Topic | New to CM, overwhelmed and kind of freaking out

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  • meg28

    I just pulled my daughter (who will be 6 in November) out of public kindergarten.  I was thinking that I was going to take a more traditional schooling route, after all is all that I know being that I was traditionally public schooled my entire life.  However an acquaintance turned me onto the CM approach.  CM is VERY appealing to me and I think that my daughter will thrive and take off running with it, it is me that I am worried about!  I am SO SO SO very type A and structure oriented and CM (from what I have found so far) is not so much about structure.  I am concerned that without proper structured guidelines for me, I won’t know what to teach her or when and/or that I will totally mess her up and get her behind where she needs to be academically.  I really don’t know where to start honestly, I have looked over the SCM book list for her age and Ambleside’s Year 0 booklist and we are currently reading a lot of them.  When it comes phonics, handwriting, math I AM SO LOST! I will be very honest and this may make me sound dumb eventhough I do have a 4 year college degree from a North Carolina state school, but I am NOT the best at math, like really bad at it, my calculator is my best friend and I sweat thinking about math problems, that to say looking at the Math U See samples, I started to have a panic attack!  So really I need a bit of guidance here what do I need to be successful for kindergarten, honestly I am starting to think I bit of more than I can chew Cry

    Did I make the wrong choice could CM not be for us?


    Well, it sounds like CM is a great fit for you.   Maybe Math U See isn’t?  or maybe it is…..  not sure.  

    I like RightStart, which might be good for you because it is all scripted out for you, with the answers written there for you, and many people learn math that they didn’t understand by using RightStart.    You do have time to make a choice on math – we didn’t do math with my son until he was 6, in grade 1.

    Phonics – well if you want to do it the CM way, “delightful reading” might be a great choice for learning to read.   Or, if you want something scripted out that is more phonics based, Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons works well for some families (I’m doing it with one of my kids right now…) – a few families don’t like it though.

    Handwriting – again, there are lots of choices that can help you.  I like “Penny Gardner’s Italics” – it is inexpensive, reusable, and she teaches the letters on videos as well, if you like.  (I think she missed one letter.) – It doesn’t really do much on the capital letters though, I found.    There are other choices too, that can help.

    One of the big things is there are lots of choices!  That can make it feel overwhelming – but on the other hand, it means that there is a good chance there is something that will be a good fit out there.

    You can do this!

    (Also, the K year really isn’t as big of a deal as it feels like…  relax.)


    Hello! First off let me say that I totally understand your concerns. It is overwhelming when you feel that your child’s future success is resting in your (sometimes incapable) hands! But the good news is that God has a plan for your child…He is going to be your instructor in teaching your child about all of life and how to learn. So take a deep breath and relax :).

    Secondly, I am also a very type A, scheduled, structured, and public schooled Mama (also terrible at math) who is teaching 5 kids successfully with the CM method. Contrary to popular opinion, CM does not mean “loosy-goosy” or that all your kids do is sit around reading all day! It is a proven, effective way to teach your children, and it DOES work. I have veered off track in the past, but I find that the more on point I stay with Charlotte’s methods, the happier and better educated my kids are. They learn in a way that is more natural than the ‘workbook, busy work, artificial work’ approach.

    I would encourage you to purchase the All Day seminar from SCM…Sonya has a great way of breaking down HOW to teach in the CM way. And there are planning resources on this site to help with your ‘lost’ feeling. I would also point out that Math U See is not the CM recommended math for a Kindergartner. Kindergarten students should be doing mostly hands-on math and science.

    At this point, you should really be reading things that will help you understand overall what homeschooling is all about, and what the CM methods are like. SLOW DOWN…you have lots of time to figure this out. A resource that I love and come back to over and over again is, “Educating the Wholehearted Child” by Sally Clarkson.

    Above all, remember that God loves you and your child and will lead you!


    Hi Meg28, not sure if you are still in NC or only went to school here but just thought I’d say “hi” from one NC’er to another. 🙂

    About your original questions… I think you should start here:

    This is an article Sonya (from SCM) did on transitioning to a CM education style. You can just take it step by step. Only focus on figuring out one thing at a time. I think several women on this list would agree with me when I say that there will always be more to learn, so don’t worry about what you don’t know yet, just do the next thing. You’ll get there. 

    And to respond to being Type A… so am I. CM is not “non-structured” … although it is differently structured. Just wanted to throw that out there.

    Gotta run but wanted you to encourage you to look at Sonya’s article. 🙂



    I’m new myself with a 1st grader, but from researching different CM suggestions online I have found that CM can be unstructured or extremely structured depending on how much you as the teacher schedule and how in depth you go with each subject.  And I think the curriculum CM used with her students was rigorous and structured, it was just different than sit at the desk and fill in the blank.  For example nature study could be a simple as going outside and reporting what was seen OR as in depth as studying in detail what was observed (along with painting what was seen and notebooking about it).  

    I’m currently sticking strictly to the 3R’s for in depth teaching, and counting everything else for this year as exposure to the different subjects. Our sit down work is minimal but I do have a loosely structured outline to each day:  example: 1. math 2. phonics 3. copywork 4. reading 5. folksong 6. break 7. literature, history, geography, or science reading (on rotation) 8. Spanish (very basic) 9.  poetry reading 10. artist study, composer, memory work, crafts, or PE (also on rotation).  11. lunch.  (this looks like it would take all day, but  minus the break and lunch time that varies, it takes 1-2 hours, however the lessons following the 3 R’s aren’t in depth yet)

     Afternoons are either free time, rest, shopping, nature study, chores, keyboard practice,  going to the library, playdates, or extracurriculars.  I hope to incorporate handicrafts to this list soon.  At bedtime we do Bible stories with dh, and on Saturdays or free evenings we do leisure readings (like Charlotte’s Web, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, etc…)

    I am not a structured person, but my ds is.  He likes having the above list posted on our whiteboard each day, anticipating what is next, and erasing subjects after they are completed.  He puts exclamation points and smiley faces by the fun stuff.  

    Compared to ps K, I think the structure to our day is just as intense, although it is a different structure.  

    About handwriting, I use the charts that show how to properly form letters (starting at the top and which order to make strokes) and ds copies from this while we are working on neat handwriting (he can write much, but he didn’t learn neat handwriting in K.  A couple of days/week he copies a scripture memory verse neatly or a couple of sentences from his Draw.Write.Now notebook.  He wants to rush in his writing, but I tell him I would rather him take his time to write a few letters correctly, than to write several sentences that have letters needing correction.  

    About math, Rightstart is scripted very well for parents who want direction in how to present the math concepts.  There are other math programs that are scripted for the parent, but I’m not familiar with others.  

    I can’t recommend phonics except that Delightful Reading sold by SCM teaches reading in the way CM recommends, and seems appropriate for 4-6 year olds from the samples I’ve seen.  Alpha Phonics and Teach a Child to read in 100EZ lessons seem highly recommended as well.  

    I would say for K, if you want to wait until age 6 to do a full curriculum, but want structure to your day, to schedule the things you are doing with your Ker that aren’t sit down work.  For example 1. help mom with chores 2. outdoor time 3. read aloud 4. art project 5. educational DVD 6. shopping trip 7. rest time  8. help make dinner or set table.  

    I think given that you are a loving parent that has your child’s best interest as a priority, there is NO WAY you can mess up (be it you take a structured approach or a relaxed approached in her education…I believe both are possible using CM methods).  Equally so, while I think CM methods are wonderful, if you decide a traditional education approach suits you and dd better, you still couldn’t mess up!   


    I don’t have any idea where the non-structured idea about CM comes from but I am a pretty structured, type A personality, myself. I thrive on structure and my kids expect it from me, even if they do look forward to “down time” when it’s time for down time.

    We have a pretty set schedule for the day/week and only on a very rare occasion do we stray from it.

    I think what the other posters have already offered for you to read are just what you need, plus the idea that you can still be structured and CM. Mostly the structured part comes from the way you like to run your day and your home, not necessarily what method of homeschooling you enjoy. We were structured before CM and have remained this way.



    I like the Charlotte Mason philosophy and use some things from Charlotte Mason from my older kids not everything, as much as I can.

    For my Kindergardner this year added to the bunch I am using My Father’s World. It says it is CM approach, some people say it is not, anyway it works for us. I had done so much planning w/my older boys I needed something that is planned out for me for my youngest.

    It is very light so far (we started 5 weeks ago), I added Math U See and computer games. I get all the Readers from the library. We both really like it so far.

    Maybe something you can look into…


    I love Charlot Mason’s philosophy but need someone else to plan my day so I also do my father’s word and LOVE it. I was a teacher for 10 years so the way they use cm philosophy is great yet they do it in a way that I am use to teaching.


    Great suggestions so far!  

    My suggestion would be to first read Charlotte Mason’s writings.  Volume 1 would be the best place to start since it relates to your child’s age.  I think once you do some reading on the CM method you will come to realize that it can be pretty structured.  A boxed curriculum can give you a structure but CM gives you the freedom to make your own structure.  You can do this!  

    Blessings on your journey!


    The very best advice I got when I took my then 3rd and 1st graders out of school was that for every year they’d been in school they needed one month of deschooling to transition. 

    I am not type A at all.  I actually started my homeschooling journey very much in the John Holt and unschooling camp.  Transition time does make sense.  You aren’t just picking a new school to start at home when you choose Charlotte Mason.  You are choosing a new philosophy about learning that encompasses much more than just the three R’s.  I don’t hear as many families talk about this side of CM, but it would be a great tool and comfort to newbies if they did.  IMO anyone can pull their chldren and buy a box of curriculum and teach at home.  What appealed to me about CM was that it was a whole and complete philosophy about learning and a pretty radically different approach to teaching and a great tribute to the importance of curiosity and zest for knowledge and a bold and refreshing statement on character.

    Second best advice I got when starting out was this – If you love your child (children) and you read to them every day and you are engaged and excited about life and learning, then you can not “mess them up”!  That really took the pressure off me during a time that I needed to feel like I was doing the right thing and a time I was finding my feet.

    My .02 …. my best wishes to you on what is going to be a terrific journey!


    When I was considering homeschooling I hesitated for the same reasons you mentioned. Then a very wise person gave me her copy of “How children Fail”. by john Holtz.  I since have read his other book on how they succeed. If you read the one on failing you won’t feel like a failure and you will get the bigger picture.  Outside the box is better than throwing the box out.  🙂 Tehe he

       Anyway that one book made me really think.  It was the one deciding factor that pushed me to homeschool. Otherwise my kids would still be in ps.

        BLessings!  I sure wish you the best of luck.  It will get better!


    I think my main concern and the reason for my incorrect use of terminology of “unstructured” stems from the fact that I am getting ahead of myself and thinking about when I start incorporating the bigger more indepth subjects of history, geography and so on…… will I know what exactly to cover?  I am not very far in my reading, but I am reading about CM methods and reading through Sonya’s “Getting Started in Homeschooling” but as I am reading questions are popping up.  That is where my “structure” questions pop up, for example what if I don’t cover a History lesson or Geography lesson or any lesson in any subject and she lacks something crucial that she “should know” because doesnt the state still require her to take standardized tests at the end of her older school years to ensure I am teaching what she needs?  What if I miss something and she fails?!?! 

    I’m pretty sure that is where my insecurity lies….what to cover in each subject area and when to ensure she has all the pertinent knowledge.  Is there some type of guideline/outline somewhere?



    This guideline is a good start:

    You should become familiar with your own state requirements.  Hopefully someone here can direct you.  I am Canadian, and can’t!


    Regarding ‘what to cover’…

    As you continue homeschooling, you will discover resources for each year that help you with that. If you look at the majority of ‘scripted’ curriculums – even the CM based ones like Sonlight or My Father’s World – you will find that they generally employ a History/Geography text of some sort, to which readers are added.

    Remember that Charlotte’s definition of a living book was one that is written by one author, with a passion for the subject. We have loved Story of the World and Mystery of History as our ‘texts’. We plan to use the SCM history texts as our base this year. Then we add lots and lots of biographies and historical fiction to get deeper into History. But please also keep in mind that ANY History or Geography study you do prior to middle school is material that would NOT be covered in a public school – or only in a very cursory manner. It isn’t until high school in most public schools that History is emphasized. This is one of the things that I have loved about the CM method. I am able to give my kids a much broader perspective of History and how it fits into God’s plan that will equip them as citizens and leaders.

    One day at a time! No child has a ‘perfect’ education, and if you think that sending her to a school (vs. homeschooling) will ensure that there won’t be ‘holes’ in her knowledge base, you are entirely mistaken. Our goal is to create LIFELONG learners…people who want to get in touch with great ideas. People who thirst for wisdom and can connect people and ideas in order to form a wise outlook on life. Education is not just filling them with facts. It is establishing the habit and love of wisdom in their minds and hearts and equipping them to seek that out in their own lives.

    I really encourage you to take a break from worrying about what to ‘do’ and read some CM ‘philosophy’ books. You really need to understand why you are homeschooling and why you want to use the CM method before you can move forward without doubt. Books like “For the Children’s Sake” and “When Children Love to Learn” will help you set a foundation and confidence that will carry you through your doubts.

    Finally, your child is a born “Person” and God has a plan for him/her! They aren’t just a product of whatever knowledge we can impart…if they were we would all be worried! Your role is to create the “atmosphere, discipline, and life” of education and to provide great ideas (through books, mainly) and tools (nature, handicrafts, work) that cooperate with God’s plan for their potential.


    I wanted to say something about your math issue. I too was horrible at math. I hated, hated, hated it. Math-U-See has been my saving grace! I feel so much more confident in math. Mr. Demme teaches things so clearly my first time around (I am starting on my third time around) I felt like my eyes were opened. I don’t have that huge gut wrenching fear of math anymore! I don’t freeze with word problems. Having a good teacher teach me has made all the difference. I hope you start to feel some peace soon. God will honor your desire to do the right thing for your child.

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