Today was one of “those” days. It took a Herculean effort just to make sure we accomplished all that needed to be done: meals, vitamins, exercises, beginning reading, copywork, math, groceries, Bible, literature, Scripture memory. Not to mention conference calls, e-mails, writing, and scheduling.
I’m sure your to-do list looked just as full and loomed just as large.

This afternoon I was reminded of this quote by Charlotte Mason about the daily effort of education:

“To ‘endeavour ourselves’ to the daily effort of education, to live and act, think and speak before the children, so that they shall be hourly the better for all that we are, is harder, no doubt, than to make one enormous sacrifice” (Formation of Character, p. 156).

And I was thinking, That’s right, Charlotte. You hit the nail on the head when you talked about the effort it takes to get everything done to educate our children every day. In some ways, it would be easier just to make one enormous sacrifice and be done with it. But homeschooling requires a lot of work—ongoing work! Especially since our goal is that our children will be hourly the better for all that we do.

Wait a minute.

That’s not what Charlotte said.

She said the goal is that our children shall be hourly the better for all that we are.
Charlotte wanted us to understand the importance of what we are during those daily activities, not just what we do. (Maybe that’s why those two words are italicized in the book, huh?)

Our children are going to learn more by living with us day in and day out than they will by reading about ratios and proportions or Alexander the Great. What we are involves the ideas that rule our lives; it involves the attitudes that rule in our hearts; and it involves the actions and words that flow out of those attitudes. Those things—the ruling ideas and attitudes in our hearts—will have a bigger impact on our children than what they read about somebody who lived in the past.

Once again Charlotte was gently reminding us that the atmosphere of our homes makes up one-third of our children’s education.


What we are speaks so much louder than what we do or what we intend to do.

Is anybody else feeling convicted by this quote?!

Think of someone who inspires you to be your best. Spending time with that person is uplifting and motivating at the same time. You come away from your time together feeling refreshed and encouraged but also feeling like you’re ready to conquer the world (or at least your corner of the world).

A person like that gives you hope when you were beginning to despair.

A person like that calms your frazzled mind and helps you begin to set your thoughts in order again.

A person like that soothes your raw emotions and makes you feel loved and accepted, not because of anything you have accomplished but just because you are a treasured human being.

And you are better for it.

That’s what Charlotte had in mind when she encouraged us to have as a goal that our children “shall be hourly the better for all that we are.”

So what are you doing to make that happen? We need to give our children the best version of mom that we possibly can. Such an important goal requires some care, some intentional thought. It dare not be left to chance.

What are you doing to support and nourish your mind and heart, your personhood? Not as a mom. Not as a wife. But as an individual with unique gifts and talents, with personal likes and dislikes, with beliefs and even preferences that are part of your very core. Are you caring for yourself?

And before you dismiss such thoughts as selfish, consider this: When is it easier to be patient: when you are well rested or when you’re exhausted? Taking care of yourself overflows to your children. It is easier to speak kindly and with a calm heart when you have maintained some margin in your day—when you have intentionally set aside time to think, to pray, to read, to sing, to listen to music—not for schoolwork, not your children’s favorite songs, but time to refresh yourself.

Our actions and words come from inside our hearts and minds. Charlotte talked about living, acting, thinking, and speaking before the children. If we want to live devotedly, to act lovingly, to think correctly, to speak kindly—in other words, to be our best before our children,—then we need to spend time nourishing our hearts and minds.

If we want to be that person who inspires our children to be their best, then we need to intentionally do all we can to be able to be at our best. Daily. Without that regular refreshment, we will find ourselves struggling and frustrated, disappointed that our efforts are feeble and inconsistent, perhaps even cringing at the person we have become in front of our children.

It boils down to this: the daily effort of education is not so much about what we do as about what we are.

Are you giving your children the best version of mom that you possibly can? If not, what would help you do that more? Don’t overlook the power of rest, of worship, of learning, and of play for yourself; because the benefits won’t stop with you. They will infuse who you are and overflow to inspire your children.

“To ‘endeavour ourselves’ to the daily effort of education, to live and act, think and speak before the children, so that they shall be hourly the better for all that we are.” That’s the goal. It’s not an easy one. Charlotte admitted that the daily-ness of the task “is harder, no doubt, than to make one enormous sacrifice.” But often the best things in life are hard . . . yet so worthwhile!

Let’s help each other with this daily effort. Leave a comment and describe what helps you to be at your best for your children. What have you been doing, or perhaps plan to do, to support and nurture who you are? I’d love to know.


  1. Excellent quote and elucidation! And on the day (year!) that I’ve had, it is especially timely. I’m writing Charlotte’s quote on an index card and sticking it front and center so I can remind myself of it throughout my day. Thank you!! 🙂

  2. So true, It HAS been one of those days. I am struggling with so many to do’s. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Thank you so much for that reminder that it isn’t about what i get done or don’t get done but how I did it and with what attitude I did it with.

  4. Thank you so much for that reminder!!! I’m up now at 2 am stressing about how “behind” my 1st grader is. This post makes me want to stop and think about what “I am” and what my stress is communicating to her!! It really makes me want to evaluate what’s important and really focus on those things! Thanks so much for the reminder.

    • Antoinette, I highly recommend reading Karen Andreola’s book Lessons from Blackberry Inn. She models a CM education in story form and if we are to learn like we’re supposed to be teaching our children…this book leaves a lasting impression on our hearts and homeschool. It might just suggest and reassure you that your precious first grader is not “behind.” 🙂

  5. Reminds me of the chorus we used to sing in my boarding school:

    What you are (Oh what you are)
    Speaks so loud (Oh speaks so loud)
    The world can’t hear what you say;
    They’re looking at your walk
    Not listening to your talk
    They’re judging by your actions every day . . .

  6. I want to make a greater effort at reading literature daily and playing the piano, as I am reminded of the importance of leading by example in education … those things become who we are. It is a great effort with a newborn and two sweet teens … all daughters.

    • A woman after my own heart. 🙂 I, too, try to play piano regularly. Many days it’s only a quick 5 minutes of Hanon exercises to keep my fingers in shape, but other days I have enough time to pour out my heart with full pieces in a longer session. And it’s the same with reading: some days I read for 10 minutes while my youngest is getting ready for bed; other days I get to indulge. But all of it helps to feed my spirit.

      So glad you have those lovely young ladies to help with the newborn!

  7. Myself, I try to study some French every day.
    Thank you for the article. It’s a good reminder, especially the fact that one-third of our children’s education is the atmosphere of the home.

  8. While my husband brews our morning coffee, I gather my art book, my tray of paint brushes, pencils, pens and paint. I use to sip and paint by myself but sometimes he joins in on the fun. I don’t force or ask him to or become disappointed when he does not, its a no pressure atmosphere. My art is usually something small but creating allows me to let go of everything for a while.

  9. What a timely article! Matthew 12:34 “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” was my devotion topic yesterday. Are we putting hurry, disappointment, impatience, lack of joy,etc. into our hearts daily….or the fruits of the spirit?
    Currently, to maintain a pleasant atmosphere, my actions are: reading scripture and praying every morning, keeping order a couple times of day (quick tidy!), keeping quiet time for an hour and a half in the afternoons, staying home most days and evenings, listening to my music while I cook, spending intentional time with each child from toddler to teen and husband, getting enough sleep, homeschooling regularly, reading light novels with happy endings, walking after lunch while we enjoy milder weather in fall, winter, and spring, connecting with friends, and eating (mostly) nourishing food. Oh, and keeping a good supply of coffee in the cupboard is tops on the list of a happy mama 😉

  10. I’m a homeschooling Mom of 10, never a dull moment in our home. There are two things that I make time for to nurture my soul. One, I lead a ladies Bible Study at our country church. Meeting with our little group of ladies each week refreshes, challenges, and blesses me. The second thing, my husband and I go to bed early enough for “us time” together each night. Just 30 min together at the end of the day, makes a big difference. This article was full of wonderful reminders to slow down!

  11. Thank you for this! Daily, I wake up well before the kids to have my quiet time. Before the sun rises, I am at my seat at the dinner table, with a warm chai in hand and my bible open to study and spend time filling up before the day begins. On days I neglect to do this, which has been the past couple of days, and i choose instead to press snooze on my alarm, I always regret the decision once awake (as I’m not the best mom/teacher on those days).

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