That whole No Spend experience of mine is part of experiencing a Depth Year, as coined by David Caine.
No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
You read your unread books, or even reread your favorites. You pick up the guitar again and get better at it, instead of taking up the harmonica. You finish the Gordon Ramsey Masterclass you started in April, despite your fascination with the new Annie Leibovitz one, even though it’s on sale.
The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.”
As part of this, I’m not only reading my pile of unread books, but I’ve started going through my business to simplify, organise and empower.
I’ve discovered I have over 200 blog posts in draft in various stages of completion… dating back to 2010 (!!!!!)
I’m going through them, killing off what doesn’t work, making beautiful those that do.
Here’s one I wrote over a year ago on becoming a homeschooling mama, and that tremendous transition.
I hope you find it useful!
Hey party people,
Six months in of homeschooling: what is it like? Did it measure up to what I thought it would be? Was it harder? Easier? Am I ready to quit? Do I miss school? What kind of homeschooling do I do? What are my surprise resources?
I felt like it would be enjoyable to sit down and share my thoughts and feelings about all of this. A little note for the time capsule of right here, right now. This moment, only once.
So, honestly, I can hand-on-my-heart swear:
This has been the best six months, EVER. Hands down, it’s been my most joyful parenting experience for me of my life so far. I was NOT expecting this.
I went into this purely as a 6 month trial. I decided to do it because it was something I’d always wanted to try, even since before babies. We also were considering moving to an area that didn’t have Waldorf/Steiner schooling options. We thought now would be a good time to try it, and if it didn’t work we’d happily re-enrol in a school (probably Steiner).
I had major doubts about how it would work. Mostly, that revolved around trying to know whether it would just kill me as an introvert, company owner and creative soul who loves nothing more than alone time. I wasn’t sure how I would go with juggling my own needs with running my businesses and homeschooling.
I recognise I am in a remarkably privileged position.
I’ve worked for the last 13 years to create income streams that provide us with more than enough income without having to work long hours. That was always my goal, and how I’ve set up my businesses. In 2004 when I first started blogging and exploring how to build a business, my goal was always front of mind: Make an income so that when I DO have kids, I never have to go to work and can just be with them. I was 22 at the time, and didn’t have kids planned for the next 5 years, but it was an obsessive, burning fire in me. What I wanted was crystal clear in my mind. That kind of fastidious focus and determination has paid off. My businesses HAVE to be Family-Focussed, or they need to be fucked right off and replaced with something that is.
So, yes. I’m privileged in terms of homeschooling because we don’t have financial concerns, and my co-parent is at home with us as well. I know those can be two big stressors for a lot of homeschooling families.
I still had concerns however about how I would manage to cram it all in, when I already felt like I was moving pretty fast through the day to get it all in. And if it would just crush me and give me anxiety because I LOVE ALL THE ALONE TIME.
Before I made the decision to do it, I talked to a bunch of my mates who homeschooled. I’m grateful that I know so many peeps who do!
I also joined a stack of Facebook groups for homeschoolers and asked for advice in there as well. All their support and sage advice helped make the leap so much easier.
Mostly, they reassured me that:
- it was entirely doable
- I didn’t need to sacrifice my whole self in order to do it
- I could still build in self care and time for my business.
We talked to our children about homeschooling, what it meant, what it would look like, and whether they would be interested in doing it.
It was a resounding YES from them, and so we leapt into the great unknown.
Those first few weeks felt like a fragile kind of elation, like a baby bird just taking wing for the first time.
I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, but we threw everything at the wall to see what it all looked like and felt like. Mostly, we were all just floating about on a great cloud of freedom. Suddenly… we had TIME together.
Time to go dance in the autumn leaves and inspect them up close.
Time to walk through the hills at a leisurely pace.
Time to go watch the sunset every day from the hill just above our suburb.
Drunk on joy and moments and each other.
Each evening, I would fall asleep early, exhausted to my bones. I felt like I had started a new job in a new industry with a steep learning curve. And I had! I spent any time that wasn’t homeschooling dedicated to learning about homeschooling… books, forums, videos, curriculum.
It eased as the days, weeks, months fell away and I found my rhythm and dance with homeschooling.
Most of all though, I felt like I had my eyes scrubbed clean and I could see
just how much my children had already grown. just how little time I do have with them before they will fly this nest of ours. just how much I want to be there, soaking up every moment with them.
Something even bigger happened:
I can barely explain it. I can’t say it was homeschooling. I can’t say it was anything but this:
I feel like I was given a parenting uplevel by the angels.
I felt like Divine Mothering Love was pouring over me, and through me to my children. It washed into every part of me, healing the disconnected mother in me, repairing the places where I felt frustrated before. Suddenly I went from the cranky mum trying to shake her kids off at bedtime to escape to the lounge for Mummy Time In Front Of The TV to being that mum who stays to sniff their heads and laugh a little longer with them. I became pierced open to all the loveliness and joy of childhood in a way I hadn’t been able to before. It was so real and powerful that each night I went to bed and prayed that it wouldn’t end.
Again: I can NOT claim that this was caused by homeschooling. I don’t know what in the holy fuck caused it. I only know that it happened, and I could cry right now just feeling how grateful I am that it did, and that it stayed.
I was sitting on my toilet (YEP) yesterday actually… and looked at the dreamboard that I have had sitting on the toilet door for 18 months… and realised with a start that I had called this in.
Along this whole path, I feel so grateful for all those that had already walked this path, and shared it with me, whether in books, forums or friendly chats.
Useful Books For Parents To Read
I immersed myself into reading about homeschooling… I thought I’d share the ones I found the most helpful!
Beverley Paine’s collection of books and booklets. I met Beverley years ago at an Unschooling Convention and was touched by her wisdom and grace. That echoes through in her books.
How To Homeschool: Sarah Janisse Brown
Simple but powerful!
Learning Resources That We Adore
As most homeschoolers do, I bought a stack of resources and curriculum. Some worked great for us, others didn’t.
I thought I would follow an all-in-one Steiner curriculum much more strictly than I have (i.e. at all). To me, it has just felt a lot more alive + exciting for all of us to use a range of learning resources and adapt them as we need.
I keep an eye on the Australian Curriculum guidelines, and also found these Curriculum-aligned yearly goals guides useful in terms of making sense of what the Australian Curriculum actually MEANS in practical terms.
A basic outline of some of the resources we use for different subjects:
- English – Reading Eggs (bought the whole kit with books, workbooks and software). One of my kids has developed an obsession with audiobooks – Borrowbox which is a free audiobook lending service provided by our library system has been invaluable. (Check if your local library offers it too!) The Alphabet by Reg Down was a fun intro book to letters as well.
- Maths – Mathseeds (same as above – they are created by the same company). A bunch of math apps including Quick Math Jnr and all of the Khan Academy‘s apps.
- Art – Artventure + Art Hub 4 Kids.
- Science – Magic School Bus TV series + books.
- Social Sciences – Magic Tree House book series. The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. We take a “living book” approach to learning history.
- P.E. – Horse riding lessons! BEST P.E. LESSON EVERRRRRRRRR!
- Every subject – We do a lot of readalouds together, and created a Libib library catalogue of our home library (1200 books and counting). We registered as a homeschool with Scholastic and in the GREATEST WET DREAM OF MY LIFE, I now get sent those adorable book catalogues a bunch of times each year and fill any gaps we might have in our home library. I don’t follow their curriculum closely, but find that Build Your Library has good book recommendations.
This has been one of our most surprising “textbooks”.
I read it out to them over dinner, discussing each one, finding their country on the globe, doing further research on the people we are really fascinated by. It helps having Google Home too for dinner time research, we just say “OK Google play the music of Maria Callas” and listen as our little robot plays us her opera music from 70 years ago. Ostara begs to read more stories. She says it’s her favourite because “it is full of stories of girls doing brave things and it makes me feel good.” I just saw they are bringing out a second volume thank goodness… it’s been a revelation for all of us!
Things That Weren’t As Useful As I Thought They Would Be
- Buying all-in-one curriculum. I made the typical rookie error of buying a lot to try and work out which one was best before realising that none was the right answer for us.
- Borrowing books from the library. I thought we would be there a lot more, but honestly, I much prefer just buying the books. Less stress about losing them amongst the great piles of books teetering everywhere in our home, and having to finish them on time. The library HAS however been awesome in giving us a subscription to a bunch of digital services including Borrowbox so weeeeeee! WIN!
Want to know even more about our homeschooling journey?
Head here to grab a free ebook I wrote about it!
So hope this has been useful for you if you are considering (or already doing!) homeschooling.