Secret to Relaxed Homeschooling

There is a secret to relaxed homeschooling. It’s actually what makes everything else work.

What is it?

  • Is it having the best philosophy?
  • Is it having the best books and resources?
  • Is it having the best system in place?



I know, I know, this is not considered a positive word. Discipline is actually something we’ve been conditioned to avoid. Besides, what in heaven or earth does discipline have to do with relaxation?

Well, actually, a whole lot.

Let me tell a story.

A few weeks ago we decided to go to the part to do our read aloud (a la “morning basket”) time. It was a sunny, moderate day and we sat on a hill amongst the trees and read from the Bible, Fascinating Girlhood, and The Lord of the Rings. Afterwards we put everything in our cute basket and walked along a babbling stream. It was a memorable, refreshing time together.

We could enjoy this relaxing interlude because we have been disciplined. We could take a break from our routine because we have one!

At home there was a load of laundry swirling in the washing machine. The dishes and the kitchen were cleaned the night before. We were already up and dressed and we knew where the books and the basket were (which was essential).

When we returned home it was easy to get back on track because we have been keeping up.

After chores the girls went to their studies while I attended to some extra things, such as scripting this post.

Why is order important?

As I read my Bible and observe life I am led to the conclusion that human beings are not made for chaos. God created everything to be integrated; to work together in an orderly fashion for His purposes of good and beauty.

When something dis-integrates, it splits from a cohesive whole to bits and pieces, and these bits break down further until there is no recognizable pattern. Mass without order is useless and meaningless.

In the beginning there was chaos, and God spoke into it and brought order, and then He set mankind into that order (as we read in Genesis chapter 1). We need that order, we crave that order, and our hearts and minds are restless until we find it or it is restored.

Mankind has tried to create this order without God, but it is not the same thing. Modernist “design” attest to this. I remember well as a young girl how gorgeous buildings with ornate designs were being replaced with modern alternatives–soulless concrete edifices with sharp angles and ticky-tacky geometric patterns were everywhere. Today they stick out like sore thumbs in the downtown areas of every city.

God’s order is better because it is integrated with love and freedom.

This can be witnessed in an oak tree in the wild. An oak is free to put out its branches any way it can, but it is not random. It seems as though the branches and leaves do not have any specific order, until you take a twig off of the tree and discover the leaves are arranged according to the Fibonacci sequence. Then the beauty of freedom within the boundaries of order takes on new significance. (The study of the Golden Ratio and Fractals will yield you and your children hours and hours of wonder.)

This mixture of freedom within boundaries creates a beauty that reaches deeply into the human soul. It is hard to think of anything as gorgeous as snow-covered mountain peaks such as the Grand Tetons. In this spectacle we see great freedom, but within the parameters God set. It is the same for the oceans and the clouds.

Homeschooling is the same. There is a freedom and recreative effect which comes with uncoupling from modern, mechanical learning, but without boundaries it breaks down and becomes a breeding ground for dis-integration.

Instead of enjoying the beauty of order, we invite the ugliness of chaos. While it’s wonderful to be inspired, Inspiration wanes and self discipline must take over.

It is one of the fruits of the Spirit–along with the others mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faith-filledness. According to Graham Cooke, when we practice self-control, we invite one or more of the others along!

Relaxed homeschooling allows us to open the gate to more spontaneous, natural learning, but we take advantage of discipline to keep that freedom within boundaries.

Also, while we encourage learning from inspiration and enthusiasm, these also can get out of control.

For instance, a child might be inspired to learn to play the piano for a few weeks, but at a certain point practice may turn from being a complete joy to work. If he does not have the discipline to continue without the feelings of inspiration, he will never experience the joy of accomplishment.

Something that is helpful is to remember that the sister of discipline is:


Consistency takes discipline and splits it into bite-sized morsels (as in a bowl of peas may not be tolerated, but peas scattered in a delicious beef soup may not be noticed at all).

Take the piano learning, for instance. 15 minutes a day over the span of a month will do more than an inspired half-hour every-so-often.

When it comes to academics, this is especially true. We use the McGuffey readers coupled with the Charlotte Mason method (you can find out more about that here). McGuffey formulated his lessons to be short, sweet, and so gradual that it hardly seems like work.

It’s akin to walking up a three degree slope compared to a 30 degree slope. At three degrees, you barely know you are climbing, but at 30 degrees your entire body is being taxed.

It may take a little longer at three degrees; you may not even notice any upwards progress at the end of the day. But give it 30 days, and you will look down and see just how high you have come.

Going at 30 degrees may initially produce great gain, but it can lead to burn out, and oftentimes there is fall-off where the altitude is lost altogether.

Routines help.

As I mentioned in the account of our read-aloud time in the park, routines helped us get there. Over the years we have developed systems and expectations for every morning.

Actually, our mornings start the night before.

After dinner we clean the entire kitchen, including floors. We make sure all living areas are straight as well. We take care of personal hygiene and set out our outfit for the next day. I use my journal to review any appointments or activities for the next day, and I write down chores and a plan for dinner.

When we awaken, we have some personal devotion time, fix face and hair, don our clothes (which can be done quickly because we are prepared). We make our beds and have a bite of breakfast. Then we might do chores first (such as laundry, dishes, dinner prep, etc.), or we might read aloud first, or vice-versa. In the morning we also have exercise time; perhaps walking, bicycling, or tennis.

Lunch is leftovers or snacks, each person making her own. Early afternoon is individual study time, and after that it is free time until dinner.

In this way we have freedom, but within boundaries.

There is an important balance to making plans.

In Biblical terms, two different ideas can be true at the same time:

  • We die to live.
  • We lose to gain.
  • We become poor to gain the truest riches.
  • We plan, but we let go of the plans into God’s hands.

An earthly-minded person sees this as foolishness–but it is God’s power. As we read the volume of scripture, we see planning as a sort of partnership. Yes, it’s alright to gather “counsel” and devise plans, but never without submitting them to God’s ultimate designs.

Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.

Proverbs 16:3

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

So, we make some lists, then we release them into His hands:

Dear Father, these are things I’d like to accomplish, but there’s no way I want to have them doen without your presence. Living in the bubble of Your presence is more precious to me than anything else I could gain. So, if You do not go with me, I don’t want to move. I will go, but only as You hold my hand. I give You permission to move me through this day any way You wish, and I trust that at the end You will have given me my heart’s desires–in this world and the world to come.

Now, there is a bit more to this essay, but you must listen to my podcast to discover it. You can find it here:

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14 thoughts on “Secret to Relaxed Homeschooling”

  1. This had me in tears. It was a beautiful explanation and it was so convicting it pierced my heart. Two words I’ve used to describe you to my husband are “consistent” and “disciplined”. It is clear you have both. Something I need help with, but want it so so badly. My heart is in it, but it’s taking me a long time to learn.
    Thank you, Sherry. So much.

    • How sweet to hear, but I have to be honest that I, too, had to learn both discipline and consistency as an adult. As a teen and young mother I had a fight within between my “flower girl” self and my overbearing, fastidious self. I think I even wrote about it somewhere in my past but lost track of it. So, if God helped me do it, He can help anyone!

  2. This!! Perfect timing and reminder from our sweet Lord! We have been struggling getting back into a routine and finding balance here. Reading this reminded me that we need to be more disciplined and go back over our chores and what needs to come first. I feared we took to
    Long one a break but what this reminded me was we just need to recenter and be disciplined. I enjoyed this essay as I do them all. Thank you for the reminder and sharing your heart.

    • Jessie, you took the words right out of my mouth! I couldn’t have said it better. What a timely essay. Thank you again, Sherry! I actually just purchased your lesson books for the fourth year in a row. We’ve struggled so much with consistency and your books help ground us with a solid routine for at least one area of school. Thank you again for all you do, and the wisdom that you share!

      • Katie this is our 4th year with the lesson books they truly help us stay on course. I’m actually getting ready to watch Sherry’s videos again to see how to use them for high school Language Arts. I have one high schooler this year an 8th grader and 2 nd grader! I’m looking for some help with strengthening their writing. If you all can recommend anything that would be awesome. ❤️

        Ps I noticed my typos in my first message. My thumbs don’t move as fast as my brain.

      • Thank you so much, Katie! The lesson books have helped me stay consistent, too. I often create things because they help reign in my own fluttering tendencies 🙂

    • My pleasure–I think we sort of move in and out of more-to-less discipline here, too. We always enjoy a breather, but then we ache for more structure. But over the years I have learned that the underlying structure never really changes and helps things hum along more smoothly.

  3. Thank you so much Ms. Sherry for this incredibly important and well-written post.
    It is perfectly timely for me personally, and it is both convicting and confirming.

    I was in the army cadets in Canada for most of my youth, and I used to be such a disciplined person. But then, in my early adulthood, having some years of partying and unstructured spontaneity before having children (I wasn’t saved during those years) , I lost much of that self-discipline.
    Now, with 6 children, I am still scrambling much of the time, grasping for order in the chaos. It’s time to get serious, and plead the Lord to help me regain some of that old, self-disciplined person I used to be!

    • I understand your struggle–I was in the army and that really helped jump-start me in many ways, but I still struggled to get a handle in certain areas of my life. God has brought me a long way–teaching me to be disciplined but within His loving understanding and mercy, which I need daily, sometimes hourly!

  4. Sherry, when you mentioned the oak tree, I was reminded of the scripture Isaiah 61:3 “to console the mourners in Zion–to give them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of despair. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
    *from the Berean Standard Bible version*
    Thank you for this teaching.

  5. This is a great post! I thought from the title it would be more about discipline of behavior. To me, this is the other half of successful relaxed homeschooling. If you can be firm but gentle, and you have built up good, reciprocal relationships with your children, then they tend to accept structure and limits. As Charlotte Mason wrote, “Eucation is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” I understand that more and more deeply as the years go by (nearly 20 years homeschooling now)!!!

    I hear a lot of, “I could never do what you do because my kids won’t (fill in the blank) unless I make them.” Or, “Being gentle just results in chaos in my home.” Or on the opposite end, “We like to let them have more freedom than that.” Or, “I just can’t find any structure because of the baby and toddler so I am just sending them to school/ putting them in this co-op.” Or, “Your kids are just naturally such good kids.”

    I was so blessed as a young mom to have good and inspiring examples of great mothers and homeschoolers. Our family has had to add in more structure as more children have been added, and that gentle increase in structure has been a continued blessing.

    • All great truths! Thanks for adding your wisdom–examples are very important, it’s one thing to talk about doing something, it’s another thing to see it in action 🙂


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