Homeschooling and minimalism go together like road trips and sing-alongs (or coffee and the morning). We will be blogging a lot about this in 2018, as leading a minimalist lifestyle can make everything better in life, and in homeschooling in particular, as families are often pressured to jam-pack life full to the brim, with curriculum, and classes, and workshops, and everything else. If there is any time of the year that minimalism is tested to the limits, it is the holiday of all holidays in this part of the world, where consumerism has overtaken the real meaning of Christmas (whatever that has become for you and your family) and the pressure to buy is omnipresent. This is one of our first Christmases where we have made a conscious decision to be as minimalist as possible - so here are 5 ways that we are having a minimalist Christmas.
1. Embracing Christmas with all its bells and whistles!
And here you thought minimalism was about less! For us minimalism is about buying less, consuming less, wasting less and having less things clogging up life, to make room for what we want more of! Experiences. Relaxation. Family. Time together. In the last few weeks we have piled on the Christmas cheer! think days cuddled up with the little ones, watching old Christmas movies with a big bowl of home-made popcorn, putting Christmas-scented pure essential oils in the oil burner (cloves, nutmeg and those types of things), making ginger-bread people from scratch, recycling any packaging (there is bound to be at least some, from a well-meaning relative) to make Christmas decorations. We have even learned Christmas songs so that one of our teens can go busking. Feel free to lay on the Christmas cheer!
2. Making Christmas about family and friends
I read a quote in an incredible book by Colin Beavan (aka. No Impact Man) who undertook a one-year experiment to try to live without any negative environmental impact. Beavan said that after a year, he learned that much of consumerism was about buying something so that you could feel better about yourself, or make somebody else feel good about you, so that you could establish or cement human connections. In short - we are buying so that we can be loved and accepted. In their year of no-impact living, his family concentrated on making connections without the consumption. Just being with their friends and family. Putting away the TV so that they could eat freshly-baked sourdough together, with a game of monopoly. Or taking a ride to the park to feed the swans. Or going to the local swimming pool with a packed lunch. A 'special Christmas movies afternoon' with friends looks much like a normal afternoon movies session with families. It costs nothing and makes Christmas extra special.
3. Gifting experiences
A big part of our motivation to live with less 'stuff' is environmental improvement. Or at least, reducing our own environmental footprint. The biggest gift to our children is leaving them with a world where they can still safely drink water and swim in our oceans. And the possibility of that gift is sadly diminishing each day. For us, it is a huge priority to not contribute to landfill during the year, and the best way that we have found to do this, is to create or buy experiences. For little ones, a teddy bear's picnic in the park is absolutely free. For our teens, things like vouchers to the movies, skating, or to see plays or bands, is the focus of our gift-giving. We usually stick to one or two gifts each, package them up in a box that we re-use for different occasions, and have zero environmental impact!
4. Op Shopping
Shopping is very low on our priorities all throughout the year! As a natural minimalist, it makes me stressed to have a house jam-packed full of possessions, and apparently I am not alone! Research has found that mothers in particular, feel more overwhelmed, directly correlating with the amount of 'stuff' that is in their immediate environment. In other words - the more that we have, the more stressed we are! This year, our teens have some specific interests that they are exploring, and I really wanted to try to find some pre-loved bits and pieces. Between op-shops, Gumtree, and 'buy, swap and sell' Facebook pages, we were easily able to find what we were looking for. And before we brought the 'new' things in to our house, I packed up bags of some older toys that we could let go of, and took them back to the op shop. There is something oddly satisfying about this circular process!
This is a tricky one, because for some insane reason, our overly-regulated country has a lot of rules and boundaries about under-18's getting out and volunteering without adult supervision. Which is fine if you have one or two children, around the same age, with the same motivations, and you have enough time on your hands! It can be more tricky with 5 children (including a newborn, and a little one, who most likely would not be welcome in most organisations!) and this is where our amazing homeschool tribe came in. In homeschooling, support networks are SO important. I would venture to say that they are even more important than curriculum or just about any other aspect of homeschooling. But I digress. Volunteering is proven to improve your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. It helps somebody (or many people!) in need, adds a depth to the experience of a non-consumerist family Christmas (you are doing something memorable together, and giving back to the community), helps to set your children up for a future of being able to empathise with others and give without conditions, and is just a nice thing to do! We were very lucky to have friends who took our teens along to sing in a palliative care unit for Christmas this year, and our children came back talking about how good it made them feel to do something for others. Volunteering ideas include; doing some gardening for Grandma or Grandad, babysitting for a neighbour, helping somebody elderly by cooking them a meal or bringing them flowers from your garden, or just going down to the beach and picking up some bags of discarded rubbish.
Homeschooling and unschooling families sharing stories and snippets of life and learning at home every day - guest posts welcome