Oct 6, 2015

Walk Beside Me

For my final post in this series about the changes we've made in our homeschool, I thought I'd just share the resources we have found that are helping us on our journey, as well as share some of the things we have been doing that are working well in our homeschool. 

Two Philosophies

I have been homeschooling since 1999, y'all. I am not new to all the buzz words and learning styles that have been out there for the past sixteen years! I have definitely heard about Charlotte Mason over all that time, and even have the complete set of her original book series on education. However, in the past I had only thumbed through the books a few times and discussed her methodologies with homeschooling moms now and then.

I was going strictly child-led with our homeschooling, and so as wonderful as I felt Charlotte Mason's ideas were, I dismissed her based on her parent and/or teacher-led philosophies. My kids were doing whatever they wanted with their learning, and I was just there to get them the resources they needed, and to help now and then when they might get stuck doing their learning of choice.

During the first 14 years of our homeschooling, we had a flurry of baking, reading, insect-hunting, game-making, DIRT, play, and SHAKESPEARE going on with the students in our home. I was a very busy mom who was running around trying to organize and lead a homeschool community, blogging, speaking at homeschool events, directing plays, and sewing intricate Shakespeare costumes.

It was a lot of fun (and I love fun!), but it was also very, VERY chaotic. I am not a big schedule person, and so my kids never knew what to expect from day to day, and neither did I-- or my husband. But because we were all child-led, all the time, I felt that the flexibility lent itself to the style of learning we were attempting to follow, and I didn't think we needed to change anything. Our kids would learn ALL they needed to know, and I was not worried!

Reality Sets In

I had always loved my teens; they were model youth! We had lots of fun in our homeschool group, in our Shakespeare plays, in our family circle, and I was sure that they were going to grow up to be amazing people who would make a real difference in the world.

Until the time my children began to discover that they had never done any real, sustained learning. And when studies got difficult for them, they would just drop the subject at hand and move on to something easy. I started to see these warning signs, but was completely unequipped to know how to deal with these disturbing trends. My personal philosophies kept me from requiring anything of my children, at least academically. (We had lots of requirements when it came to household duties and family rules.)

And then, we had a couple of very, VERY difficult years in our family. And it wasn't just with one child. One of our older children has autism, and so I knew she had to do things in her own way-- I did not push her for most things, or we would have even bigger problems. But our very ambitious child began to realize that his education had been severely neglected, and so he lost almost all respect for me, treating me accordingly. Then another child started dealing with depression and some very, VERY serious issues that greatly affected self-esteem and lead to alarming actions.

I began to realize that I had been neglecting the education of my children, right when they needed my guidance the most. And as a result, they no longer felt they could look to me or trust me as their homeschool teacher.

Searching and Stumbling

We took some steps back, at this point. I was leading a homeschool group at the time, and started simplifying everything I could with the group, in our commitments, and in my personal interests, so that I could focus on my family-- doing whatever it took to get us "back on track." 

We poured all of our efforts into our family's spirituality, desperately trying to heal the broken family culture that we had unwittingly created. In the midst of doing everything possible to save my children from spiritual death, I gave birth our last two children, directing a musical while pregnant with one, and costuming a Shakespeare play weeks before giving birth to the other child! (And also turned 40 years old. Yay?)

I remember pleading with the Lord to help me know what to do. We were also beginning to require a few minimum things from our children academically, now: MATH, and penmanship. The kids seemed to grab hold of having requirements, and I began to study more and more about the one-room schools from early American history. I was seeing the value in daily requirements for myself, and the principles of the Law of the Harvest kept coming to mind, resonating in my heart. 

As daily order was coming into our homeschool, some of the fun DID leave. But I had to choose between keeping learning exciting, or keeping my children's hearts. And so I chose the latter.

Probably the final nail in the coffin of child-led homeschooling philosophies for our family came when my newly-called missionary son looked at me, about a month before leaving our home, and said: 
"I can't believe you're finally really homeschooling, now that I'm about to leave. I'm happy for the other kids, but I wish you had done this with me."

Humanities-Based Education

Once much of the smoke from the spiritual battles in our home cleared*, I began studying again, looking for just the right fit for our newly formed homeschool ideals. I still adored rich, full, classic books, music, art, and history. I no longer worried about keeping things fun and exciting, so that the kids would want to study. Rather, I again saw how valuable studying the truly good works throughout history was for our family culture. 

My children did not know all the wonderful, beautiful, inspiring things that were out there, but I did!!!

I kept going back to the lovely works that spoke to my heart-- the things that the kids had groaned about when they were running the show, so I would drop them. (Child-led!) With me taking my children by the hand, we could now explore the beautiful things I had always wanted them to experience-- TOGETHER!

I found myself looking for a homeschool experience that was similar to majoring in Humanities in college. I was praying with all my heart for such a thing, wondering if in the end I would have to create something on my own.

But then, I rediscovered Charlotte Mason.

Befriending Charlotte

One of the ladies in my homeschool community started talking about Charlotte Mason. In fact, she taught a class on Charlotte Mason at our very local LDS homeschool conference. I was interested, but also thought maybe I'd give this lady my set of Charlotte Mason books-- I wasn't using them. Luckily for me, she had her own set, and so I kept them. 

This same woman started sharing more about Miss Mason's philosophies in the community, and I was learning more on the side, as well. I was cracking open the books, reading here and there, and was beginning to feel very, VERY drawn to the method, but felt very overwhelmed at the same time. (If anyone has read Charlotte Mason's original books, you know how rich and deep every word is!)

And then, the same lady and some other friends hosted a small gathering where they simulated a Charlotte Mason homeschool day. It was intended to show what a CM co-op type experience was like, but it resonated so deeply with me that I was overcome with emotion. 

I COULD DO THIS!!! I wanted to do this in my home, to give my children this type of beautiful homeschool experience. With free resources like Ambleside Online and inexpensive options like Simply Charlotte Mason, I finally felt the support and help I needed to move forward.

I began to walk beside my children, sharing a beautiful, inspiring feast of beauty and richness with them, guiding them, leading them to the things that I, as their mother, feel are important for them to learn.

Our New Homeschooling Day

And so we are walking, hand in hand, among the beautiful and good in our homeschool every day, with a PLAN for each and every day. 

The younger children and I have a set time where we do what I call "Table Time," with devotional (scripture memory, scripture story, hymn study & singing), and copywork (Copying the scripture we are memorizing, of course!). 

Then the kids each take a turn at one of our three computers to do math. (HOORAY for CTC Math!!!)

Next, I do some reading aloud from Living books (Plutarch for children, Shakespeare, Poetry, or English History) and then we practice Swedish Drills, which the kids are really enjoying. (I am loving the lessons in attentiveness and obedience that happen naturally as a result of these exercises!

We also throw in Art study and Music/Composer study once a week, which the children also enjoy. I love hearing little voices pronounce the names of our French artist of the term (Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot), or talk about how Brahms' Lullaby makes them feel deliciously sleepy!

One thing I had always heard, but was never able to really latch onto during all my homeschooling years, was the idea that homeschool is life.

I came to realize that we can stop and read ANYTIME. If I don't get to one of my planning reading during the morning, I can stop in the afternoon, or just after dinner, to read Plutarch, or poetry. We can listen to our current Composer's music while cleaning or cooking, or playing and creating.

I should mention that a couple of my teen daughters have decided to take some classes part time at our local charter school, and that is working out really well. Our older children also still meet for some homeschool classes (This year it's Civil War, Chemistry, Writing and our old favorite, Shakespeare.) once a week, where I have even gone back to teaching Shakespeare again. (And I'm LOVING it!!!) We do use Khan Academy for a few high school subjects, where the older kids work on filling the gaps in their high school transcripts. (Plans really are wonderful things!)

After everything we have been through, I have been pleasantly surprised at how peaceful and wonderful mother-led education can be! Of course, I had to spend the last few weeks of August planning, studying, researching, writing, and planning some more, but the work I did then is paying off big dividends NOW.

And so, I Lead, Guide, and Walk Beside my children on this wonderful, ordered, JOYFUL homeschool journey, little by little, every day. 

Thank you for joining me!



*(The spiritual war still goes on, especially for one child, but those battles are no longer fought right in our home.)

To learn how to start using Charlotte Mason's ideas in your home, check out the "How to Get Started" page on the Simply Charlotte Mason website. It helped me immensely in knowing how to plan and start this first year!


  1. My family doesn't have a ready made "program, " but each year (for the past few years at least) I have goals for curriculum to teach my kids; essentially I make the program myself and it is Very Fulfilling! I give requirements from essential subjects and concepts, (and one requirement is that they do their "required" studirs first), then their studies are self directed. They are also required to spend a certain amount of TIME learning, even if it is self directed (and I'm still working on getting my youngest to record it so I know ot is actually happening while I'm at work. He is 17). I have found, that often one is inclined to do the required studies, then claim to be done. This is easy to do since they are not supervised the entire day, as I work. My new plan is to also "require" a brief essay about what he has learned in his "self directed" studies. Since tomorrow is the first day for that I can't say yet how it will go. But I have had Great success with required studies. I don't know if any of this will help you or other readers;I hope so. :)
    I'm very happy that you are getting things figured out for your family!!! :) Yeah! :D Thanks for your words. I'm curious about the Charlote Mason curriculum. I hope you will tell us more about it as you go along. :)

  2. PS. I especially love the "walk beside" part of home schooling at my house. This is where we study Government and Economics together. :) I LOVE homeschooling!!! :D

  3. What a treat that you're finding joy in this season!!! Hooray!

  4. this is so brave of you to share this, and so important for the homeschool community to hear. Thank you thank you


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