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Minimalist Homeschool; The MiniMize Method


In our home, we use The MiniMize Method for school. It uses minimal materials and creates a simple minimalist homeschool.

A Minimalist Homeschool with No Teacher

This completely self-taught homeschool curriculum includes a list of free open-source books. There are some workbooks, quizzes and activities created by yours truly to help your student retain the information they are studying. And lots of advice about how to MiniMize the materials, tools, and the sheer weight and volume of your homeschool. As well, it helps reduce the stress involved in educating your kiddos.

Uncluttered Space, Uncluttered Mind

In an RV, minimal stuff = maximum space.

So, why don’t we just use one of those video-based online curriculum?

Well, there’s two reasons.

The Price Tag

First, those curricula sound affordable at $30 per month.

But multiply that by 3 kids over a year’s time, and it’s just too pricey for us.

Acquiring more expenses doesn’t scream minimalist homeschool to me.

Eating Brains is Not the Same as Having Them

Then, there’s the “zombie kid” issue.

The online curriculum make my kids spacey and misbehaved.

They’ll be ignoring me while staring into space one moment and knocking holes in the walls the next.

And I might as well plop them in front of the TV to watch Sponge Bob, for all they’re retaining.

Minimalist Homeschool Method with Maximum Knowledge

However, when I expose them to the rich content found in classic books they say such intelligent things.

Sticking to devices that can be locked and used offline reduces their exposure to the brain numbing zombie effect.

Simplifying the required work and cutting out the flashy lights and noises, they seem to become living, breathing search engines.

Have you ever had a seven year-old describe a bird to you as if he were reciting from an encyclopedia?

Weird Kids are Awesome

It’s kinda weird, and oddly satisfying.

Not so satisfying if he’s describing the video game he played during school.

Though why this isn’t considered weird, I’ll never know.

Weird kids are usually smart, too.

Why Use Worksheets?

I have done nothing to be considered prestigious with the MiniMize Homeschool Resources.

What I have done is tried to answer a common question asked by numerous parents.

The question is, “How do I keep tabs on what my child is reading?”

They’re Sneaky

Parents in many situations and atmospheres ask this question in a variety of ways, expressing a variety of doubts.

After much thought and a bit of experience, I guessed that the real issue was that kids are sneaky.

Who knows if they actually read?

We hope our children are obediently reading and pondering their studies.

But sometimes we feel like the children are pulling one over on us, so to speak.

A written (or typed) assignment and a way to record the progress of the child eases that doubt for the parent.

Gauging the Reading Progress

The hardest question to answer, after “What should they learn?” and “How should they learn?”, is “Are they learning?”

As parents, Eliot and I began looking at the written work being produced by our children.

Here, we found that both Math and Writing were easily gauged.

However, not all of the books on our list had written activities available.

The Grand Search

And so the grand search began for exams, quizzes, activities, and worksheets on literature written decades ago, sometimes centuries ago.

It wasn’t an easy task, to say the least.

And then, we did something a bit off the beaten path.

Worksheets for the Minimalist Homeschool

Using the free e-books found online, we made simple, self-led worksheets for our required reading.

These supplemental activities contain copy work, multiple choice questions, short quizzes, and fill in the blank worksheets. 

Some are thorough and detailed, while others are quick and easy.

A Way to Document Performance

The goal was to create as many supplements for as many of these older books as possible.

Reading is not always studied by writing on paper, but in the mind of the child.

So, I found the worksheets helpful in documenting performance.

Now, their progress was more readily visible to me, and not just in their heads.

Isn’t That What a Minimalist Homeschool Aims For?

Well, yeah; but how do you know if that’s really happening if you can’t see it or gauge it?

Some might consider my contribution to be busy work and useless to the child.

And in no way do I presume to be an expert on the subject.

I do believe that a self-taught strategy and curriculum works fully on its own without the need for extras.

If it’s applied in the right environment.

Not All Home Schools Are the Same

However, not all home-schools begin in the exact same way.

Not all children have been shielded from unfortunate habits and behaviors taught in schools of every kind across the world.

Some have a harder time sitting down with a book.

Working Parents Can Homeschool

Not all parents are even able to find a way to stay home with their children.

But they should feel comfortable allowing their children to learn in the presence of a caretaker of their own choosing.

While the parents earn a living outside of the home the children can be learning.

The balancing act of working parents and homeschool.

You Can Tell It’s Happening

So, while the learning is invisible or you’re away while it’s happening, you can still tell that its happening.

Making these written assignments available, offers our community an alternate way to keep tabs on reading.

It offers supplemental assignments to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

How to Assemble a Minimalist Homeschool Curriculum

First of all, I need you to know that I am not an expert on minimalism.

In fact, I really don’t consider myself a minimalist.

I like my stuff way too much to truly conform to that admirable lifestyle.

I’m A Collector

While I’m better at decluttering and organizing than my husband, I am a collector.

He’s not a hoarder, but a pack rat.

And shout-out to the FlyLady App for keeping us honest!

I’m just a bit more creative about how and what I collect, especially living in a tin box with wheels.

Creating a Minimalist Homeschool

So, keeping that in mind, here’s how I would suggest you go about creating a minimalist homeschool curriculum.

The Reading List

Find or create a well-rounded reading list that covers all subjects and topics from kindergarten through high school graduation.

We have already done this for you using the open source books.

Christianity in Books

Now, be aware that many of the books on our list contain Christianity.

This is due to being written when other religions and beliefs were not as mainstream in the US.

If this is a problem for you, simply take those out of your book list.

And add in something equivalent that works for your family.

Copyright Laws and the Public Domain

Also, these books are in the public domain in the US.

If you are not in the US find out if these books are protected under your copyright laws.

Let’s stay out of trouble.

Once you’ve done this, you’re basically done creating your minimalist homeschool curriculum. After that, it’s all about using the books to learn. The next steps will help you do that.

Focus on the 3 R’s 

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (and Math) can cover all of those little niche subjects.

And I mean everything like History, Good Citizenship, Spelling, Handwriting, Algebra, Biology, etc.

Reading covers just about everything.

All that’s missing is a book to read!

Remain Calm, You’re Prepared

That reading list you created in Step 1 should allow you to do this.

But be aware of our natural human gathering instincts.

Avoid adding extra stuff that just becomes another thing to maintain.

The Details of a Minimalist Homeschool

We’re going for a simple homeschool, here; but let me expand on these subjects a bit more.

Reading –

You want your child to read every day, but anyone can write an entertaining book.

Opinionated people abridge original works.

Get rid of the dumbed-down books (abridged for “easy reading”) and the most recent popular trash.

Don’t even allow it to invade your space.

Beware of books by authors simply rehashing literature with their own skewed opinions sprinkled in.

Culture Shouldn’t Be a Shock

Don’t mind a bit of culture, though.

Part of learning is recognizing differences between people, religions, customs, and the times in which they took place.

Fill your child’s mind with quality vocabulary, grammar, and worthwhile topics.

Expect Whiny Kids

When they get used to it, they’ll stop complaining.

Those complaints just mean they’re feeling the challenge a bit.

That’s good news, because we want to stretch their minds, not let them stagnate.

A whiny kid should never call the shots.

Don’t fall for the “I don’t like it” routine. No kid “likes” school. It’s work.

Minimalist Homeschool Writing – 

Everyone’s scared of writing.

The Fear

The student says he doesn’t know what to write.

He’s afraid he’ll get it wrong or someone will judge him.

The teacher fears she won’t know how to teach or grade the writing.

Stop worrying, guys!

If your kid is reading good books (see above), writing will eventually get easier.

Writing is simply the reverse of reading.

It’s the same way that subtraction is the reverse of addition.

Not a huge deal, but you gotta know how to do both.

Just have them write anything, something every day.

Grading Writing

Make a habit of reading their writing.

Circle or highlight anything that looks off, incomplete, or is hard to understand the meaning of.

Don’t worry about going into a long-detailed explanation on why you circled it.

Make the kid think a little.

Let them ponder why that part needs more attention.

Then have them rewrite it.

Writing basics:

First draft, second draft, final draft.

It’s just the process.

Make sure your student understands this and that it has nothing to do with how well they write.

Even Stephen King follows this standard process, ya’ll.

And it’s why the Bible has so many dang editions.

How You’ll Know What They Need to Know

Your book list includes everything they need to know.

If they haven’t covered it in their reading, then you know to let it go in their writing.

Focus on the level they’re at.

If you’re not sure which level that is, look at which McGuffey’s Reader they’ve reached.

That’ll clue you in.

MiniMize Workbooks and Writing in a Minimalist Homeschool

If you use the MiniMize Workbooks (workbooks, not worksheets), keep in mind that your student is already writing.

The MiniMize Workbooks contain copy work, which is writing at its core.

Don’t overload and add another assignment if that means school goes on and on from breakfast until bedtime.

Unless they’re just being stubborn, and then let them sit there all day if you have to.

When to Schedule Extra Writing Assignments

Save the extra writing assignments for when they’re blowing through the copy work at the speed of light.

Or when you don’t have another writing assignment on the day’s agenda.

Keep it simple and you’ll avoid creating a dislike of writing in your student.

Saving Paper

Instead of printing worksheets, learn to read them as a PDF.

Then, write the answers on a blank sheet of paper.

After that, you can then scan and get rid of the handwritten work.

Time for a campfire!

Or type the answers into a Word document if your student is older and has mastered hand-eye coordination.

Arithmetic and Math in a Minimalist Homeschool 

This subject makes people run in terror.

But it doesn’t have to be that way so long as you know and understand the process.

Go in this order:

Counting

Start with counting. Count everything.

Introduce 5 numbers at a time, adding 5 more when they remember them all.

Go all the way up to 100 and then start the next step.

Also, begin practicing reading and writing numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) at this stage.

Skip Counting

After learning to count to 100, add in skip counting.

Count by 2’s, 3’s 5’s, 10’s, etc.

And keep practicing reading and writing numbers.

Math Facts in the Minimalist Homeschool

Once skip counting is mastered you’ll start memorizing the math facts up to 12.

This means memorizing problems from 1+1=2 and 1×1=1 up to 12+1=13 and 12×12=144

To greatly reduce the student’s struggle in the future as they progress through a Math textbook memorize all the facts. 

Here’s how you pull it off:

Take your time.

Start With Addition

Start by reciting the 1’s addition table, writing the 1’s addition table, and playing games like flashcards and dice games.

You can even get these 12-sided dice to cover all your tables.

Add in a new table each week until you get to the 12’s addition table.

Don’t forget to continue practicing the ones you’ve already covered.

Add in Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division

Then, do the subtraction tables, multiplication and division tables the same way.

We recite all the tables we’ve covered so far and then write the new one.

Remember, if you’re adding one table in per week, that’s 48 weeks.

Don’t get in a rush. Just keep practicing.

Mix It Up

Now, I know that at this point you’ll have been focused on math facts for at least a year. But don’t stop, yet.

Math facts are the basis of everything our students will do in Arithmetic, Mathematics, and Science.We need a little more practice.

The Blender

When you’ve gotten through all of the math fact tables, mix it all together.

Start adding in math fact worksheets.

Use timers and make it a game to see how many they can solve in a certain amount of time.

Make Math Fact Memorization THE Curriculum

I highly recommend that you do this memorization process with your student for quite some time.

You might consider making it your only kindergarten and first grade math curriculum.

When You’re Beginning Math Facts Late

If you find you’re late to the game (starting the method at an older age) don’t skip this memorization step.

You’ll save your child from years of frustration by taking the time to memorize math facts now.

Keep in mind that all Math and Science is based on this one basic step.

This is the foundation they’ll build upon!

Beginning Math Textbooks in a Minimalist Homeschool

Once the child can read fluently and has memorized the math fact tables, start them on a textbook. 

Which Math Books?

We recommend either the free Ray’s Arithmetic books, or Saxon Math beginning with the 5/4 book.

You can use Ray’s Arithmetic for free since it’s in the public domain.

Saxon Math books will cost a bit, but they can be found used at an affordable price.

The only issue with Saxon is that they don’t offer a PDF version.

Both of these are proven curriculum.

And they can be used with a self-taught method to create a simple homeschool math curriculum.

An Additional Curriculum Choice

Another thorough curriculum is Math Mammoth.

You can get the Light Blue series completely as a PDF, which is awesome.

But you’d have to supplement with another choice for Algebra through Calculus, though.

They don’t have those higher levels available, yet.

Another downside is that it is a bit pricey, though not as bad as some other stuff out there.

What About Science in the Minimalist Homeschool?

Your book list has some of the basic Science concepts covered, here.

But a word of caution!

Save the Science textbooks for later. 

Remember that Math is the language of Science.

That means all Science (Chemistry, Biology, etc.) requires a working knowledge of math through Calculus.

If Isaac Newton couldn’t do it, neither can your kid.

Don’t Waste Valuable Time

Isaac Newton had to create Calculus in order to study Physics.

Then, one must study Physics to understand Chemistry, and Chemistry for Biology.

Don’t waste valuable time by focusing on subjects that your student isn’t equipped to fully grasp.

It’s like a house of cards, and you can’t miss one and expect the structure to stand on its own.

Go In Order

Think of it this way:

You don’t expect your child to write unless they know how to read.

You can’t expect them to really learn Science until they know how to do the Math that explains it all.

Don’t Maximize The Difficulty

Adding in curriculum they can’t understand is maximizing stress, curriculum, and all sorts of stuff.

We’re shooting for minimal, remember?

Minimal effort, minimal stress, minimal subjects.

Keep your focus on Math and then Science will be a breeze.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program …

Mix it up. Reading, writing, and arithmetic complement each other!

Some Ideas

During reading activities, have your student incorporate writing and arithmetic.

The student can read their math and write the problems.

They can write the numbers as words.

Have them read a book and then write what they remember.

More Ideas

Teach them how to grade their own papers; that’s reading, writing, and arithmetic!

Tell them to write a paper with a specific number of words or paragraphs.

There’s lots of ways to do this.

At the bare basics, mixing these three subjects together is what we do on a daily basis.

Even when we aren’t in school.

Convert to a Digital, Paperless School in Stages for a Minimalist Homeschool

To begin with, your child will need to learn and practice how to physically write with a pencil (or pen) and paper. 

It’s a basic way to train and develop hand-eye coordination, among other factors.

Elementary School Age

Reduce paper clutter by using a scanning device to record the papers your child writes.

Store the documents in the cloud.

Then, get rid of the hard copies when possible.

(Hello, campfire!)

A nice opportunity to reduce paper clutter.

Middle School Age

Around middle-school age, start incorporating the use of Word documents instead of pencils and paper.

They’ll still need some handwritten assignments, but you can begin whittling that down a bit.

And don’t forget to begin learning about internet safety if you begin allowing them to spend unsupervised time online.

High School Age

Consider having your student learn to create and maintain a website for their schoolwork a little before or during high-school.

From there they can study the different forms of creating content.

And they can actively learn about etiquette on the internet in addition to their regular studies.

Their website can come in handy as a portfolio when submitting college applications.

One last thing!

If your student has begun doing their schoolwork in a completely digital format, that’s great.

But if you notice that their retention of the material has lessened; go back to physical writing.

Scan the work or require them to physically write the first and second drafts before typing the final draft.

A Few More Points

Remember, writing things down helps you remember.

Don’t believe me?

Consider the grocery list scenario:

  • Writing a list and taking it with you helps you remember everything you need.
  • Writing one and forgetting it at home means you might forget a few things, but you’ll get the majority of what you need.
  • Not writing a list at all means you’re having Oreos and spaghetti without the sauce for dinner. And you’re using all those papers you haven’t scanned as toilet paper.

That’s All, Folks!

That’s everything I can think of right now that you need to create a minimalist homeschool curriculum.

If you’re interested in finding out more on setting up a minimalist homeschool, check out what they have to say over at This Simple Balance. They’ve got some great tips on minimalism and relaxed homeschooling in general.

Now, Go Chuck Your Homeschool Supplies!

Can you think of other creative ways to MiniMize homeschool? Did we miss a step that could make it easier or even more affordable? Let us know in the comments!

Want to know where to find cheap eBooks? Check out this post.

Mindy

Mindy is retired as a corporate office professional, where the whole of her '20's was spent in sales and sales/marketing support. She currently spends her time as a housewife and mother, writing articles of a rambling nature, and schooling her four children. Mindy enjoys reading and has a plethora of musical whimsy, which she inflicts on her family in spite of their pleas. Her favorite quote is written by Dr. Arthur Robinson stating that "People who can think do so with their brains."

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