I'm failing!

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  • Jennifer

    I am sorry but I don’t know where else to turn for help with my attempts at providing a Charlotte Mason homeschool experience for my kids.  I really feel like such a failure.  I love everything about CM, but I must not be implementing it correctly because my kids cannot seem to retain ANYTHING.  My 12 year old daughter seems to be doing the best (she is an avid reader), but my 10 year old and 8 year old boys seem to be regressing rather than progressing.

    We are in our third year of homeschooling and our second year of CM.  My kids were in public school until 4th, 2nd, and K.  I feel like everything they have learned was information from public school and I have been unable to teach them one thing since they began homeschooling.  We do short lessons, narrations, copywork, dictation…but they seem to forget everything we talk about!  My ten year old has a hard time defining what a noun or a verb is and cannot write with appropriate punctuation and capitalization.  We have gone over and over all of this, but he still writes run on sentences with little to no punctuation.

    Our curriculum is as follows:

    History: SCM Modern History

    Science: Dr. Wile’s Science in the Scientific Revolution

    Copywork: Print to Cursive (8 year old)

    Spelling Wisdom (all three)/Using Language Well (boys)

    English For the Thoughtful Child (boys)

    Analytical Grammar (12 year old)

    Math: Math Lessons for A Living Education (all three)

    Logic: Fallacy Detective (12 year old)

    Writing: Don’t Forget to Write (12 year old)

    Literature: Read Aloud (all three)

    Reading: with narrations (10 year old and 12 year old do written narratives, 8 year old oral narratives)

    Enrichments: Picture Study, Composer Study, Poetry/Tea Time, Latin, Morning basket with scripture memory, prayer, and Bible study

    Nothing seems to stick, especially for the 10 year old.  I’m concerned about the 8 year old’s spelling skills, too.  Do I need to just trust the process?  Am I still too much in a public school mentality?  I hear so many moms talk about how much their children enjoy all of the things they are doing in homeschool.  Mine grumble and complain about schoolwork and just want to hurry up and get it done.  They tell me they DO NOT want to go back to public school, but they seemed to learn so much and thrive and retain so much more.  All three were making straight As in every subject.  Now it takes my 10 year old 5 minutes to add 6+5.  And when it comes to multiplication…AAAHHH!  I am so sorry that this is so long, but I am at my wits end.  None of us are enjoying school and our attitudes have gotten even more negative (mine included).  Can anyone help with some words of advice and/or encouragement or examples from their own difficult seasons?


    First, just take a deep breath. You love your kids and you have options available to you.

    I don’t have all (or any) of the answers for you, but I will share a bit of my journey. I have 4 kids (dd16, ds13, dd10, ds7.5). We have always homeschooled and if you look at old posts I made here on the forum when I was more active here, you will see that I am a big believer in CM philosophy and methods and really a purist at heart in my ideology (save teaching reading). Fast forward to today, 12 years into homeschooling. I am a purist at heart, a realist in action. I have come to realize a few things, esp. regarding my 13 yo son.

    • While he can read on grade level or above, he does not love reading or even like it much. THIS IS OK.
    • He is very task oriented. Give him a straightforward list and he will give you his best effort. Give him literature and the more nebulous/vague (in his mind) methodology of CM and he gets bogged down and becomes unmotivated. He (gasp) prefers textbooks with their lesson 1, lesson 2, etc. and 1 or 2 go-along books for history. THIS IS OK.
    • He struggles with writing. This year, we tried a CM style online class for Writing and one for Literature that work in tandem. Today was week 9 and I withdrew him from both. Even though the books were fewer and the assignments were mostly great, he felt like he was drowning in keeping it all straight. He was giving his absolute best effort and doing well on some aspects and not so well on others. This was becoming a big discouragement to him. I pulled a Voyages in English textbook from my shelf that I had picked up used. I showed it to him – the grammar lesson section and the writing lesson section. While I can’t say his eyes lit up, he eagerly asked to switch while apologizing for the money he knew we would lose on the classes. What this told me was it wasn’t me that was lacking in teaching him, it was the wrong method for HIM. He prefers and does better with that textbook approach. THIS IS OK.

    That is just a brief example of one of my kids. I have accepted that what works best for this child is not what I hold in my heart as ideal. This boy is all boy – wants to be outdoors playing sports as much as possible! He has shown me repeatedly that he doesn’t learn best my way, but learns best his way.

    I don’t want to discourage you from all CM methods. Nor am I saying all boys like mine who prefer sports to books need a textbook approach. I am just saying that I have accepted him and his learning needs for what they are – his needs – and intend to put my ideology on the back burner going forward to help him succeed as best I can. Teach the child, not the curriculum (or in my case, the philosophy/method).


    Dear Jennifer,

    First, breathe. Your children have benefited from their years of home education more than you can imagine. Sometimes the fruit is slow in coming to maturation but it is there.

    Boys are like this quite often. They don’t seem to really do well in areas like writing and grammar until they choose to engage and really want to learn the material. Actually, all people are this way. You can lead a child to a book or curriculum but you can’t really make them learn. As Charlotte Mason said-all education is self education.

    Many experts would say that your boys are still to young to be much concerned with punctuation and grammar.

    Honestly, if I were having the same issues, I would get back to the basics and focus on the goal of increasing my family’s love for learning.

    My kids weren’t doing near that amount of curricula at those ages.

    My kids chose what they wanted to learn about for science and they checked out books on those subjects and read through them at a pace of 15-20 minutes a day for those ages.

    For history, we mostly just read (again, when my kids were those ages) living books, one after the other. I often let my kids take turns choosing the book to read. We chose a time period and enjoyed reading books from that period. I read them aloud to the whole family.

    We didn’t do much grammar at all until my kids were in late middle school.

    My kids began really began to mature in these areas around late middle school and then the growth through the high school years is astounding!

    I could go on but the point is to just relax and get back to loving learning together. I would cut back to the bare minimum and focus on that because if everyone is hating school time, then not much learning is going to take place.

    I usually read Ruth Beechick’s books when I find myself getting overwhelmed. I really love her book, A Biblical Home Education. You Can Teach Your Child Successfully is great as well.

    Remember to do what works for your family. Find what fits and stick with it. While Charlotte Mason was an amazing lady with wonderful teaching methods, she wasn’t a mom with a houseful of children of different ages.

    I love Charlotte Mason methods but doing so many subjects is stressful for me and my kids so we narrow down to the basics and enjoy the riches in a more relaxed manner.

    You will be in my prayers today.




    <p style=”text-align: left;”>To the wise advice in the previous replies I would also add that boys often benefit from humor. Maybe try School House Rock videos about parts of speech and math, or Life of Fred for math. The stories in Life of Fred are completely ridiculous, so my son can’t help but listen.</p>


    Life of Fred has high school books too including chemistry, language arts, and  financial choices.

    Cozy Grammar and Cozy Punctuation are light-hearted videos with exercises.  Our local library has most of the resources I mentioned.


    I’ve been there before.  I’m in my 5th year and I feel like we just hit our groove!  I tried following CM with  everything we did.  We had some good days but most days I felt like we were rushed from one subject to the next in order to be done by lunch.  As a result, I never made it outside, the baby never did either, and I was trying to “be done”.  I read Julie Bogart’s (Brave Writer) top blog posts and it completely transformed my view of being home.  I’m sensitive to short lessons but now I can let the kids lead a little too if they want to dig deeper without the pressure of the schedule breathing down my neck.   Overall, I want to make connections with my kids.  And I was missing that.  So, we are now living the Brave Writer Lifestyle (along with CM) and here’s a peek at what I mean.

    Monday Movie, Tuesday Tea/poetry, Wednesday Writing, Thursday Thinking games (board games, cards), Friday Freetime.

    We never had time for these.  So we start with a morning basket, snack, outside play for everybody!!!, lunch, naps for littles, one-on-one with bigs, and something from our list above.

    If you need to hit restart may I encourage you and the kids to go hiking, run around with the soccer ball…anything to get connected with the kids.  And laugh more!


    Thank you, ladies.  I will take all of your advice to heart.  Sometimes I think I should just take a week off and fill the time with bible study, read alouds, museums, nature walks, board games, music, and fun projects to reconnect with my kids and enjoy each other again.  But then I feel like I will get behind and won’t be able to catch up and that will cost them in the long run.  Thank you for thinking about me and my family, for taking the time to thoughtfully reply, and for the prayers.  They are so very much appreciated!


    …”But then I feel like I will get behind and won’t be able to catch up and that will cost them in the long run.”

    That was how I used to feel.  Ask yourself:

    Behind what?  Catch up to what?  Cost them what?  In what timeframe do you see this hindering them?

    I realized my answers weren’t MY answers…I decided to do it custom made for my family and there is such freedom in that!




    mrsmccardell, I am thankful for your encouragement and I will read through the above blog posts.  We need help with our daily schedule/routine.  I would appreciate it if you would please yahoo email me at wherelearningabounds.


    Thanks for posting the links…it made me realize that I didn’t post them.  And the posts I’m referring to are listed on the side bar of Brave Writer after you scroll down a little.  (obviously I’m very techy)  Here are the titles:


    You have time

    How writing is like sewing

    Best curriculum for a 6 year old

    Today’s little unspoken homeschool secret

    Your children will not work harder than you will

    Don’t trust the schedule

    You want to do a good job parenting?

    If you’ve got a passel of kids

    You are not a teacher

    Natural Stages of Growth in Writing podcasts

    Sorry if I mixed up anyone!!


    I’m rambling …. I don’t have time to organize these thoughts more eloquently so please take them with a grain of salt.  🙂

    I’d echo Christie’s thoughts on boys too.  I have the same thing here.  A very sports oriented, task driven young man.  I only fret about it when I compare him to someone else.  Otherwise I’m head over heels crazy about the kid and every little thing he does in his boy way!

    So, my advice – RELAX – we take a lot of time around here when we need it for emotional reasons, life reasons, it’s-a-really-beautiful-day reasons, we all have a great book reasons.  It’s important to focus on the QUALITY of your homeschooling and not the QUANTITY of material covered.  Who are you keeping up with anyway?  We homeschool honey!  WE define the schedule, the rules, the cannon, the focus, the everything.  Define your goal for each child – college entrance, etc. – then work toward that by any means that works.

    Communicate with the kids.  They are people.  If they are well disciplined and your home is in a functional place then talk with them as you plan.  Ask them how they’d like to see this CM thing look.  Put your foot down that you are a CM family and then go from there.  What skin off your back is it if they want X book over Y book?  Both are good choices.  You’re not putting twaddle out there.  So, not an area to worry about in my mind.

    Spelling comes.  Grammar comes.  My advice and method is to focus on reading (anything, all the time – the paper, books, novellas, poems, and yeah sometimes fluff) and the writing will come.  It’s slow sometimes and every child had their own pace.  Be happy and encouraging and don’t sweat it.  Unless there is a disability of some kind that needs addressing then just keep going.  I can say this because we have finally crossed the bridges that you’re on now.  I know how you feel.  I have posts on here freaking out about all sorts of the same things.  I’m really only calm now because I’m over those humps.  (I’m sure more are on the horizon, lol)

    My son needed the freedom, for a while, to read whatever he liked so that he began to love reading.  After that I slowly introduced the good stuff … with his input …. and he’s a voracious reader now.  Sure, he gets bored with some books and isn’t a fan of others but he’s got the adventuresome bug to read and that’s what matters most.  I’m a big believer in EXPOSURE to the good stuff and lots of stuff and a WIDE variety of stuff too.  I’m naturally curious and I let that lead me as I expose my kids to things that they wouldn’t pick up.

    On writing, I’m unconventional but it has worked for me so I’ll share it here.  I don’t buy any writing programs.  At. All.  My philosophy is that good writing comes from, well, writing!  And that good writing is easy to recognize as is bad writing.  Strong readers recognize this too.  So, I look at what they’re reading and I search the internet and find cool ideas, prompts, etc for writing about the things they are reading or studying.  I sort of decide at the first of the year how much I think they should write for each subject or overall and go from there.  I also feel that speech, recitation and oral presentations (narrations and otherwise) are very important factors in producing good writers.  I love this topic … I could go on and on but this gives you the idea.

    I hope something here helps and you feel more relaxed.  Take that week.  Reevaluate if you think it would help.  Get their input and see what you all come up with together.


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