A Solid Start – or Restart

I started homeschooling back in 2002 – over 20 years ago! The homeschooling world was a completely different place back then. My family’s initial jump into homeschooling took place during a “sweet spot” of American homeschooling. No longer the days of the Homeschool Pioneers, but still before the days of smartphones, Facebook, and the overabundance of homeschooling curricula. How thankful I am that I found homeschool authors near the beginning of our journey who encouraged delayed academics, warm family atmospheres, and learning from real books and real life. 

The very first homeschooling book I read was NOT one of these influences! How I wish I could remember the name of it so you could click over and see it for yourself. I think my brain has scoured the title from my memory. This homeschooling guidebook suggested I have the kids call me Mrs. Burt during school hours, and that we recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day. I believe I utilized this method for about a week, but the whole idea did not sit well with me.  Thankfully, the next several authors to make my acquaintance were much more realistic.

The homeschooling chapter in Bringing Up Boys (I had 3 boys by this time so was gifted this book on Mother’s Day) pushed me to look more into Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Dr. Moore staunchly recommended parents not put boys into school or do formal academics with them until after age 8, citing research from disciplines of ophthalmology, neurology, and psychology. In their now-outdated book Better Late than Early, the Moores suggested that waiting on formal academics meant children had time to follow curiosity, learn from real life, avoid screens (back then that meant the television!), and be better developed physically, neurologically, and emotionally for learning.

My OG crew of 3 boys were my inspiration for homeschooling

Once during a weekend girls’ getaway, I noticed a friend reading A Different Kind of Teacher by John Taylor Gatto. I kept picking it up and reading from it whenever she set it down for a moment, and ended up having to obtain my own copy. One of Gatto’s main messages was that children are built to learn, and that formal schooling often kills curiosity. He purported that if a parent or teacher would only wait until the student was interested and ready to learn a particular skill, that this process would go much more smoothly, quickly, and with long-lasting results. 

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaefer MacCuley was my first introduction to Charlotte Mason. Charlotte Mason did not recommend academics before age 6, and proposed a way of learning very foreign to our current bite-sized conveyor belt methods typical of most schools. Instead of teachers or textbooks pre-digesting ideas to make them easier to understand, Charlotte Mason recommended real books and hours of interaction with nature. During my research into Charlotte Mason, I found Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. The Clarksons’ book helped me look at learning styles, homeschooling philosophies, and family culture. 

Another life-changing influence from the early years was Ruth Beechick. The Three R’s series took any last bit of fear I had about being able to teach my own children and disposed of it forever. Her booklets (now compiled as sub-sections into one book) taught me the very basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Until A Home Start in Reading, I had thought learning to read was complicated, scientific, and tricky. Suddenly I knew how simple teaching reading could be. Every sound in the English language was typed onto a 2-page spread in this little booklet – how hard could this be? I could do this! Beechick’s Strong Start in Language showed me how simple learning to write could be. An Easy Start in Arithmetic showed me that for ages 5 through 9, math could be learned from real life. In brick and mortar schooling, children were taught the same basic concepts over and over during these ages. Nothing scary to see here! The mystery of learning was as simple as living life with curiosity and making sure we learned the basics. I loved these booklets so much that I bought 2 copies of each and lent them out so often that I have no idea where any of them are today.

Little boys grow into men who do things like graduate from college, buy houses, and work full-time — way too fast!

In 2023, we have a multitude of curricula available to us. Some of it is still very “school at home.” Many other publishers and authors have been influenced by the likes of Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick, Sally Clarkson, and Dr. Moore. Knowing well your own foundational principles better will help you recognize curriculum that will work for you. Sometimes it’s worth going back to the home-centered basics for a solid foundation in how children learn and when they learn best, and applying this information to your particular home. I highly recommend these oldies but goodies for any of you struggling to feel like you have a firm foundation in homeschooling. You’ll feel empowered, strengthened, and reset. 

Ready for a fresh start? Refresh your homeschool with our workbook.

Chasing Wonder had many of these paradigms in mind when we came up with our Homeschool Refresh Workbook. Going through the workbook, you’ll consider your family’s personal values, your children’s individual bents, and your real life – warts and all – as you put together a plan that works for you. When homeschooling begins to hurt or feel hard, sometimes a big picture refresh is what is needed. Whether it’s going back to foundational ideals or slowing down to scrutinize your current situation, you’ll benefit from considering what is important in home education to you personally.