Relaxed Learning

After spending years fighting for accommodations, educating staff, attempting to protect some children from endless bullying, apathetic administrations, and ableist attitudes,I pulled my kids from public school. They’ve never been happier, more social, or more engaged in their learning.

What kind of home-schoolers are we?

We are secular. 

I do not home school for religious reasons and religion is not a part of our day.

We are “relaxed.”

There are no tests or quizzes.

There are no grades (so no report cards).

We are evaluated and given guidance via an umbrella school authorized to do so by Maryland law.

We use practically no workbooks with some occasional exceptions for math and handwriting.

Textbooks are used for reference, they get the most attention when I feel a need to dust them.

I do not use a packaged curriculum.

I do not lecture.

I consider myself a facilitator of learning and manager of our environment.  Lessons are one on one as the child needs them.

We are eclectic.

I pull from many sources to cover our subjects both hands on, online tools and games, video, and traditional books. I am always trying new methods of facilitating learning.


Playing a food web game counts for hands on.

Some typical questions are:

If you do not use a packaged curriculum, how do you decide what to teach?

I decide what to focus on depending on the individual child.

Where they are in THEIR learning and what their strengths and challenges are determines how I set their schedule, the amount of one on one time they get, and the kinds of materials they use.

For example, one child is a grade ahead in math, but her reading comprehension is somewhat behind her typical peers and has been since her public school days. Her reading then is geared for a younger set.

On the other hand, her older brother reads at college level, and has significant difficulty with some maths. He is working on both at the grade level ability he currently has for each.


Little Bee looks at pond water microorganisms with her brother’s microscope.

Wow, you sound like unschoolers!

I get this from non-homeschoolers.  We are “relaxed”homeschoolers,

How is “relaxed” different from unschooling?

We have a structured school week with specific time allotments for specific subjects. That makes us  not unschoolers.

For example,  for my eldest son, he needs to write for an hour a day. What he wants to write is up to him, even when he wants to do it, but it has to get done. He also has assignments.  This fall I want him to practice making power point presentations.  I don’t care about what he wants to make it about, or what time of day he wants to work, but he will have a deadline for drafts.

Same thing goes for math, non fiction reading, literature, and for choosing his hands on work.

Things are different for two of my children.

They need (and one actually desires) more structure.

How do you homeschool a child with serious communication difficulties?

As soon as I get things set up for our school year, I’ll post pictures/possibly a video of our work room (on the main blog and also here)  I began “working” with my autistic son Pete when he aged out of early intervention. Back then it was simple toys and sorting, matching and stacking tasks for fifteen minutes after breakfast at the kitchen table.

Things have morphed considerably in terms of how I teach but hands on work tasks are still at the core of the approach I take with him and his other sibling with communication problems.

What makes a good work task?

It has to be motivating/rewarding in some manner.

It has to have a clear beginning and end, and ideally, be visually self checking.

Montessori work often has these components, so there are a great deal of Montessori materials in our workroom.


Pete works on “parts of butterfly” Montessori three part nomenclature and definition cards.

3 thoughts on “Relaxed Learning

  1. David says:

    This sounds awesome. You made me wish that we could join you guys for a day or two – having so many kids is so different to the experience my son has, being an only child and homeschooling.

  2. Candace says:

    Hi! Nice to “meet” you! 🙂 You commented on our blog last night, so I thought I’d come learn a little about your family. I love how you homeschool! While I would love to try it (and I do some things unstructured like this) I do still use a curriculum and a lot of workbooks to pull their work from. Having said that, we also never use but a portion of the workbooks, they just serve to kind of keep me on track. I was a public school teacher before I started homeschooling, so I have a hard time letting the “traditional” school model go completely. 🙂 I admire your method though and I look forward to learning more about it through your blog. 🙂

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