I well remember those years when I (Sonya) had only a two-year-old and a four-year-old to keep me company throughout the day, and I wondered, “What should I be doing with them? Should I be teaching them to read? Should I get a set of flashcards and drill the addition facts?”

It can be a bit daunting to face home education for the first time with no idea what to expect! “Those early years lay the foundation,” I was often told. Yes, that’s true. But in the Charlotte Mason way, that foundation may not emphasize what people assume it will.

Charlotte emphasized mainly three areas that parents should focus on as foundational with children in the early years: habits, outdoor play, and good books. If you are concentrating on developing good habits in your children — like prompt obedience and complete attention, — if you are giving them lots of free time to play in and interact with nature, if you are taking time every day to read together good books — including the greatest Book, the Bible — then relax. You are laying a good foundation.

Many young moms have thanked us for compiling an Early Years Guide that emphasizes those three foundational areas. It gives a short list of habits and lists many good books for reading together. (We’re in the process of linking those books to our CM Bookfinder, so you’ll be able to get details on each one.) It also gives some suggestions for other wonderful activities that you can add when your child is ready and if you want to, but you certainly don’t have to.

If you or someone you know is looking for a gentle guide to get you started on the right track during the early years, here are our recommendations.

And you won’t find any flashcards on the list.