November 6, 2013

Peace in Simplicity

A kid-built tent city appeared after a homeschool lesson on nomads.

Anyone who reads my blogs knows that I love Pinterest. I am an idea girl, and so I love finding new ideas and inspiration!

Recently, I have been more self-disciplined and don't just go there to browse. I make sure I only go there when looking for something specific-- and that has been a huge help in reducing how much time I spend online.

One of the things I use Pinterest the most for is for my homeschool. WOW!!! There are so many great resources for teaching my kids out there! I also find inspiring articles and quotes that keep me excited and motivated.


There is a danger lurking in all those amazing homeschool boards, pins, and ideas that anyone can fall prey to if we're not careful...

"Comparison is the thief of joy"

If we were all as fabulous as our Pinterest boards make us appear to be, we would no longer need to pin, read, save, or go back to that wonderful website again and again. I'm sure there are some awesome women out there who have done everything you see on their boards, but I don't personally know of any. And I'm definitely not one of them!!!

There are days when I will start to follow someone's homeschool board that is full of all kinds of systems for organizing papers and lesson plans, and though it all looks like it's so easy and orderly, I begin to get a tiny knot in my stomach. As the panic in my throat rises, I take a deep breath and look elsewhere.

Complexity = Burnout

"I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity… but I’d give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
I don't believe that the amount of papers I have in a file cabinet or that my children have shoved in binders is a good indication of how "educated" they are. But when I ponder on that idea, I realize that philosophy is exactly what the outside world thinks! 

Of course, this doesn't mean that we don't have papers in files-- we do! And my kids each have their own school binder (as do I) that we use to store important things we are learning about.

The difference is that I know don't need a complex system in order to homeschool well. And let me tell you, I have tried MANY filing systems, planners, and organizers over the fourteen years I've been homeschooling! I've even created all kinds of spreadsheets, folders, and planner pages that in the end, just got thrown out in the midst of us getting down to the real business of learning.

Cui Bono?

If we feel that we must serve or follow a system or we're not homeschooling "right," then we are completely missing the joy and liberty that homeschooling can bring to a family! Any "system" or philosophy we use should serve US, not the other way around.

Whenever I get paralyzed by the dazzle and shine of someone else's fabulous plans, I have to ask myself: Cui Bono? Who benefits when I try and shove my square little self into someone else's round hole?

NO ONE. Not me, and especially not my kids. So while pinning uber-organizing filing systems may help me look like the amazing homeschool mom I want everyone to think I am, it does absolutely nothing for my mental health or for my efforts to teach and inspire my kids.

Ahhhh! That's better.

True Education

True education can-- and never will be-- accurately measured by the amount of paper clutter anyone stores. True education can only be seen in the character of a person's life, in their devotion to God, in their defense of truth, in their treatment of others, and in their love of learning. 

I love this quote by Albert Einstein:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."
Those who have strong imaginations and a thirst for knowledge are the truly learned. They can adapt to any situation, and are not afraid to try new things, to experiment, and even-- yes-- to FAIL. But they are the people who get back up, dust themselves off, and try again. And again. And again.

The process above is called learning. And we, as parents, have to be careful in how we tread. Again, "Cui bono?" Are we teaching our kids in a way acceptable to others so that WE will look good? Are we so caught up in the idea of "proving that homeschool works," that we forget why we're homeschooling in the first place??? (I think we all know it isn't for the Jones', folks!)

So yes, while all the organizing and filing of papers can make the world think we're doing things "right," (and might even make us moms feel like we have it all "together,") it will never-- NEVER-- result in a better education for our children.

Rachel is the happy mother of twelve children between the ages of 19 and one year old. She has two homeschool graduates and missionaries! Her eldest daughter is serving a service mission for the LDS Church in Idaho, and her eldest son will be serving a full-time proselyting LDS mission in the Washington Spokane mission after entering the Provo MTC on January 1st. 

As Rachel enters her fifteenth year of homeschooling, she continues to be an enthusiastic advocate for Thomas Jefferson Education principles and has spoken at several homeschool and TJEd conferences. She enjoys Shakespeare and has created an entire Shakespeare curriculum for homeschoolers and/or homeschool groups, now available at She blogs at Thoughts From The Hearth and at Old Fashioned Motherhood .

8 comments - Add a comment below -:

Anaise said...

I so, so, so identify with trying to make other people's great ideas work as my own--as if their plans are better, cuter, more inspiring than mine. It has never worked to try to make my family fit the mold of another family. On the other hand, I've studied the great systems others use to open my brain to the inspiration I need for my own family. (I've used your ideas often, by the way!)

And I agree--simpler is always better!!!

Carlia said...

Wow! Thank you so much for that post~ I needed to read it...I compare myself waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much with other women. I know what works with my children and that's what I should focus on, not some fancy, sparkly, newfangled system I see somewhere else. Our most joyful days are the ones that are the most simple - days we spend reading together, taking walks, making bread, visiting people. I know when I feel stressed about homeschooling that something needs to change. It should definitely be a joyful experience! Not a dreadful one!

JessieMomma said...

Thank you for this timely reminder! We are brand new to the world of Homeschooling and sometimes the expectations can be extremely overwhelming.

BTW, I'm in the Spokane WA mission, maybe I will be able to meet your son. I know your he will be loved and cared for here, we have a wonderful Mission President! Thank you for raising amazing kids.

Mama Rachel said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies!

Anaise, you're right-- it is good to get inspired ideas from others, but I know that I, for one, often take it waaay too far. :-p I'm glad to know that some of my ideas have inspired you! :-)

JessieMomma, THANK YOU! I am excited that my boy is going to a place with so many good people. I hope you do get to meet him! (Look for an Elder Keppner from Arizona beginning around mid-January. ;-D)

Carrie said...

I so needed to hear this!!! This is our 3rd year homeschooling and we have done something different each year in my quest to do it "right". This year we are getting closer to what I wanted to do to begin with (TJed-it has been so hard to get off the conveyor belt...)! When I simplify and let go of the worry we learn. The more fancy I get, the more I stress. When we read we learn and love it. Thank you for sharing! I needed the reminder. :)

Nita said...

Pinterest is addictive. I mean who doesn't love pictures. But it does have some great resource links there.

redkitchen said...

Great post! You are so right about finding what works for your family and sticking with it. It's great to bounce ideas off one another, while always remembering that we are free to do what works best for our children.

Kathy Simkins said...

I home schooled my 2 sons when that was nearly unheard of. They were both Eagle Scouts and now have lives filled with helping other people. One son is an RN and is still going to college to further his education. The other is on the fire department and is always helping someone.
I learned 2 important things homeschooling: 1- Kids are like sponges and will absorb anything if you let them "tune in". To that end I allowed TV to be on during school time as long as it was on the educational channels. And the best place to get textbooks is Deseret Industries. If they are not offering a certain course at the local college the next term the college bookstore will not buy back the books. They often end up in D.I. alot! And never tell your student what "grade or level" a book is for. That throws a monkey wrench in things. I borrowed a couple of science books from our local school. My boys were 13 and 14 at the time. The science teacher told me that the only books he had available were often too hard for the seniors in the school. There were 2 volumes and they never finished either volume during the school year. I took the books home and went to the glossary. And I quizzed my boys on all the technical terms. I kept the books for 2 weeks before I returned them to the teacher. His comment was, "Too hard for them huh?" I asked if he wanted the truth. And then explained that there were only 15 technical terms that we needed to refresh ourselves on. Other than that we had it down. And I kept the books to keep him from feeling bad.
The 2nd important thing I learned is that it isn't what you teach that is important. The important thing is that you teach "How to learn". Find what works for your student. Mine never felt comfortable sitting at a desk. They got that from their father we had learning disabilities and Post Polio syndrome. Let them learn the way that suits them. Get something they are interested in. Our dyslexic son did so much better when it was a subscription to Hot Rod magazine that he was reading than sports and cowboy books.
Just enjoy the ride and keep learning yourself and your students will learn, grow and blossom! I am helping my 10 grandchildren get through the process now. Love it all!llsromot 403