Before we start

This is what My Utmost for His Highest had for me yesterday, -part of it-,

If we are in communion with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, we shall no longer try to find out what His purposes are. As we go in the Christian life it gets simpler, because we are less inclined to say –Now why did God allow this or that? Behind the whole thing lies the compelling of God. “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.” A Christian is one who trusts the wits and the wisdom of God, and not his own wits. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and leisureliness which ought to characterize the children of God.

Let’s listen to that again,

A Christian is one who trusts the wits and the wisdom of God, and not his own wits.

And this,

If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and leisureliness which ought to characterize the children of God.


That is just -or most- of what has been afflicting me. I have been trusting my wits more than His Wisdom. I have had a disconnect between my christian life and our homeschooling.

I realize I have carried a purpose of my own into our lessons, schedules, weeks, months, and school years. For 5 years, I have wanted to be in the lead, to tell others what to do, to get better at all of it that I know a CM’s education to be.

In five years, I cannot say everything has been a fiasco. The girls have grown, and they care. It has been simpler all along.

And then summer came.

Summer brought plans, retreats, projects, the prospect of a new school year, of fresh plans, and books, and music, artist prints, Latin, foreign language, more Shakespeare, Plutarch, grammar, time lines, books of centuries, maps, map drills, history, geography, biographies, devotionals, copywork, family reads, writing, hymns, recitation, dictation, memorization, nature walks, nature journals, dry brush, other drawing, typing, devotional, -what is Swedish Drill?-, poetry, literature, book clubs, celebrations, piano class, violin class, ballet class… (are you overwhelmed?)

To write, plan, think about all this, makes me uncomfortable. It shouldn’t. Many of those we have always done, and we are certainly familiar with all. My dear friend Kelly told me it was great I had found Charlotte Mason early. I answered that it is a blessing, no doubt, but in my case, I’m trying to get over my overdose.

I have always resisted those ideas and actions I thought I would never be good at. Now I am considering those more carefully, and I believe they are also for me. Example #1, habits. My daughters are 8 and 10, and I am still laying down the rails. It’s clear we need to have a couple of big habits in place before we can get the details and the whole richness I summarized two paragraphs before.

We don’t seem to be ready to resume lessons. Why? I believe children should want to resume lessons. (I know there can be a bit of reluctance, but it should not be complete negation). My girls want to continue living in summer mode. We have always schooled all year round, and this summer we have taken the longest break of all. A few weeks ago, I felt restless. I wanted to get back to lessons as “I know them”. But we didn’t do so. Now, I am not sure I want to resume lessons in the same way we always did them. Not before we work on habits.

I am trying to wake them up early as I do, and I am not going back to bed to read, but I am staying up, cooking breakfast, making room for lessons. I resisted the idea the lessons must happen in the mornings. Not anymore.

At the retreat, I was looking at the PNEU schedules, and though I am not going to ditch my schedules and make the PNEU schedules my new idol, I got the principle behind the schedules of doing lessons in the mornings, and allowing what we wrongly call “the extras” to drive the readings. I always have had that backwards.

Harmony reminded me of what we tell AO newcomers, start with one or two things, and add to that. Stephanie in her course says exactly that. Start with a couple of things, grow on them. So, no matter we have been doing -or trying to do-, the whole AO dance for five years, we will be stripping it down to the basics. The same I have decluttered my home in the past months, I will declutter our schedules and lesson times.


1. Stick to time blocks, not quantity of text to cover (blocks of 10, 20, 30 minutes)

2. Keep the schedule (that varies activities from more attention demanding to more mechanical) as a guideline, but keep it as a guideline.

3. Respect times/variety/finishing time. (Don’t cram in the name of finishing the “week/month/term/year.”)

4. Alternate this: time with both, time with each, independent time.

5. Plan one term at a time. 

6. Keep it simple. Dare to keep it simple. Have the courage to keep it simple. 

9 thoughts on “Before we start”

  1. Thanks for this, Silvia! I'm at basics mode this time around too 🙂 I feel burned out and think my oldest kiddos are kind of there too. We need somewhat of an off semester – still keep lessons going because they need to but much less of the cramming and completing. I like your six points at the end of this blog – a good guide 🙂


  2. Carol. You are such a faithful reader and commenter of my blog, it means the world to me, you are like my older sister. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


  3. I appreciate your transparency Silvia. Homeschooling is a process of growing, learning, and becoming….not just for our children, but for us moms too. As I read your post, I was reminded of a post by Jen at Wildflowers and Marble where she talks about dealing with homeschool burnout. In her post “Focus and Rejuvenate”, she said: “I try to freshen by getting back to a simpler, gentler, more realistic plan and environment – one that meets the needs of *my* family, *our* needs, and remembers to offer beauty and relaxing amongst its days.” And then she also said: “Different seasons require different approaches. Give yourself permission to let your lessons reflect the challenges you face in your current season of life.” And then one other thing she said that I thought was a great piece of advice: “Discern where your teaching philosophy and abilities mesh with your children's needs. There will always be opportunities for growing and stretching in both of these areas, but for the most part where these two abilities intersect is where you'll spend the majority of your energy and time homeschooling. This is home.” Her post is so encouraging and inspiring! I think sometimes we can get caught up in our own ideals of education; but sometimes those ideals don't pan out with our children. And I think that's where Jen's statement is so wise….when we can discern where our philosophy and abilities intersect with the needs of our kids, I think that's when we are probably going to be more likely to find that sweet spot. But I think this is a process….a journey. It takes time to find that place. And to be honest, I think that because there are different seasons of life and because kids change and we change, that sweet spot can change too. You know? Anyway, I guess I'm rambling. I really struggled with burnout by the end of school last year and knew that something needed to change for our new school year. I've taken some time this summer to rest and rejuvenate, because it was so much needed. Like you, I am trying to keep things simple. I love your last statement: “Keep it simple. Dare to keep it simple. Have the courage to keep it simple.”


  4. Karen, you are such a blessing. Like Caril, your comments give me so much support.
    I need to read that post you mention, you narrated it so well. Your comment enriched and expanded my thoughts. Yes to all you wrote. It's easy to get carried by what we know ti be good, and forget about Him, and those relationships we are developing. If we put Him first, joy will abound -bad days should be the exception -, our attitude and our home atmosphere can invite to learning and love. When that happens, curriculum and schedule are second, though like Betty says, if we plan realistically, we should be able to finish, and get that satisfaction -instead of burnout.


  5. You know Silvia, I am hoping, hoping, hoping that I'm beginning to find that good spot for school this year with my youngest now. It has been such a journey! This last year or so has been such a learning time for me regarding my thoughts on CM and other educational approaches. I feel like I'm coming full circle back to CM (even though I never set aside CM completely.) Being back to AO and seeing how it can work for us, looking at how it works best to schedule subjects in our days, I feel like we're finally sliding into a routine that might just work really well.


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