It’s that time.

Again.

I’m culling my bookshelves. I’m sorting out the materials we used and the ones we never used.  The weeks and months of searching endlessly for the right curriculum has made me a creature who hoards educational materials, like a dragon hoarding gold.

We go to great lengths to create a school-at-home environment.  It’s an addictive habit that rewards us when our school rooms look shiny and well put together.  As if to say, “See? I’ve got this homeschooling stuff figured out.”  It’s deceptive because a well-used shelf or bookcase would be endlessly messy.  A weekly if not daily chore.  My shelves look anything but orderly right now.  I am staring at the behemoth that it is-knowing I don’t need everything I once convinced myself I could not live without.  Storing things I just knew the kids would need someday.  Only when the day arrived I forgot it existed and got on without it.  It was exactly what I did not need.  Is this collection all for looks?  Did I really need this stuff?

How important is it to have this stuff, really?

If I were being honest with myself, I could say my hoarding is a sign of an emotional investment…  Why do we give so much value to things that we hear others rave about?  Why do we hold onto it long after trial and error proves they actually didn’t work for us?

The thing is when you embrace a more open style of homeschooling-when you reach out and encourage a natural learning environment, you suddenly become aware of the nagging question in the back of your mind.

Why do I still have this?

Like you, I have purged over the years for different reasons.  Occasionally weeding out my books or anything I would constitute as learning materials.  I’m getting rid of some of our hidden treasure by cleaning out the shelves and boxes.  Some of it will find a new home in our local homeschool lending library or our local thrift store.  The rest will go to recycling, because it is so old it is obsolete.

This year we have an additional caveat-we are moving.  As a military family we have to decide what to taken depending on our spouse’s rank.  If you go over the allotted shipping weight limit, you pay the difference and it can end up being expensive.  It means when it is time to move, it is time to decide what to keep and what to leave behind.  Those appliances whose voltage won’t work at the next duty?  The over-sized furniture that probably won’t fit in our next home?  What about that couch that is secretly standing on a broken leg?

What can military homeschoolers ship?

The shipping policy does include allowances outside of this limit for professional gear.  It is mainly to ship the service member’s uniforms and anything else they need that is determined to be essential to perform their duties.  In the past, the shipping policy did include an allowance for the dependent spouse’s professional gear-which many military homeschoolers took advantage of.

However, the new housing transportation policy makes it clear that unless you have a position of employment or an official support position in the community you are moving to, you are no longer allowed to take this allowance.  If you can clear that hurdle than you must take note: all furniture (school or office desks and bookcases), personal computers, memorabilia (pictures, awards, trophies, gifts), sports equipment, or any material that would be available at the next duty station; must be included with the regular household shipping weight limit.

Professional gear is considered as reference materials, equipment to support members of the technical and mechanical professions, and specialized clothing.  For example: diving suit, flying suits, helmets, and unusual uniforms need to support the community.  That’s it.  None of our homeschooling materials can count as professional gear.  Then again, neither will our next-door neighbors’ kids get a special allowance for sports gear or band instruments!

It means as military homeschoolers we have something new to consider when moving.  And this year our number is up. Suddenly books, bookshelves, computers, school desks, and science kits are all household items that can make or break a move.  How long should I keep that bundle of last year’s work again?  So, you can see I’m all about that purge right now!

In the midst of all of this, another question comes to mind…

What is the most important homeschooling resource I have?

Is it books we are currently using?  Is it our magnetic board? Is it our laptops and the software we use?  What do we keep?

In one hand, I’m holding a compilation of five well known Mark Twain novels.  My other hand pauses over the three volumes of literature books I have collected. I realize the most important resource I have is not something that bores my children to tears.  Remembering that my interests are not necessarily my children’s interests, I discard two out of the three textbooks on literature.  Crossing my fingers, I reshelve the Mark Twain novels.

As I go through our reference materials, I keep the Big Fat Notebooks and our small collection of Horrible Histories in the reading corner.  For resource materials to hold any long-term value for us, they should be engaging and relevant.  Sorting through piles of discarded art and different stages of abandoned origami, I decide it is important for us to keep materials that allow the kids to be inspired to learn through creativity.

Homeschooling Resource Allowance Gameboard

Then I turn and see the kids with a game I brought home from the thrift store.  They didn’t wait for an adult to read the rules. They figured the rules out and started playing… The Allowance Game. I stopped and watched them amazed. Teaching money concepts has been a difficult topic over the last couple of years.  There are certain ideas they can grasp, like saving up for a certain amount to get something on their wish list.  The rest of the time it went over their heads, like understanding 2 quarters is fifty cents and 4 quarters equals a dollar.  Finally, I had to put it aside to revisit later, because the drilling practice wasn’t helping. Today it dawns on me; all my previous attempts didn’t hold any relevancy for them!  And now here they are exchanging money like pros because they wanted to!

Those money math workbooks can go!  Next time we go shopping the kids can help me pay for the groceries… because the most important resource I have is when learning happens to be fun!

At this point, I’m simply open to anything that encourages them to learn and grow on their own terms.  What works today is a game.  Tomorrow it could be those Mark Twain novels!  Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it surprising and delighting the kids and me.

What about you?

What was the most important resource in your homeschool today?