If there is one group of individuals who suffer from self doubt like no other, it’s the homeschooling mom. Mom guilt is bad enough, but when you throw into the mix the fears about your child’s education and your ability to successfully homeschool, it can be crippling. In your quest to discover how to homeschool, oftentimes, you may be tempted to reassure yourself by searching for checklists and schedules and homeschooling methods for success. While all of these tools have their place, they don’t get at the foundational needs of you and your children. Before you get too caught up in curriculum reviews and homeschooling methods, you should take some time to consider the following steps to achieving daily homeschool success.
1. Know Your Why
Why do you want to homeschool? As a Christian mother, I know your heart’s desire is to raise your children for God’s glory, but perhaps you have little understanding of how to practically accomplish such a lofty endeavor.
Perhaps you also have creeping fears that you aren’t smart enough, organized enough, or talented enough to give them what they need. Maybe you struggle to strike the right balance between “mother” and “teacher” with your kids.
Before you can hope to have daily homeschool success, it’s important to solidify in your mind why you are homeschooling because there will be days when it will be hard, and there will be times you will have a major case of self doubt.
You may find yourself asking these why’s,
Why, am I doing this?
Why don’t I just send my child to public school?
Why doesn’t my child listen to me?
If I’ve learned anything over the past thirteen years, it’s that if I don’t keep my “why” in the forefront of my mind, I will drown in the self doubt and be tempted to throw in the towel.
Write down your why, laminate it, make a t-shirt if you have to.
I homeschool my children because I believe it is God’s will that I diligently teach them about Him, His Kingdom, and His Creation as we live life together.
As a Christian, the first place to establish your “why” comes from the Bible.
There are numerous passages in the Bible you could choose to inspire your “why” for homeschooling, but this passage in Deuteronomy speaks very clearly to the heart of God regarding our duties to Him with regard to our children.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Do you see that beautiful pattern?
God’s Word says that homeschooling is to be done “diligently….when you sit in your house…and when you walk by the way…and when you lie down…and when you rise.”
You will be teaching your children as you live life EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
This may sound daunting and overwhelming, but as we walk with the Lord, one day at a time, so shall we homeschool.
Yes, there will be curriculum to choose and lesson plans to make, but your “why” and your “how” do not have to be contradictory.
The Lord will help you to consistently and diligently teach your kids as you walk with Him and as you live daily with the children He has given you.
2. Secure Your Own Mask Before Helping Others
If you’ve ever flown in a plane before, you have heard the safety announcement. If you are like most passengers, you have probably heard it so many times that you simply tune it out. There is a statement that is always made regarding the necessity of wearing the oxygen masks in the event of a plane crash: “Secure your own mask before helping others”
If there ever was a motto that mother’s need to adopt to ensure a successful homeschool day, this is it. Mom, how many times do you attempt to care for your family without securing your own mask? How often do you run on empty physically, spiritually, and emotionally? It is a recipe for disaster every single time.
“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” CS Lewis
I know it is difficult to find the time in the morning to feed your soul, but as one who has failed many times and who has found that the successful homeschool days only come when I have taken a few minutes to feed my own soul, I implore you to take these steps to feed your soul daily.
Practical Tips For Daily Homeschool Success
- Make it a habit to say a prayer of thanks and a prayer for help before you get out of bed. It only takes two minutes, but setting your heart immediately toward thanksgiving and the necessity of the Spirit is crucial to starting your day with the right attitude.
- Make Bible Your First Lesson Of The Day. It is best to spend some dedicated time in the Word before the kids get up, but if you find yourself behind on some days, having it be the first lesson in your curriculum ensures that you don’t neglect to read the Bible Every. Single. Day.
- Do not hesitate to stop and pray WITH THE KIDS at any point in the day when things go awry. Don’t “lecture” the kids in the prayer, but honestly pour out your heart to the Lord about how things are going and ask for the Spirit’s help. Just quieting everyone down and focusing on the Lord can make a huge difference in everyone’s (especially mom’s) attitudes.
- Set aside 30 minutes every day and read 3 books that feed your soul. Set a timer for 10 minutes each. I recommend you always be reading something to encourage you in your homeschooling and mothering journey, something that is challenging (Think those classics you never read in high school) and something that is just for fun. [I confess as a theology nerd sometimes that is what I choose for ‘fun’]. You will be surprised how much you can cover in 30 minutes. If you really can’t find 30 minutes altogether, then do three separate 10 minute sessions.
3. Read Living Books By Successful Homeschoolers
Living books are a necessity in your homeschool classroom and for your children, but what about the living ideas you need as a homeschool mom? What do you need to read, in order to prepare yourself to successfully homeschool? What books might offer you encouragement? I’m not talking about curriculum books with titles like, ‘How to teach a child to read in 100 easy lessons‘, but what books should you read to feed your soul and help you get and keep your “why” firmly in place?
The following books have fed my soul from the beginning and continue to do so today. I find myself coming back to them again and again for refreshment, homeschooling encouragement, and guidance. That is how I KNOW that they are living books.
“I do not believe that the personal, free, individual character of education can be preserved when you have a Federal department laying down standards of education which become more or less mandatory to the whole country.” –J. Gresham Machen, Education, Christianity and The State
In the early days of my homeschool journey, the Lord began to reform my theology quite a bit. That is a long story for another day, but needless to say, Jesus had a plan for my sanctification through the process of homeschooling. I stumbled upon a man from the 1930’s named J. Gresham Machen. He was a Presbyterian minister during a time when our country and our churches were undergoing a tremendous attack by the liberal movement. His writings have had a tremendous impact on both my theological views as well as my homeschooling views.
Education, Christianity, and the State was profoundly influential on my thinking with regard to homeschooling vs public schooling. The book is actually a compilation of numerous talks Machen gave on the topic of Christian education over the years including such titles as,
- The Importance of Christian Scholarship
- Christianity and Culture
- Reforming the Government Schools
- The Necessity of the Christian School
- Shall We Have a Federal Department of Education?
- Proposed Department of Education
- The Christian School: the Hope of America
Machen also testified before the senate in opposition to the development of the Federal Department of Education. He understood the grave problems that would arise from turning education into a utilitarian factory setting meant to produce seemingly identical individuals with no capacity for individual thinking. This book is a great resource for those times when you wonder if your kids might be better off in public school.
There has never been a generation when children have so desperately needed their parent’s time, thoughtful creativity, and friendship. The surrounding culture is deeply out of step with the Word of God. Other pressures threaten to take away sanity, stability, and simple humanity.Susan Schaeffer Macaulay , For The Children’s Sake
The second most influential book on my homeschooling philosophy was, “For the Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. When I first started homeschooling my oldest child, I stumbled upon the ideas of Charlotte Mason and while many of them were quite beyond my mind’s reach at the time, I was drawn to her love of great literature and challenged by the ideas of incorporating nature and handicrafts into my schooling, something I had sorely been deprived in my own education.
However, at the same time that I began exploring homeschooling methods and educational philosophies, I also began having my own theological views challenged and changed. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, I abandoned Charlotte Mason early in my homeschooling career and pursued a Classical/Eclectic approach for the first 2 years of my oldest son’s education.
When my oldest child was 6 years old, he became very ill over the summer. By the time he was recovering and we resumed school, I also had a 2 year old and a newborn, and was trying to give him an entirely too rigorous “Classical” education that I had pieced together using various online resources. Because my natural (sinful) tendency is prone to anxiety and type A reactions, this way of schooling created an atmosphere of stress for myself as well as my child.
I found myself exhausted and constantly barking at everyone. I was spending little time actually enjoying my children. I was sucking the life out of my 6 year old, and I certainly wasn’t creating an atmosphere conducive to education. One day, I looked up from the dishes, barked at my 6 year old about finishing his lessons, and recognized that this wasn’t the vision I had once had for my children or my homeschool.
Susan Schaeffer Macaulay reintroduced me to Charlotte Mason in a way that I hadn’t previously understood. I was able to digest the ideas of a Charlotte Mason education in a much more tangible way and caught a new glimpse for how to see my children as individuals and how to nourish them. While it’s true that a Charlotte Mason education is NOT RELAXED homeschooling in the sense that many mean relaxed, it is a much more enjoyable and peaceable atmosphere. Because Charlotte Mason understood how to work with the natural eagerness for learning that children have, her methods lay a framework for daily success in homeschooling.
I haven’t arrived at fully implementing a Charlotte Mason education in our homeschool, but I have found a much better way to educate my children and enjoy them in the process. I hope as we go along on this journey together to share more about how we are striving to implement more and more of her ideas into our daily routines. However, even if you don’t think you want to pursue a Charlotte Mason education for your family, I still highly encourage you to read For the Children’s Sake. It is an excellent foundation for your homeschooling mindset and your soul.
Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
If one of your struggles with the Christian homeschool community is that you simply feel inadequate, then, hello friend. I’m so pleased to make your acquaintance. We are cut from the same cloth. If you didn’t grow up in a Christian home with a mother who cooked, sewed, and ran the local garden club, then you probably feel much like I did when I first encountered all the blogs and books describing this surreal Victorian era homeschool where kids walk through the woods all day, make blankets from the wool of their own sheep, and prepare home made meals every day.
Around the same time that I rediscovered Charlotte Mason through For the Children’s Sake, I also stumbled upon a blog post written by a woman named Cindy Rollins. The “ideal” homeschool done the Charlotte Mason way truly inspired me, but I knew myself, and I had little belief that I could actually accomplish these lofty ideas. I knew that I needed the habits of attention and discipline perhaps even more than my kids and the gauntlet felt too difficult to surmount.
If you have something that you want your children to assimilate like poetry or scripture or music or Shakespeare, forget the grand schemes, forget what the Konos mom is doing down the street, start giving that thing one or two minutes of your time daily and watch the years roll by.Cindy Rollins, Mere Motherhood
Enter Cindy Rollins, Mere Motherhood, and Morning Time. Now, here is a woman’s story that I can relate to and a system I can follow. Here is a woman who has practically put into place these principles I love so much…
little by little…day by day… in the midst of
After devouring all that I could online by Ms. Rollins, I discovered recently that she has published a few books. I recently had the pleasure of reading Mere Motherhood and found myself inspired all over again.
She also has published much of what I read in those early days on her blog about Morning Time in a book. I highly recommend her books if you are struggling to understand the practical aspects of a living education and you like to laugh.
- Mere Motherhood
- Mere Motherhood Newsletters
- A Handbook to Morning Time
- Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah
Charlotte Mason’s Home Education Series, 6 Volume Set
It seems obvious that the works of Charlotte Mason, herself, should be on the list. In full disclosure after over twelve years of homeschooling, I am just now working through them in a consistent and purposeful manner with some other homeschool moms.
While I have read sections and read commentaries and listened to others podcasts about her books, it is only now after all these years that I am beginning to truly grasp her ideas for successful homeschooling. I hope to begin sharing more of that with you, but if you haven’t read them, I do recommend you add them to your library of living books for your soul. There is much to be gained from her wisdom in educating children.
- Home Education, Vol. 1
- Parents and Children, Vol. 2
- School Education, Vol. 3
- Ourselves, Vol. 4
- Formation of Character, Vol. 5
- Towards A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6
More Living Books To Help You Achieve Homeschool Success
If you want just a few more because you are book collecting addict like myself, here ya go.
- Educating The WholeHearted Child
- For the Family’s Sake: The Value of Home in Everyone’s Life
- Better Late Than Early
- Know and Tell: The Art of Narration
- Teaching From Rest
- Mother Culture
- The Unhurried Homeschooler
I hope you see that in order to achieve daily homeschool success, you need to make a few decisions for yourself before you even begin the task of developing a curriculum and choosing a style. I encourage you to take your time, pray, and feed yourself on good living books and ideas.
Don’t be discouraged if you find that your homeschool philosophy shifts and your why gets rewritten. That is called sanctification and it is quite normal because, as I have discovered, homeschooling success has as much to do with what God wants to achieve in my life as it does in the lives of my children.
What are your favorite books for feeding the soul?
You Might Also Be Interested In our Other Homeschooling Topics
- A Traveling Homeschooler: Can you really homeschool while traveling?
A Homeschooler’s Guide To Things To Do In The Smoky Mountains With Kids [and count it as a school day!]
Christmas Nature Craft Ideas (Great Way To Make Nature Study Fun During The Holidays)