mom in grocery store with daughter, holding her hand while pushing the cart

Inside: The pressure a new homeschooler feels to make every little thing “educational” is so strong and so real. But guess what? Real, amazing learning is happening all the time without you needing to make it happen. Here’s your permission to take the pressure off.

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed – something I’m trying to do less of these days, because, well, Facebook – and I noticed a mom putting out a call for ideas.

They were going to be cutting down trees on their family property, and she wanted input on how to turn it into a learning experience for her kiddos.

I don’t know whether she was a homeschool mom or not, whether or not they were virtual schoolers, or just planning on not doing much other “regular” schoolwork while this was going on? 

Whatever her reasons, I sensed that she definitely wanted to make this educational, and I’m sure she did a great job. She got so many quality responses, all kinds of ways to study trees, jobs cutting down trees, what would happen if the trees fell on the house, home insurance, the cost of tree removal, etc.

They were all GREAT ideas, and it was totally fine for this mama to make this a learning experience.

But the minute I saw her post, I immediately felt a strong sense of déjà vu, flash backs to my early homeschool days, days filled with pressure to make learning happen all.the.time.

Related: Relaxed Homeschooling v. Unschooling. What’s the Difference?

mom sitting at kitchen island with two daughters teaching them to cook

When You First Start Homeschooling, The Pressure to Make Everything Educational Is Strong.

I used to do this kind of thing all the time, especially when I was a new homeschooler. Pretty much every waking minute, I was trying to turn things into an “educational experience”.

I felt SO much pressure to make everything in our life a super-charged learning experience, pressure that I felt only because I homeschooled. I believed the lie that because my kids weren’t in school 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. most days, I needed to turn every waking hour into an educational experience.

(You better believe that parents with kids in school don’t feel the same kind of pressure to make everything a super educational activity/experience.)

It was exhausting.

And more than half the time, my kids weren’t even into it.

Their eyes would glaze over if they weren’t interested in the subject. I could see the eyes glazing, but I would press on anyway.

Why? Because I was freaking determined that they would know exactly how much two pounds of tomatoes would cost at X price per pound.

Why? Because we were at the grocery store, darn it, and you better believe if I had gone to the effort of dragging four kids to the store, we were going to do some math!

But sometimes a lot of time, my kids just wanted to BE. They wanted to have the experience, learn whatever they were going to learn by osmosis, and appreciate the experience for what it was – without the artificial, mom-driven learning that didn’t really matter to them at the moment.

And if it didn’t matter to them in the moment, they probably wouldn’t retain it anyway.

So I was basically wasting my energy and my breath.

Related: 20 Brilliant Homeschooling Tips I Wish I’d Had When I Started

three generation happy asian family walking outdoors in park

Consider This Permission to Take the Pressure Off

Eventually, I relaxed.

I started following my intuition on whether or not to offer up additional facts during an outing, or I committed to only answering questions that came up. And you bet there were plenty of those!

But only when I let them come naturally, based purely on their curiosity. Not from my crazy idea that they needed to practice math today because grocery store outing = math practice, always and forever amen.

Now there is nothing wrong with turning something into a learning experience. I still do it occasionally.

But the point is this:

You can take the pressure off. You don’t need to turn everything in life into an educational experience.

Now if something educational that’s related to an experience truly fascinates you, if you’re passionate about it? By all means, share it with your kids!

You don’t need to stop sharing things with them, offering opinions or facts altogether.

But you can feel free to drop the artificial, exhausting “I feel pressure to make this a learning experience just because we homeschool” kind of learning. You can tell the difference after a while, with time and practice.

It takes time to stop trying so hard at this whole homeschool thing, sometimes years. I’m going into year seven, and I only now do I finally feel like I’ve left those days of trying too hard behind me.

Plus, we’re at the point now where my kids will just stop me (gently, but firmly) and say, “Mom, we’re not really interested in that right now. We were done with that topic ten minutes ago,” and I stop my long lecture on XYZ subject.

So rest easy. Take the pressure off. 

mom and dad carrying school-aged child through field in fall

Live Your Amazing Homeschool Life. Enjoy Your Kids.

You can be at the beach without talking about high tides and low tides, or erosion and flooding. You can just enjoy the beach, even during the school year – really.

You can go to the grocery store and just SHOP. You don’t need to turn everything into a math problem. (Or better yet, you can actually leave the kids at home with your spouse because it’s o.k. to go by yourself.)

You can go on a nature walk and let your kids discover what they want to discover, notice what they want to notice, with you in the background enjoying your walk, saying absolutely nothing.

After deschooling, once their natural curiosity has returned full force, you can trust that curiosity. You can lean into it and run with it.

Your kids will still be learning a TON just by living your relaxed homeschool lifestyle, at home with you, day in and day out, doing shockingly normal, everyday things.

And living life with your kiddos is far more enjoyable when you’re not trying to make everything educational.

Read Next: The Number That Completely Changed How I Choose Our Read-Alouds

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