The Little House Living Show – Episode 021 – Minimalist Homeschooling

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The Little House Living Show – Episode 021 – Minimalist Homeschooling

Thanks for joining me for the Little House Living Show podcast! My hope for this podcast is that it will be a new way for me to connect with you, my readers, and for you to be able to listen to my words even if you are driving or having a busy workday.

Today we are going to chat all about how to be a homeschooler and a minimalist at the same time. We all know that homeschooling supplies can quickly multiply (and add up!) so here are so ideas on how to help reduce the cost and the clutter of your homeschooling!

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What’s In This Episode?

  •  The importance of minimal homeschool supplies
  • Managing books in a minimalistic way
  • Borrowing books from friends or the library
  • Sharing one set of books among multiple children
  • Exploring alternatives to physical books, such as online story time on YouTube
  • Selectively keeping books and curriculum for future use
  • Overcoming challenges with science experiments
  • Lack of necessary supplies for science experiments
  • Choosing a science curriculum with everyday and simple experiments
  • Finding alternatives to specific experiments with available resources

Links Mentioned in This Show

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Podcast Transcription

Merissa [00:00:10]:

Hello and welcome to the little house living show. This channel is for those trying to live a simpler, slower and more cost effective life. My name is Merissa and I will be your host and your friend as we journey along together other to find new tips and advice as well as lots of encouragement. Hi, guys, and welcome back to another episode of the little House living show. I’m excited to be back with you today, and today we’re going to talk about homeschooling supplies. So this is a good topic if you have been thinking about homeschooling but are concerned about the amount of stuff that you may need to have to homeschool with. And then it’s also a good topic if you are homeschooling and you just kind of feel like everything is taking over your house and taking over your life. So we’re going to talk about all those things today.

Merissa [00:01:07]:

I apologize for my voice being a little bit raspy. I’m just kind of getting over a cold that has gone on forever. So yeah, I sound a little bit funny today. But we’re going to power through and we’re going to get to this topic because I think it’s something that’s important. So a little bit of background. This I think is our 7th year homeschooling and also I am a second generation homeschooler, which means that I grew up being homeschooled as well. So I have a little bit of experience in this area and that’s why I wanted to talk to you about it today. So for us it’s important to have minimal homeschool supplies because we just don’t have tons of room to put them in.

Merissa [00:01:49]:

And I also know that when we get a little bit too much, it tends to just take over everything. So that’s why we try to keep it to a minimum. At the point where I am recording this podcast, we are still in the middle of working on getting our camper ready for traveling and just kind of figuring out where everything is going to go. So of course part of that is me trying to figure out where all of our home school supplies are going to go. So it’s been a really good reevaluation tool for me to go back through everything and see what we really need, what we’re really using and how we can work on having a little bit less. So the biggest, I don’t want to call it a mess, but the biggest thing that we kind of have with homeschooling is our books. So they take up the most space, they’re the heaviest things, they just tend to get broken or bent if they’re not in a good storage space. And so books are kind of a major part of homeschooling that can be minimalized a little bit.

Merissa [00:02:52]:

So obviously one of the really easy ways to minimalize books is just to borrow what you can. So sometimes that means borrowing from a friend or the library wherever you can find those books. So it does take a little bit more planning to be able to borrow books versus just having them at your house. You might need to reserve books ahead of time, put them on hold at the library, ask around. But if you’re really intent on having less books, that can be a really good option. Something else that we do is only have one set of books and then we take turns reading them. So this year and for the last several years, I’ve had two kids that are in the same level with history and reading. And so for all of those books, we just have one copy of each of the books and we share what we have.

Merissa [00:03:42]:

So that means that one of the kids is maybe using the reading book while the other one is using a different reading book at that time. And then we can share and swap and we can have different BOOKMARKS. But that just helps. We really don’t need two sets of books or multiple sets of books just because I have two that are at the same level with that. So that’s something that’s really helped to minimalize what we need. It’s basically like we just have a set for one kid since we can share that. So then something else that I am trying out a little bit more this year than what I’ve done in the past is to come up with alternatives to books. So my example is that my daughter is going to be using a curriculum this year that uses a ton of reading books and not reading books for her.

Merissa [00:04:31]:

These are books that will read aloud, storybooks and stuff. I just went over the first couple months of the curriculum and we need about 75 books. That’s a lot of books. It’s not something that I particularly want to buy or have the money to buy and I really don’t have the room to store it. So instead of coming up with all those books originally I was going to just get them from the library and that would have been fine. It would have been kind of complicated just because we need so many. But I ended up going on YouTube and the books that we’ll be reading are fairly common and there was a whole bunch of people that had like a story time that were reading those books aloud. So instead of buying the books, we are just going to watch those read alouds on the story time on YouTube and we’re just going to get the books that she really needs, that we need to have a physical copy of.

Merissa [00:05:25]:

But otherwise these other ones were just storybooks that were just kind of part of our week and I found them all online. So not only did that save me a ton of space with our homeschooling supplies, but I don’t have to buy 75 books this year. So that was a huge money saver as well. And then when it comes to books, try to only keep which books and curriculum you’re going to use again. So what I found is that there’s always a ton of books that we put away at the end of every year. And they go in a box, and then they go in storage, and then we have a whole bunch of these boxes of books. And I’m not always the best at deciding, like, am I actually going to use this again next year? Is this something that we enjoyed? So just being more particular about what you keep and which curriculum you’re going to use again can really save space, maybe not in your home, but in the storage areas where you might be keeping books for later. So that’s just something to consider when it comes to cleaning out books too.

Merissa [00:06:28]:

So something that has been a big struggle for our family in the last couple of years is that we’ve always had these science curriculums that have extensive experiments and I just don’t have the supplies to make these experiments. And so my kids get all excited because there’s an experiment in the book, but we need all of these little random things and not every science curriculum has come with a kit that has the supplies in it. So that’s been a pretty frustrating thing for us because I just don’t want to keep tons of supplies on hand for these experiments, especially when, say, I just need one little thumbtack for one little experiment that we’re going to have this year, but I have to buy an entire package of thumbtacks just to be able to get that one. So maybe that’s not the greatest example, but that same thing has happened over and over in the last couple of years when it comes to our science stuff. So this year I’m doing something a little bit different. I went ahead and picked a completely different science curriculum for several different reasons for us. But one of the things that I like about this is that the experiments that it has, they’re quite numerous within the book, which gets me a little bit nervous. I’m not the best at science experiments, but they’re very everyday type of science experiments, stuff that we can do with things that we have and they’re also very simple experiments.

Merissa [00:07:53]:

So they’re things that maybe like we can’t do that particular experiment but we might be able to find an alternative to that one that uses stuff that we already have. So this might not be an option for those of you that have some higher level grade kids and you need some really specific things like dissection kits and stuff like that. But for those of us that are still doing experiments and using supplies that are more just on a lower level or more everyday, there’s some options there so you don’t have to keep quite so much on hand. And that kind of goes with my next point, which is just being selective in the supplies that we decide to buy each year for our homeschool. So markers, pencils cases, notebooks, all of that kind of stuff. It’s so easy to go to Target and to see that notebooks are on sale for $0.10 this week and to want to stock up on tons of them. And if you actually have a purpose for them, that’s totally fine. But I don’t know about you.

Merissa [00:08:54]:

I always kind of get sucked into those back to school sales. And so it’s hard for me to say no to pencils and especially notebooks. Notebooks are my downfall, not for the kids, but for myself. I use so many notebooks with the blog and just things that I do around the house, but it helps to be selective in those things. So really think about how many pencils did you go through last year? Or do we need a set of markers for every single child that we’re homeschooling? Or can we get by with one set for everybody? It’s going to look a little bit different based on how you homeschool and your kids’ages, but there’s definitely some things that could probably be minimalized and not needed quite so much of. So last year I bought these, I’m not even sure what they’re called, like a rolling cart with drawers. And I was like, okay, this year everybody is going to get their own supplies and everybody’s going to have their own set of everything. Their own erasers and their own pencils and their own markers.

Merissa [00:10:00]:

So it ended up just being a big mess. Like a seriously big mess. It took over my incomplete dining room, which is where we do school. Had all these drawers. The kids would never remember to put stuff back in the right drawer. It would get lost anyway. And so we’d be using a different kid’s pencils or whatever. It was just kind of a disaster and it looked really pretty.

Merissa [00:10:23]:

It did not work out like I thought it was going to. So this year we’re going back to having one case for our pencils and that’s we share those with amongst each other. And then I’m actually not doing markers this year. I’m not a huge fan of markers. They just kind of make a mess and I feel like they bleed through every paper that we go through. So we’re doing colored pencils, regular pencils. We’ve got our glue sticks and stuff. And actually it’s just all in one case.

Merissa [00:10:49]:

So whenever we need those supplies or at the beginning of our school day, we can just pull out that one case and everybody has everything they need. I’m not buying excess. We’re not having way too much that we just don’t need. So that has been a lesson that I’ve learned as of last year. We always used to do the supplies together and then last year I thought I would switch it up and it just wasn’t the best idea. So we’re going to go back to having the supplies together again this year. Okay, so maybe you can relate to this, but one thing that always gets me really frustrated with our school stuff is the amount of paper waste that we have each year because I feel like the kids are using paper for their math problems, for their scratch work or we’re using it for English or things like that. So it adds up and it tends to be just this big mess and then you feel like you’re throwing away all this paper and spending money on stuff that you’re just throwing in the garbage.

Merissa [00:11:42]:

So I have been a little bit more intentional in the last couple of years about having small dry erase boards, and I do have one for each child. That is something that sometimes we will be doing a project together and everybody needs one, so it’s not something we can share. But we just have these small dry erase boards and I can’t even remember where I picked them up. It was probably either the Dollar Store or Walmart, and we use those anywhere that we probably would have used paper unless it’s a project that we actually need to have on paper, like something we need to cut out. Otherwise we just use those white erase boards. And I’ve followed suit in that line of thinking this year a little bit more, and I ended up buying my daughter a completely wipable school book instead of having like a regular textbook that we’re just going to throw away mid year or whenever it is that we’re done with it. I found it at Barnes and Noble and they had quite a few actually in different subjects in different ages, and I’ve actually seen some at Aldi too, recently. Our store that we went to did not have a good supply on them and so I wasn’t able to get ones that we would use.

Merissa [00:12:54]:

But I’m really excited about the wipable textbooks because she can use it over and over and over. So if we’re not understanding how to write a letter or something, we can just wipe it off and we can do it again. And I don’t have to throw away paper from her attempting over and over to get this tracing right or whatever it might be. So that’s something that I have worked on in the last couple of years and that we found to be really useful and helpful to just not have so much waste in our homeschooling. I guess it kind of goes with my next point a little bit, and that is just to use digital resources whenever you can. I talked about this in the beginning, kind of on borrowing things and maybe not having physical copies of your books or curriculum. So we still have copies of our main parts of our curriculum. So I do have paper copies of our read aloud and of our readers.

Merissa [00:13:53]:

Because for us it’s really important that the kids learn how to read on paper and not just online, but occasionally there is some online resources that we will utilize. There was like this year I think there’s a couple read aloud that I either just didn’t want to read or I didn’t have the book. And when I went to go buy it, I thought, I’m going to look it up instead and see if I can get it from somewhere online that has the audiobook so that I don’t have to read this one. Maybe I can take a break or maybe at that particular time there’s several read aloud and my voice can only go so far. And so we use an app called Scribed. I think that’s how you say it, it’s Scribd and we’ve been using that one for a couple years. And the reason is because they have so many audiobooks and my kids love listening to audiobooks all the time in the car, in their room, just all the time and it’s really cool. I used to use the I think it’s Amazon Unlimited or whatever the Amazon program is, but it’s not unlimited and you had to pay quite a bit each month and then you had to pay for the books and it may have changed since then.

Merissa [00:15:10]:

The nice thing with Scribe is that whatever they have on their website is all included in your monthly fee. And I can link that below, but I think it used to be $10 a month for Scribed and now they have a yearly plan, which was awesome. We totally switched to that because we’ve been using it for a couple of years and have really liked it. And it’s cool too, because it’s not just all like old books. There’s new books, new releases, there’s magazines, there’s all kinds of stuff on it. I tend to use it a lot, like when we’re on the road or I just don’t want to take a bunch of books along with me. And it’s been really nice too, because our local library has been really limited for what books that we can borrow and so that kind of goes with it. If you have a library that uses the Libby app and that’s something that you can utilize, that’s a really good resource as well.

Merissa [00:16:03]:

I don’t know how many audiobooks they have on it. I feel like it’s a little bit more ebooks. I know that audiobooks are included as well, but just for us, Scribed has had so many that it’s totally been worth a subscription every month. Well, every year that we pay for. So I’ll link that one in the show notes so that you can check it out and see if it’s a good fit for you guys. So last year we had all of our read alouds for school. We use sunlight for history. So there is a lot of books that are involved, which we love.

Merissa [00:16:33]:

That’s why we use it. But there was a history book that I just didn’t particularly like reading. It kind of seemed like a lot to our day. I was already doing the read alouds and reading science and everything else that came with school. So there’s this one history book that we had to read all year long and I just got tired of it. So one day I decided I was going to look it up on the Scribed app and see if they had it. Well, they had it on there as an audiobook. So for the majority of the year my kids got to listen to that as an audiobook, which was so nice for me.

Merissa [00:17:07]:

And it’s nice for them too, because they can sit at the table and they can just kind of draw or do things with their hands or fidget a little bit more while they’re listening to it. I’m fine with that. So anyway, it was a really good resource, even if it was just for that. And plus, that was a very expensive history book. Now I wish I hadn’t bought it because I could have just used it on Scribed and saved some money. But anyway, that was just an example of something that we did last year. Okay, my next thing is it kind of goes along with the being selective in the markers and pencils, and that is to just be selective in your crafting supply. Now, my caveat with this is if you are a big crafting type of person and you like to have lots of craft supplies, your kids are just really into it and they’re doing it every day, then this may not be an area that you want to limit.

Merissa [00:17:56]:

I am not particularly a big crafty person. I really hate having glitter and googly eyes and all that kind of stuff all over the place. I’m totally fine with my kids doing that elsewhere. A lot of times if someone else is watching them or if they’re going to VBS or Sunday school, then they’re going to do all that crafty stuff anyway, so they’re still getting in their crafty time. But it’s just not something that I’ve ever enjoyed having at my house. And so it’s something that we’ve limited. Now, that’s not to say that we don’t have anything at all. We definitely still have paints and we have some other supplies that maybe not as specific as like, googly eyes and glitter, but we have some of those things still.

Merissa [00:18:42]:

So if they’re just feeling the urge to paint a picture or draw with charcoal pencils or something, we still have some of those things. But it’s something that we’ve limited. And I found that limiting. That has helped hugely in the amount of home school supplies that we have because craft stuff tends to explode and it’s all over the place and it’s really hard to keep organized unless you I don’t know, buy a bunch of expensive organizers from like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby or something. So it’s just something that we have limited now. There is sometimes where we need craft supplies for school and I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing the basics. I know at some point in the year we’re going to need paints, so we always keep paints on hand. That’s fine.

Merissa [00:19:31]:

For the other items, we’ve tried to find natural items that we can use as an alternative instead of having whatever the crafty item that they’re calling for would be. So like we’ve used leaves, pine needles, pine cones, different maybe natural dyes that we’ve had either the food supply or something that we can just get out of the woods. We’ve just tried to be a little bit more creative with it and use what we have and what’s natural instead of having to buy a bunch of supplies every year. Okay, so I guess I kind of already talked about this when I talked about digital resources, but borrowing supplies from the library and other local resources. So this isn’t just books though. I found that a lot of libraries, not all of them, especially not the small ones, but a lot of libraries have these different, I guess you’d call them like a different theme kit or bag that you can take home. And I’ve seen it from some local resource places too, like maybe your local extension office or conservation district. There’s other places out there too that have kind of like a library system.

Merissa [00:20:45]:

So they’ve got some kind of kit or learning supply that you can borrow just like you would at the library and then take it home and learn about that specific topic. So one of the libraries that we currently utilize actually has these bags that you can check out and they’re on this theme of like so say there’s one that is on a cat theme, so it would be filled with books and some other learning manipulatives and stuff that would be on that theme of cats. So you can check it out. And I think ours actually are for the same time you can check out a book so you can check them out for three weeks and then when you’re done, then you just bring them back. But those can be really good resources too, especially if you’re doing unit studies or something where you just really want to dive into a particular topic and somewhere local to you has a particular study or kit on that topic. That can be a really good resource too. Okay, this is also something that I mentioned in the beginning when I talked about just having one set and taking turns, and that is to share lesson books. So we don’t really use a lot of textbooks in our homeschooling.

Merissa [00:21:49]:

It’s more hands on stuff. I don’t have a lot of write out the answer to question. We may have that when we get a little bit older, but for now, it’s just not something that’s been a big part of our schooling this year. I have a history book that we do have to have. There’s some questions in the history book, so we read a section and there’s some questions that we need to answer at the end. So there’s not tests, but there’s some questions. So what we’re doing is I only bought one copy of that book, and instead of writing in them, those questions are just going to be asked out loud. Like I said, my kids are both on the same level for history and a couple of other subjects, and so we can do that.

Merissa [00:22:34]:

So we’ll read the section in the book out loud, and then I’ll ask the questions to both of them. And when I’ve done that in the past, I like to get an answer. If it’s something that needs a longer answer, I like to get an answer from both of them. Sometimes they have different perspectives on the topic, but it usually works out really good. Now, if it was something that we did need to write down, I would probably just go ahead and use our whiteboards instead of writing it on paper that I’m just going to throw away anyway. But that has been a money saver and something that just causes me less stress is just to ask more things out loud. And part of that is just because my kids are in a more style of learning where they like to answer stuff out loud, they’re going to take it in better if they’re talking about it and we’re discussing it. That’s just kind of our learning style.

Merissa [00:23:22]:

But that’s been something that’s been helpful and has saved us a little bit of money. Okay, so the last point that I wanted to make here, or last tip that I wanted to give you, was to use real life learning instead of flashcards and books. So obviously this is something no, I was going to say it’s something that’s easier when the kids are younger, but I don’t think that’s true. This can be something for any age or any grade. And so an example like this would be, say we’re learning about fractions right now and we need to learn about fractions. And I could buy a bunch of manipulatives. I could buy flashcards that show what fractions are. We could have workbooks that have different fraction things, or we could cut up an apple and see how many sections that we cut it into and talk about fractions.

Merissa [00:24:15]:

And that’s just a really simple example. But think of all the things that kids can learn if they go grocery shopping with you or if they help you with your monthly budget. There’s so much real life learning stuff that we can take advantage of, and we don’t need to buy those extra manipulatives, those extra books and stuff. I’ve found so many times that it’s been just such a waste of my time to go through stuff with the kids in a workbook and then they just don’t get it. Like they’re just not seeing it on paper and it’s just not making sense. And then I can go into the kitchen and I can show them the same thing. Oh yeah, so we’re talking about a half. That means here’s a cup and I’m going to measure a half into this recipe and all of a sudden it’s like a light bulb went off and we understand it.

Merissa [00:25:00]:

So real life examples of things have helped tremendously. Now I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in this podcast. If you’re a follower of the blog, you do know that my kids have some learning disabilities and we have some special needs. So this is something that’s particularly helpful to us. And I don’t want to get into all of the special needs stuff here today because I’ve already kind of got this podcast a little bit longer than I wanted it to be. It’s something that I can do if you want me to in a future podcast, you can just let me know in the Q A link that I leave down below in the show notes. But otherwise that has been something that’s really helpful for us. And then I always feel like I can buy all the Flashcards that I want to buy.

Merissa [00:25:44]:

Like this year we are going to be really working on the numbers with my youngest child. She’s just not understanding what she can count, but she’s just not understanding what numbers look like and seeing them on a page. And so we’re going to work on that, but we’re going to use instead of flashcards or workbook, we’re going to use the whiteboards. And then we’re also going to use real life things. Okay, so you can count these ten gummy bears for me, count how many are here and go through the numbers and then we can have gummy bears for a treat when we’ve done that really well. And then we’re going to write the number ten on our whiteboard. Those are just things that we’ve done. Just really simple examples of ways that we’ve used real life learning instead of having to buy more curriculum and more supplies.

Merissa [00:26:28]:

So that was a lot. I feel like this podcast got a little bit longer than I expected. I guess I can talk more about homeschooling than I expected that I could, but anyway, if you have any questions on anything, just leave them near the show notes or you can always email me. My email is [email protected] and yeah, I’m happy to answer your questions on homeschooling or on other topics. So when I did the podcast before, I used to do like a little Q and A at the end. I would actually like to do a Q and A, have its whole own episode. So if you have any questions for me doesn’t have. To be related to homeschooling can be related to anything with rural living or recipes or anything like that.

Merissa [00:27:14]:

There is a link in the show notes that says Q and A and you can go ahead and put your question in there and I’m going to be gathering all of those up for a future episode where I will go through all those questions. So thank you again for listening. I’m so glad that you came along with me and I’m listen to this podcast. I hope that it was really helpful for you and I will talk to you again sooner.

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