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How Relaxed Homeschooling Helped My Daughter (and Our Garden) Grow

After giving up her rigid homeschool schedule, this mom let her child with ADHD lead the way. Now, using relaxed homeschooling, this mom helps her daughter complete worksheets and math facts, while keeping the emphasis squarely on her daughter’s passions — like gardening and composting.

We knew halfway through pre-K that public school was not going to be for us. The large classroom, too much time sitting at a desk, and too little time outdoors. There were explosive breakdowns when my daughter came home every day. We decided to try homeschooling, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Even with a background in education, I was up against ADHD and a strong-willed five-year-old.

I spent hours that August creating a curriculum for the first year. I had lessons planned out week by week, each with a different objective. There was to be art time, outside and nature learning time, and a lot of play time.

I correlated themes to the time of year and to what we were learning about in other subjects. We did have to meet certain criteria: She had to learn how to read, count by fives, and do simple addition. I was confident we would accomplish all three. Intelligence was never a concern.

[Get This Free Sample Schedule for Learning at Home]

Reconsidering the Rigid Homeschool Schedule

A few weeks in, I saw that my Type-A schedule planning was not going to work. Battle after battle ensued over whether we would do worksheets before going outside or alphabet songs before painting. No one was happy, and the stress was making it hard for any learning to take place.

About halfway through the first homeschool year, I started to think that we wouldn’t be able to do this. She was learning letters, phonics, and some sight words, but I wasn’t sure we would reach our end goals. Was it worth the endless fighting? I started to think not. None of our lessons lasted more than five minutes — ten minutes tops. I felt like I was doing her a disservice by not being able to inspire her to do more.

I had started to research “unschooling,” and the philosophy behind it appealed to me. I thought about abandoning everything I knew about planning our curriculum and letting her lead in our daily and weekly instruction, but it seemed too unstructured to work.

How Relaxed Homeschooling Has Made All the Difference

Then we decided to start a garden. I thought of a few ways to make it more educational, so I added a short video about compost to one of our school days to break up the reading assignments. After the video, my daughter asked, “Can we watch it again?” So we did.

[Click to Read This Happy Ending: “My Son Spent Most of Preschool Sitting in a Tree”]

And again. And then another video about compost. The next one was about leachate. And the next about pollution. Then we made a compost recipe of green matter and brown matter. Then we drew a compost cake. Then we made mud in the backyard. Then we decided to start a business picking up trash, so pollution wouldn’t sink into our soil and water. We made a logo for the business and went around to pick up the trash.

We spent hours learning about soil, composting, decomposers, and pollution. We learned how to type her name on the keyboard and how to copy and paste clipart. If I had gone with “our schedule,” we would have stopped with the first video and moved on, but I didn’t. I let her lead the way.

I never thought our educational garden would have inspired her so much. Our garden has helped her learn science, reading, technology, and math.

Our days now look a little more like the pictures of homeschool families I’ve scrolled through with envy. We still do our worksheets from time to time, but we now decide on which worksheets together. It has made all the difference.

[Read This Next: “How Homeschooling Saved My Smart, Curious Son”]