Dropping it all

It always ends so unceremoniously, our winter school term.

At the end of last month I was faced with an extra work load of rental management (we own a house in Maine that we rent out) and tax deadlines. E-mail correspondence, documents, and financial records were the must-dos of the day and something had to go in the schedule for me to make room to attend to these responsibilities.

girl in water with net

As luck would have it, at the same time, we hit a spell of gorgeous spring weather, and that was it. School was over.

I've always found it curious how some families manage to "wrap up" their homeschooling year nice and tidy, like a package with a bow. How do you do that exactly? Somehow, the end of our elementary school term always looks like a peetering out, instead of a "putting together".

spider web in sun

I subscribe to the Brave Writer email newsletter by Julie Bogart. The Brave Writer newsletter, along with the Project-Based Homeschooling blog by Lori Pickert, are my two favorite homeschool resources right now. These homeschool mothers and writers are hitting it out of the park.

I love Julie's daily newsletter, which is mostly about homeschool writing, a subject I haven't yet shared much about here at FIMBY.

Writing is such a big topic, and our homeschool writing curriculum does not fit into a box, at all, and is therefore hard to explain and I keep dragging my heels on it. See Patricia's blog (ok, so that makes three favorite homeschool writers) for a close approximation of how I approach interest-led homeschool writing.

As I was saying... the Brave Writer newsletter... it's about writing, but it's more than that. Julie is a veteran homeschool mom with an out-of-the-box approach to writing instruction and a heart to encourage homeschooling families. I need that, ideas and encouragement.

pond sample

In a recent newsletter Julie wrote this:

Our homeschool goes something like this:

In the fall, classical education

In the winter, Charlotte Mason

In the spring, unschooling!

I think a lot of us can relate. And for those of us who start the school year on the unschooling side of things - where does that land us in the spring?

It lands us right where we are - enjoying the season with abandon.

In that same newsletter Julie writes:

Our relentless need to push our kids (and ourselves), our insecurity about what progress looks like, and our memories of school (which are distorted by time and self-doubt), lead us to miss the evidence in front of our eyes-ease in learning, happiness in subject areas, brevity in finishing a task-these are evidences of successful education.


Of course our kids will misspell or miscalculate. Of course they will sometimes use their worst handwriting or get distracted by a toddler who wants to play rather than finishing the chapter.


But that's okay too! All of it adds up to learning.


Today, instead of looking for what's missing, turn away from your fantasy homeschool vision. Notice reality.

So here's the reality I'm noticing this spring. The reality is that childhood is fleeting. I am seeing the evidence of this in my own home.

I am now living two homeschool worlds. The world of late elementary and transition to high school. And from this vantage point I can say with confidence it's ok to drop it all when spring arrives.

Because here's what happens as your kids get older...they don't want to drop it all. They are in a stage of learning where they want to apply themselves to hours of study.

boy at pond

I remind you, study does not always look like we think it will. You may have to open your mind here a bit, but when you do, you'll see it. I also remind you that if you've pushed hard on academics in childhood your young adults may do the opposite during these years.

Your children will reach a point where they are not content to spend hours a day playing. They will be ready for more... when they are ready.

So why are we rushing them towards this "readiness", rushing them towards study, when if we let it happen naturally, it will unfold in its own due time?

On the day I took these photos, my oldest was in town with her dad, working and studying. This weekly adult time at the cafe is one of her favorite activities. It is followed by another adult activity; grocery shopping on the way home. Freedom and responsibility. Growing up.

kids at stream

What constitutes a favorite afternoon for her would be boring and tedious for her younger siblings.

On the afternoon when Damien and Celine go to town I spend focused time with the younger two. We live the elementary and middle school years that we all used to experience together.

I mourn the ending of those years with my oldest but I am rejoicing in the natural progression of her learning.

She does not want to spend her afternoons exploring the pond, making mud pies in the backyard, and listening to stories on the couch. She's busy with her own projects.

It used to bother me a bit, when my kids were younger, how unceremoniously we would drop our itty bitty lessons and usual routine (which was sporadic at best) to live Spring.

pond study container

I'd look at the homeschool families around me who were ploughing through till "the end", whatever that meant, and wonder what was wrong with me, that I couldn't stick to it. And of course the fear and doubt, "how will my kids ever learn to apply themselves if I don't require it when they are little".

If I could go back and encourage myself I would. I did let go of my plans to follow our spring whims. But I did so with more internal angst than was necessary.

I can't go back to encourage me, but I can encourage you.

Your children will not always be children. They will be teens and then adults. And when they're ready for more, you won't be able to stop them. So there is no need to push the more before they are ready. Really.

Petite Cascapedia trees

As for ending our elementary school term, very unceremoniously, with the arrival of spring, I like to remind myself that a commitment to lifelong learning frees us from the need to start and end at certain times.

It also frees us up from the need to complete the workbook, complete the lessons, complete the term. Learning does not reach completion. Discreet projects and courses may be completed but the learning and application of math, writing, reading, history, etc... are not something you "finish".

During a season of school lessons (roughly fall and winter) I like having a plan to follow. I also like having this plan as a fall-back for those relaxed spring and summer months, on days or weeks when more direction and structure are needed.

I love making school plans but those are always subject to... pretty much everything else. Subject to taxes, subject to birthday weeks, subject to spring, subject to my inspiration and motivation, subject to... real life.

And what I've learned through the years is that this is ok. It doesn't mean I am raising lazy, sloth children who will never apply themselves. It means I'm raising lifelong learners who know that learning is not limited to school lessons and textbooks.

pond study science

I want to leave you with another quote from Julie's most recent encouraging newsletter. To subscribe for yourself, click here.

In the end, the book learning will come (sometimes quickly and ahead of schedule, sometimes taking a little longer, sometimes in college, sometimes not until one of your children decides to home educate his or her offspring).


Homeschooling is a performance of love between family members, over a sustained, daily, intimate period of years, led by a parent who puts relationship ahead of books.

If you're not doing so already, go forth and enjoy spring (or summer, or winter). Don't worry about the last half, or quarter of the math workbook you didn't finish. It will still be there in a couple months. But spring won't.

Finding critters in a mountain stream, digging for clay in the backyard, riding bikes on a sunny spring morning - these are fleeting. These are the elementary school lessons you don't want to miss. And it is worth dropping it all to make sure you don't.

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  • Kika

    Kika on May 24, 2013, 12:10 p.m.

    Yup. All true. First of all, I certainly appreciate/have greatly benefited from Brave Writer over the years - and more specifically, from Julie's wisdom regarding relaxing, encouraging our kids, enjoying the process and embracing who we are as moms (and as unique individuals in our own right). Secondly, yes, the time when the kids want and need and ask for more often comes suddenly and sooner than we think. My middle daughter is there and I have been resisting, wanting her to slow down but she won't have it:) Sometimes I feel like the unschoolers out there would judge me b/c it might appear I'm pushing her (I'm not) or the classical homeschoolers would judge me b/c I'm not doing 'enough' - blah! blah! blah! We are who we are and I figure this freedom we have is about loving and respecting each of our children as unique creations, supporting them, releasing them when the time is right, etc. A beautiful dance, really, if we don't allow fear to destroy it all.


    • renee

      renee on May 24, 2013, 12:16 p.m.

      Totally hear you. Ane who cares what other people think? (but i ask myself the same thing, just about different issues - like computers and technology - what would those simplicity childhood advocates say about this...)


  • Chrystal

    Chrystal on May 24, 2013, 1:12 p.m.

    Thanks so much for sharing your heart hear.  I'm very encouraged and just need to be reminded that's OK.  Cognitively, I know it's OK but in my heart, I felt a sense of relief after reading your post. 

    Blessed by your words... Chrystal


    • renee

      renee on May 24, 2013, 1:18 p.m.

      I know what you mean Chrystal. "Syncing" our head and heart, knowing something and then having the courage (from the heart) to live it - that's the challenge, isn't it?


  • Alexis

    Alexis on May 24, 2013, 2:49 p.m.

    THANK YOU! I feel like you wrote this post just for me. My oldest is 6 and we do a combo of Charlotte mason and interest led with the scales tipped towards CM. But a few weeks back, I got busy and the weather got warm and that was it for us, we dropped everything and have just been doing life since. One part of me feels a bit lazy about it all so it is so good to hear that my favourite homeschool blogger does it the same way. You are such an inspiration to this newbie! 


  • Jess

    Jess on May 24, 2013, 3:34 p.m.

    This is often the course of our school year. I do feel alot of inner angst about it. Comparing myself to other homeschooling mothers I know is never helpful. I feel so much pressure (from myself more than from others) to fit into a mold of some educational method. It's true, one month we're charlott mason, one month we're classical, and for a few unschoolers!   Thank you for the encouragment! Its so good to hear about your experience with Celine as her needs and desires change; it is helpful to look to the future and have an idea of what to expect.


  • patricia

    patricia on May 24, 2013, 3:37 p.m.

    Oh, Renee, this is wonderful. I popped over after reading a gushing mention of the post on Twitter--and then found myself mentioned along with some absolutely wonderful homeschooling writers. I'm deeply honored! 

    There is so much wisdom in this. Life evolves and shifts naturally with the seasons--why should homeschooling be any different? The beauty of homeschooling is that it can simply be life, rather than a separate thing. When life changes as the weather warms, it only makes sense that learning may look different too. 

    You make me want to head out to the river! Happy spring/summer!


  • Rana

    Rana on May 24, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

    Love this post Renee!  Our first few warm days of Spring we loaded up the car and went camping. I had our favorite read alouds and our bird and plant books and off we  went exploring.  When Summer comes we are all about the science projects and experimenting.  It's like a switch gets flipped and a different way of learning happens.  I love the elementary years of homeschooling, and I'm glad to have mentors that are forging the way through the middle/high school years to observe and reflect on.


  • Heather

    Heather on May 25, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

    Thanks for this Renee! Such a great post and a great reminder. I have a high school freshman too and you are right...they turn to different projects. Thanks for sharing encouragment with the rest of us. Time well spent today!


  • Lori

    Lori on May 25, 2013, 1:40 a.m.

    You nailed it, Renee.  N-A-I-L-E-D it!  If I wasn't sitting in my family room looking at my computer, I'd be giving you a STANDING OVATION!  Wonderful stuff here.  It was so great that I couldn't believe it just kept on going, and at one point I scrolled ahead to see how much was left so I wouldn't be disappointed when I came to the end.  I know that sounds odd, but it's true.

    Needless to say, I'm going back for a second read, and I'll be checking out all the resources you mentioned.

    My kids are 11, 8 & 8.  I think it will take my daughter longer to transition since she has the boys to play with all the time, but their play;  it's so sophisticated!  And when they find delight in something outside I let them RUN with it!

    On 3 or more occasions today of running around town (which we don't do often), my kids made the loveliest statements in the car.  "Look at the way that grass is waving on the hill; it looks like the hill is moving", "Look how pretty the full moon looks over that house"...it's music to my ears.  They are noticing things; appreciating them.

    There are lots of kinds of homeschoolers; you must know that, Renee.  But you are my kind of homeschooler.  And I'm not judging others at all who do things differently.  Truly, I'm not.  I just think that you really, really get it.  This is a beautiful lifestyle, when we allow it to be.


  • Lori @ PBH

    Lori @ PBH on May 25, 2013, 1:57 a.m.

    thank you so much, renee — i’m so proud to be mentioned alongside julie as one of your favorites. and i love her quotes that you chose. :)

    i think the more you focus on children’s deep interests, the less tethered you become to the calendar and the “school year.” learning isn’t something that happens at a particular time. as the weather warms, we move inexorably toward the garden, the meadow, the creek, and the lake. nature comes awake again (we live in a four-season area :) and we bloom right along with it. having the freedom to do that is really too wonderful.


  • angi

    angi on May 26, 2013, 4:20 a.m.

    Renee, what a great word of encouragement!  Our school year just kind of unceremonously ends also...and it's ok.  My oldest is in college, studying to be a jeweler.  I'm not sure he would have ever found that passion had we filled his time with traditional school work.  Not to say we didn't do any traditional learning, we did but it was reserved more for high school and to reach his goal of getting into this particular college.  My next 2 are in high school, the next 2 are in middle school and I have a 4 year old.  I get asked all the time when I'm going to start homeschooling her and it's such a hard question to answer.  Somehow our culture thinks that if she not being schooled she's not learning and, of course, that's just crazy.

    Thanks for the reminders!


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on May 27, 2013, 3:35 a.m.

    Yes, yes, yes! Nodding in agreement here! So much goodness here! Learning does not always look the way we think it will or should look, but it is there, especially in children that haven't been damaged by early academics and forced learning. When we can let go of our fears, we can truly see our children's enthusiasm for learning in whatever form it manifests and rejoice in it. And trust.


  • Bibi

    Bibi on May 30, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

    Newbie-to-be homeschooling mom dropping in....

    A few questions:

    1] I'm considering homeschooling our highly inquisitive li'l man [who i suspect is getting bored with 'school'] and i'm at a loss where to start.

    2] See above question

    Many thanks!


    • renee

      renee on May 30, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

      I'd love to help.

      1. See my Homeschool Coaching service.

      2. See point one. 


       Also, I have a homeschool help resource page that has been out of commission since I re-launched the blog. It's messy and not finished but you can go there and snoop around. Also, scroll through the the FIMBY Themes on the right hand side of this page. I have a lot of homeschool posts I've written over the years. 


  • Alicia

    Alicia on June 2, 2013, 9:46 p.m.


    I am so inspired by all of your posts! When I read them I feel like I'm sitting down to tea across the table from a good friend. We live on absolute opposite ends of the continent, and my surroundings are decidedly less "rural" than yours, :) but there is much is common here because of our similar views on homeschooling and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

    I am just wrapping up a book on homeschooling. It's called "Plan to Be Flexible: Designing A Homeschool Schedule and Curriculum Plan That Works for Your Family." It is my first book, although I have a background in journalism and writing. I also have a blog (thevintagecreative.com).

    Anyway, this post came right as I was finishing up my last chapter called "Homeschooling With Joy and Freedom." I love what you're saying here about school petering in and out at the end of a school year. I have been paying attention the last week or so (as many of my homeschool friends are "ending" their school years) and am witnessing them going through this battle. They long to "finish" the school term by the day they said they'd finish, but are having trouble having the kids stay faithful to all the schoolwork until the end. This is something I'm writing about in the last chapter, and your post said it so well. Would you mind if I quoted snippets of it in the book? If you'd like I can email you specifically what I'd like to include. Please email me privately if you'd like to do this. I would be more than happy to send you a copy of the book when it's completed.

    Blessings to you!



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