Heartfelt Homeschooling

We started our homeschool year great — better than we ever had, in fact. The kids were learning tons, making progress, we were having fun (the regular protests and groans notwithstanding).

Then we hit Thanksgiving and lost our momentum. December dissolved into bouts with sickness and the holidays, and then January found me worn down and in survival mode.

I was a prime candidate for February burnout.

Add to that this is our first year of having to track attendance for our state. I now have to look at our days and determine which ones are enough to count as a “school” day and which ones are not.

Tied to the Checklist

Sometime between the end of November and the end of January our homeschool became a series of tasks for us to complete each day — a math lesson here, a phonics workbook page there, and not much else to recommend it, simply so I could mark the day on that attendance sheet.

I would pile Olivia’s work into a stack and hand it over first thing. When she completed the stack, the day was done. I even contemplated typing up a list she could use everyday to check it off. Second grade is not too young to do that, right?

And yet, it didn’t feel right. It felt too much like school-at-home, and I have no desire to recreate what I seek to avoid. So I did what any self-respecting homeschool mom does, and I thought about drastically changing course.

Maybe the kids needed more freedom? Maybe we needed to do some delight–directed learning? Maybe we should try a new curriculum or drop things from our schedule? Maybe we should have more fun!

Even as I talked these ideas over with a friend, I knew in my heart that abandoning the methods that had made the year start so well was not the answer. What we needed in our homeschool was not less (or more) structure. What we needed in our homeschool was more heart.

A Heartfelt Solution

So instead of throwing off or reinventing math altogether, we added more games and took away some of the worksheets. One day, during an addition lesson, I told Olivia that she now had the skills to add a number as long as our driveway. Disbelieving, she said, “Can we try it, Mom?

Old, “checklist mom” would have responded with a no so we could finish the list for the day. New, “heartfelt mom” said, “Sure!” Outside we went.

The boys played in the balmy late-winter weather (God blesses us) while I wrote out the 10ft long problem for Olivia to solve. And sure enough she did. One thing lead to another and before we knew it, we had also completed spelling with sidewalk chalk as well. We were on our way.

Next, I stepped back and took a hard look at the difference between the reality of our days, and the priorities I was giving lip-service to with my friends. Sure, I said reading aloud was important, but we had been doing hardly any of that. We never seemed to have time after the checklist was done.

So I moved that to first during the day. I explored the concept of morning time, and though ours looks different than Cindy’s, it includes those things that I feel should be priorities.

Some days we do this on the couch, other days we busy our hands with pattern blocks or play doh, but it gets done, it gets done first, and sometimes it is the only thing we get to and that is okay too. It beats the checklist and probably has more value.

How Heartfelt Really Looks

One day this week I had an errand I needed to run that would take most of the morning to complete. We all loaded up in the van, and in the space of an hour-and-a-half, we prayed, recited memory work in verse and song, appreciated music through the fun, loud singing of songs from Beethoven’s Wig, and listened to a chapter or so of Peter Pan.

In between all of that, we discussed everything from cows to classical music. The rest of the day dissolved into one thing after another, and we never sat at a desk or put pencil to paper. Still, it was a very good “school” day indeed.

I’m finding it appropriate that the symbol of homeschool burnout month February is the heart. That symbol should be a reminder to me that learning must come from me, not from a curriculum.

There is no heart to checklists, workbook pages, and textbook chapters. Heart comes from big goals, literature, music, poetry, saying yes, and learning together.

It’s a great message for February or any month of the year. A message that turns a great year into the best one ever, the whole year through.

Linking this up with Sarah’s Posted. Go check out some more encouraging posts.



  • Beautiful post Pam! I’m sharing (and more importantly- taking it to heart.)

  • Sarah says:

    I agree- beautiful post (even though I am green with envy over the fact that Olivia is wearing SHORTS outside.)!

  • Erin says:

    Beautifully said, and something I’ve struggled with for years, finding the balance and maintaining the heart. {}

  • Linda says:

    Beatiful post, Pam! It’s always the issue isn’t it? Finding that balance that suits, yet still keeps the authorities happy. This is also our first year of having to keep ‘the powers that be’ happy; so far, so good!

    I know one homeschooling mother here who runs a scrapbooking business, and is somehow able to link everything to scrapbooking! She’s absolutely amazing. Have you done any scrapbooking lately? I’ve found a bit of time recently, but am hoping to do more soon!

    God bless,

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