“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Homeschooling the Freeborn

It is true I am a bit swamped right now but I can think of a few ideas on this topic right off the top of my head. The question is whether or not I can effectively communicate those ideas in my current state.

So off the top of my head:

1. Read to your children (begin in utero).

2. Read around your children. Let them see you reading.

3. Learn to recognize the best books.

4. Talk to your children....when you rise up...

5. Listen to your children. Might be the hardest thing on the list.

6. Continue to educate yourself..learn Latin, grammar etc. If you do this then you can teach your children as you walk along the way. I cannot begin to tell you how much more they will learn this way. For instance, you can teach grammar by using workbooks and you will notice that for many children, in spite of years of grammar exercises, they retain very little grammar, or you can get an old grammar textbook like The Mother Tongue I or II and work through it orally over many years. If the whole family does this together, the whole family can discuss grammar when it arises in real life.

7. Find out what is really important to you and then tune out all the voices that try to get you to do something else. You will never successfully homeschool if you don't learn how to tune out the masses and masses of good (not great) ideas. This is probably what contributed to some of my own successes. I would try to add what others were doing to what I was already happy with, particularly Morning Time, and then I would get stressed and have to drop something off. The decision always ended up being the same: drop MT or drop something else. I always chose to drop the something else and I have never regretted it, but I am a very stubborn person.

8.Don't be too impressed when your children perform parlor tricks. Cute, yes, but not what free men are looking for. We are educating for the long haul and the fruit cannot be rushed.

9. Resist the temptation to think that more is better. Less is almost always better in education. What you need is more time to read and think. Do whatever it takes to make more time. Think about that as you buy Christmas gifts.

10. Memorize Scripture.

11. Sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs.

12. Learn the names of the trees, flowers, birds etc

13. Memorize and read poetry daily. This should be near the top of the list since most people would either leave it out or underestimate its importance. You cannot read too much poetry. From David and Homer until today the best men know poetry. The freeborn man is a warrior poet.

14. Use Ambleside Online. You can't go wrong with years 1 and 2. But remember Charlotte Mason left the afternoons free for handicrafts, nature study and play. Ambleside is not that hard and should not take that long in a day. You can read everything you need to read in a 1 to 2 hour period. If it takes longer than that or if you are tempted to add workbooks, you don't get it. Go back and read Susan Schaeffer MacCaulay or Charlotte's Original Series.
The hardest thing about the liberal arts or a Charlotte Mason education is: not adding the superfluous in order to make your mom feel better.

15. I would say that a child should be reading at least 2 hours a day, at any age, but 3 is better.

16. Ask your children questions and let them think. Don't rush to give answers. It is ok to have an environment where children can disagree with each other and with you. The more discussion going on in your family the better off the children will be. That means you can't be too squeamish about disagreement.

17. Be a strong authority in your home but wear your authority lightly. I know this is a big one because for some reason today's young parents are even more squeamish about discipline than the last generation. It is more damaging to your child's psyche to be left to himself than to be disciplined. Discipline is an art and therefore it cannot be learned as if it were scheme or system. The more true authority you have over your children the less you will have to use it. But that comes later. Toddlers need a strong arm. If your children are driving you crazy, stop everything for however long it takes and gain the upper hand. You should be enjoying your children. If you are not, it is your fault. This is not an easy row to hoe but free men must learn self-government and parents are the bosses.

18. Go outside a lot.

19. Write every day. Keep it simple. 8 year old writes 5 complete sentences on the same subject daily. Everyone else writes a decent narration on something they are reading. If they are reading a lot this will not be a problem. Sometime or other add in a writing program but no matter what: write every day.

That's all for now.


  1. Superior list, Cindy!

    If I am permitted to add one, it would be to encourage parents to know their goal.

    Another way of saying that would be to have a vision for the future or make clear your expectations.

    All that to say that the most effective parenting emanates from ones who *know* AND can *articulate*... consistently

    Sometimes it's just in the air (atmosphere) of some homes.... like I'm sure it is in yours.

    Your family is a exemplary testimony.

  2. The Mother Tongue...who is (was) the author? I'm curious about it.
    Thanks for this post series.

  3. This is so helpful, Cindy! Thank you for posting it. Now if I could just get these other voices out of my head. :)

  4. Wonderful post. Keep talking, Cindy.

  5. Thank you so much!

    This is a list one can't follow mechanically; it requires freedom from the parents, as well, in making decisions and prioritizing and learning.

    I *just* received CM's original series yesterday, and have started in on the sixth book first. The whole first chapter is on giving children ideas rather than facts. How timely.

  6. Thank you for this post, Cindy, and for the last one. You have a gift for writing words that are both convicting and inspiring. I will be printing this out to think about as we travel for the holidays. These are not simple things one can just add to a "to-do" list, but requires, as Mystie pointed out, MY being willing to think and live in freedom and fight against the slavish impulses of my own mind and heart.


  7. Yes, thank you, and keep 'em coming. "Homeschooling the Freeborn II" starts with 19., right?

    On #15: I struggle with knowing how much to MAKE them read. I was the child who was reprimanded for reading too much, and reprimands were deserved. My chapter book readers seem to truly enjoy reading, but do not search out the corners of the house for new things to read or beg for more books. So is this one, "you should require your children to read 2-3 hours/day"?

  8. Wow, Cindy. I think you've got your next Esprit article already written. People should read this!

    (Hope Dad is doing well!)

  9. Soaking in the wisdom. Thank you for freely sharing.

  10. Heather,
    I cheated and added a 19. Would I make a child read 2-3 hours a day? Yes!! And I do. Then I do things to trick them into reading even more like telling them they can read for as long as they want at night in bed and taking them to the library.

  11. "If your children are driving you crazy, stop everything for however long it takes and gain the upper hand. You should be enjoying your children. If you are not, it is your fault." The book _Raising Godly Tomatoes_ offers some good practical advice on this subject. The mom starts by telling how she realized her children were out of control, and talks about many of the things she did to re-gain control. May not be up everyone's alley but I thought it a worthwhile read.

  12. Thank You, Cindy! Very inspirational as I am reorganizing for a fresh start in January.

    Mrs. H

  13. Reading through your list, I get a real feel for how education can be an atmosphere, a discipline and a life. Thank you.

  14. Cindy, if this is how you write when you're swamped, you should be swamped more often. Printing for the notebook, deliciousing, etc. Thanks!

  15. I posted this and then realized how terrible it sounds. I'm sorry. I see elsewhere that this a particularly difficult swamped-ness and my words probably sound very unkind, which is not at all my intent.

    The post you have written is beautiful, encouraging, enabling (in a good way) and I appreciate that you have taken the time to share your thoughts and experience with us. I will pray for you and your family through this extra-busy time.

  16. I love it! Do you have one of these for teens? Most items would still apply, of course, but there might be a couple of different applications.

    I so admire that you've graduated four already. I'm in the middle of homeschooling my one teen, and told my husband this morning that I feel like I'm from another planet ;-). But I'm just trying to preserve our tiny family's time for thought and togetherness. I honestly don't see how we would ever talk if we were as busy as other people.

    I agree with your (and others') comments on the last post that homeschooling may not be a magic bullet, but it's still the best hope. If nothing else, you have more time to encourage the moral imagination.

  17. Not to worry, Dawn. I took what you said in the spirit in which you said it. Thank-you.

  18. Btw, Dana, add away!! And anyone else also.

  19. I don't have anything to add, Cindy. This is so good! I read it out loud to the boys yesterday at lunch and they agreed to all of it and thought we were somewhat on the right track.

    #5 and #17 are the hardest but probably the most important for the rest of the list to happen

    I like #19. I can sense some changes happening here after the New Year. :)

    Question: how do you say "no" to all the various teen activities without seeming like a complete curmudgeon? Those outside activities (which aren't many compared to most families, I guess, but I'm a single mother so I'm the only one to do the driving/staying/watching) seem to suck the most time and make things much more stressful around here.

    Thanks for taking time out of your swamp to write this down for the rest of us trying to educate free men (and women).


  20. That was just off the top of your head?!! Wow. May I say that I think you are brilliant? What a fantastic list, just fantastic. I'm gratified to see that we are doing many of these things already, but have far to go. My daughter writes most days, but they are not assignments, just her own creative urges. She is always designing her own books as well as songs and poems. I know that is a direct by-product of all the great literature we read. I agree that poetry is an absolute essential. Keep on keeping on, Cindy. Your words are a joy and an inspiration!

  21. Just wanted to say thanks.

    I sent my readers here. They really should quit reading me and read you!

  22. Margaret, I was going to say Cindy meant Our Mother Tongue, by Nancy Wilson and available from Canon Press as well as Amazon etc, but now I see that there IS also a The Mother Tongue at Amazon (which I know nothing about). Guess I had better let her clarify for herself! Cindy?

  23. Sorry to be negligent. The Mother Tongue I and II are by Kitteridge and they are OOP books. Here is one copy if someone wants to grab it up. I use MTII with all of my children orally. I absolutely wish I had started doing this years ago. We do the exercises orally and usually go around the room with even Alex participating. I just do one tiny section a day and the exercises on following days.

    I know nothing about this seller. But I do think the 1908 is one of the better editions of the book.


  24. You might know this already, but I found this when googling The Mother Tongue Kitteredge. They seem to be public domain. http://books.google.com/books?ei=wuEqS8KCMpHGtAPml_jVAw&ct=result&q=the+Mother+Tongue+Kittredge&btnG=Search+Books

    Off topic...I would love to subscribe to you by email. The subscription box says "The feed does not have subscriptions by email enabled". You always challenge me to think with more purpose.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. http://books.google.com/books?

    trying again...I put in some breaks in order to get all of the url to paste in the comments.

  27. http://books.google.com/books?ei=wuEqS8KCMpHGtAPml_jVAw&ct=result&q=

    this shows books 2 and 3 as well.

  28. Your last two posts were wonderful as usual. Thanks for your time. I hope your dad is recovering well.

  29. Wise words Cindy! The only thing I would add - while not technically "school related", but valuable nonetheless - is "teach practical skills." I have never regretted the time it took to teach my children to do their own laundry, cook, and clean a house. I don't require them to do all of this all the time (except the laundry! I don't do their laundry), but I know that they can.