YMB #77 Awaking Wonder: A Conversation with Sally Clarkson

On today’s episode of the podcast I welcome Sally Clarkson, author and homeschool mom, to chat about her soon-to-be-released book Awaking Wonder. Education does not have to be difficult or stifling. Find out how homeschool families can create delightful learning based on good books and beautiful experiences.


This is Your Morning Basket, where we help you bring Truth, Goodness and Beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone and welcome to Episode 77 of the Your Morning Basket Podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I am so happy that you are joining me here today. Well, every once in a while, I get to do something absolutely amazing in this job and it just tickles me pink. And this week’s interview is one of those situations I got to speak to one of my favorite homeschooling mentors, Sally Clarkson. Years and years ago, when I was getting ready to homeschool my first, I found Sally’s book, Educating the Wholehearted Child, and just devoured it. It was one of my absolute favorites.

And so, we’ve actually got to meet before. I was just so thrilled to get to have her on the podcast. So we’re going to be talking about Sally’s new book, Awaking Wonder, and about the role that wonder plays in a child’s life and education and in our home schools. How can we foster a sense of wonder in our children and how will this help us during our homeschool days? So, we’ll get on with that interview right after this word from our sponsor.

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This episode of the podcast is brought to you by Your Morning Basket Plus. Okay, I'm so excited guys. New in the Your Morning Basket Plus subscription is our Morning Basket Explorers Club. Now this club features our brand new Morning Basket Explorations kits. Each month, we present a new themed set of explorations on kid favorite themes. So, coming up in the next year, each month, we will be exploring a new theme, themes like flowers, apples, the farm, gratitude, Christmas around the world, Arctic animals, George Washington Carver, who is a favorite Alabama son, the solar system, the Holy Land, gardening, the flag, and sharks. And oh boy, we are just getting started. We have so many other ideas.

So, each month, we will put out an exploration guide for moms to set up these explorations. And these will include a Do It section of things to do during your Morning Time, a Strew It section with ideas to strew for your kids that they can explore on their own. A Further Exploration section with ideas that your family can do outside of Morning Time, like something you can do in the kitchen or a field trip. We're also going to have level up ideas that are going to help you bring your older students, your middle school students into the exploration with the rest of the family, it's going to be age-appropriate for them.

Now, the guides also feature memorization and music to go with each theme, and we're going to include mp3 audios of the memory work and the songs. So, just to make it super easy for your family to memorize or sing along.

But the Explorers Club doesn't stop with the guides. Each month, we're also going to have two live events with your favorite Morning Time teachers that go along with these explorations. And if you can't make it to the events live, you're going to have access to the replays. Plus, your family is going to be able to submit your findings and activities at the end of each month and receive a special tracking form and monthly stickers in the mail to document your family's journey as Morning Basket explorers. Your kids are going to love this, it's going to be so much fun. We're so excited about this new journey we get to share with your family. The Explorers Club is part of the Your Morning Basket Plus subscription along with over 40 sets of done for you Morning Time plans that are also in the subscription.

So you can join today and get more information by heading to pambarnhill.com/subscriptions for monthly and annual options. We cannot wait to see you there. And now, on with the podcast.

Sally Clarkson is a bestselling author, world-renowned speaker and beloved figure who has dedicated her life to supporting and inspiring countless women to live into the story God has for them to tell. Sally hosts a weekly podcast At Home with Sally where she invites you into her home, thoughts and life to share her candid wisdom. Sally is the bestselling author of many books including the Ministry of Womanhood and The Lifegiving Home. She and her husband, Clay, founded Whole Heart Ministries to support families and raising faithful children in our difficult culture. And together they raised and homeschool their own four children.

In her newest title, Awaking Wonder: Opening Your Child's Heart to the Beauty of Learning, Sally shares the principles that guided her in raising her children with vibrant faith. Sally, welcome to the podcast.

Thanks. It's so fun to be with you today.

It is so good to have you here. I will tell you that, I don't think this book gets talked about quite as much anymore, but back in the day when I first started homeschooling your book about the wholehearted homeschool was like my favorite. Raising the Wholehearted Child, yes, yes, Homeschooling the Wholehearted Child, that's it. I loved that book that you and Clay wrote and it was, I still recommend that book, because it is a wonderful combination of really practical down to earth stuff and just this beautiful vision of what your homeschool can look like.

Well, thank you. We've always been idealists, and we also, it's funny that people think you can't be idealists and have an out of the box lifestyle, so to speak, and also have plans. And we have both. So, a lot of people are still using it. Educating the Wholehearted Child came out many years ago. And as I look back on it today, I think, wow, there's hardly a thing I would change except to say that I wish all mothers had full-time housecleaning.

Yes. I would get on board with that, Sally.

Maybe the government should provide that for us.

That's funny. Yeah, I had the old red covered copy that was worn out and falling apart.


Yes. When the updated version came out with the photographs on the front, I got that one too. That's still a great one, that's still a great one. I love it. I know a lot of people know you, but just go ahead and give me the overview. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your family?

Sure. I am an author of, this is my 21st book, and my real underpinnings in my background is that, I worked as a disciple, as a missionary in communist Eastern Europe many years ago. And in the midst of it, I got a real vision for what it looked like to raise up a generation of children who both love God, are engaged intellectually, have a sense of wonder in their lives, have a sense of story. And so, we entered into home education movement literally 36 years ago, and we'd never even heard of home education. We came at it from a whole different point of view.

So, we just kind of took a risk, lived by faith throughout most of the standard ways that most people had been educating. And much to God's grace and our surprise, our four children have left our home and they all are involved in writing and producing and movies and music, and they love the Lord and they have a real vision for life. I felt so unsupported and I was so new in the movement as a pioneer that we wanted, I wanted at this point, to really write another book, do more podcasts about what it looked like to really shape the heart, mind, soul and vision of the next generation. What it looks like after having done it and after having seen God's blessing in the midst of it all.

Yeah. You know what struck me? I was on your website as we were preparing for this and you have the Clarkson books there. So it's not just Sally's books that are listed on the website, it's the entire family's books. And you're all writing together. And I thought, wow, writing lessons must have gone so much better at her house than they go at mine because she has children who are willing to still write with her.

Well, the thing is, and this is kind of, there's a lot of stuff in the book about it, but we never in our lives used the writing curriculum. We just helped our children fall in love with words and messages, and we talked a lot. We had dinner table discussions, we read great literature in the writing. And as a matter of fact, at this moment, all of them are contracted for either one book or two with publishers. It came out of their heart, not out of a prescriptive writing curriculum. And so, that's a little bit of what I wrote about in this newest book, Awaking Wonder.

I look back and I feel like sometimes out of this great desire and passion for really doing the very best job with our children, which is what these precious ones are doing, sometimes we take on yokes or burdens or voices in our head that really create more havoc than create inspiration in the lives of our children. So, I wanted to write a book to say, looking back, this is really what we did, first of all, to give them an engaged and excited intellect. But the second thing was, I feel like a lot of kids in this very difficult cultural history of things have lost their faith, have been hopeless, have not known how to go into the world with a real sense of a foundation.

And so, I really wanted to write a book too and say, really, education is about shaping their faith, their spiritual foundations, their character, their vision. And so, education isn't primarily just a list of reductive facts or ideas to know, it really is about shaping the whole life of a child to become adult in their generation.

Okay, interesting. I want to unpack that a little bit. I want to go back to what you were talking about earlier, though, how you didn't do the writing lessons, you didn't have a prescriptive kind of path that you laid out. So what about the mom who's sitting there going, okay, Sally, but you're a writer, this was easy for you. I want this for my children, I would love for them to grow up to have that kind of relationship with writing like your kids do. But what do I do if I'm not a writer?

Read my book.

I love it.

One of the things that I start out with in the book, and I understand this, and of course, you have to kind of, most important thing, there's probably about five most important things, but is you have to develop a philosophy of education before you can have a grid through which to say this is how I'm going to do it. And I was one of those kids in school. I was bored, I probably talked too much. I thought, oh my goodness, can I ever get rid of this? I wasn't engaged, I wasn't inspired. And so, it actually happened, my husband and I were working in Vienna, Austria. We were a young couple then helping the pastor in International Chapel with about 40 different countries in our church.

I was sitting at our lunch table, we'd invited people over every week. And there are people from South Africa attache from out South Africa. There was a trombonist in the Philharmonic in Vienna and an opera singer and two people from Russia and a refugee from Iraq. And as they were all sitting there talking, I thought, oh my goodness, I would love to know more, I would love to learn. I wish I knew about artists and musicians and ideas and philosophies and politics. But I had grown up, gone through school, college, could speak part of four languages because I lived in different countries. And I thought, I never fell in love with learning.

And so, when I came to this whole area, Clay and I came idealistically, actually committed to it before we had our first baby, we are idealists, I realized that I wanted to look at what education and the shaping and the formation of a child's intellect, soul, character. What would that look like if I came at it from a new drawing board? And so, that's where we implemented our philosophy. I think it's really so easy to get caught up in the checklist and the fear that, “Oh my goodness, are my kids going to do well enough? Have I done enough?” Instead of saying, “Well, I'm going to send them into a really difficult world where the internet is filled with differing opinions and differing messages. How am I going to associate and inspire and pass on a legacy of faith to my children that they will stand fast in a very secular world?”

So, I really wanted this book to be much more about, you've got to focus on what's going to matter for their whole life.

Yes, and not just filling out those lists and checking those boxes.

Not this multiple choice, fill in the blank, exactly.

Yeah, yeah. Or regurgitating facts. That's so much about what our education was about when we were growing up is-

So true.

Yeah. Learning the facts to be able to regurgitate them, instead of things that had value or weight or importance.

And honestly, if you look at them, they were arbitrary facts. There's so much to know, there's an infinite amount of things to know in the world. And just to memorize lists. I think another thing and it really helped me, I have a wonderful son who is ADHD, ODD, OCD, dyslexic; really out of the box. And I realized that in many ways, he was really brilliant and fun, and in many ways, challenging. But I thought, if he had been compared to everyone else who had to sit still, could never ask questions because it caused too much disruption, had to always get the right answers, it would have crushed him.
And so, I further realize that every child has strengths and weaknesses, and that when you have this opportunity to give your child an individual education, you can really help them to live into their potential in ways that being in an age-graded, test-oriented world doesn't work.

Yeah. Yeah.

Is that making sense?

It is, it really is. Well, let's talk a little bit about wonder because I really want to dig into this idea. I want to hear what Sally Clarkson's definition of wonder is.

Well, I'm going to just kind of give you more of a story than anything. As I look at my children, and the book starts out with a story about us living in the mountains of Colorado. We backed up to thousands of acres of national forests, we were kind of in a secluded place. I opened the book with a story of saying, “Oh my goodness, this is such a beautiful summer night, the skies are clear, there's myriad, thousands and thousands of stars,” because we didn't have any city lights where we were.

And so, I made some food, got sleeping bags out, we put it on our deck, put some music on. And then we spent the night as a family under the stars, making observations, loving it, dancing to the music, watching shooting stars. And from that point of view because I believe that each of them were created by God with an incredible capacity to imagine, to wonder, to engage in thoughts and life. The average four year old asks 100 questions a day. I don't know who followed them around.

And so, if children were born with incredible desire to know and wonder and imagine, then I thought, how can I so cooperate with that and let them each go into their different areas so that they will feel like learning is a gift, it's a pleasure, it's not a curse, so to speak.

And so, when I picture wonder, I picture the ability to ponder, to engage in, to be immersed by the amazing attributes of the world that God has created. So I pondered, I thought, how can I so expose my children to the best authors, the most wonderful musicians, the greatest philosophers, fine artists, historical heroes. How can I open up for them in my home? I learned it little by little, I copied wise people. How can I open up my home to become such a place of discovery that they will absolutely love learning because the average baby learns a vocabulary of thousands of words by the time they're three years old without us giving a single curriculum or test.

By four years old, children's moral foundations and their picture of what is right and wrong in the world is usually shaped. And they ask all these questions. And I thought, I want to open up that kind of energy and capacity in each child so that they can grow fully into who God made them to be, and leave my home with a foundation of faith, but also, a vision for what they might accomplish through their own story in their world.

Oh, wow. Yeah. Okay, I love that. It's funny. I hear you talking about taking your kids out to look at the stars, getting the sleeping bags, laying on the deck, playing the music. You didn't make a lesson plan, you didn't download a lapbook. You just went out there and did it. And so, it's almost like wonder is, it's set apart. When we think about, well, we're going to do something with our kids, we're going to experience the stars together, it's like a pre, I don't know if you've ever read Dr. James Taylor's book, Poetic Knowledge, where he talks about wonder. He quotes Thomas Aquinas and just this idea that wonder fits into this different way of knowing something.

Right, right. And it's really important to faith too because faith is taking a leap of belief into the stories, the imagination of the Creator when he made the world. I think that so many times we've turned into a didactic sort of a society, and I kind of think, I wanted my kids to know that God is transcendent beyond our imagination. We can know things and observe things and learn things along the way. So yeah, I do think that wonder is this energy that motivates us to wanting to know. So from that night, one of the kids said, "I want to look up galaxies." Another one said, "I want to draw a picture of all the different moon stars and find out what they are." And we studied Galileo and we say Copernicus.

From just that one evening, then we left the next day looking up all sorts of interesting knowledge about just the interstellar issues people had observed and things that we learned science books, because their wonder had been captivated by the evening, and the next day, they were interested in exploring it further.

Yes, yes. Whereas if you'd started from the other side, there's a very good chance you might have lost some of them.

You have to memorize these constellations. You have to tell me what date was Copernicus born in? Why did they imprison Galileo? It would have been fine, but as it was, they created that sense of interest. Kind of the way we did it, you do have to take a step of faith, in that you have to realize that if, gosh, you have these 17 or 18 years before they supposedly graduate. When you're doing this kind of learning and exploring and asking questions at dinner time, and saying, what do you think and watching videos and going to museums. When you do this over a lifetime, I'm just shocked at who my children became because I thought, wait a minute, I didn't finish enough books, I didn't do everything right. And yet, two of them are finishing their PhDs. Sarah graduated from Oxford with her Masters of Theology. Nathan has made two films, one was picked up by Netflix. It's not that I was anything. We still had dirty dishes and I lost my temper from time to time.

But the point is that if you plant seed in good soil and water it and fertilize it and protect it from the elements of life, you're going to expect that seed to grow. And in the same way, when we cooperate, when we plant great seeds in the hearts of our children, in good soil, and we water and cultivate and nurture those seeds to grow, they will grow. In other words, these are things that are possible for all students, all families. It's just a matter of looking at education from a little bit different point of view. And that's what I hope to help people learn to imagine for themselves and for their own families.

And it's a lot easier, I didn't do age-graded, I taught all of my kids, and they were 11 years different in age. All of them came to the same reading time. Older ones read some of their own independent books. We always read children's books along the way with the subject we were studying. But I just wouldn't have had enough capacity or time or patience to do age-graded curriculum for all my children. I don't know how people do it. And so, the only age-graded curriculum we used was math, one a year, at least one a year. And then a very, very simple grammatical kind of book, like five minutes a day. And then everything else was done together, exploring, learning, living that organic sort of life. And that does require a step of faith but it really works. It's how a home was designed to be.

Yeah. And I love to hear you say that because that's a place where I think so many moms struggle. And that's what Morning Time is all about. It's all about getting your entire family together around the table and doing as many things. We even do grammar together.

That's so good. And then the older and the younger teach, and yeah, I think that's wonderful.

Yeah. And I think that's one of the most difficult paradigms for homeschool moms to break out of is that, when you get that 11 year old together with that six year old, they just don't see how I can read about the American Revolution with both and they can both get something out of it. But you're telling me it's going to be okay.

Well, and I think too, every family is different, and we have great agency to coordinate our family in the best way possible for them. But I think we started this from the moment they were born. In other words, the earlier you start and establish this is what we do. We get up, we have devotions, then we wash the dishes, and then we go read. When you establish these routines and say this is how we're going to do it, and I think that my children thought that reading aloud was playtime. They loved the stories. They loved the books they got engaged in. Always gave them something to do or play with, while they were listening. If they couldn't tell me back what they'd read, they had to hear it all over again and take away whatever they were doing.

And of course, our children do things like, in the midst of a great novel that you really want them to learn from, they interrupt by saying, "He touched my toe." Or they'll get into fights with mom. A part of it all, it's not an unmessy scene, but it's no not this, this, no, not this. Establishing habits, establishing patterns, loving the same things. And over a lifetime, they're listening more than you think, they are engaging in amazing ways, and they really are emulating the life that you are living in front of them.

Yes. And it all adds up over time because I think we get so caught up in what the day to day looks like.

Yeah. Exactly.

Yeah, it really, really does. So it's so good to hear you say that? Well, you've given us a great example of taking your kids out to look at the stars. But how can we foster a sense of wonder in our kids? We're hearing this and maybe we're contemplating teaching and learning and living with our kids like this for the very first time. What are some things that we can do? You've mentioned talking at the dinner table. Can you give me a couple of other practical examples?

Yeah, I actually wrote a book called The Lifegiving Table, also wrote a book called The Lifegiving Home, which both of those books have hundreds of ideas of how to create an environment, how to create traditions, how to create routines, because the more you can kind of set this kind of philosophy as a rhythm of life, as an expectation of this is how we live our days, then they will more easily live underneath it.

I think sometimes, and it just takes time, and you have to do it your own way, according to your personality, but I think sometimes kids have grown to depend too much on machines. It's kind of, if you offer them from a very early age, the entertainment that comes from television, computer, gaming devices, telephones, then of course, that's offering your children potato chips first before you offer them something else wonderful that's better and more healthy for them. And so, sometimes you have to recognize that breaking those habits will require that you give them some interesting and fun things to do.

We kind of picture our house as a resource. So we have had lots of Legos and we had lots of puzzles. We had places for each of them to go. We had dress up clothes. We'd give them a little tape recorder so they could write their own plays and act out their own parts. We would staple together lots of paper and say, now I want you to write a book about this era that we were just talking about. We gave them instruments to play, we gave them, in our own home because Clay and I became writers. We weren't writers at the beginning, I didn't write my first book until I was 44. And so, we kind of came upon this slowly but surely because we had messages. And so, writing came out of messages.

We would give them one of our catalogs that we were working on. We used to carry 500 books, the best books that we knew about in a catalog. And we would say to the kids, how would you describe the book, what copy would you do? We had conferences for moms for 25 years and we would say, I want you to prepare a little talk for two minutes. We will help you but, what have you learned this year? What's your favorite Bible verse? What is the book that's impacted you the most? So we raised them to be speakers, we have two introverts, two extroverts, in our conferences and to work hard at the book tables and to run cash registers. They were learning all the time. We gave them actual real things to do, and we really cultivated them as a part of our team. We are the Clarksons, we have a story to write, we're so thankful for you. You're the best book we ever wrote. How can we support your dreams and ideas?

So, it's about providing great resources, providing a schedule in which to do the different things, and then giving them that personal mentoring and affirmation and character development as a regular way of life.

I love that. When you first started talking about all that, you were talking about, well, you have Legos and you have dress up and you have things like that. And I'm sitting there going okay, but if my child is 13 and I feel like I've missed the opportunity to do some of this, what do I do? And then you moved into giving them real things to do. And so, that's what that teenager needs, that's what that 13, 14 year old needs is something real that they can do. And for the Clarksons, it was taking part in the family business of supporting homeschool moms and having good books to sell and things like that. But for other families, it could be something completely different. It might be going to work with dad or learning to work with your hands on the weekend around the house or something like that.

In the book, I really talk about a lot of different things. When they're little, you establish the foundations, you give them an appetite for reading, you make that a habitual part of the routine of your life. But when our kids, the older they get, the more they're going to naturally want friends and be in community. And so, my kids were in choirs. One of them was in debate, another was on a tennis team. They mentored at a historical house, a couple of them did for two years. In other words, you're always saying, one of them was interested in magic. So Clay found an international Christian magic conference, where he took two of my boys and they learned how to use magic tricks to do, it was really fun for them to do birthday parties. And then they would share the gospel at the end of the birthday party.

Another one was a musician. So he found an artists conference to go to and that became their one, they did that once a year, they would always take a trip once a year. So the boys were actually meeting contemporary artists and musicians, or they learned from Christian magicians how to do birthday parties. And so, we look for things. The older they became, it's kind of like he who is faithful in small things will be faithful also in much. So, as they proved to be more and more faithful, then we would give them bigger arenas, bigger things to do, trips to take with us where they would have to become involved in some of the international work that we did.

So yeah, it's a way of thinking, it's a way of looking for opportunities that would engage and train them in the areas that they already had interests in.

Well, and we're already going towards this next question that I have for you. So, what role do you think wonder plays in our kid's ability to impact the world around them as they get older?

I think that one of the things that I really wanted, I had grown up often on in church when I was younger, but by the time I came to my life and there were lots of difficulty in life then. There were the assassination of President Kennedy and the assassination of Robert Kennedy and of Martin Luther King and feminism and the onset of abortion. And so, I came into my own faith in a turbulent time. And so, I thought, if I have kids, I don't want them just to have a reductive faith where it's like is that we can put God in a box. God is this way and this way and this way, and theology is this way and this way and this way.

I wanted them to really have a place where they could experience the creativity of God by being out in nature. They could read the church fathers, they could read church history, they could read theology, they could read stories of great missionaries. We wanted them to engage with God as the God who wants a relationship with us. The God who created chili peppers to enjoy Mexican food with. The God who gave us the ability to dance. The God who we could understand from great theology. So, I don't know if that makes sense, but I think that when kids are inspired to understand, we are light makers, we are warriors for goodness. You have the capacity to be good and great in your lifetime. I can't make you that way, you have to choose to live that way. But boy, do I believe in the person that you are and that God is going to use you to tell a great story.

So the shaping of purpose is happening from the very moment they are hearing stories in your home and you're having devotions, and you're living out a life of faith before them, and you're ministering to people as a family. In other words, the shaping of that picture that I have a role to play is imagined through the hundreds of stories they've heard. It's imagined through seeing God as the artist. It's imagined through reading, going into a Bible story with imagination and saying, let's imagine who was in the crowds. It was an old man on a crutch, it was a baby crying, it was children playing tag, it was a dusty road. And in the context of all these real people, Jesus spoke to the 5000. It was a group just like you.

And so, we're cultivating their imagination of all of these areas because that's how we want to see the grid of life for them. We want to cultivate their questions, their ideas and their inspiration from examples that have color and dimension, not just from a rigid indoctrination of truth. Does that makes sense?

And then it becomes a living faith.

It's a living faith. I told my kids, you're entering a dark world. People are going to question you, they're going to question who we are. I wonder how God is going to prepare you to be a warrior of light in a dark world. And our children then would go, when we went through difficult times as a family, when our faith was questioned or our choices were questioned, we walked with them through that so that when they went into the world, they were prepared because they'd experienced it together with us in our home.

Yes. Yes, I can see that. I can definitely see that. As a mom is listening today and probably inspired, I'm inspired by having this chat with you. Okay, it's like, I got to get this book and read it because there's going to be some good stuff in here. But I know me and I know a lot of my listeners. As inspired as we are, maintaining this kind of, and making real lasting change towards this kind of educating of our children is going to be something that we have to work at. So, how do we-

It's not an easy thing. None of this is easy. Homeschooling isn't easy. Having sinful children who want to eat every day is not easy. If it's not easy, it's because you're probably doing the right thing.

Okay. Okay. That's good to hear. So, how do we keep it going? How do we kind of guard against the temptation to fall back on that box checking and just completing the curriculum and closing the book instead of, kind of this deep heart work that you talk about?

I hope that I gave some good ideas in the book. One of the main things that I started out in the book with is that the most important foundation, in my mind, of course, loving God and so on and so forth, the most important foundation is understanding that the mentor is more important than the curriculum. If you as a woman are reading interesting books, if you are growing as a Christian...Jesus said that the student will be like the teacher, not the student will be like the curriculum.

When I look back on life, I said to my children, I said, "What would it have been like if Jesus just came to his disciples and spent three hours a day and said, here's a book, read it, you will be tested on it next week?" I said, "What kind of impact would Christ have had on that person?" And they said, "Well, for one thing, he would have lost all the fishermen." And so I said, "Then how was it that Jesus left and impact to pass on," what I think is kind of a superior, I think it's how we were made, "this life of engagement in wonder and ideas and wanting to know and wanting to learn?" I couldn't pass it on unless it was a part of my heart.

And so, I feel like what I would really say is you have to believe in the philosophy of education that is more organic, and what I believe is from God. The only way to keep it going is if you keep your faith and your understanding of mentoring and of discipleship alive in your own life. Because discipleship mentoring, me being the model of who I wanted my children to become, that was my method of education. It stayed alive because I wanted to stay alive in Christ. I don't know if that makes sense or not. We're not talking about develop a philosophy of education, we're talking about developing a philosophy of life.

Right. And it starts with you. I'm sitting here thinking wow, this is like turning the whole idea of what it means to be a homeschooling mom on its head.

I kind of hoped people would catch that because I feel like sometimes, I've said this many times, but when you just focus on curriculum or checking off a list or what do they need for their SAT scores, it's like straightening the picture on the wall of a house that's burning down. And it's ridiculous to focus so much on things that really aren't going to last for eternity or even shape a heart or a foundation or a spiritual formation for eternity. If we're going to leave the educational model that we've been given by our own experience, then we have to leave it. And you do have to take a step of faith.

But I think that all moms would agree that capturing a child's heart and inspiring them, lighting a fire as opposed to filling a bucket, which is controversial about who actually said it to begin with, Erasmus or someone. You're lighting of fire. If you can capture the vision and the philosophy for lighting a fire, you have to believe in your children, you have to kind of live this life by faith.

But the reason I wrote the book because I want people to know it works. It's possible. It's simpler. It's going to change your life. You're going to become more educated in the process and you will walk closer with God because your walk with God is what your children are going to become.

I love it. And just that mentorship. This is about you as the mom and what you're doing and modeling for them, and bringing them along with you and showing them how it can work. And the beautiful thing about that is, you're not doing something with them that's going to end when they're 18 and they leave your home.

Right, exactly.

You're showing them something that's going to last a lifetime because, I'm no spring chicken and I'm still doing it.

I know. My last child graduated when I was 59.

See, this lasts forever.

I will say too, I want to dispel the fear in people's lives, you don't have to read every book. As a matter of fact, you will not be able to. You don't have to do everything. If your children become engaged and excited about learning and you just have a regular habit of reading so many days a week and you do chores and you do devotions, the cumulative effect is that they are going to be brilliant because they have been fed on great resources. And you'll be surprised. You'll think, “Wow, in spite of all of my faults, all the ways I didn't complete everything, how did this happen?” Everyone I know who's at my phase whose children had become greatly engaged in life, all of them are shocked. How in the world did I do this?

And it's because children are already made to learn and to be engaged and to be involved. I know that that mother of a lazy teenager who's hormonal can't believe this right now, but once you have enough children, you'll realize, oh yeah, all children are going to have hormones. Oh, yes, this third child and fourth child who are expressing this, oh, yeah, they'll go through it, all my other ones did too.

So, there's a way in which we accumulate wisdom just by the experience of living through it. But you don't have to do everything. When you cooperate with engaging their hearts and minds and souls in imagination and building some character, they will be just fine.

I love that. When you cooperate with it, not when you set it up, not when you plan it all out, not when you, it's not up to you to do all of that, it's up to you to cooperate with it.

And you have to not be on the internet and not compare yourself to people.


Your home is unique. A lot of love, literature, learning and chores is what they need. They'll be fine. And have some community along the way.

I love that idea of giving them more chores. The more they can clean, the less I have to.

My kids thought it was so funny the other night. Several of them are home right now because they were, two of them were sequestered in a tiny little place in Scotland and two of them were sequestered in New York City, my son and his new wife. All week long, we've been having people over a little bit at a time. And they all just jump in, I don't even have to ask them. I never thought this would happen. But one of them was sweeping the back porch, the other one was scrubbing the kitchen down. The other one was preparing food, and the other one was vacuuming. It was just kind of, they all said, “Okay, we got to get this done before tomorrow.”

And I thought, I never thought this would happen. They were listening. We did it over and over again. And it was just kind of this happy moment for me to realize, “Wow, we are a family who loves to talk and eat and do all those things. But also, they are here for me and they know how to work.” And I think so many times what is happening in the moment doesn't look like who they'll become. They are listening, you just don't think they are.

Yeah, yeah. And I just love it, but you make it sound so easy. Just read to them. And I know in the day to day, it's not. Sometimes you need something that sounds easy, it sounds doable, it sounds like something I can accomplish. And you know what, it's going to turn out okay. We're going to read together, we're going to do our chores. Looking for those moments for wonder, and that can be enough.

I do have to say that this is like, when you decide to become a believer, you have to step out in faith and believe that what is in front of you is really true. And then things begin making sense and you grow. This is a philosophy that you have to do by faith. You have to say, okay, I'm going to take the risk. Because I do think it was a much easier way than most people try to do in their homes, try to accomplish. I think that the idea of having multiple textbooks and getting through them with each child in an age-graded curriculum, oh my goodness, that probably would have killed me.

But when you simplify your focus and provide great resources as well as mentoring, it's so much, I just miss it. I really miss and now I'm getting to do it with my grandchildren, I'm watching my daughter do it with them. I miss the discipleship mentoring in books, and the eating together. I think that when you can adopt a more holistic lifestyle that cooperates with family and doesn't have to just compare itself to all the standards of the world. I've rarely ever known somebody who had a pretty normal home education. I've never even heard of one person that didn't get into college, not even one. I've gotten so many letters about what do I do with 15, 16, and 17 about SAT scores. And most of the people are surprised at how well their children do in spite of them.

But you do want to worry about losing their soul. What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? You do really want to tie those strings to your home, to your traditions, to your love, in such a way that they will always feel drawn to the messages and to the life they live there. And so, shaping that life-giving home is such an important part of keeping them faithful when they go out into the world.

I love that. Yeah, you're right. You don't hear about people not getting into college. But you do hear about people leaving the faith.

Oh yeah. All the time. And, I keep wanton to say to people, “Focus on what really matters.”

Yes, yes. Yeah. Such wise word, Sally. This was such a wonderful conversation, and I'm so inspired. I can't wait to get the book, Awaking Wonder. And so, when will that be available?

You stumped me there. I think it's the second week in August or the third week in August. Let me see.

But it's available for pre-order right now.

Please pre-order it right now because I'm afraid we're going to run out because we've had lots of interest lately. Okay, I'm going to tell you right now, I'm going to a calendar. I think it comes out on Tuesday the 18th.

Perfect, perfect. So, get your copy.

Please pre-order right now. We have lots of fun gifts and lots of fun giveaways. So, we would just love for you to pre-order it now.

Okay, so where can we find it?

At any bookstore that you're used to going to, whether it's CBD or Barnes & Noble or Amazon or wherever, Books-A-Million. We're just thrilled that so many different bookstores have decided to take it and promote it. We would just love for you to get your copy. And I'm going to be doing a conference about this in early September. I want to make it so that as many people can come as possible. We had actually four national conferences scheduled in hotels, where we were going to have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in each one. And of course, we had to cancel all of them. So, I've been praying about it and I said to clay, we just need to make this available for people to encourage them.

It's going to be a virtual conference online?

It will have to be a virtual conference, yeah. And we might even professionally videotape it so that people can watch it a little bit at a time or all at once or with their friends over a weekend because we just want to make it possible for as many people as possible to be encouraged.

Awesome, awesome. And then we can find out more information about all of that at sallyclarkson.com?

Yes ma'am.

Awesome. Well, Sally, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Like I said, this was a great inspiring conversation for me to have as I'm thinking about my next homeschool year. So, I know it's going to be life-giving to a lot of other people as well.

I just pray it will be. And I so appreciate your heart, Pam. I just love what you do.

Thank you, Sally.

And there you have it. Now if you would like links to any of the resources that Sally and I chatted about On today's episode of the show, you can find them on the show notes for this episode. Those are at pambarnhill.com/ymb77. Also on the show notes is a link there for you to leave a rating or review for the Your Morning Basket Podcast on iTunes. The ratings and reviews that you leave about the podcast help us get word out about the podcast and new listeners. And so, we thank you so very much for taking the time to do that. It sure does mean a lot to us.

I will be back again in a couple of weeks with another great homeschooling interview. I'll be interviewing homeschool mom and a history professor, Jill Hummer. Jill and I are going to be talking about how to bring current events and the election in to your Morning Time and talk about these very important topics with your kids. I know you're not going to want to miss this episode so be sure to tune in. And until then, keep seeking Truth, Goodness and Beauty in your homeschool day.

Key Ideas about Awaking Wonder

Sally Clarkson discusses the importance of developing a philosophy of education at the onset of your homeschool journey. Focusing education on what matters for your children’s whole life and focusing on each individual child’s strengths and weaknesses are unique strengths of a homeschool education.

Building an education based on wonder means recognizing that our children have an incredible desire to know and imagine. We must cooperate with that and introduce them to the best authors, musicians, artists, and historical heroes.

The books that we choose for our children will help them imagine the possibilities that God may have for their own life. And even more important will be the example we set for them.

Find what you want to hear:

  • [4:41] meet Sally Clarkson
  • [8:50] becoming a writing family
  • [11:40] importance of having a philosophy of education first
  • [16:00] Sally’s definition of wonder
  • [26:20] fostering a sense of wonder in our kids
  • [32:19] wonder and our children’s impact on the world
  • [35:50] staying focus on the heart work of homeschooling
  • [45:00] how homeschooling is like faith

Leave a rating or review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really is a blessing — and it’s easy!

  1. Click on this link to go to the podcast main page.
  2. Click on Listen on Apple Podcasts under the podcast name.
  3. Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! 

Thanks for your reviews

  • Life Affirming
    by Logandinco66 from United States

    This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.

  • Life giving!
    by lapatita5 from United States

    This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.

  • You've made my school year!
    by Lizzie O' from United States

    Pam, My children are almost 11 and 13 and I never sent this review in! I found it sitting here. This is testimony that I am still so blessed by this podcast years later. So here it is: I wrote you an email when I first felt it placed on my heart to homeschool my now 6

  • Love the show!
    by Startup Travis from United States

    Love your content and the guests you have visiting the show! I am a huge believer in using the morning hours well. Thank you for your direction and products!

  • Enjoy the podcast & some thoughts…
    by rufocused from United States

    I enjoy listening to tips on starting and using morning time as I am just starting it this year. We have kind of done it in the past, but when you only have one child you tend to just call it bible, story time, etc… but now that my second one is old enough to join we’re going to have more of a true morning time. I did notice Pam mentioned CNN ten in one episode. CNN can be pretty liberal biased in the main news, I’m not sure if they curb that in the “CNN ten”, but thought I would mention the Daily Wire, which is from a conservative viewpoint (and often covers indoctrination in public schools) and could be fun to compare and contrast with CNN. Our family also recently discovered Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family which has a very Christian perspective, which has been refreshing as news can be so depressing sometimes! Just thought I’d throw that out there… but really do appreciate the perspectives and insights of these women who have been doing this for awhile!

  • Very helpful and pleasant to listen to.
    by Heather homeschooler from United States

    I have listened to many episodes of this podcast and have highly recommended it to others. It has been a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement. Pam has a great voice and presence and I love that she does not interrupt or talk over her guests. Thank you for your hard work!

  • Always insightful!!
    by method_money from Canada

    Pam always has great great guests who bring great insights and encouragement! I so appreciate her down to earth style and ability to ask great questions! Keep up the great work!!

  • A wildly encouraging and equipping podcast for homeschool families.
    by Eryn Lynum from United States

    As a homeshool mama of four (Ages 2-9), Pam's podcast has been an increidble encouragement to me. Not only that, but I have discovered so many helpful resources for focusing on what is lovely and true during our homeschool days. I love that it is not overwhelming in nature, but instead a gentle help for moving forward one day at a time in our homeschooling adventure.

  • Best podcast for homeschooling/variety of topics
    by Bethetal from United States

    I love this podcast for so many reasons. (1) Pam is friendly, funny, humble and kind (2) She covers a multitude of topics (one at a time)- I have learned about nature notebooks, classical music study, narration, living books, Shakespeare and so much more. Whenever I have a question about a new (to me)HS term or practice, I come here to listen to Pam interview someone about it. Her interviewees have all been all-in on their respective areas of interest/expertise and I love the way she interviews/asks questions to really let the guests shine as they speak. I have changed the structure of my homeschool, found books for my kids and me, purchased materials, and found inspiration due to this podcast and I can’t recommend it enough! This podcast has shaped my homeschool in so many positive ways, most of which I probably can’t even articulate yet, as the changes have been done inside of me. Thanks, Pam!

  • Great!!!
    by Eloblah from United States

    I love the variety of things that are talked about on this show for homeschooling - things that I would never even think about including or doing - with easy ways to do them. Very much recommend this podcast

  • New home schooling mom
    by A prit from United States

    I am listening to the past episodes and loving it. This podcast has helped me develop my own homeschool. So many ideas!! I love morning time so much, we do a nightly family time so my husband and public school attending son. We do all the things instead of watching tv, playing ps4, and YouTube. My kids hang around me every evening asking if we are doing family time. I can tell they love it but don’t want to admit it.

  • Morning Time Magic!
    by DrewSteadman from United States

    I am so excited Pam is back to her morning time focus for 2020. Our homeschool has been shaped by the rich ideas and practical wisdom shared here.

  • Yay! Morning time is back!
    by Homeschooler in Germany from United States

    I was so happy and excited to learn that Pam is shifting her focus back to Morning Time for 2020! I’ve missed the morning time exclusive podcast and can’t wait to hear her back in my earbuds.

  • So excited for 2020!
    by JCrutchf from United States

    I absolutely LOVE this podcast and was so disappointed when I realized you were not actively producing it! I’m NOW relieved to know there is a whole year of episodes ahead! I’m beginning my homeschool journey with 4 little ones very close in age and my style falls somewhere in the Classical and Charlotte Mason. I found your podcast by chance via Instagram recommendation as I was doing research on “morning menus.” Your content is beautifully philosophical but at a level most parents will be able to grasp and appreciate. Filled with truth, beauty, and goodness! Your episodes fill me up and leave me feeling inspired personally and in regards to my children’s education. Everything is so good! Please don’t stop producing ever again! I’ll be grateful forever!

  • So glad Your Morning is back!!!
    by alissajohn2020 from United States

    So glad to have the morning basket podcast back! Thank you for bringing it back!!

  • So good I ran out of gas.
    by JoanieHummel from United States

    This podcast is awesome! It was recommended to me a few years ago by a very wise and experienced homeschool mom but I didn’t start listening until I saw it come up a few more times on Facebook, recommended in various groups (in particular, episode number 41). I wish I had picked it up years ago! So much great information, I’m learning so much! Be careful though, I was so interested listening to this podcast that I didn’t notice how low my gas tank was getting! I ran out of gas and as I write this review I’m stranded on the side of the road waiting for a friend to come rescue me! Happy listening!

  • Knowledge Goldmine
    by A.J. Edwards from United States

    I’ve just been eating up every episode of this brilliant podcast over the past few months. The guests are stellar and Pam’s interview style is wonderful. She gets each guest to the meat and potatoes of their topic but it’s anything but a plain meal. This is a feast for the homeschool mom’s mind. I know I’ll be revisiting many of my favorite episodes again and again. Feeling so inspired by each guest!

  • Myths and fairytale truths for homeschoolers
    by Allierhn from United States

    Mind blown! I’m listening to the myth podcast and it’s absolutely perfect. It is answering so many questions I’ve struggled with my whole life. It helps me to view our curriculum and informs my teaching so much more.

  • Super Helpful!
    by Jennlee C from United States

    I can’t speak highly enough about this podcast. It has been a huge inspiration and a practical help to my homeschool! Thank you so much Pam Barnhill and everyone else who contributes to this. It has been an amazing blessing to me and my children… And possibly generations to come!

  • Practical Inspiration
    by Mamato3activeboys from Australia

    Not only am I inspired by each episode of this podcast but I have actually put so many of the ideas into practice in our own morning time. Such a huge help as I seek to inspire my non-stop boys to truth, goodness and beauty. We are now memorising poetry as they jump on the trampoline and they love Shakespeare. That's a parenting win in my book!

  • So many great ideas!
    by Parent 98765 from Malaysia

    Thank you, Pam! I’m now bursting with inspiration and can’t wait to start our 2019 school year with a strong morning time routine.

  • Joy
    by Ancon76 from United States

    My heart is enriched and I can’t wait to learn more.

  • Just what I was looking for!
    by Joey5176 from United States

    I was looking for morning basket ideas—simple ones. These podcasts are giving me a picture of a good morning basket.

  • Wow!! What amazing nuggets of knowledge