8 things I’ve learned about education in my 8 years of motherhood

8-things-Ive-learned-about-educationWritten by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and writer at Steady Mom

Education wasn’t exactly my top concern when I gave first became a mother. Unless it was my own education–I had a multitude of lessons to learn, mistakes to make, and love to give.

The learning curve continued dramatically when I began considering homeschooling. Now I look back shocked to see that eight whole years have passed. I have plenty of new questions I need answers to, but I’m also far enough down the road, of both motherhood and homeschooling, to feel like I’ve gathered a few lessons under my belt.

I feel far more secure and confident now–in myself, in my mothering, in our choice to homeschool. Here are eight things I’ve learned about education in my eight years of motherhood.

1. It’s not rocket science.

The idea of homeschooling absolutely petrified me at first. Education seemed like some obscure, foggy, unattainable concept. A topic so complex and complicated that only experts could figure it out.

But I don’t feel that way anymore, mainly because:

2. Children are born with a natural curiosity and desire to learn.

Oh, baby Jonathan, my heart melts still to look at you

I am far from sending my kids out the door to graduation, but having seen all three of my little people (currently ages 9, 8, & 7) through the infant/toddler/preschool phase of life I can adamantly say that they each entered the world with a deep desire to learn.

Kids start off naturally curious–and they remain that way unless burnout kicks in.

3. An absolute wealth of homeschooling and educational resources exist for you to choose from.

Gone are the days of home learning in isolation. Homeschooling groups and co-ops currently multiply like wildfire across the United States, not to mention the vast selection of curricula available as well as incredible, high-quality online educational programs like Khan Academy, TED talks, and so much more.

I have no doubt that this trend will continue, but:

4. You don’t need much to homeschool successfully. A growing home library of well-chosen books works best.

I tend to look for complex formulas or strategies to implement because the idea of these lofty plans gives me a temporary feeling of security. But as is so often the case, simple is often the best. And the easiest.

I want my children to think of books as friends–Because a child who loves reading is primed for a lifetime of learning.

5. My children give clues when they are ready for something new.

Jonathan did it way back as an infant by weaning himself from breastfeeding. He clued me in by his continued lack of interest in nursing anymore. In spite of all my efforts, at nine months he was ready for something new.

My kids still provide these clues: By a new interest in a subject, by asking to learn something, by their enthusiasm, or even by physical changes like losing teeth. If I pay attention, I can work with these clues instead of against them.

6. Waiting until they’re ready saves a ton of time–and tears (theirs & mine).

Each child has his own timetable of development–his own repertoire of strengths and weaknesses to consider.

It is nothing short of ludicrous to expect each five-, six-, nine-, or twelve-year-old to tackle the same skills judged solely by the date of their birth. My children need an individualized education that matches their readiness so we both avoid frustration.

7. Enthusiasm matters in education–especially mine.

If I want to invite joy and learning in my home, I must show that I love and enjoy learning.

If I want my children to choose to learn something, they have to see me choose it first. I’d rather inspire them to choose it themselves than use compulsion and force because:

8. Self-education matters most.

I agree with educational pioneer Charlotte Mason that “self-education is the only possible education.” A person–no matter what their age–who is internally motivated is unstoppable.

By teaching my kids how to learn for themselves, I’m giving them the freedom to become who they were born to become. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in my eight years of motherhood, it’s that my children were born–just like yours–to become something great.

What lessons have you learned about education during your time homeschooling?

This post originally published on September 10, 2012.

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. I love this post… a must read for all beginner homeschoolers who think they have landed in the race of their lives!!! I have to say that Number 6 is the big one!!! Folks always ask if my kids have done this or that yet and I always have to say: “they are only five or six or ten or whatever they are.” These seems to be a mighty race on to over-achieve and prove our kids are so awesome. My kids are awesome just because they are who they are… and everyone knows that solid learning in your own time at your own pace is the way to go!!!
    se7en’s latest post: The Week That Was – 5.10

  2. What a great post! As this is our first “official” year homeschooling, I’m not sure what I have learned yet. I think that my most important goal is to foster a love of learning in my children. And to show them it is fun to seek out new information.
    Heather’s latest post: homemade deodorant

  3. I definitely already see number 5 with my two-year old. From weaning to dropping naps to needing more structure to her days, she always gives me clues as to what she needs.
    Steph’s latest post: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and the Church

  4. Beautiful post and a great reminder to me as I begin my second “official” week homeschooling my six-year-old.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Back To Homeschool

  5. Numbers 5 and 6 were the biggest revelations for me – you can’t force a child to learn anything. They’ll sit while you talk, but they won’t get it until they’re ready.
    Angela’s latest post: Buying a House: Why Savings Is Important.

  6. I agree so much with all eight things. Having good books, an excited mama and inspiring your children (through your own self-education) are so important, and really the keys in my opinion.

    Aren’t we blessed to be able to homeschool our children?

  7. This was a great post and I totally agree. I would just add one more: if the parent(s) model interests and learning, the kids will learn from that as well. When the grownups read books, the kids see how much pleasure it brings to us and they associate that. When I tend my gardens, my kids see me doing something that brings me satisfaction and joy and not only do they become interested in that but it shows them how deep interests can be fulfilling.

    Thanks, Jamie, and good luck to everyone on another homeschool and parenting year.

  8. Charissa Wiedlin says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderful piece! Today happens to be our family’s first day of homeschooling; my oldest’s first day of Kindergarten. I am naturally a little nervous about bringing everything together, changing daily routines, and making this all work for all involved, but more than anything I feel so excited to be embarking on this homeschooling journey. Your words were just what I needed to embrace this special first day.

  9. Very well said! I will bookmark this post for the days when I may have a crisis of confidence 🙂

  10. I have learned to love learning through books. Mostly that’s all we do. And my kids are learning so much. Also, I, too, have found that when you wait for the child to be ready it saves years and time! That’s true even with stuff like potty-training!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: 5 Home Routines to Keep Things Good Enough

  11. Thanks for this, Jamie – #6 especially resonates with me. My 5yo son has had NO desire to read, but he’s really a math whiz. I’m feeling pressure from the in-laws (among others…) to “start teaching him,” but your post reminded me of the long-term goals. I’m sure he’ll be a lifelong learner…and reading will come.
    Jeni’s latest post: Creating Content Pinterest Users will LOVE

  12. I love the lifestyle, depth of living, and love that home education has opened up for us! Thanks for such an inspiring article!
    Rebecca’s latest post: Soccer Drama Mama

  13. I think the greatest thing I have learned (this is only my second year) is to relax and ENJOY my kids…homeschooling isn’t an emergency or a race…I have changed my philosophy this year and have been just exploring and learning along with my kids and I am just reveling in this season. Some days are very hard, but overall…I have learned to relax and enjoy these years.

  14. Great reminders. Thank you so much. And at risk of violating principle #4, can I ask you what book your daughter is copying from? I would love to check it out! 🙂

  15. What a lovely post. Well said! Encouraging words for those of us educating at home. Thank you!
    Monique’s latest post: In Our Backyard: Summer 2012

  16. A great post Jamie. I always felt that the concept of home schooling is better left untouched. With the vast pool of information, it becomes difficult to ascertain where to begin and how. But reading you post, I have indeed gathered that it’s definitely not a rocket science!

  17. melynne fritze says:

    thank you! beautifully articulated and well put. thank you for the motivation and reminder to let the journey unfold before us!

  18. I was going through a box of pictures yesterday and found a post card you’d sent of J. the very same day as the photo above! What a boy.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Classroom Connections: DOUBLE VISION: CODE NAME 711 by F.T. Bradley + Two-Book Giveaway

  19. I totally agree, Jamie, especially your points about natural curiosity and the availability of good books. From the time we adopted our daughter at 10 months old, we made every thing a learning experience. At two she would bring a pile of books to be read after breakfast. I would point out letter, numbers, colors, etc. We would count things in the grocery store, name the produce, and go on nature walks. In the car we talked constantly, named objects we saw (cement mixer), and explained what someone was doing. It all served to give her vocabulary and understanding of her world. Ironically, vocabulary is her favorite subject and she talks constantly. When we hit Kindergarten I carefully selected curriculum for every subject. As a former elementary school teacher I felt confident about this part. The very first day of K, I wrote in my journal, “Formal curriculum is constricting”. I felt I had suddenly lost my freedom to teach my child in a natural way. After a difficult sixth grade last year, I slammed on the educational brakes and reevaluated where I was going. This year we are doing delight directed schooling with fewer subjects. Everyone is happier and life is so much less stressful. My daughter is an avid reader and often tells me something I know I haven’t taught her. When I ask where she learned it her answer is always, “I read it in a book”. Sorry this is so long, guess I got a little carried away with this comment. 🙂

  20. Thanks Jaime for this. I am not a home school mom but I faced many questions. My 4 year old son doesn’t hold a pencil / write, my family often questioned and asked me to teach him. I don’t know how and often felt I didn’t do enough.

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge

Never miss a blog post,
PLUS get Jamie’s FREE ebook: