About Homeschooling, Preparation

Choosing a Home Education Philosophy, by Lynn S.

Three simple steps? Yes, really! Certainly not easy steps; this process requires much effort on the part of the home educating parent, but I promise they are simple enough.

My own introduction to home education came when my now-twelve-year-old daughter was just four months old. I stumbled across the ideas of Charlotte Mason and was enthralled. I read, researched, and read some more. We followed the ideas of this renowned educator pretty faithfully, until I had a dalliance with Steiner for a year. Although I then returned to the arms of Miss Mason for comfort, solace, and support, my head turned with each and every shiny new idea that crossed my path. Confusion reigned. I spent hours glued to the computer each night, after my wee ones were tucked up in bed, reading articles and blogs, buying new books and curriculum that some other mother said had ‘transformed’ her home school or ‘made learning fun.’ It all sounded so very good, even though many of the ideas and curriculum were quite opposites of each other.

I have finally come to a place of rest in my educational philosophy, and I would like to share with you the three steps that led me to this sense of peace.

STEP 1: Spend time thinking about why you are choosing to home educate.

Yes, just think. Turn off that computer, step away from the blogs and Facebook. This is the time to explore and consider your own thoughts and reasons. If you are a person of faith, do this step prayerfully.

Parents choose to home educate for many different reasons. Some choose home education because they wish to keep close ties with their child, others because they want to provide a superior education. Many seek out home education as a rich alternative to the fact-driven education and “Model School” that Charles Dickens warned us of in his novel Hard Times, which unfortunately pervades the education system of today.

Make a list of your own reasons, questions, concerns, and non-negotiables. Keep this list safe – it will become as gold to you in the future.

Step 2: Research the different educational philosophies available to you.

There are numerous educational philosophies available to us as home educating parents; here is a short list to get you started:

Charlotte Mason

Classical education

Autonomous / unschooling

School at home


Unit studies

Steiner / Waldorf


Project-based learning

Read books and articles pertaining to the various methods; talk to other parents and educators; discover the main principles of each style. Research child development – which methods have pedagogical ideas that resonate with your own understanding and experience? Make lots of notes; look to specifically address the questions and concerns you had in step 1.

Step 3: Think some more.

This can be the hardest step. It is so much easier in our fast-paced world to browse the blogs and forums and choose to follow what other families are doing. But, whilst their ideas may be wonderful, noble even, they are not your family. Now is the time to dig deep and invest in the future of your child(ren). Why are you choosing to home educate your child(ren)? After all your research, which method will serve you best?

Parents, this is so very important. Without this step, you will always be subject, as I was myself, to the latest blog post, to whatever the families at your local home education group are doing, and so forth. You will doubt yourself and be blown around by each new wind of ideas that comes along.

This process is not easy. It requires our efforts and our own pure thoughts, not the pre-digested ideas of others. But if we push ahead, we will reap the reward of an authentic childhood for those whom we love.


About Classical, Education is a Life

Can PE be Classical? by Cheryl

An integral part of a classical education is the idea of the trivium and how it guides teaching methods at each of the three stages of learning – grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Can physical education follow this model? As a dancer and dance instructor, I believe  physical education does follow this model.

A student may start dancing as soon as they can walk, but true ballet training typically starts between six and eight years of age depending on how aware a child is of how her body moves. This begins the grammar stage of her ballet studies.

In my classes for 6-10 year olds (grammar age)

, the students are taught terminology. They memorize many steps and basic technical elements of dance. More new knowledge is thrown at them in those first few years than at any other time in dance training. Dancers must memorize the steps, their French names, and sometimes the English translation. The main focus in a performance piece will often be memorization of the steps. Some times the execution is correct, but often you get one or the other – execution or memory.

Somewhere between ages eight and twelve, students cross over into the logic stage of dance. One day you repeat “lift through your center and stretch your legs” for the millionth time, and they think about it. All the instructions you have given finally click. A light bulb goes on. They do all of those little things – engage their abs, press their shoulders down, spot – and they execute an amazing double pirouette.

Those really are the moments I teach for!

The logic stage continues as they go through good days when everything clicks and bad days when they forget what they did in the last class. They are learning to work with their growing bodies and gain control of themselves. They argue with you – “I did lift my elbows!” (This is when a smart phone comes in handy, one quick video and they understand – their body is not doing what their brain is telling it to do.)

Eventually, they reach the rhetoric stage. They now have control of their bodies; they have learned how dance steps connect to music. They can take a simple step and put so much emotion and energy into it that a simple walk is beautiful to watch. They execute the most difficult steps with ease.

They share their art. They perform. They teach. They choreograph. But they never stop growing and learning themselves. There is always room for improvement. They realize that practicing basics with six year olds can improve their dancing as much as the most advanced classes, just in a different way. They understand the long process they have come through.

As with anything – kids move through these stages at different paces. A child with natural ability will excel just as a child who is good at math will progress faster than other kids her age. Likewise, a very determined child will develop faster than the recreational student, but eventually, they all get there.

So many sports follow the same ideas. Each age has a different focus – learn the skills, develop strength and control of body (just as a student develops strength of mind in the logic stage of studies), and then use the strength, logic, and reasoning abilities to develop strategies on the court or field.

A PE class may not seem classical, but the pursuit of a single sport or physical art form will lead a child through the path of a classical education.

I do not think every child should pursue a sport as an elite athlete, preparing for college competition or professional status. I do, however, believe that all children will benefit from the study of one athletic form throughout childhood. That ability will carry forward into adulthood as an appreciation for the game or art as well as giving them a way to maintain physical activity that does not feel like work.


Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Education is a Life, Preparation

Commonplace Book: Getting Started, by Jen N.

Editor’s note: This is a follow-up to Jen’s article about her Commonplace book. Read the original here.

I’ve had some logistical questions as to how to get started with a commonplace book. For those who were intrigued but have not one extra second to ask, here are the details:

Why don’t you combine this with your day planner?

You can do anything your heart desires.

My calendar (in bullet journal form) is a messy work in progress full of scratched-out notes with arrows moving appointments around, and I usually have spilled something on it by the end of the week. I want this to be something I go back and read for fun. I’ve even considered creating sections so that if I’m discouraged I can go read quotes that I felt would encourage me. Or a comical or an ironic section. I do have five pages of Ray Bradbury that I managed to keep together.

Do you really write every day?

Not every day. I do write 3-4 days a week.  YMMV-Your Mileage May Vary. I like to have some quiet time and that doesn’t happen every day. I give myself about twenty minutes to make a new entry.  I would write every day if I had the time and something worth writing.

What do you need to actually get started?

A notebook and something to write with. Really. That is all.  I had the extra time and money right now to go all fancy pants with this – but that is not the point. A spiral notebook and a pencil will do just as well.

Where do I get those gel pens?

I’m pretty sure that mine are from Target. I found this Fiskars Gel Pen 48-Piece Value Set
on Amazon. They look about the same.

What notebook do you use?

When I first started my book I went with my go-to favorite, a Moleskine Classic Notebook, 
I still use the Moleskine for my bullet journal. It is flexible, lightweight, and fits in my purse. Since I keep a journal as well as a commonplace book I wanted them to look differently.

It has nothing to do with the fact that I like buying notebooks. Why would you think that?

I went in search of a hardcover journal that was more heirloom quality. I love the idea of writing in a hardcover book, and I found exactly the right thing at Lee Valley:

The Everyman’s Journal It is 400 pages and has an index section in the front.

Where can I see more commonplace books? 

Here is a link to all the boards I could find on Pinterest.  There are some pretty inspiring examples listed there. Have fun tumbling down the rabbit hole!





Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com


Keeping a Commonplace Book, by Jen N.

These two quotes are the first entries in my commonplace book:

Culture around us is disintegrating, but you don’t have to be a part of it if you stand against the tide, and that is no small thing.- John Cusack

“To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.- Ray Bradbury

Commonplace books seem to be everywhere these days, and everyone has their own idea of what they should contain. Being a purist, I went in search of a definition. I’m usually not a fan of Wikipedia, but in this case I loved their definition.

From Wikipedia

“Commonplace” is a translation of the Latin term locus communis which means “a theme or argument of general application”, such as a statement of proverbial wisdom. In this original sense, commonplace books were collections of such sayings. Scholars have expanded this usage to include any manuscript that collects material along a common theme by an individual.

“Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books…

Such books were essentially books filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and humanists as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.”

“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application–not far far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech–and learn them so well that words become works,”- Seneca

Clearly a commonplace book is not a “new” idea. Ronald Reagan kept his commonplace quotes on note cards. Any system that works for you is better than no system. Use a spiral notebook, a Moleskine, or even Pinterest. Write down words of wisdom, not just facts. Sir Alec Guinness also compiled entries in his own book that was discovered after his death: A Commonplace Book. Within the pages, I found parts of plays, quotations, and overheard conversations. Charlotte Mason fans will have read all about using the commonplace book in their home classrooms. Laurie Bestvater wrote a great book about note booking called: The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason . I was inspired to begin note booking in earnest after reading it. I have never read a better explanation of the different notebooks that Charlotte Mason advocated in her schools.  In reference to  the commonplace book she says,

” It generally consists of other people’s writing. Like a graduated copybook, it is begun in earnest by the student at middle or high school age when his learning is becoming more and more under his own direction and, ideally, used throughout life.

I feel strongly that a commonplace book should not be a planner, datebook, or any other record keeping system besides that of recording great thoughts that you have read or heard. There seems to be so little room for inspiration in our lives. Certainly it is hard to find while in the midst of raising little people. I feel like a commonplace book is almost like creating your own retreat. When you have time you fill it’s pages with words that mean something to you. Later when you are feeling either discouraged or down- those words remind you why you are doing what you do. It gives you the strength to keep filling the bucket for another day. It also has the benefit of being personal. You chose the contents of this book. So many times we are faced with taking a bit of wisdom from pages and discarding the rest that we don’t believe in. Your commonplace book is a place where you are the author, editor, and publisher. You choose your own Inspiration.

“A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that ‘great wits have short memories:’ and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own, by entering them there.”
— Jonathan Swift from “A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet”


Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog: www.recreationalscholar.wordpress.com