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Mindset or Method: Relaxed Homeschooling

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By Nancy Baetz

Mindset

How do you relax? A nice, long soak in the tub? Sitting on the veranda with a cool glass of iced tea in the summer or snuggled up in your favorite afghan by the fireside in winter? Does your idea of relaxation include bare feet in the cool, soft grass, miles from civilization? Those all sound great to me, but I know there are some who would be just as relaxed in the middle of a busy coffeehouse gulping triple espressos.

Relaxation means different things to different people, but still, relaxed homeschooling sounds like an oxymoron. How can we possibly relax when our kids have so much to learn? Is being relaxed possible while we take on the serious task of home education?

When I first heard about relaxed homeschooling, it was in the context of a more child-led method as opposed to a strict "school-like" regimen. From the writings of Mary Hood, Ph.D., I learned quite a bit. She asked the question, am I a teacher or a mother? Do I live
in a home or a school? As simple as those concepts may seem, we can easily forget elementary principles about our lives and who we are.

Many have written about, and lived, this relaxed lifestyle. They don't all think the same, but therein is the beauty of it. Homeschooling in general — and relaxed homeschooling, specifically — is an individualized endeavor. It is not a method, but a mindset, and not a curriculum, but a lifestyle.

There's a lot of pressure on homeschoolers to perform, engage socially, score high on SATs and jump through hoops held high by schools, colleges, relatives and even other homeschoolers. How can a family even begin to relax with all that external tension?

Although relaxed homeschooling is a mindset, many parents already have a traditional outlook that needs to adjust in order to fully appreciate what relaxed homeschooling means. Children learn naturally without prodding or coercion. They are interested in the world around them. Does a mother worry constantly about whether her child will learn to nurse, eat solids, sit up, stand or walk? While there are some situations that cause legitimate concern, most of these milestones are achieved when the child is ready.

So why do we push, worry, fret and fume about educational milestones as much as we do? Because many of those milestones are artificial levels created for institutional settings. Why get caught up in all that? We are a family, and we can nurture our children for who they are. Many have chosen and have succeeded in raising their children in this fashion.

The day-to-day flow of family life is rich, and learning happens through life's natural rhythm. We can relax as we trust our instincts. Our own teachable spirit will help us to recognize and facilitate the uniqueness in our children. Is there peace in this mindset? I can honestly say there is.

Nancy Baetz is a mom of four who has been homeschooling for 17 years. She is the author of two e-books, Haircuts For Little Men and Homeschooling Is Our Life. You can contact her at nancybaetz@msn.com.