question for all the veteran CM homeschoolers

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  • morgrace

    Hellio All-

    This is a question for all of you CM homeschooling veterans out there:

    Knowing what you know now about homeschooling and Charlotte Mason, what are the most important things to focus on while getting started? If you had to start at the beginning again, would you do anything differently? In other words, what is really important and what’s not in preparing?

    (I have a year and half before my son turns six. So I have some time. I’ve taken a slow approach into researching homeschooling and the gradual pace has given me plenty of time to pray, talk to my husband, read and research. I’ve enjoyed the pace – it’s been more fun and not at all overwhelming. Rarely do big decisions in my life happen this way!)

    I am asking this question for three reasons. First, I really wish I had found out about habit training much earlier in my children’s lives. Oh, how much better things would be for them (and me) if I had known – particularly that obedience can be a cultivated as a habit. This makes me wonder if there are other things I don’t know about that are truly vital. Second, seems to me that preparing to homeschool today is similar to having your first baby. There is a wealth of information available and all sorts of things that are supposed “necessities” – yet babies have been born and thrived for centuries without all the accessories we have now, and children have been taught at home for a very long time without the things I see in catalogs. Despite my “gut” warning me I didn’t need all this baby stuff as a starry-eyed new mom I let my house pile up with it until it became clutter. I am very leery of repeating the same thing as a starry-eyed new homeschooler (love books – red flag) Yet I have only a vague idea what I really need and what I don’t. Somehow a curicclum fair/catalog doesn’t seem to be the place to find out. And third, I do better in life by being prepared ahead of time – at least in some way, even it’s small. I’d like to go into homeschooling being reasonably well prepared with realistic expectations. Also, at the same time I am starting to homeschool, we will likely have a new baby and my husband will be transitioning to full time self-empolyment. Three potential sources of stress around the same time – if nothing else in the fact that they are all new! My best time to prepare myself for homeschooling is now not then. (On a side note we are also expecting to run into resistance from my mother-in-law, I have no clue how I’m going to handle this one -but that’s different topic)

    So, what is the best use of my remaining time in getting ready? I’d like to keep focusing on obedience, habit-training and going outside more when spring comes.

    I should also mention that I anticipate I will have to put together my own curicclum using primarily the library and free sources since our finances will be stretched my husband’s change to self-empolyment. Last year I bought: “Laying Down the Rails” “Planning Your CM Education” and just got the “Early Years” book from Sonya. I’ve read other homeschooling books from the library, researched online, and written out “why” we want to homeschool. I have also checked into my state’s school laws briefly. More importantly, after praying and talking with my husband, I feel that homeschooling is the right choice for our family.

    Thanks for your wisdom and insight!




    What an amazing post.  I have no wisdom to impart yet, but I would love to hear what some of the others have to say.  We are still learning so much also.  I have realized through my last three years of research that this is the way God has called us to teach.  The books we use may ebb and flow; but when it is from Him, you know it’s the right journey.  I had a little hard time with my Mother-in-law, still do.  My girls would be the 4th generation to go to the local public school.  She’s had the last three years for it to soak in, but it is still an adjustment.  (My girls are 6 & 3.5 ~ littles).

    Blessings on your journey!


    As I mentioned in a previous post, the first thing I would recommend is keeping a strong hold on yourself, so that you don’t keep looking for the perfect thing and fill your house with different things that you really don’t need, You already found out the hard way with baby stuff and having too much of that, so beware, the home school is another place where this can be a lesson in money wasting and time wasting.

    In regards to starting out, make sure you really understand what Charlotte Mason was about – if you can afford some of the CM original books, do read them, also Sonya’s wonderful ebooks give you a wonderful start.  Do make a plan, but keep it flexible, and don’t worry if you have days where less gets done, we all have them and we all survive, our children learn more in a much shorter time, so catch up is not so difficult.  Do make sure that you encourage your children in good literature – there is good literature out there for all ages, and don’t underestimate your children’s intelligence.  Reading aloud is a wonderful habit and a way of getting more important books into the mix, that maybe they cannot read for themselves.  Allow your children the opportunity to tell you what they think of the material, don’t give them your ideas – let them tell back in their own words.  Keep the lessons short and allow them time to take things in, keep it calm and peaceful, not always easy, but try. Make home and learning a natural part of their day – keep outside activities to a minimum, especially at the start.  Make sure you understand narration and copywork as these are two vitally important things in CM.  Have plenty of outdoor time for nature study, crafting time and time for fun.  Habit training is so important, and it is never really too late to start, it just gets a bit harder and we really need to train ourselves first – it is impossible to teach a good habit when we don’t have it ourselves.  Listen to all the advice you are given, but follow your own heart and remember you know your children better than anyone else.  Above all keep God at the top of your plan and keep it simple.  If you do buy books make sure they are worthwhile and uplifting, having a nice home library is nice, as long as you are discerning in your choices.  I bought way too much and ended up wasting money and donating a lot of it through the years, guard against that – too much stuff causes discontent and frustration and little work gets done because so much time is spent managing the stuff.  Use your library where you can, but that takes a lot of planning, because sometimes they will not have the books you want or need at the time.  I have a large library now, because I have collected books for about the last 20 years – I shop secondhand a lot and sales.  I did not homeschool my children from the start, they were in PS, but if I could do it over, we would homeschool CM right from day 1, you are blessed to have that opportunity.  Do not worry about the mother-in-law, eventually she will see the proof that the method works and even if she does not, it should not deter you – if your husband is on board that is all that really matters.  I wish you joy and many blessings on your journey.  We are coming to the end of our homeschool journey, but we may homeschool some college – so perhaps it is not so close to the end for us.  It is a wonderful lifestyle, and you will reap many benefits as will your children.  God bless.  Linda


    Not sure if I qualify as a veteran – my oldest child is 11, my kids have always been homeschooled, and we have used the CM method from the start.

    My advice is not to push the academics for a young child. The early years are important and they don’t need to be filled with academic instruction. Exploring and observing the world is vitally important and fulfilling to a child (and to the mother, I might add!). The skills of observation and finding delight in the world are developed in the early years, and these skills will last a lifetime. And, these skills will help in schoolwork, when the time comes for schoolwork.

    Time spent outdoors will make the time spent indoors calmer. When in doubt about anything, head outside for awhile. 🙂 

    Don’t compare yourself with others who follow a different approach to homeschooling. The Charlotte Mason approach is not flashy and results show in different ways than other programs. If your kids aren’t reading or doing chemistry experiments at age 6, it’s okay!!

    Renew yourself as a mother and teacher. Being stressed out or burnt out is not a good thing for your family. Find what works for you to renew and refresh on a regular basis. (My stash of chocolate sure came in handy when I had toddlers underfoot….but perhaps you can think of methods more uplifting, lol.)


    Some things that immediately come to mind:

    • I would realize early on that homeschooling is hard work and that’s okay.
    • Related to the above, I would not be so quick to blame the curriculum (thereby purchasing more and more curriculum) for what truly was my own lack of diligence.
    • I would never, ever, skip Bible reading with my children in order to get to the lesson that has a number attached to it. It’s easy to feel behind when I see it’s January and we’re only on lesson 20 of math, but not give the same importance to Scripture.
    • I would not let schooling our children usurp my relationship with my husband.
    • I would more often allow God to disciple me in an area and then disciple my own children in that same area, versus coming up with a wonderful Bible curriculum.
    • I would realize that doing one book well was better than doing the ‘best book’ rarely.
    • I would give them free reign more often in their interests and teach them research skills in the midst of that.
    • If all else got cancelled for the day and all we had done was read Scripture, go outside, and read together, I would call it a very, very, successful day.
    • I would realize that, early on, the academic a child is most needful of is reading instruction and therefore should hold a higher priority than the others.
    • I would use the younger years, when schooling ‘should’ be pretty inexpensive, to start collecting some of the stuff I knew I’d need later on, like a microscope.
    • I would never take a check book to a curriculum fair. The cost of shipping is well worth the amount saved in impromptu purchases. Curriculum fairs are only good for getting a look at things.
    • I would foundation everything we do in Creation.

    Well, I could go on and on I suppose, but I should probably spare you!!




    Hi!  I’ve been letting this one percolate this afternoon.  Here is what keeps occurring to me, especially in light of the gift of time you have before you officially start “school”:

    1.  You have been given time to really focus on attention and focusing.  Yours AND  your child’s.  Take this time and learn to really notice, to really observe, to really focus.  On your own reactions (necessary if you want to learn to be calm and collected at all times!) on your child’s moods and nuances (necessary for habit training, for knowing if you have their attention–and their hearts– or not) and to the world around you.  Charlotte loved to turn this into various games–I think these are especially well described in vol. 1.  I had to learn a lot of this concurrently with trying to learn other things in Charlotte’s method and with homeschooling–how I wish I’d had time to learn all this BEFORE!  So many things would have been much, much easier.  Habit in general has already been mentioned–and it is very, very important!–but we all need to develop this attention and awareness and focus in order to be able to form and use our other habits actively. 

    2.  Never underestimate the power of language, well-used.  So many of us, when first encountering Charlotte’s method, think “We read, and narrate, and do copywork—that’s IT?  Is that ALL?”  If we really understood, we’d never say that.  Don’t force academics at an early age.  But in your interactions with your child, focus on how he or she uses language.  Watch the effort.  Pay attention to the work that goes into verbal fluency, into telling a story back, into describing what you see out the back window.  Try to notice the work that goes into your own verbalness–if I can make up a word here.  LOL  Watch or read something, and then make yourself tell it back to yourself in detail.  Notice the effort.  Take the time now to develop habits of truthfulness and good description.  “Are there really a MILLION birds?  Oh.  How many might there be?  Tell me what they are doing.”  Etc.  Notice your child’s verbal abilities and challenges NOW.  Learn now to delight in poetry, in the sound of language, in verbal play, in music and rhythm.  It will make life so much easier at age 6 when beginning “formal” narration.  Sit and watch and don’t be afraid to be a little awestruck at what God placed in your child’s brain and in the work he or she is learning to do.  You’ll never sit around later thinking “Is that ALL?  How can this possibly be enough?” 

    And perhaps most importantly–take all this seriously.  You already are.  This is serious business.  But remind yourself EVERY SINGLE DAY that this is going by so fast, you have only so many days, and don’t forget to take time to delight in your children, to play, to have joy.  You’ll get told this by all us grayheaded ones with kids we have to look UP to, and in some ways you won’t really understand until later, but put it on your daily calendar anyway–JOY and DELIGHT in these children God has given you.  Never, never forget–especially when money is tight, you haven’t slept more than two hours at a time in months, your house is a mess, someone just spilled the milk, kids are figthing and your mother in law thinks you’re nuts.  🙂 Treasure up the moments in your heart anyway, put on some silly music and dance.  There.  🙂

    Michelle D


    Wow – what great encouragement!  I didn’t start this post, but I am truly enjoying reading it!  It is so good to be refreshed and reminded of what is truly important as we homeschool.



    I just spent some time on my post and it did not go through.  ugh.  Oh well, maybe some day I’ll resubmit it or maybe I just needed to read my own thoughts on the matter. 

    Good luck to you and be patient with yourself and your kids. 

    I ditto all the posts.  I have my own experiences, of course, but I ditto the fact that your children are blessings, no matter how many you have. 


    Thank you all for all the wisdom.  Great reminders of the precious blessings we have in our kids!



    It sounds to me like you are far ahead of many “beginning homeschoolers” already. I am not a veteran and I have had to learn some things the hard way this year. I wrote a post on my blog about things I have learned. You can read it here: Teach Them Diligently 

    I’d like to thank all of you ladies for these posts. They are very helpful to all of us who are still trying to “get it together” 😉


    Doug Smith

    @my3boys, Sorry your post didn’t go through. I checked everything here and it didn’t end up in our spam trap, so unfortunately, I can’t find anything to restore. Sounds like a connection problem along the way or something.


    I’m soooo enjoying this thread!!! Wow, have I needed to be reminded lately! God is so good about bringing things to your attention just when you need it!! Wink


    @ Doug: Thanks for checking.  I actually think I spent too much time writing, (I kept getting up and doing stuff then coming back to finish) so I think I just didn’t get it sent fast enough. Sounds good anyway. 

    I think some of what I expressed may have been God’s way of showing me something about my own self that I needed to be reminded of.  So, if anything, I’m thankful for that gentle reminder:) 

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