Getting Started Homeschooling: FAQ

I think this topic will become an occasional series.  I’ve had a bunch of requests to share how one gets started homeschooling, and I’m happy to share, but…

What I share is one family’s experience (ours).  You are the expert on your family.  You and your spouse will be the only ones who can judge if what works for us will work for you.

My friend Virginia and I were talking recently about parenting, and she said she wished she hadn’t read ANY parenting books before she started, because then she just felt like she was always doing it wrong.  Every time I’ve had to change a strategy I’d picked up from somewhere else, I bore a load of guilt that I must be doing it wrong.  So please don’t take ANYTHING I say here as an absolute.  If there’s something here that’s helpful, appropriate it, change it, and thank God that it’s working for you.  Until the day it doesn’t, and then change it.

Okay.  Disclaimer over.

Today I’m going to talk about the underpinnings of my methods.  I’m a big fan of Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy and methods, and I find her methods can be used with all sorts of different curricula and content.

Pardon me for a moment while I put on my Charlotte Mason hat.   Education is a life, an atmosphere, and a discipline.  What does that mean?

All of our life is education.  You have already been homeschooling your child to some degree, whether she is three months old or eighteen years old.  Every time you read a library book together, or sing a song, or worship together at church, or plant a flower bulb, or take a hike, or cook a meal together, you are educating.  Some of that learning is passive and some of it is active, but we learn from ALL parts of our life.  Charlotte Mason also wrote that “education is a science of relations.”  That means that our learning is the connecting of the dots between diverse pieces of knowledge.  And living a rich life, with lots of different bits and pieces of information, will give us more connections to make.

The atmosphere in our homes is one of the most important parts of education.  I had friends growing up who didn’t want to spend a single minute in their home because it was chaos– they couldn’t read, or think, or concentrate because of noise, the sheer volume of stuff, and constant media input.  Or to if we hit a little closer to (my) home: it’s hard to learn in a house with too many rules.  If a child can never make noise, how can they learn to make music?  If she can’t get her clothes dirty, how will she learn what dirt feels like?  Or paint?  Our homes in no way need to resemble schools, but we need to be mindful in creating an atmosphere that promotes exploration, study, and conversation.

Finally, education is a discipline.  This is the area about which I wish I’d thought more consciously when we were starting out.  I don’t mean discipline in a punitive way.  I mean it as teaching a child how to choose the right and make herself do it.  This is not my forte, but I have to say that when I spend time building good habits in my children, the payoff is so much greater than the cost.  And I wish I’d started earlier.  Doing math every day build math muscles.  Writing every day builds writing muscles.  To grow a five year-old from an illiterate consumer of picture books into a young adult who can write a 500-word essay on how Sylvia Plath used metaphor and simile in a poem is going to take a lot of baby steps.  (This was my AP English exam a million years ago– I hope I’m not breaking trust by giving away the question now.)

In your house, discipline may begin with having your child brush his teeth and make his bed every morning.  But those are actually big steps, because trust me– teaching a ten year-old to do it is a lot harder.

All right, enough philosophy.  Next post: doing math every day.

11 thoughts on “Getting Started Homeschooling: FAQ

  1. Annie,
    Great post. I love how you broke it down with life, atmosphere and discipline. I struggle most often with the NOISE factor. I just want QUIET, sometimes. 🙂 But this is a good reminder to me to provide an atmosphere that promotes learning and growth, even if that means noise. And mess. 🙂

    Love to you!


    • Stacy, The noise definitely gets me too, although in the warmer months I confess I send a lot of it outside. =) I’ve enjoyed your updates on what you’ve been doing this year– they inspire me! Annie


  2. This is so encouraging. I think since I’ve decided in my mind to do it, I’m seeing that we’ve already done a lot and that it’s not going to be as hard (nor as structured?) as I imagined. Also, we just made Henry his first chore chart this week. And it includes brushing his teeth and making his bed. Stuff he was already doing, but now I’m wanting him to start reminding himself.

    I’m going to have to watch that too many rules one too. Today the boys made a huge mud puddle in the back yard. The rule is they are not allowed to turn on the hose when they are out there, but I was in the basement and the laundry was going and so I didn’t hear it come on. I tried really hard not to be mad at the HUGE MUDDY MESS the two of them were. They did get disciplined for breaking the water rule, but I tried not to make it about the mess. I remember playing in the mud as a kid and how much fun it was. But this is tough for me as a mom. 😉


    • Good job! Honestly, my kids still don’t make their beds, and I wish I’d taught them when they were Henry’s age. The mud. I wish I enjoyed mud as much as my children do… Annie


  3. A friend of mine, Renee Bernhard, referred me to your site, after I posted a facebook comment in which I was freaking out at the imminence of the start of my own homeschooling journey with my three kids, one of whom is already in HIGH SCHOOL. Really enjoyed the realness of your writing. Agree with all points, particularly the disclaimer. 😉 Looking forward to more. 🙂


  4. Pingback: Carnival of Homeschooling: Lemonade Edition

  5. This is fascinating. I can’t wait to read more. I have the entire Charlotte Mason education series, but I find it dense and very hard to digest. I read the homeschool education book almost entirely online, and was riveted, but the rest? Difficult. And to make the leap from Charlotte’s philosophy to a homeschool environment has proved daunting to me. I look forward for more on the ground examples. I may be on the right track after all!


    • Angie, thanks for reading! I find her hard to read, too, but when I catch something, it usually resonates deeply with my heart and my experience. I have a group of moms who read and discuss CM’s writings with me, and that has been so helpful in “fleshing out” what this kind of education looks like. Enjoy the adventure! Annie


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