Homeschooling: Three Things We’ve Done for 26 Years

Back when we began homeschooling, there wasn’t much available in the way of curriculum. One large Christian school publisher was reluctant to provide teacher’s manuals to homeschoolers and another was just beginning to extend a friendly hand of welcome to individual families. Hard to believe, but this was the situation in the late 80’s.

In our first year of homeschool, I attended an all-day workshop on how to teach a particular method of reading. We went through several weeks of tears on both the part of teacher and student. Finally I decided that any method of phonics that was so complicated it required a seminar to learn to teach it, was not for me.

I remember longing for the finances to purchase an entire set of curriculum but alas, it was not to be.

Actually it was a blessing in disguise because those circumstances forced me to make do and figure out how I wanted to teach my children.

Over the years finances improved but we never did buy an entire curriculum. The kids received an education and those who have graduated–seven at this point–went on to succeed in college and life. Along the way there were certain things that we did consistently, and there are three things that we’ve done for all twenty-six years (so far).

Three Things We’ve Done for 26 Years

1)  Reading real books. Not textbooks, not summaries, not excerpts. Real, whole books, starting with picture books and eventually ending up with classic novels. We read aloud in the mornings because it’s so important I don’t want to wait till afternoon or evening and risk missing it. Our students are assigned a good amount of personal weekly reading as well.

2)  Writing. In the early years this is copywork and dictation. Eventually it becomes essays and reports. Our high schoolers enjoyed some programs with online classes and some years, homeschool co-op writing classes. There’s a difference between filling out workbook pages and WRITING.

3)   Chores. Wait a minute, what do dishwashing and vacuuming have to do with academics? I submit that the character and work ethic learned through consistent service and responsibility were just as important a part of their education as learning to read. A good work ethic will serve them well all of their lives, in their careers and family life.

There have been other constants but I can’t say that we’ve done them every single year: unit studies, poetry memorization, notebooking, and more. The landscape changes each year with the group of students at home and the circumstances of life.

Never a Perfect Homeschool Year

We’ve never had a perfect homeschool year. Or week. Or day, for that matter. We just keep going and adjusting and moving on. Remember that graduating seven students has a way of providing some perspective.

I will literally be retirement age when I finish homeschooling our youngest. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and a teacher, so I’ve been living my dream for a long time, and for that I’m grateful. The three things we’ve done for twenty-six years have borne good fruit so we’ll keep doing them.

UPDATE: It’s now year 37 of homeschooling. Our youngest child is a senior in high school and will graduate in a few months. Can’t say that we’ve changed much of the above, even if life looks different now.


  1. Lori Dellinger says:

    Scripture memorization:) I remember my husband freeing me when I was feeling down in the curriculum rat race! He said if all I got done in a day was memorize scripture with the kids, he was happy. And although, we do other things, I feel good if it’s just a memorizing scripture only day:)

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      That’s a good one, Lori! I guess I didn’t include it because it’s part of life!

  2. Thank you for the reminder that there are not perfect days….some days are just hard, but my kids are learning and that’s what matters!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      So true, Sheila. Overall they’re making progress even if the days don’t meet our expectations!

  3. I was a homeschool student, and now I’m a mom of two (5 and 2 years old) and started homeschool a couple of months ago with my oldest. I learn so much reading about your all your experiences and comments – it’s a whole different world to be a homeschool student and a homeschool mom, you know!! Thank you for keeping it simple for the unexperienced like me.

  4. I could have written this post! We have been on the homeschooling road together, you and I, and I remember well those years when it was hard to find curriculum, then we realized it was too expensive to buy curriculum, then we figured it out for ourselves (with God’s help, of course)! I wholeheartedly agree; chores are part of a good education!

  5. Margaret Paulson says:

    Thank you for sharing at the Winter Summit this past weekend (Jan 17-18th, 2014). What a blessing! I appreciated all your reminders and especially to keep things simple! We tend to make our systems or routines complicated for some reason. I am always reminded to remember to look into all of my children’s eyes (from 16 years down to 5), listen to them intently and really hear what they are trying to tell me. Then, give hugs and kisses and tell them how much I love them, as often as possible. It’s when I miss that during a day that I don’t feel like I’ve connected with my kiddos. And even when I don’t feel like it, to just smile as the day goes on, especially when I feel overwhelmed or pressed for time. It seems a smile (and laughter) does wonders for the children and for myself. This helps when I am not feeling well too. It helps to lift my spirits and change my attitude. And it helps me remember that whatever the situation, need or dilemma, it’s not quite so serious as it feel (as I am very contemplative about matters). Thank you again and blessings.

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      I’m so glad the Winter Summit encouraged you, Margaret–it’s one of THE best homeschool events in the country! I love your thoughts on laughter and perspective. Blessings to you and your family!

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