Mindful Homeschooling: The Bliss of Under-Scheduling

This piece originally ran in Home|School|Life magazine. It was written near the end of our summer break a few years ago, and was the impetus for the creation of Summerly Homeschool. I thought it might be appropriate to share it here, this time of year, when so many of us feel overwhelmed with the busy-ness of the holiday season. ~ Shawne

We have had a lazy summer. Not lazy in the sleeping all day, not getting anything done sort of way (though there were days like that, I admit), but lazy in the most generous sense of the word – relaxed, unstressed, the following of our bliss.

I knew going into the break that a lazy summer was what my family needed. After wrapping up a busy, hugely transitional year—classes and activities four days a week outside the home; ACT, college applications, and acceptance for our teen; a layoff and two job changes for my husband; lots of volunteer hours for me with our local homeschool group; a big move to a small house in a new neighborhood (which required a tremendous amount of downsizing); and an urgent need for me to go back to work part-time; all while continuing with our regular family and home responsibilities and making sure the 6-year-old got enough of our time and attention—we were desperately in need of down time. A bit of undisturbed quiet so that we could take a breath, get back to center and just BE together.

When June rolled around, it was like being given a fresh start. I purposely left our days unscheduled. No camps, no appointments, no need to fill in the calendar with field trips, play dates, and other planned activities. It reminded me of our early days of homeschooling, back when we did most of our homeschooling at home instead of out taking classes every day.

Our lazy summer days started gently. We slept until we woke naturally. We had breakfast together. We checked the weather forecast. And, most importantly, we checked in with each other. “What do you feel like doing today?” I’d ask. And the answer would vary depending on our moods. Some days we’d stay home and watch movies, snack, water the garden, read books, play games. Some days we’d walk to the pool. Some days we’d meet up with friends and play for hours. Some days we took day trips—what the Germans call Ausflug—to nearby places that we had always put off visiting. It was blissful and lazy because none of it was forced.

The teen, who has decided not to go off to college this fall after all, spent a lot of time sleeping, writing, and figuring out what he wants to do next. But he also spent hours and hours with us—as a family—in a way that he hadn’t for years. Relaxed, eased into the space we’d created by letting go of the “you should and we should” pressure, he was able to shake off the teen angst of the last few years and really re-connect. To a mom, that is bliss on an indescribable scale.

The summer wasn’t all lazy, of course. My husband still had to work, though now he’s working from home. I still had freelance work to do, though it wasn’t every day, and I was fortunate to have flexibility in when I sat down to focus on it. There was still laundry to wash (and fold and put away), bills to pay, and dinner to cook. But by shifting our focus, and clearing out all of the non-essential obligations, we were able to meet our family responsibilities without feeling rushed or resentful.

Now summer is winding down (tick-tock, tick-tock), and I’m wondering how to hold on to some of that under-scheduled bliss as our homeschool classes start back and our calendar starts to fill up. I’ve already seen my workload increase. I’m writing lesson plans for the classes I’m teaching. The teen is starting work. The 6-year-old has a list of all the things he wants to participate in. How do we hold on to some of the space we’ve created to let the days unfold according to our whims? How do we continue to make space for ourselves and for having down time together as a family?

For a start, I’m saying no. I’m saying no to filling every single day with classes and activities out of fear that we’ll miss out on something. I’m saying no to volunteering too much of my time simply because I like to be useful and want to be liked. I’m saying no to all of the things that no longer align with our homeschooling philosophy and who we are as a family.

I’m downsizing our busyness the same way we’ve downsized our possessions.

And by doing so, I’m saying yes to sometimes being bored. I’m saying yes to more pajama days at home. I’m saying yes to days spent sleeping in, watching movies, watering the garden. I’m saying yes to holding onto empty spaces between busy days; to being under-scheduled instead of over-scheduled. I’m taking a little of our lazy summer bliss into the rest of the year.

I know I will be better for it. My family will be better for it. And our homeschooling will be better for it. After all, a lot of learning and connecting happens in those empty spaces.

Are you feeling over-scheduled? How do you slow down and let go of the things that no longer serve you? How do you create space in your homeschooling?

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