything he thought he might want or need for his journey.
He had made a list, gathered up supplies, and laid them upon the dining room table to make sure he had everything he needed before packing them into his backpack. Once loaded, the pack would easily weigh 60 pounds or more.
He knew it would be heavy, but it was the beginning of the trail and enthusiasm was running high, so he’d foist the pack onto his back and set out.
Here’s the thing- a mile in, that pack didn’t feel like it was 60 pounds anymore. The straps would dig into his shoulders, and he would slow to a creeping pace. Struggling to enjoy himself, he often wanted to quit.
Sometimes he chucked nonessentials into the fire the night before packing back up to leave camp- after all, every ounce matters when the blisters on your feet are aching and your shoulders are sore.
That way of backpacking didn’t last long. He would dread trips, knowing that he’d be miserable halfway down the trail.
Instead, now he does something called ultralight backpacking. The difference? Only what is absolutely essential goes into the pack.
Every ounce is carefully considered, meticulously measured. No extra water (water can be filtered from sources along the trail), or snacks. Calculations are made beforehand so the hiker knows exactly what he will need.
Some ultralight backpackers go so far as to cut their plastic toothbrushes in half. That small bit of plastic weighs almost nothing, but every ounce matters. Ounces add up to pounds, and pounds add to up to misery on the journey.
If a hiker wants to enjoy the journey itself, get to his destination, and do more than sprawl flat on his back, panting for breath and feeling like he can’t take another step, he simply can’t bring any extra weight.
Well, I don’t know about you, but that looks an awful lot like the way I plan my homeschool.
I set out for a new year with enthusiasm and exuberance and a curriculum packed to the gills with every good thing I want to get to during the year.
Then November rolls around, and I’m flat on my back, panting for breath and feeling like I can’t take another step. I’m calling the local school asking about enrollment, I’m turning on Bill Nye and calling it science class, I’m longing for something different– any other way of living that would feel less exhausting, more sustainable.
Perhaps the biggest mistake homeschooling moms make as a whole is overcomplicating things.
After all, curriculum is not something you buy. It is far too robust to be purchased online or checked off on a set of lesson plans. It is a set of encounters that form the soul and shape the intellect.
It’s a stack of books. Hours of reading. Poetry. Long walks outside. Bike rides. Spelling words. Visits to the orchards. Sitting for hours with toddlers on laps, flipping through picture books, singing silly rhymes.
Algebra problems. Library visits. Outings. Winter evenings spent huddled around a board game or listening to a story. Phonics. Handwork. A five paragraph essay. Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes.
Mapwork. Drawing. Music. Conversations about everything under the sun. A garden. A grammar page. A memorized fact. A meal eaten with grandparents. A camping trip in August.
So how do you head into a new school year with an ultralight backpack? How do you make sure your essentials are in tow and that you aren’t needlessly weighing yourself down with burden that will drag you down mid-year?
I can’t really answer that for you. In our homeschool, there are a few things that are non-negotiable: math, the arts of language, reading (and lots of it).
Beyond that, I’m trying not to load too much into my pack. I know that if we keep our load light, we’ll have the time and energy to be wide awake to the beautiful things happening all around us as the days follow one another right into winter and on into spring.
The secret to teaching from rest, to setting out on a new homeschool year with a plan that you can sustain throughout the year is this: pack light.
Live your life, relish ideas, wrestle. Remember, think, and converse. A curriculum like that is full and robust, and yet at the very same time, it is simple. Its simplicity lies in knowing that we have chosen the better parts, the key ingredients that will have the greatest impact on our students’ lives.
This post is a selection from Sarah’s newly released book: Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace, published by Classical Academic Press.
Today five lucky readers will win a copy of Teaching from Rest and the corresponding Audio Companion, including four hours of audio conversations about restful teaching and learning with Andrew Kern, Christopher Perrin, Cindy Rollins, and Brandy Vencel–and a printable Teaching from Rest Companion Journal!
How to Win
This giveaway has ended; thanks for your interest!
To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment on this post answering the question: If you were packing an ultralight homeschool backpack, what would be your absolute essentials?
(If you’re reading this via email or reader, you must click here to leave your comment on this post at Simple Homeschool. Comments or emails left elsewhere don’t count as entries.)
Note: This giveaway is open to U.S. readers only. So sorry, international readers!
For an extra entry, share about this giveaway on Facebook. Then leave another comment here letting me know you’ve done so!
A note from Jamie: I’ve found so much encouragement from Sarah’s writing in Teaching from Rest and highly recommend it for your shelves! As I wrote in my endorsement: “In Teaching from Rest, Sarah beautifully reminds us that we will never be able to give our children the perfect education. Instead of crumbling under the weight of our attempts to do so, we can let the burdens fall off our tired backs.”
The book went to second printing before it even released and the second print run is going fast. Order yours to make sure you’re first in line when it comes off the presses in a couple of weeks!
This giveaway has ended and the winners are: Tashena, Devon Ham, Heather Hollander, Cassey Golden, and Denise–congratulations!