A Sample 🪁SOFT-SCHOOLED DAY🚲 with “The Secret Three” . . . and bugs!

“Part of the story I am attempting to write with my children is the story of trust. Of letting go and trusting my instincts as a parent, which is a luxury I can allow myself only if I can learn to have trust in my [kids]. Simple trust, the confidence in our children and in ourselves to allow them to unfold at their own pace. The confidence that they will unfold, even when it seems they are falling behind the manufactured expectations set by institutionalized schooling.”

Ben Hewitt, Homegrown

I’m not always a Zen-master Homeschooling mama. Just as I practice “crow” over and over again during my morning yoga sessions —some days nearly breaking my nose, other days somehow supporting my whole body; inverted over my wrists even for just a brief and slightly terrifying moment— I’m slowly learning the art of teaching our children from a place of trust.

I’m learning to observe more . . .

truly listen . . .

hold my tongue . . .

save my breath.

I’m learning to step back . . .

lighten up . . .

loosen the reins . . .

sometimes even dropping them.

To let it go . . .

and let them be;

wonder-filled, impulsive, free.

To maintain poise . . .

practice patience (even when it kills me) . . .

stoke curiosity rather than choke it;

to grapple with grace.

Celebrating growth over height . . .

honoring joy over schedules . . .

choosing to go slowly;

giving time and space generously.

Breathing deeply.

Smiling softly.

Experiencing fully.

I’m just hovering over this trust thing –perched on weak wrists and trembling forearms.

I’m not there yet, friends. Some days, let’s just say I eat crow. I don’t think I’ll ever really “be” there. If I’ll “reach” it. If I’ll “master” the art of teaching from trust. I’m simply practicing it. Even if some days I fall on my face (and do I ever) . . . I’ll keep practicing it. Because I’m stubborn. And I have conviction in what I’m doing. Because the practice is where our transformation lies! That struggle is where we gain strength. It’s where we grow. Completion is an illusion, my friends! We are never complete, and neither are our children . . . thank God 😆 !

It’s the work that matters.

It’s the loyalty.

The intention.

The dedication.

The spit-fire.

The faithfulness in showing up and giving it all we’ve got . . . yet again.

Each and every day.

Trusting that it –the material, lesson, activity, experience– is enough.

That today is enough.

That we are enough.

So, hover with me, mamas and papas! We can learn to trust even as we tremble in our weakness. Let’s practice teaching from trust –accepting where we are with gratitude, and relaxing into our work one day at a time. Perhaps even just for the present moment.

~The Soft-Schooled Summer~


Also referred to as “Gentle Homeschooling,” the “Soft-Schooled Summer” is more a mindset than a true action-plan. Somewhere between the “Unschooled Summer” and “Year-Round School” . . . the “Soft-Schooled Summer” begins with a simple daily schedule, but it maintains ample grace and flexibility for the wiles and whims of the day. It’s a lovely compromise between the traditional lazy summer, marked with the inevitable learning losses, and the rigid, relentless confines of summer school. Plus, it’s anchored in connected, delight-directed, mind-body-soul education!

TIME REQUIRED: *flexible* ; about 2 hours+ per day learning/activity time

TARGET SUMMER GOALS (see full descriptions here):

❤️ = inspire a true love for learning

✔️ = catch my child up / advance my child academically

🧠 = keep my child engaged and actively learning

😊 = have fun, de-stress, and bond as a family

A SAMPLE SOFT-SCHOOL DAY with “The Secret Three”

We’d planned to do our regular lessons this past Monday, but our son had a different idea. He had just got a lovely vintage reader that Grandma recommended called “The Secret Three” by Mildred Myrick (out of print, but available used on thriftbooks). One glance at the cover and he was enraptured. I told him he could try to read a few pages to himself while I did my morning yoga, and he took the challenge. He wrapped himself up in a Mexican blanket, flopped onto the couch, and read the whole thing in one go.

This is a big milestone in our Homeschooling; it marks the first time that our boy has tackled a reader cover to cover, all on his own. And I know exactly why he was able to do it, too. Because he’d glanced through the pages first and informed me in a yelling whisper (little sister was still sleeping) that there were three boys, a beach, lots of shells, messages in bottles, secret codes, boats, a lighthouse, and a sea turtle! All in one book. In other words, it was just too good not to read.

As the morning went on, it was clear to see that my boy had transported himself to the island of “The Secret Three” and was sailing on the sea of his reading success. I finished my yoga. Sister woke up. We had breakfast. We did chores. But our boy was only with us in body. His eyes were filled with the spark of new ideas and his heart was set on adventure.

I knew his fire would make our planned lessons nearly impossible. Switching gears is hard when you’re a six-year-old boy, after all. And I must admit, I went back and forth in my mind a few times: “But we’d planned on starting our next unit today . . . I even wrote it down.” Amazing how absurdly married we become to that which we jot onto paper. Thankfully, I managed to kick the calendar to the curb and welcome this new curiosity in it’s place.

“Hey!” I said, “what if we had a ‘Secret Three’ day for school today?” I may as well have announced a trip to Disneyland. No more planning on my part was even necessary. “I want to write out the codes!” he shouted. “I want to learn to write in CODE!”

It was a gorgeous sunny day, so I moved one of the school desks to the porch, spread out an activity blanket for little sister, and placed out paper, pencil, and the hallowed reader. The very moment I put the desk down, little man jumped into the seat, picked up that pencil and began furiously scribbling away. Friends, I’m not kidding when I tell you that he copied down the entire code from the book and then proceeded to write out all the names of anyone he could think of in code —mama, papa, sister, himself, his friends, our neighbors, grandma, grandpa, uncle.

He wrote codes without getting up or losing focus once for an hour or more. I just sat in the sun and did trays with little sis. I sipped an entire glass of iced tea in perfect peace. I assisted the code master a few times upon urgent request —mostly as a lifeline for how to spell certain names— but for the most part I just allowed him to lose himself in a new, secret world that in truth had very little to do with me.

Mostly I just didn’t interrupt him. And I kept sister from interrupting him . . . which did take some doing a few times 😆 . And at the end of an hour, he had an entire page of code carefully written out in his classic death-grip script; the kind that allows you to read how much he has enjoyed an assignment just by the sheer force of lead on paper (the harder the writing, the more joy was had). Then we played in the yard for a while and made believe as the secret three. Our little secret three. Later, I read the book aloud to him and he was giddy the entire time with the new-found elation of knowing what is coming up and mama being in the dark. He even corrected me a few times when I missed or skipped a word. I’m fortunate to have such an attentive teacher. And that’s when I saw that we had come full circle.

We had “skipped” lessons for the day, and yet our son had . . .

  • read an entire reader to himself (independent reading)
  • copied a page of code (more independent reading, transcribing work, handwriting)
  • wrote names in code (spelling, handwriting, number sequencing, decoding)
  • listened to the book as I read aloud (shared reading)
  • discussed islands and various ocean creatures (earth science/biology)

Do you see? We “neglected” our lessons and followed curiosity instead, and where did we get? Little man accomplished just as much if not more “school” along the way as he would have if I had refused to indulge him. If I hadn’t trusted his delight and direction. We would have come to roughly the same academic ends for the day had we stuck to our lessons . . . only there would have been far less joy and rapture!

Yesterday, our “soft-schooling” efforts were far less elaborate. It was a more standard day (following our normal read-as-you-go curriculum that we love), and part of our son’s Language Arts lesson was for me to dictate a sentence for him to write on his own. Now, before I tell you what the sentence was, I have to give “The Good & The Beautiful” curriculum credit for being truly awesome most of the time. It’s just that this wasn’t one of those times.

The sentence was: “We like the gate at your home.” Perfectly fine. Entirely boring. I knew before I even read it to my son. So I hesitated.

The Good & the Beautiful Math Curriculum

“What is it?” he asked looking up from his paper, intrigued by the blank look on my face. “Well . . . ” I answered, “it’s just that this sentence really isn’t very interesting.”

That got his curiosity up. Just how uninteresting was it?? So, I read it to him, and just as I thought, he crinkled his nose and remarked “wow, that really isn’t very interesting at all, is it?” His eyes flickered with mischief like they always do when he’s trying out the art of forbidden insults. I was racking my brain for a more interesting sentence of similar difficulty, or rather . . . lack of difficulty. Something of specific interest to him.

“How about something about . . . the garden?” he offered. The garden. That was it! We had found aphids on our green beans the day before and our son was jumping up and down at the sight of them. Because aphids mean a trip to the garden center to buy ladybugs, you see. But . . . we aren’t really ready to write “aphids” in dictation. But . . . BUGS! Ah yes, bugs. Bugs never fail me.

“How about: ‘The plants have bugs.'” I asked, already judging my somewhat pitiful sentence as it came out. “YEAH!!! The plants have bugs!” he shouted and wrote his sentence with that same death-grip handwriting.

Then, a minute later: “I ended it with an exclamation mark instead of a period! Because this sentence is exciting!”

The new sentence wasn’t revolutionary. It wasn’t genius. It could hardly even be considered very creative. Well, not to me. But it was to him. And all it really took from me was a little flexibility . . . an open mind . . . a willingness. All it really required was a tiny bit of trust. It meant only a tiny tweak to the day’s lesson –the kind that should be second nature to us parents, yet so many of us never dream of using our skills of alteration on our child’s education! The audacity! But this is what Homeschooling is all about; to always have our scissors, needle and thread handy . . . ready to resize things perfectly to our unique and ever-changing child. Snip, pull, stich.

So, GO FOR IT, parentos!

Split the lesson.

Skip the lesson.

Alter the lesson.

Customize the lesson.

Replace the lesson.

Connect the lesson.

And do so freely!

🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤

It only takes a pluck or two of creativity to gently let out a few seams –giving our kids some extra comfort; a bit more room to run, breathe, twirl, and grow.

Thanks for reading! You’re the best!

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~

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