How to Solve Homeschool Problems

Ever feel like a homeschooling failure? Relax, you’re among friends! Grab a cup of whatever makes you smile and read this post to find out how to make sense of homeschooling and rest your weary heart.

In a way of personal confessions, I could tell you some stories! I think my first homeschooled children were actually my guinea pigs. I tried a lot of different approaches; full-boar curriculum, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, even dabbled in unschooling. There were days when everything went smoothly, and others when everything was crazy.

How to Solve Homeschool Problems with focus and direction

I felt as though I was on a constant quest, never really satisfied with what we were doing. Hours and hours were spent doing research, observing. and evaluating.

Finally, I came to a very important conclusion:

When we lack focus and direction we become easily swayed and confused. We buy too much of all the wrong things and then feel guilty because we can’t get to them all. We spend our time on the useless and skip over the best. We end up feeling like we are spending massive amounts of time, energy, and money and going nowhere with our children.

Large family moms, especially, can’t afford this. Our time is more precious than bags of gold encrusted with diamonds. We don’t have anything to waste! Our efforts must be as efficient as possible.

And here is a second truth related to the first:

how to solve homeschool problems truth #2

Doing workbooks, or unit studies, or Charlotte Mason without a firm understanding of your educational purpose will lead you down the road of frustration and burnout. Doing any of the same things with an understanding of real learning will help you do everything more purposefully.

“So, how does one go about finding this stupendously marvelous focusing philosophy?” I hear you saying.

I am so glad you asked!

First of all, it’s NOT what we are doing in public schools. In fact, conventional education gets it wrong on all sides.

There are dedicated, wonderful teachers involved  on every level of public education who actually care, but their hands are tied to an institution which is bent on the dumbing-down of our nation (for a better explanation, watch this) towards the ultimate end of whatever groupthink is currently in charge.

I know you don’t have the time or energy to spend chasing down some crazy conspiracy theories, so let’s simplify it all. Any form of government that needs to control a mass of people needs to create consensus, or a general agreement among the governed, and the easiest way to go about this is to capture the minds of children via schooling and train them to think alike. The Greeks did it. The Romans did it. Hitler did it.

So, the bigger picture of the schooling we all grew up with is not about helping children, it is about helping children become part of the consensus.

What does this mean for you? It means that you are free from comparing yourself to how the schools “do it.” In fact, if you love your children and your country at all, you will want to reconsider the way children are taught in socialized education.

“But what should I do instead?” you ask.

I have spent 28 years working with our 15 children and thinking about this very thing. I have come to believe that a good education is more than a list of yearly requirements, but a system of four branches.

To my mind, an excellent education looks something like this:

four branches of true homeschooling education how to solve homeschooling problems

1. A child’s relation to God and man.

four branches of true educaiton: Child in Relation to God and Man Homeschooling

This subject is of the utmost importance, and yet conventional schooling puts it at the very end of the list (if it is included at all).

How can you understand the mysteries of the universe unless you have a spiritual framework to put them in?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

We can’t understand the universe properly unless we look at it through Jesus.

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:16-17

But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Hebrews 1:2-3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

John 1:1-4

Homeschooling is a waste of our time unless we are mindful of The Maker in all things. Our core should always be teaching and reminding our children of His truth in practical application.

I had the intention of becoming a theologian … but now I see how God is, by my endeavours, also glorified in astronomy, for ‘the heavens declare the glory of God.’

Johannes Kepler, Astronomer

You can’t be mindful of God without being mindful of how He wants us to treat each other and function in society. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just a quote on Pinterest. What does it matter that a person can figure Pi to its thousandth decimal if he doesn’t know how to get along with others?

2. Tools for learning

Four Branches of True Education: Tools of Learning Homeschooling

This includes reading, writing, speaking, grammar, spelling, and math facts and operations. Can’t do much else without these!

Children who are solid in reading, writing, speaking, and basic math can pretty much follow any other pursuit with ease, as long as they have been taught that thinking for themselves is not illegitimate (something the public school system cannot tolerate).

You just have to find something very basic to teach these skills and stick to it (I have my favorites. Some of them I have shared already on this blog, others I will share in future posts).

3. Content

Four True Branches of Learning: Content Homeschooling

Including content is easy and FUN! This includes just about everything one can think of, from God, to man, to the whole universe!

Some content may be required, such as an overview of the tenants of the faith compared with world religions, knowledge of basic scientific facts and theories, basic geography and astronomy, and familiarity with the history of the cultures and societies of man.

Other content areas are less specific and can be tailored according to interest and passion.

One thing I try always to keep in mind is that it is impossible to cover everything a person needs to know in 12 short years; no school could ever come close! Also, no child retains everything ever “taught” to him; this is mostly because we are all so unique and tend to open our ears only to those things that are of interest.

Better than force-feeding loads of data to the minds of my children as if they were computers, I feel it’s best to teach them how to research and learn for themselves, while being careful to distinguish the difference between truth and error. These skills are much more necessary than a bunch of trivial facts that can be memorized one day and forgotten the next.

4. Practical skills

four branches of true education: child in relation to God and man Homeschooling

No matter how hard we try and convince our youngsters, algebra is not directly applicable to most of the predicaments of life, such as when the toilet is clogged, a baby cries incessantly with colic, or the dog won’t stop barking and waking up the neighbors at night.

Learning things such as how to launder clothing, or maintain a car, or pay a utility bill are just as vital as knowing the life-cycle of fruit flies or the names of all of the presidents.

I’ve never had to purchase a set of texts in order to teach the practical aspects of life. Since they are home with us, our daily grown-up lives and responsibilities are closer and more familiar to our offspring, which would not have been possible if they were cloistered in a classroom. My children learn life skills as they are included in everyday tasks, and as they begin to explore and experience life on their own and are able to ask questions and receive knowledge and wisdom from us and other trusted adults.

Keeping these tiers in mind has solved loads of problems for me. It has helped me lessen my “decision fatigue” and kept me on track when so many voices were trying to distract and derail me.

I hope it helps you, too!

By the way…I am sending out a PDF of the above chart along with a pretty worksheet to my email subscribers this week, so make sure you sign up (if you haven’t already)!


16 thoughts on “How to Solve Homeschool Problems”

  1. Thank you for that wonderful post! I think it is very helpful and I hope to print out the pdf for my children to use someday too!

  2. You nailed this! We’ve been homeschooling our 11 children for 17+ years and I couldn’t agree more with all you’ve said! I look forward to receiving the PDF to share with other moms just starting out! By the way, we love John Gatto! Some of the best books on education I have every read!

    • Thanks for being willing to forward and share–I think this new “generation” coming up is missing the freedom of learning without all the commercialism that has crept in, don’t you? If the blogosphere is any indication, moms are being convinced they need something “official” in order to be doing things right. I’m hoping to be a liberating voice that will help take the pressure off.

  3. Hi Sherry, I just am so encouraged by you and your posts! Thank you for being willing to serve God in this important role of mentor to us fellow moms! I do have a question…As I have been happily navigating around your site, I noticed your children have such beautiful artwork and drawings/”doodlings”. Is there a specific art curriculum you use/have used? Or do you just let them free-draw without any guidance? Please help direct me on how to foster some skill in my children who are interested in this, because I am not gifted AT ALL in the area of art! Thank you!!

    • Actually, artistic expression is something I don’t have to encourage around here! A few of my children were drawing before they could walk or talk. It’s a generational thing, I think, but one thing I did do was to eschew coloring books, but have loads of open-ended stuff laying around that I would demonstrate using myself, then they would naturally want to do it, too. As the older ones developed, they encouraged the younger ones, and on it went. Five of our children have been to college for illustration/design, and the rest pretty much learn from them. Two have made quite a living from it, one worked for the media department of Focus on the Family until they outsourced and then was in charge of illustration for a college.

      Even in college they were way ahead of most classes, but it gave them a reason to be more disciplined (which is sometimes hard for creatives). I think being homeschooled gave them more time to concentrate on just what they were passionate about, which allowed them to blaze ahead. At least that’s what everyone who knows them says :).

      Did that answer your question, or was that just a huge brag? Well, if it was, let God get the glory, I was just a spectator…

  4. Thank you Sherry. As a new homeschooler the whole task is daunting. I find encouragement in your blog and highlighting the important aspects of education, as you have done here, gives me greater confidence and focus.
    Your blog is a huge source of inspiration to me, and I value your opinion as an experienced homeschooling mother.

    • I’m so glad! I am always happy when something I write helps another mom like me:) With God’s help, we can conquer education like David conquered Goliath.

  5. Hi Sherry
    Just a question. Do you assign your children books to read ever? I don’t and it seems a few of our children always pick the same types of books. Always. And sometimes (more often than not lately) they are years behind their ‘grade level’ or reading level. I want to introduce them to great works and different genres I know they would like, but they seem to be stuck on certain ones. I was pondering “assigning” them for “school” to squeeze them in. 🙂 Any thoughts from you (or anyone else reading this!)? There’s lots of great books out there to explore!!

    • Some children are more apt to read than others, especially if they are boys. There are a few ways that have come to mind to combat this. One, read the classics out loud, and, two, have an enforced reading time with a list of suggestions so that each child has a choice within the parameters you set. If you have Fb I could share this question and see what comes up from the readers on my fan page (Mom Delights).

    • You probably subscribed after last week’s newsletter which was when I sent it out. No worries! You should be receiving our “welcome” pack which will include the link to the pdf. I hope it helps you!

  6. Well God bless you! This certainly helps me a lot, honestly I few days ago I was feelling a bit overwhelmed, a bit lost, doing a lot of research that got me nowhere, so my husband ask me what was wrong, I told him was looking for some material for this year, something we could afford, suddenly I felt so sad and I knew I was doing it all wrong, not asking for God helps first, so I sat and prayed, and I believe what he show me it is what also I read here, as I want my children to be servants of the Lord, and learn how to love others as the Bible says and Love the Lord. Thanks so much for all you share, be always for the glory of God. I am looking forward to receive the material you have mention previusly.

    • Thanks for the exhortation, Erika, to be always for the glory of God! It’s great to know that my post confirmed what the Holy Spirit was showing you 🙂


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