Homeschool Changes: Two Years Later

Two years ago, now, I was fed up.

I was broken and burnt out.  Mostly, it was my own fault, I admit. I was trying to do two full philosophies – one for me and one for others, and that just doesn’t work. Anyway, I think the series was some of the most important writing on this blog – not necessarily best writing, but important.

You can make changes and your school can be better.  

So as I reflect on the last two years through the lens of that original series, here are some updates:

Intro and Rationale 

I’m not saying perfect, idyllic, utopian – we are still sinners living together every day sinning against one another – but our homeschool is so much better than it was. My children are learning and making relationships with ideas and connections between those ideas in ways that I hadn’t hoped would happen before. It’s a beautiful thing. 
Consistency here remains a struggle. I’ve seen some improvement, particularly this fall, with a couple of things.
For me, I found a Bible Podcast that reads through the OT once and the Psalms and NT twice in a year. When I was walking, I did a great job with this, but have been struggling more recently.  Starting today, I’m going to get back in the saddle because it was a really wonderful way to participate in the Word.
For the children, their Sunday school curriculum (from Great Commissions Publications) has a daily devotion sheet that they’re bringing home and are both interested in doing and willing to do. I try not to think about their teachers “bribing” them with candy to bring back a completed sheet each week.
What can we do better? Go back to putting our Bibles on the breakfast table after dinner the night before. We also hope to start the Young Peacemaker book in the new year.
This has made all the difference. Stopping one philosophy and finding myself fully in the CM-Classical camp – not only have I relaxed, but I’ve found my sisters.
Having a group of ladies from church who are also learning about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, also doing AmblesideOnline, also meeting monthly – we’re almost done with Start Here – has been such a blessing to me.
We’ve done 5, 12 week terms of Ambleside mostly as written. It’s hefty and there are days we muddle, but I can say that it’s been a superior collection of books and ideas to engage with. In the last two terms, we’ve done better with keeping all of the moving parts – the art and music appreciation, etc – in place. I seriously need to do better with Nature Study, but I think Anna and I may have a plan. Doing Nature Pal Exchange was a fun way to get us out and hunting treasures.

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is in the place of narration.  It is a tough skill to acquire. It has taken time to change, but the fruit has been worth it.

I was voxing with a couple of friends, separately, about this just the other day. When we were doing WTM-Classical and narration meant summarization, we were always worried about getting the “right” answer to “what is the most important part of this passage.” Important according to whom? I’m not saying that summarization isn’t an important skill – because it is – but it isn’t narration.

Now narration is “tell me everything you remember about the passage and make connections to other passages. What do you, the narrator, think is important?” That was a big struggle at first. My kids were always trying to find what I thought was the right answer and I often tried to push them to the connections I had made with the reading. But that is wrong in CM education. As we went on, I learned to keep my mouth shut better and they learned to open theirs better and we muddled together.

There are books they connect with better and give better narrations for, but even the ones they don’t love, they make connections.

When we drove to Pittsburgh last week, we drove past Bethlehem PA and my dad said something about how they used to be famous for their “Bethlehem Steel.” M-girl went into a detailed narration from their reading – weeks ago – of the Bessemer process and how he learned to make steel.  I sat their with a stoic look on my face, but inside I was jumping up and down and dancing and screaming, “WINNING.” That is what narration does instead of summarization.  It was a beautiful summary, yes, but fruit of having narrated her own connections with the material. And she dreads that book.

That’s what narration changes have made for us. And it, alone, is worth the struggle to get here.

When I originally wrote the series, my favorite resource on narration wasn’t available. My favorite podcast episode ever is Sonya Shafer on Your Morning Basket talking about narration

Schedule Changes (Big Blocks of Time)
Oh, this has been somewhat miraculous. The children and I love this routine. We love knowing a break means a change. I need to do better about not making breaks vacations, but a change in procedures – a chance to reset, restore, and be prepared for the coming weeks. 
Can I just say a fitbit has helped me? And having good friends who are in a challenge to keep me motivated? I’ve been down on steps for a few months because I’m babying my achilles tendon.  I think I have to go to the doctor, but knowing that someone will ask “Isn’t there a challenge today?” and seeing their steps is motivating and encouraging.
For the kids, we’re getting to the time of year when we don’t get as much movement as we should. I think one of our Christmas presents will help with that, though … 
Can someone habit train me? To be consistent in working on habits? No?

Schedule Changes (Small Blocks of Time)
I don’t even remember what I wrote here.  Let’s just say that my phone timer with daily alarms is my best friend. An alarm 10 minutes before Whatchamacallit (Morning Time), one at the start of Whatchamacallit and one at the end, then a 30 minute break and an alarm to end that and start independent work? Let me just say that the phone gets us all started, even though I’m the one that set the alarms the children can’t fight with the phone.
That might be a problem in the long run … but for now, it helps us stay on track.


  1. So glad God has brought peace & encouragement to your home! Can't wait to hear of your nature plans with Anna. 🙂

    1. We're just going to try to get together either at a park or drawing our treasures if the weather is inclement.

      I'm not sure 'peace' is the characterization I'd make right now … Watch for my 2017 Word for the Year;) But, lessons are going much better and I'm more comfortable with what we are planning and accomplishing than when we did "more."

  2. I love what you said about you learned to be quiet and they learned to talk. And you muddled together. Yes! We are muddling too:).

  3. Great post, Dawn. I love that you are relaxing and enjoying it more –all of you. We think you are doing a wonderful job, faithful to God's call —plus, what sweet and thinking children you have.

  4. This is great. I love hearing about muddling — I get discouraged from the many things I read where the families seem to have it all together and everyone loves everything. Then when it doesn't go well for us, I assume it is my fault. How great to hear your daughter rattle off what she learned from a book she dreads! THAT is encouraging. It must be great to have other women nearby who are doing AO. I hope to find some in our new area.

    1. I hope I don't portray us as having it all together! Because if you could see my kitchen – or even school room -, you'd know better 😉

      It is so easy for Mamas to put all of the "fault" "guilt" responsibility on ourselves. It isn't you, Mel!

      I'm glad it was encouraging to you because it surely was to me!

      What's even better is that those women were already among my dearest friends and we've all worked our own ways to CM/AO (well, we might have pushed/encouraged each other a little).

    2. No, but I read a lot of that in CM's writings. "If you spread the feast, the children will love to learn." And so I hear the opposite implied, "If your children don't enjoy everything you ask them to do, you're doing it wrong." Also I have a bad tendency to isolate myself, so when things go wrong (or just aren't perfect! ha!) I quietly blame myself and decide it was a bad decision. I am newly determined to ask for help in the coming year, instead!

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