I am continuing my series on Homeschool Essentials with what must be the simplest.   I hope you are finding this series helpful and enjoyable.  So far we’ve talked about how essential books are to our homeschool. Then I spoke about our art supplies.  Today I want to talk about something that isn’t tangible.  It isn’t something you can purchase from Staples or some online store.  You don’t need to store it.  You may need to organize it, but not too much.  What could it be?  I’m talking about TIME!

In my post last week about art supplies I described for you some the excellent hands-on projects my children create for themselves, almost every day, from things they see in books and art supplies.  These are projects that I could research, invent myself and assign to them, and I do do that occasionally.  Don’t get me wrong sometimes Mommy has excellent ideas that we all enjoy immensely.  However, it is the self-guided and ever evolving projects that my children learn the most from, enjoy like no other, and carry memories of for ages.  Yesterday I told you about our on-going cardboard castle project that seemed to spring back to life every time I thought we might be done with it. There are have been yurts, and castles, Chinese calligraphy, and long house.  The list is endless. These are their project that THEY invented, and continue to tweak.  Mommy had a very cool castle project too.  We made a castle from sugar cubes together.  It was a very good time!  We worked hard on it for several days.  They all thought it came out excellent and it was a tool for discussing Medieval Castles and their features.  I invited the boys to bring their Lego guys down as I thought for sure they’d spend a week dreaming up Medieval stories around this thing.  You know what?  They didn’t.  Once we finished it they barely touched it again.  That project came from me, not them.  What they did do is take some of what we learned together during that project and… you guessed it, implemented into their cardboard castles.

Big, in-depth, self-directed projects (the very type of activities they learn THE MOST from) do not come to be if you do not leave margin in your life.  Time! Precious time.  Children need to be given the time to learn deeply and widely. The time and space to tinker, explore, experiment, tweak, research, change, modify, fail, and try again.  Without that luxury is their education any different than what they could receive in a traditional school?

The opportunities for homeschoolers today are astounding!  In our own family, we have church, guitar and piano lessons, seven karate classes a week, basketball practice and basketball games, sometimes horseback riding, occasional cooking classes, co-op opportunities, library classes, homeschool days at various museums, field trips galore, and the list goes on.  We could quite literally have some place to go and something to do almost every minute of every day.  For awhile I fell into the trap of saying yes to just about EVERYTHING.  I dragged my children around nonstop day-in and day-out.  If we ever did manage to stay home, I was cramming curriculum into them like there was no tomorrow.  I was exhausted, they were overwhelmed, and no one was truly learning anything of value.

Thankfully I realized I had to put a stop to the insanity.  We pulled back from a few activities, slowed down our daily curriculum, and took some time to BREATH!  We reprioritized and our days are much better for it.  We now attend the things we love, work on the subjects most important to our family, and then leave a good chunk of the week for exploration.  Most of our school work is typically done by about one in the afternoon.  After that, the children are free to do as they wish.  Screens are off limits (TV/computer games/tablet apps), but that is it.  Usually, they tackle a book or a stack of books.  Often this leads to some new dreamed up project like those I described already.

It is amazing how far children can go with resources and time.  Oh, and a Momma willing to step back and get out of the way! (Yeah that’s a post for another day).