I had thousands of conputer files of printables and several plastic bins of folders containing laminated cardstock manipulatives, just saved for whenever my son might need or want them.
Then I realized my son had somehow jumped from preK work to solid elementary – with fluent reading and writing and advanced math…and all those printables were just taking up space.
I threw out all the printables and changed the way we learn.
I spent tons of money on paper, ink, and laminating when my middle girls were very little.
Printables worked for us then.
I felt trapped by needing performative homeschooling and showing records of products, but I no longer feel that need. I can see their learning in the critical thinking skills and assimilating questions they ask on our evening walks and around the dinner table.
Now that my kids are growing up, the printables are boring and are met with eye rolls or just simply ignored.
I really don’t have the storage space for all those bins with files of 3-part cards, file folder games, and cutesy literacy and math activities. We move frequently with the military, and being minimalist is a necessity.
It’s very freeing to throw out things I don’t want or need anymore – trash, recycling, donations.
Printables can be a good introduction or substitute for learning about places, events, or people when you can’t travel to experience those things.
Also, I’m not into household printables either. I know they work for some people, but after years of trying and wasting so much paper, I am no longer in denial. I have come to terms with my preference to leave no paper trail.
The cute meal planners, household notebooks, artsy colorful day planners, adult coloring books, colorful prayer journals are just not for me.
I prefer my Excel spreadsheet for our budget and keep the synced family calendar on a phone app. I plan meals based on what I can find that looks good and on sale at the commissary and local grocery. I typically do the heavy shopping twice a month, around pay days.
I have a simple notebook for prayers, scripture writing, and journaling.
We also request companies to email us statements rather than send us paper bills in the snail mail.
Reducing our paper output is better for the environment and helps me maintain my goal of having a simpler life.
Paper items we still love to use:
We primarily use notebooking for assignments and assessment.
I print relevant notebooking pages for history and other subjects. These are more free-form than worksheets, allowing my kids to write about what they find interesting. We often complete these after traveling to summarize what we experienced and learned.
The girls still use their planners where I write their weekly reading assignments and reminds.
We still complete workbooks for spelling and Bible, because they’re easy and work for us. We still do Singapore math workbooks for elementary. We all love Life of Fred math with math journals. My girls are completing VideoText math for middle/high school and my son will too. We all use Apologia science textbooks as guides into real science learning, with lots of experiments and living books as supplements.
But almost everything else we do is experiential learning.
How we learn without printables:
We read a lot. Like, a whole lot.
Our entire curriculum is based on books – literature and history and living books.
Books are super important to me and I want books to be important to my kids.
I don’t want anything dumbed down – we read the real book, not some condensed version in modernized language. We have real dictionaries and encyclopedias and bookshelves in every bedroom and the school room is full of great reading material. We max out our library cards weekly.
See our book lists.
We like to watch videos on Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube that coincide with our studies.
We often compare/contrast the movie to the book.
Video is very important to studying history. It’s the only way we can see it other than in photos or by traveling to view the monuments, museums, and landscape. We also like how many videos bring history to life.
My teen and I watched Saving Private Ryan before our Normandy trip.
We like to travel to experience what we’re learning about.
We love to visit museums and natural wonders for art and nature study. I often center our travels around art museums.
We visit churches and castles and military monuments (every chance we get!) to study architecture and church history.
We loved living in Europe for three years to travel to places in history we’ve only read about!
We went back to Paris for early modern studies. We toured an antebellum house and Stone Mountain when we studied the Civil War. We lived in Hawaii for three years and learned the effects of missionaries and plantations on island culture. We went to Flanders to see the WWI monuments.
We traveled to important places for modern studies. We went to Dachau and saw an American cemetery in Luxembourg where Patton is buried. We recently took a trip to Normandy and toured the D-Day museums and monuments.
We visit botanical gardens, aquariums, museums, and zoos for science. We also love nature hikes.
We complete art projects to learn about culture.
We created lovely vases by glass blowing in the Black Forest.
We painted Papier–mâché pots when we studied ancient Greece.
We made henna handprints when learning about India.
We created illuminated historiated initials when learning about medieval Europe.
Throwing out all our printables makes me feel so liberated!
Learning by experience helps my kids remember more than just playing with paper.
I love the direction our homeschool is taking!
I challenge you to make a positive change in your home or homeschool. De-clutter, try a new curriculum, do a family read-aloud, or choose a new technique. Tell me about it!
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