Is Hygge Homeschooling For You?

I’ve been coming across hygge homeschooling quite a bit lately in my Facebook feed. Come to think of it, it’s also something I think about often, now that the weather is colder. Candles, warmth and comfort sound enticing.

What is Hygge Homeschooling?

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish word that refers to a feeling of cozy contentment through enjoying the simple things in life. If you’ve ever enjoyed reading a book indoors on a rainy day you’ve experienced hygge.

In his book, The Little Book of HyggeMeik Wiking lists a few core concepts in hygge living. These include good, soft lighting, warmth, comfort, candles, small groups and good food amongst others.

I have to admit, it sounds wonderful! Who doesn’t like the idea of coziness and simplicity? Now, think of that concept and apply it to homeschooling. Sound good?

But, wait!

I know people who live the hygge lifestyle. Simplicity is the essence of their lives. Their homes are well lit, warm and cozy. They know exactly the right number of people to have over. Items in their home are well selected and there is always good food.

We all know homeschoolers like that as well, don’t we? Only, you may not be one of them.

While hygge homeschooling sounds good to me (on paper!) I know I am too eclectic and to some degree even disorganized to handle it well. Keeping an atmosphere of simplicity takes work and planning. The right food, the right books, pools of light… let’s face it. It’s not possible to have this for an extended time in my house.

If Hygge Homeschooling Appeals to You…

So what do you do if you are like me and love the idea of hygge homeschooling but are a bad combination of brilliantly eclectic, creatively disorganized and a control freak?

Here’s what you do:

  1. Keep hygge homeschooling days instead of weeks or months. Do up those days. Bake and read.
  2. Plan for spontaneous hygge days. I like planning and I also like spontaneity. If there’s rain in the forecast, keep some emergency hygge supplies and let your heart dictate how the day will go when it does rain.
  3. Don’t try too hard. Kids will bicker. Something will go wrong. The hygge warmth may be short lived. Trying too hard to make it perfect will only ruin it. So ease up.
  4. Read aloud. If nothing else, lighting some candles and reading aloud always works. Especially if you follow my rules for reading aloud.
  5. Finally, be yourself and let the kids be themselves. Where I go wrong often is that I try to copy someone else’s lifestyle and impose it on our homeschool. That’s never going to work. If hygge homeschooling is not for you, just admit it, move on and be thrilled with what you do have – a happy homeschooling family!

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A Capsule Wardrobe for the Homeschooling Mom

You have probably come across the phrase “capsule wardrobe” by now. It’s hard to miss. Basically, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion.

These can include skirts, trousers and jackets / cardigans, to which we then add other seasonal pieces.

I use the term rather loosely, though, as do others.

A cursory look at Pinterest will show you how much you can customize it to fit your life.

Homeschooling Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

Clearly, a homeschooling mom’s capsule wardrobe will be different from someone else’s with a desk job. It will have to be more versatile. We go from lounging around reading aloud to the children to cooking to cleaning up messes to field trips in a span of an hour.

Your wardrobe works as hard as you do.

So here are some suggestions. Obviously, these will have to be tweaked depending on the season, your own preferences and where you live.

Pants

I love jeans. You can wear them anywhere, dress them down or up. You can wear almost any kind of shoes with them – and they are endlessly versatile. Be sure to pick out a dark wash. Also, I wear boot cut jeans as a rule. (Yes, I know the skinny jeans are in fashion, but they are not a classic piece and, besides, do horrible things to your body shape and only work with certain shoes. I avoid them.)

If you like dress pants, go for it! Why not? Enjoy your clothes. I find that dress pants are a little more roomy which makes them more comfortable to wear around the home than jeans. It might feel a little odd lounging in them while checking your child’s math, but after a while, it might become second nature. You won’t know if you don’t try. (However, if you have very young children and are cleaning up spills all day long, these might be a bad idea.)


Shirts/Blouses/Tops

Choose only a handful of tops that work with both your pants and skirts. This is important. Your tops should be able to do double duty. If your top only work with one piece in your wardrobe, you then have to make the important decision of whether to keep it or not.

If you do decide to keep it, make sure it is one that is reserved for special occasions – like weddings or, I don’t know, fundraisers – or not-back-to-school parties. You get my drift.


Skirts/Shorts

I love skirts in the summer. But I also live in California. I’ve tried working with shorts and I hate them. There’s just something about my body shape that makes them never sit quite right. So make sure you try on your clothes. Be brutal about getting rid of the ones you don’t like.

Again, remember that the tops you wear should be able to work with these as well. So use those as a reference point in deciding what to keep and what to throw, if you need to.


Dresses

Dresses are perhaps the least versatile of your clothes because they just are themselves. You can’t quite make them work with other pieces and either you wear them or you don’t. As such, unless you really are a dress person, treat them carefully. 

I have a few dresses I wear to church, so I keep those in the special occasions category in my capsule wardrobe. But otherwise, unless it’s summer and I absolutely love a dress, I prefer to swap it out for a more hardworking blouse and skirt instead.


Jackets/Sweaters/Cardigans/Coats

Okay, so I’m slightly jealous of you people who get to wear lovely coats on the East coast. The closest we get to those are blazers and jackets. But to think in terms of versatility, a cardigan is probably your best best for homeschooling. I wear one almost all the time.

In the summer, I like that I feel covered even though I’m wearing a sleeveless camisole underneath with a skirt. In the winter, a slightly heavier cardigan with jeans keeps me warm. It helps me move freely whether I’m on the floor wrestling with my children, on the couch reading to them or washing dishes with my sleeves pushed up to my elbows.

Also, cardigans usually come in pretty colors and help keep the drab look out of the wardrobe. They are an essential in your capsule wardrobe.

Keep structured jackets on hand for when you want to leave the house at a moment’s notice. Nothing pulls at outfit together like a good jacket or blazer.


Accessories

Obviously, I don’t wear accessories when I’m at home, but I do love having them on hand. Scarves, earrings, necklaces, hats add depth and texture to an outfit when stepping out of the house. If you do decide to have an impromptu lunch or dinner or just happily get a few hours to yourself (because you’ve hired a mother’s helper or a sitter – hey, it can happen!) nothing will left your mood as much as being able to throw on a few pieces of jewelry and a scarf and head out.

Comfort Clothing/Nightwear/Pajamas

So I imagine it’s pretty obvious by now that no, I don’t wear pajamas or sweats all day. I’m sorry, but… no, I’m going to say this without apology: Pajamas have become the denim jumpers of homeschooling today and it’s a sad trend. Your children should not ask you where you are going if you put on pants. Just because you can homeschool in your pajamas doesn’t mean you should. 

Keep some comfort clothing in your capsule but reserve it for days when you literally do nothing. Because we work and study and learn and relax in the same environment, it helps to have clothes to compartmentalize our life. When I am dressed for work, it’s easier to focus on work.

I hope this helps you, homeschooling mom! You’re doing an important job – getting dressed in the morning is where you prepare for it. Don’t sell yourself short!

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Teaching Kids about Money

I recently came across this blog post about children and money. And it’s not just him saying it. I find this fascinating because I find that my children talk about money more than anything else – with the exception of God.

It clearly takes more than one conversation for them to learn everything to want to about money. Even simple things need repetition to sink in.

Recently I made an offhand comment about something being too expensive. So my youngest piped up that if he was president he would make things cost less.

Aha, I said, but how will you do that without taking money from the people?

I will never take money from people, mom, says my daughter who hates the very idea of taxes.

Ever the practical one, my middle son then wanted to know how much dad makes and how. Also, why does the business he works for pay him that amount and not less?

Conversation, not Textbooks

I bring this up because in this conversation, I can safely say we covered finance, ethics, economics and even some civics by the time we were done. Oh, and frugality. I ended up explaining to my youngest that my words had not been well chosen and it wasn’t that whatever we were talking about was too expensive. It was rather that I was not willing to pay so much for it because it didn’t hold the same value for me.

While we can bemoan that there isn’t the perfect curriculum in schools or even for homeschooling that teaches about money (there are – read on for suggestions) I think much of what our children learn about it is through conversation, not curriculum.


Of course there are the basics – the grammar, if you will, to cover with them. But it isn’t much.

Learning about money falls more significantly within the area of logic and rhetoric than grammar, which is perhaps why there aren’t enough “textbooks” or “curricula” about it and why they are more likely to be “skewed” in one direction or another.

Whatever your convictions about money, make sure you talk to your kids about them and talk often.

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I’m Only Happy When I’m ____________

Here’s a fill in the blank for my favorite homeschooling moms.

When I posted this article about why moms don’t manage time well, a reader wrote to me. She wanted to know if I had any suggestions for things she could so that would eliminate boredom.

Here’s my idea: fill in the blank in the title.

What makes you happy? What is it that you do that makes you happy?

There are only two criteria here:

  1. It has to be something you do, not someone else; and
  2. It has to make you come alive.

It must make you excited, like a child on Christmas morning.

You should have a visceral and noticeable reaction when you think of that thing that you would like to do.

For me, that one thing is learning. It doesn’t matter what it is that I’m learning, I feel the need for ideas swimming in my head at all times. If I don’t have that, I get bored.

For others, it might be reading or crafting or sewing. Or blogging.

Maybe for others, it’s organizing. Entertaining. Keeping a home running smoothly can also be a passion.

I have spent enough time on Pinterest to see that people are interested in different things, even ones that are not common.

You don’t have to worry about others, or even if what makes you happy is “productive.” Just find a way to indulge yourself in it every single day.

You might be amazed how at some point these discrete, various interests can come together. As an example, my love of learning and words comes together in my blogging and also helps me in our actual homeschooling.

If you’re great at organizing, you might find that it will help you organize your space and time better with your children.

If nothing else, it will help rid you of boredom, perhaps give you a side profession and improve your daily quality of life.

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Creatively Homeschooling When Your State Requires Testing

A question I often get after people read my blog concerns testing. It goes something like this:

I love the idea of being creative in our homeschooling. I like the concept of classical unschooling. But what if the state I live in requires testing? How can I still do what I want while living here?

So I thought I’d write this blog post to answer this specific question. I have by the way written about it in my book, so if you want more details, pick up a copy.

Here’s the straight answer: teach to the test.

If you live in a state that requires your child to be tested to ensure that you can continue to homeschool, teach to the test for a fraction of the week. There is nothing wrong with this.

Think about it this way. You have time on your side. You don’t have a huge bureaucracy micromanaging how you spend your days. It is not hard to come up with a schedule or a template that allows you to spend most of your days doing as little or as much as works for your family. You can be as creative and as eclectic as you would like.

Just make sure that you leave some time each week to teach to the test.

How to Teach to the Test

First, look up the laws for your state. Chances are, if you’re asking this question, you already know. But make sure you comply in that regard.

Then, get a general idea of how the test will look. Will you need someone else to administer it? Is the testing done in a public setting like a school or an exam hall?

And, lastly, what will we be testing? What is actually on the test? If you can buy sample tests like these SATs, you are all set.

Remember that the test will not be the sum total of your child’s education. You are still in control. You have the upper hand. But short of moving, if you want to make creative homeschooling work in such a situation, this is your best bet.

Oh, and don’t worry – homeschoolers handle testing very well indeed.

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The Five Joys of Winter

If you’re anything like me, you get a little thrill every time you hear the phrase Winter is coming. In fact, one of my summer loving friends (Thanks, Tes!) said it to me as I was bemoaning the heat. It lifted my spirits.

I thought I’d pay it forward.

So as we head into December, I thought I’d write a little blog post to raise the spirits of my summer-loving friends. There are joys in winter if you look hard enough.

The lighting is always great for pictures.

As a somewhat so-called amateur photographer (hey, isn’t everyone that nowadays?) I love taking pictures of my children. This is especially true in the winter because with the overcast weather, the lighting is always perfect. There is no harsh sunshine messing up the contrast. And, let’s face it, it’s a great time to get dressed up.

A good book is all the rage.

I don’t know why summer is considered the time to read. Oh wait, I know. It’s because schools are closed. But seriously – there isn’t a worse time to read than the summer. All that talk about lazy days of summer is just that. Talk. Summers are busy and long. And loud. And bright. Winter is the time to curl up with a book. A good cup of coffee (or tea) and a good book – that’s what winter is for. The neighborhood is quiet because people are in their homes, the days are shorter and life is just more peaceful in general.

Options are limited.

Oh, we love our choices. But at some point while choosing between five brands of toothpaste we realize too many choices exhaust us. Now don’t get me wrong. I love capitalism and the creativity it inspires – I have a deep respect for entrepreneurship and the market. However, I have limited time for any given task. So I appreciate the winter for automatically limiting my choices – there are only so many things that we can do when it’s cold outside and gets dark early.

It’s a good time to get back on track with homeschooling.

Apart from Christmas, there are few distractions in the winter. And once that’s over, we have that long, blessed month of January with no celebrations. I love it. It’s also a time of year most people are thinking about starting anew with their resolutions – lose weight, get on a good schedule, eat right, save money – you know what I mean. This atmosphere makes it a wonderful time to get back on track with your homeschool – especially if you’ve been winging it a bit during the holidays. January is like a fresh new week, except it’s a whole month! I look forward to it every year.

All that snuggling!

My kids tend to be all bustle and run in the summer. Even the older ones. Something about all that sunshine drives them a little crazy, I think. And people are – in general, in my anecdotal experience – more pugnacious in the summer. But in the winter, the usual prickliness vanishes and my children are the sweetest things ever. Also, ever since I’ve read this post, I’ve begun to think more about the last times and cherish them as much as the firsts.

So you see? All’s not bleak. There are joys in the winter you can look forward to. What would you add to this list?

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Frugality: What is Well Stocked?

My husband and I had a discussion/argument lately about what it means for the fridge to be “well stocked.”

Just Enough or Enough to Inspire?

My definition of well stocked tends to fall on the side of underbuying and efficiency. Like most people, we grocery shop once a week and I prefer to meal plan.

As a result, that I end up buying just what we need.

A well stocked fridge to me, therefore, is one that has exactly what we need. To my husband, it is something more. It is something that allows and inspires creativity. A well stocked fridge to him would have more than just what is necessary.

Frugal or Cheap? Or Minimalist?

A good discussion of frugality needs a good definition of what constitutes just plain cheap. When does the line get crossed?

There is much talk about minimalism today. But I wonder if some people – like myself – that are relative underbuyers end up shooting themselves in the foot with minimalism.

It is possible to buy just enough to be cheap and just enough to be creative. You have to first figure out where your personality and the culture of your family is happiest.

Implications

This idea of buying just enough has consequences across the board. In terms of learning and homeschooling, for example, are you the kind of person that is happier having a set plan and working through it all the way? Or do you like having more than you need? Does that inspire you? How about your children?

Every week, we pick up a huge stack of books from the local library. Do we read them all? No, but it’s nice to have more just in case.

My wardrobe is not minimalist, either. I don’t have too many pieces, but having just a handful that work is not me either. It feels too restrictive. I’m just beginning to learn that there is no reason why the word “few” has to follow “well chosen.”

We can leave room for inspiration while being frugal. We do not have to cross the line into being cheap.

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How to Make Your Homeschool More Efficient

I might be a teeny-tiny bit obsessed with time management. This is the reason for my love of business books. If I can find out how to do things more efficiently, I will be the first to embrace the idea.

All this is also, by the way, the reason I appreciate educating my children at home. Homeschooling is just vastly more efficient.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about juggling well inspired by Michael Gelb’s book More Balls than HandsIn the book, he differentiates between two management styles. He calls them the project finisher and the time allocater, adding that the latter is far more efficient than the former.

Efficiency in Homeschooling

All this led me to think: Well, too bad for the project finishers! Ha! No, just kidding. While I understand the draw of being a project finisher, I began to think of ways that I could incorporate aspects of time allocation into our routine.

The easiest way to do this is by using a checklist.

If you’re one of those homeschoolers who loves to finish a project, a checklist can be incredibly helpful. I have mentioned the importance of a template in our schedule before. Topping off that schedule with a checklist might just be the icing on the cake.

Why?

There are a few reasons this works. As someone who likes to see things get done and stay done, a checklist just feels right. There are people who are happy to touch a project here and another one there and let go. But I am not one of them. At least, leaving things undone leaves me with a sense of incompleteness. That translates itself into stress.

A checklist resolves that stress. Checking something off (or giving the children a sticker – or signing off on something – anything that works for your family) helps incredibly in managing my time. I know I will do the same tomorrow, but at least for today, the task is finished.

And voila! The project finisher just became a time allocater.

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“Don’t People Want a Break from Their Kids?”

One of my favorite things about running this blog is the interaction I receive on the Facebook page. Inevitably, every three months or so, I get a comment that accuses homeschoolers of being weird in one way or another.

Recently, it was this one:

Don’t people want a break from their kids? Having them around 24/7 seems a bit much.

These comments are nothing new to experienced homeschoolers, of course. And after a few years, we all develop some pretty thick skin so these barbs and arrows of outrageous questions just bounce off. But I wanted to address this question in a blog post for those of you who might be new.

So here you go. Arm yourself with these responses if you get asked the same question. (And please contribute your own at the end of this post by commenting!)

“Yes, I do want a break from my kids, but the answer isn’t sending them to a place where I have no rights and they have no freedom.”

Look, it isn’t new information that public school limits parental involvement in a child’s life. If anything, it is the family that becomes the satellite to the school. Not only that, the children themselves have no freedom when it comes to deciding what they want out of their own education. Why would you sacrifice your parental rights and the child’s freedom and curiosity on the altar of needing a break when that can be arranged just as easily by hiring a babysitter for a few hours or making other arrangements with family?

Also, children do grow up, you know. At some point, they are capable of taking care of themselves for a little while. But with the perpetual infantilization public schooling promotes, we would hardly know it.

“Our breaks are built in to our schedule.”

I take a nap every afternoon. My children know what is expected of them when friends come to visit and when I have things to attend to. They do not expect me to be holding their hands all day long. We get mental breaks and physical breaks from each other. We are people, too, and we all want to do things by ourselves. Surprise, surprise… even the children need breaks from being told what to do under adult supervision which they never get at public school. 

Homeschooling allows us to get more breaks than you would think.

“Just because we homeschool doesn’t mean we’re attached at the hip.”

It is the culture of constant adult supervision and surveillance that has inured us to this. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the constant reminders to talk to the kids when they’re little and faulty research that says the brain develops during the early years, with the push for more and more academic involvement in the preschool years, people have begun to believe some big lies. These include the lie that children cannot care for themselves.

I ignore my children. And it’s good for them. They take care of themselves for most of the day. I would argue it is only in homeschooling that we can take such a drastic step toward freedom and self reliance. Such independence is impossible in public school.

“No, actually… we’re just fine. We don’t need “breaks” from our family to keep it together.”

The idea of needing time apart is currently fashionable. While I do believe it is healthy to spend time doing something other than being with people all the time, I don’t think all of this obsession with “breaks” is healthy. Look, I get it. I’m an introvert and so is my husband. Interestingly enough, at least one of my children is also introverted.

We all get our needs met at home – even our need for breaks from each other. We’re perfectly fine being in the same room and not talking because we’re all working on something else. That is called being comfortable with each other without someone with way too much power telling us what to do every moment of the day. We’re also free to leave and go into the next room just to be alone. Try doing that in a public school setting and let me know how it works out for you.

“We get more breaks this way than we would were my kids in public school.”

Want to goof off for a day? Go to the park? Go to the museum? Watch a movie? Sick? Birthday? Vacation? Grandparents visiting? Moving? People in public school have no idea how much freedom homeschoolers get and how many more breaks we have – and by the way all this is done with less money spent per child and way more efficient education.

Instead of dancing to the tune that the school plays, we are free to make our own schedules and do what works for us. This keeps the family at the center of our lives rather than the alien institution of a school dictating things down to what we eat.

So, seriously, stop with the siren song of getting a break from our children. As homeschoolers, we get those – and way more.
Thanks, but no thanks.

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Why I am not a Minimalist

Chances are, if you’ve even thought of decluttering in the last few months of years, you’ve heard of minimalism.

There seem to be some differences between what people would consider to be a minimalist. However, this is the best definition I could find.

When you call a person a minimalist, you’re describing their interest in keeping things very simple. A minimalist prefers the minimal amount or degree of something.

And while you could argue various other definitions, the central idea of minimalism includes some degree of freedom based on fewer material possessions.

What’s Wrong With That?

So far, so good. We already live a fairly uncluttered lifestyle. We live in a small house, I tend to be fairly frugal and we hate clutter, regularly purging the home of stuff we are not using. I am not sentimental about baby clothes, broken items, things we no longer use.

But I am not a minimalist.

While there is much I agree with, I part ways with minimalism when the focus shifts from creating and adding meaning to our lives to simply owning less.

The change in the focus is what bothers me. There is a starkness in the minimalist lifestyle I just cannot wrap my self around. Sure, starkness can be beautiful in a winter landscape kind of way, but that’s hardly how I want my life to be.

Embracing Life

Some recent changes in our lives have caused me to reconsider my habits. I tend to be frugal, which is a good thing, but to be perfectly honest, I also tend to be cheap.

I tend to be an underbuyer.

As someone who forgoes or delays buying what is necessary until the very last moment and then does it only grudgingly, I tend to lose enjoyment with my loved ones because of my focus on spending less.

Sometimes, life just costs money. This is especially true when raising children. I have had to admit this.

Especially when you have been blessed with having enough, it seems almost ridiculous to attach myself to a minimalist ideal. While being a hoarder is clearly an indication of having crossed a line, there is much room in the middle.

So this is it. This is where minimalism and I must part ways.

So as we enter a time when there will clearly be some excess, I want to not think of the budget and how much everything costs. I mean, let’s face it. I know I will know. I manage the family’s finances and I always know what’s where and how much.

What I mean is I don’t want that to be the focus.

Instead, I will think about showering my children with good gifts, with time and experiences we love. Even when they cost more than I think they should.

Because time is in smaller supply than money.
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