Reflections from Our Homeschool Year


We finished up our school year this week! What a joy it was to celebrate our final day of school with a Medieval feast. We have made a tradition of the last day of school being a celebratory feast where we make dinner loosely themed according to the historic time period we studied for the year. Its become a favorite annual memory. So in celebrating a fun year of studying the Middle Ages, we had a feast of roast chicken, eggs, salad, medieval gingerbread and pudding on trenchers (stale bread that they used as plates) with spoons and our fingers and goblets of grape juice/wine with daddy and mommy serving as the Lord and Lady of our castle! We took the opportunity to speak words of affirmation to the kids specifically addressing the progress we have seen in their lives and hearts this past school year, and then we toasted to their graduation into the next grade.


We also visited a local elderly care facility with some fellow homeschool friends and shared various poems and verses the children memorized, along with instrumental pieces they had learned this past year. It was really sweet to love on the elderly while giving the kids a fun means of presenting their hard work in a more formal and yet less intimidating atmosphere. And of course, the elderly just loved interacting with the kids. I hope to make this a regular event – a great way to combine ministry with teaching the kids to speak/present before others.

IMG_3603 As we finished up the school year, I’ve been reflecting upon the struggles and successes of this past year,  our fourth year of homeschooling. I’m so thankful for God’s grace in giving us a fruitful and enjoyable year. It’s so easy to forget all the good because they often get drowned by the difficulties.

Our daily morning circle time, a short time set aside each morning for all of us to sit down together to pray, read living books together, and memorize beautiful things, was a delightful time. We’ve used this format for a few years now (see Cindy Rollins, Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie or Your Morning Basket podcast for more details). We were inspired by living books of characters from the Middle Ages. Our eyes were open to the needs of the world, by praying through 40 Days, 40 Bites: A Family Guide to Pray for the World. We were blessed to learn rich theology about God and the world through the beautiful resource, The Ology: Ancient Truths Made New by Marty Machowski. We loved learning character qualities in poems, songs, and stories through the excellent free resources at Character First Education.


We adopted a weekly poetry tea time into our weekly routine. My kids fell in love with poetry and tea. A fabulous combination. (It all started with listening to this podcast of Julie Bogart on Read Aloud Revival). It was a fun opportunity for my daughter to practice her enthusiasm for decorating. Studying a famous selection of art work pared nicely with our poetry time as well.

We were amazed by the life of artist, Michelangelo, and his unique fascination of the human body, in his towering sculptures of David and Moses. We used the beautiful Art Portfolios by Simply Charlotte Mason. We read about and listened to classical composers, Brahms and Schubert (with the wonderful Opal Wheeler biographies).


We established a good morning routine where personal devotions, chores, and independent school work (math and handwriting) had to be completed before 9:00am for a little prize (amazing how they can work when you reward them with a jelly bean!), and it became such a great habit and routine. We’re maintaining this rhythm year round because it has worked so well.

I am so thankful for the ability to educate our children at home, and that the Lord is always faithful to lead and guide us, even when I feel completely helpless and clueless how to train and disciple them, or how to best meet their needs and various learning styles. He is always near to hear my prayers. And all these successes are simply his merciful answers to those prayers. Homeschooling is truly delightful when I focus on all these sweet memories made together, seeing my children learn to read, hearing their thoughtful comments, and knowing that I get the privilege of learning all of this right at their side.


I had many tearful days, struggling with one child’s ongoing battle with maintaining a joyful heart in school and chores and prayerfully laying this child before the Lord day in and day out, pleading that the Lord would change both our hearts and give wisdom and grace. There were many frustrating moments of repeatedly reminding of another child to stay focused and be attentive and diligent in their work, and encouraging the other to practice self-control when they are tempted to freak out at the first sign of difficulty or messiness. We have seen great progress in these areas, and God has been mercifully guiding me in ways only He can. I battled against many lies from the enemy that I wasn’t doing enough, that I can’t do this anymore, that so and so’s kids are so much smarter than mine, and on and on. The enemy is a deceiver, and we have to be active in speaking truth to counter his lies. He only wants to make me loose my joy and fruitfulness in the traps of comparison and feelings of failure.

A few lessons I’ve been learning this year:

1. Eliminate Until There is Peace

You can have a whole list of great books, activities, and amazing outings planned, but if there is no peace, there is no joy, and no lasting learning will take place. Nancy Kelly’s simply challenge to “keep cutting back until there is peace in your home” (quoted in this fabulous article), struck a cord in my heart that I won’t soon forget. I am an over zealous homeschool planner, so I love to pick the best from multiple different curriculums and make a HUGE book list and lengthy homeschool plan. I want my kids to experience all the best options, right?! But our schedule became a little over packed and over scheduled pretty fast. We had to let go of my unrealistic expectations. Less is more. (Another fabulous resource along these lines is Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest – I’ve read it three times already!).

2. Stay Closer to Home

One of the things that was causing unrest in our home was an over scheduling of outside the home extra-curricular activities. I discovered through trial and error, that having to pack up the kids for activities (wonderful educational opportunities, no less!) is super stressful for me in this season of life. It feeds my temptation to burst out in frustration at my kids for the time and effort required, and thus damaging relationships. I also noticed a growing discontentment in the hearts of my children after all these fun activities (feeding expectations for more?). How could I guard against this?

I had to make a deliberate choice to stay closer to home for our well-being and to practice cultivating contentment. We set aside Fridays each week for the necessary grocery shopping trip (twice a month), and a monthly field trip and a monthly service opportunity (visiting elderly neighbors, serving a family in our church, etc), which sometimes fell on a different day of the week and we adjusted accordingly. There is real beauty and rest in just staying close to home. It fosters peace, consistent routines, and contentment.


3. Pick Something and Stick With It

It’s so easy to pick one curriculum and then throw it out at the first sign of difficulty. But there is sweet reward when we persevere through the challenges and stay committed for the long haul. I am so guilty of this. I have used four different phonics curriculums, two different spelling programs, and four different math programs in the last four years! I’ve wasted a lot of money before the light bulb finally came on. So thankful for my patient husband. There is no perfect curriculum. Nothing out there is going to be perfectly fun and engaging all the time. I learned that it was time to make prayerful choices and determine to stick with it. There is grace to make changes, but there came a point for me personally that I needed to make a decision and be faithful and persevere. My kids need to learn this mutually. It is so good for our faith and character development.

It’s more important to remember that you can adapt the curriculum to your family’s needs, but its not necessary to throw it out altogether. You don’t have to be a curriculum slave either, thank goodness. It felt so good to see my daughter complete the All About Reading phonics curriculum this year. The fruit of making that necessary commitment. These thoughts have been instrumental in leading us to make the decision of using Heart of Dakota this upcoming school year, adapting to our needs, but then sticking with it for the long haul, Lord willing! I’m honestly really excited and at peace, not to mention all the time I’ve just freed up from piecing together my own perfect curriculum. ;)

It’s been a good year! Do you homeschool? What lessons have you gleaned this year?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

29 Responses to Reflections from Our Homeschool Year

  1. Jennifer June 23, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Lindsay! I am super curious about HOD. Right now, I have four kiddos: ages 5 (just turned…starting K this coming Fall), 3, and 21 month old twins. We are doing Classical Conversations for my daughter’s K year, but I’m not positive that it will work for us long term because of the price. I’m supplementing with some Sonlight books to guide us in our read-alouds. I know that you used to use SL, and am curious what prompted the change to HOD? I’ve looked at their website and gotten confused, so I don’t know much about them and how they compare to SL’s program. I like what I’ve seen of SL, but it can be intense.
    I like the emphasis on memorization in CC, but I also feel like I could teach it at home and save money. At the same time, a little “place to be” once a week after two years of not going out much (life with tiny twins!), is something that is good for my extroverted daughter. ;-) I’m wondering if after this year, we should drop CC and look into SL or HOD, while doing memory work at home. In any case, I’d love your thoughts on the comparison between SL and HOD…as well as classical vs CM education. Thanks so much!

    • Lindsay July 6, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

      Hi Jennifer! Sorry for the delay in responding. We’ve been on vacation for a bit. I love both Sonlight and Heart of Dakota. The main reason I decided to use HOD was because of the hands on activities and art integrated in HOD (sonlight is only books, unless you plan in your own activities), along with the lighter load of reading that HOD has. HOD is more strongly Charlotte Mason based, so a wonderful mix of living engaging books and still short lessons in a variety of subjects. It also integrates bible and character really well into the history and science. I love how the character focus and verses tie in with characters from history and how they display those qualities. HOD does a fabulous job equipping the kids to learn independently too. HOD is also cheaper and more clearly laid out in the teachers guide. I have to say though that the HOD website is really confusing. I recommend checking out their catalog and the facebook groups that correspond to each different level of the curriculum. They have been fabulous for me! If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason, I recommend reading For the Children’s Sake or When Children Love to Learn. I still think both Sonlight & Heart of Dakota are both excellent choices, it just depends upon your goals and needs. My children love hands on learning activities, but I am not a crafty person, so I decided HOD would serve us well since all the activities are integrated in the learning and mainly just use things around the house, so super doable. The curriculum requires less time from the teacher, so it is easier to manage I think with multiple littles in tow. We are using Bigger Hearts for His Glory this year for my older two and my kindergartener will tag along for the ride while doing Rod & Staff workbooks (which are fabulous, cheap, and easily cover all of kindergarten and into 1st grade concepts) on the side. I’ll probably have her start HOD’s Little Hearts next year for 1st grade.

  2. Sarah June 22, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    I’m so happy to see you blogging again! What a beautiful family you (still) have. Looking forward to hearing from you more. One thing you just wrote was about how our life is not now “Plan B”. I’ve been pondering this a lot since reading it, and I think it’s probably something I will be rolling over in my mind for awhile. Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts with us.

  3. Charity June 22, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    Hi Lindsey! It’s great to read your most recent posts. I’ve missed reading your thoughts. Homemaking is such an opportunity to serve the Lord by serving our family. Love your ideas on homeschooling!

  4. Ronni June 21, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    I just opened your blog today and I am so excited you are blogging again!! I was so sad when you decided to take some time off. Thank you for sharing your homeschool routine and updating us on your family. Congratulations on the new little one!

  5. Michelle June 20, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

    I’m so thankful to God for leading you to check back in here and share what He’s been doing in your heart and family. Hearing from you is like a breath of fresh air!

    On a very practical note, I’d love to know how you’ve organized the homeschool binders in the photo. I have so many plans and ideas in my head, but I struggle to lay them out in a binder format.

    Much grace and peace to you!

  6. Audrey June 20, 2016 at 10:58 am #

    Thank you for posting this. I am grateful to have your voice of encouragement back on the web! =) I have had some similar struggles over the past few years as I’ve begun my own homeschooling journey with my oldest (and 3 littles to follow!) This year will be my first year doing more than preschool with my younger children (going from 1 to 3 doing “real” school as my twins start kindergarten!!) and I’m looking forward to looking up some of the resources you mentioned. I’ve fallen in love with the Charlotte Mason way of gentle learning and look forward to relaxing a bit in our schooling this year and adding our morning routine, as well. It’ll be nice to hear the homeschool journey of another family as my style of homeschooling is in the minority around these parts.

  7. Amy Walker June 20, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    Okay, sorry for leaving a whole new comment but this got me thinking and I have a question about Heart of Dakota. I LOVE the bits and pieces I’ve seen and heard about it. However, we are doing All About Reading and it is a great fit for us and we are using an independent math curriculum as well. We do Classical Conversations memory work (truly grammar stage style…just a few minutes a day in a fun way) and I don’t feel a NEED to add anything, but I’m really drawn to this and was wondering if you could get just the “Learning through History” part to use primarily for just read aloud, discussing as an enrichment kind of thing…not something we HAVE to do. I would love to read more stories to them that relate to the history pegs they are learning, but do not have an extensive library system nor want to purchase tons of books. I was thinking if it was story based and connected history and the Bible it would be a fun thing. Do you think it is conducive to that or would it not be worth it because it’s more “work based”? Does that make sense? Blessings!

    • Lindsay June 20, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

      Amy – There are some fabulous facebook groups for each level of Heart of Dakota, so you can get a wealth of information there. I have seen many people say that you can just use the History/Science sections if desired and choose their own math/language arts options. I will still be using All About Reading ourselves, but will be starting most of HOD english/spelling recommendations for simplicity sake this next year (we will start with Bigger Hearts with my 2nd & 4th graders). Definitely check out the facebook groups. Very helpful.

      • Amy Walker June 20, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

        Thank you so much! I will check them out. It looks really cool. Thanks for the tip.

  8. Maggie June 20, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    Yay!!! I’m so glad to see that you are back! Congratulations on your beautiful baby..such a precious family. Your blog is the only one I’ve ever consistently read, and I appreciate the information and wisdom that you share. I will be homeschooling for the first time this Fall, so I am thankful you’ll be around off and on :) Thank you for sharing your heart, and honoring God as you live out your story.

  9. Julie June 20, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    I was delighted to see that you’re writing on your blog again! Thanks for your honesty in sharing about the good and the bad and for listening to God to take the time off when he wanted you to. Looking forward to learning along with you in future posts!

  10. Emily June 20, 2016 at 7:34 am #

    I love your writing! I am thankful you are willing to share your experiences, insights, and knowledge through your blog, no matter how often you choose to publish.

  11. Mary June 20, 2016 at 6:24 am #

    I didn’t realize you were back at blogging, but this post just showed up on my feed and was SUCH an encouragement to me! To see that the struggle is real but we persevere anyway was just what my heart needed. Thank you for that reminder!!

    • Lindsay June 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

      We just fixed my RSS feed yesterday! Horray!

  12. Annie June 20, 2016 at 6:22 am #

    I am using HOD Preparing right now with my oldest and I absolutely love it. Not everything is awesome but it is consistently good. If we have an off day we just pick up right where we left off. Mostly we are going at half speed so that all four kids can get their individual educational needs met.

  13. Ally June 20, 2016 at 5:02 am #

    So excited you’re back!! You were the first blog, I followed and it really shaped me as a new mother and homemaker. And I still return to favorite posts. Looking forward to reading the “new” blog as it takes shape!

  14. Jen June 19, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

    Wow! So nice to ‘see’ you back again. Can’t believe it’s been 3 years! I love your courage to step away and work so hard to remove all of the obstacles that life tries to throw at you. So refreshing! Congrats on your newest little one!

  15. Sarah @ The Life of This Mother June 19, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

    I am so thankful you are back up and blogging. I just discovered you when you felt the Lord’s leading to stop. Yay!

    We’re doing preschool at home and I’m pretty sure we will homeschool. Right now, we’re doing lots of nature walks/exploring, reading as much as possible, playing, learning with random sets {ie. marble runs, peg boards etc}, sensory bins and day-to-day life with Mummy. I am just loving having my two little ones home as we recently brought our son home from kindergarten.

    I am so thankful for the internet and how the Lord encourages my heart with other mothers who have the same focus and struggles and heart as my own. Bringing my son home may not have happened if I wasn’t encouraged that there are other mother’s out there who aren’t conforming to the status quo.

    Bless you, Lindsay x

  16. Tera June 19, 2016 at 7:17 pm #

    Thank you for these incredible resources! I can’t wait to study these more fully. I would love to know what you have your children do for their personal devotions- especially the youngest. I think this is something I need to encourage my daughter in, but I am not sure what to ask her to do since she is not yet a confident reader. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!

    • Lindsay June 20, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

      Tera- thanks for asking! Our littles (non-readers) love listening to Jesus Storybook Bible, and The Beginner’s Bible via the ibooks store (if you have an apple devise – computer/ipad). They sell these hear & see editions where you can see the pictures and it reads aloud to the child, highlighting each word as it is read. They are simply fabulous. So we set them up with ear-buds and they listen to that for a little bit while the rest of us read the bible on our owns. You can also get just an audio verson of these bibles and they could listen…but the see and hear edition is extra fun. We also have the Action Bible audio version for those a little older. Once they start reading, we use Keys for Kids (free subscription) or The Good Book Company’s XTB subscription which is a fun and engaging bible reading plan. My daughter is also not a super confident reader, and she has enjoyed both of these guides. The Good Book Company also has some great resources for preschoolers. I also personally use alot of their resources for my own bible study. I love their Good Book Guides and God’s Word for You series. Hope that helps!

      • Tera June 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

        Wow! This all sounds amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. Blessings to you and your family. I will keep you in my prayers as you lead us in following Christ.

  17. Cara June 19, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    Wow, what a pleasant surprise to see your blog back! I have visited throughout the past few years for references and to come back to some of my favorite posts. I have three kids and homeschool, so I really appreciate all your homeschooling posts. Please, please keep it up…your blog has been such an encouragement to me!

  18. Michelle June 19, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

    The Lord has been teaching me similar things lately. Grateful to be encouraged by His faithful work in your life and glad you’re back…whatever that looks like!

  19. Allegra June 19, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    Homeschooling is so hard. And we are just getting started! There are so many methods (including “unschooling”) and curriculum to choose from that is is seriously overwhelming. Throw in health problems and a child with special needs and UGH! I was having a nervous breakdown like everyday. But just this morning I decided that I was going to simplify my life. Stay home more. She doesn’t have to be in every activity. She doesn’t have to go to every birthday party. Get back to our daily routine. So this post is a God send. Thank you for your insights and welcome back :)

  20. Amy June 19, 2016 at 5:19 pm #

    I’m so happy you’re back! So wonderful to read the update on your family. I can relate to much of what you shared, having struggled with and come around to similar choices on my journey so far particularly in identity, home school, and food. So very much looking forward to hearing more about your journey. :) Thanks for sharing!

  21. Danielle Olson June 19, 2016 at 6:01 am #

    Thank you for this! I know I’ll need the reminder about staying home and not over committing. And growing in perseverance. I am quick to second guess my choices and abilities; however this can be an area for me to grow in praying to God for wisdom and reassurance. Blessings to your family this summer!

  22. Jacquelyn June 19, 2016 at 3:51 am #

    Thank you for the tips and insight! My oldest just turned four so we are just beginning our homeschool journey. I love hearing that I’m not there only one that enjoys staying at home most days. I love the idea of play dates and field trips but having too many really is stressful. My kids seem to be happiest when we follow a routine.

  23. Lisa June 18, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

    Love hearing about your homeschool routine. I definitely deal with a certain someone who doesn’t always have a joyful heart. I also find getting out of the house so stressful and have more productive days when I stay home!!