When to Throw Out that Homeschool Resource

Recently I’ve been reading the book called “essentialism – the discipline pursuit of less” by Greg McKeown. There is a section in the book is titled “Avoiding Commitment Traps” and I thought that the advice given there could apply equally well to homeschooling resources.

At some point in our homeschooling journey, there is bound to be a resource that becomes a commitment trap. And what I mean by that is that we’ve invested deeply into it and now no longer feel that we can abandon it despite the fact it is no longer useful or a good fit.

Beware of the endowment effect

As Greg points out, “a sense of ownership is a powerful thing”. We tend to value a resource more because we own it. The antidote to the endowment effect is simple. Instead of asking how much you value it, simply ask how much you would pay for it at a use curriculum sale? That will give you a better idea of its real worth.

Get over the fear of waste

We are taught throughout our lifetime to avoid wasting things. As a result, we sometimes value a more expensive but totally useless resource over a less expensive but helpful item. We might be willing to get rid of a resource that we only paid a couple of dollars for, after all, it was only a couple of dollars. On the other hand, we are less likely to get rid of a resource we paid a significant amount of money for.

Sometimes we just have to admit that the resource wasn’t right for our student and didn’t work, no matter how much we paid for it. “Admit failure in order to begin success!”

Stop trying to force a fit

Sometimes we like a particular resource as a parent but our children do not and so we continue to force the child to try the resource again and again.

We have a saying here at Phoenix, if anybody’s crying then nobody’s learning.

Move on, try something different. You might be able to, at a later date, come back to that resource when your child has either learned more or develop new skills that make the resource appropriate. But trying to force it, will most likely result in tears – either yours or your child’s.

Be aware of the status quo bias

As Greg points out, “the tendency to continue doing something simply because we have always done it is sometimes called the status quo bias.” And we sometimes see this in homeschoolers too. His suggestion is to apply zero – based budgeting. How on earth does that apply to resources, you ask? We suggest that instead of automatically using your resources over and over again each year, assume that you start at zero -all previous commitments are gone. Begin from scratch by asking what you need to use this year.

Stop making casual commitments

So in other words, don’t pick up every new resource that catches your attention. There are just way too many out there and you can spend a lot of money for a lot of things that you’ll never use. Before you buy something new, pause and think about it. How will this resource be used? Is it essential? Not saying that you shouldn’t buy some items just for fun. But you need to understand that they are “just for fun” and once you’re finished with them, be willing to part with them.

Get over the fear of missing out

Many of us worry that our kids are missing out on some great learning adventure or activity. As a result, we have way too many resources or have planned too many activities. McKeown suggests that the solution to this is to “run a reverse pilot where you test whether removing a (resource ) or activity will have any negative consequences”. If it does, then you can start using the resource again. But chances are you won’t even notice that it’s gone.

Hopefully with these techniques you’ll be able to make good decisions about the resources you currently have in your homeschooling library.


  1. Excellent post Diana! I just picked up the book at the library and am really looking forward to reading it.

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