How to recover your lost love for learning

Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.

And then I tore the math workbook into pieces while my stricken son watched, and I knew something had to change.

I closed my eyes. What’s gone wrong here?? 

I’m ashamed to even share it here, but I’m guessing if any of you mamas is schooling a special needs kid, you have had a day when you JUST. CAN’T. TAKE. another school-lesson sidelined by endless interruptions and dropped pencils and blank stares and suddenly forgetting everything taught up to this point.

Chances are this day happens to fall when you’re most hormonal and have approximately 87 other things to do before noon. Chances are you woke up with a headache, gained three more mysterious pounds, are agitated about another issue altogether, and this all creates the perfect storm for that mommy-fail moment you wish you could forget.

This was mine. It was a little math workbook–something I’d picked up for him “for fun.” (Oh the irony!)

We were so not having fun.

Thankfully, my son and I snuggled and prayed, I apologized and he forgave, I recycled the shredded pages, and we talked about how things had gotten off track.

Reflecting, I could see how the tension had mounted for weeks — we’d had a hard few months and as the end of the year approached I became the drill sergeant, pushing to complete the pages, eager to cross the whole year off and be done.

I was so deeply saddened by this. I just kept thinking, “This is not me! This is not the home education I’ve longed for and aspired to and envisioned for my kids. What’s happened?”

I took a few weeks to contemplate this. I prayed, talked to close confidants, read articles here, and processed my feelings with my husband Jeff. Two key things rose to the surface:


The first was the realization that saying yes to homeschooling means saying no to many other things. I know we “know” this but some of us (me) continue along like we can wear all the hats at once and stay sane.

We cannot.

I have been Pastor’s Wife, Author/Blogger, Speaker, and Homeschool Mom for six years now, along with all the other things like taking care of our house and property, leading Bible studies, being a friend and daughter, making the meals, keeping track of finances, doing the taxes, completing several large house projects …

I recently told a friend, “I don’t know anyone who is an author, speaker, lead pastor’s wife, and who homeschools. I think that’s because it’s not a good idea!”

I realized that if we were going to live out the beautiful, restful, inspiring home-education I had envisioned, we were going to have to do less. A LOT less.

Although I wouldn’t characterize our life as busy (we aren’t out and about much), I do attempt to do too much in any given day.

If I’m going to enjoy these days with my kids, if I’m going to enjoy education, I must do less. 


The other truth is, we had veered far from what we love. We love learning. We love nature and exploring and spending hours lost in the woods.

We love reading aloud and on our own and diving into science books and finding places on the map. We love history and poetry, we love art and silly songs.

We even love — wait for it — using math for real-life problem solving. We love baking bread and building with wood and planting flowers in the yard.

My kids love catching voles and moles and skinks and snakes. They love collecting larvae from the pond and building dams and waterways. They love field guides and Life of Fred and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. We love Story of the World.

We love life. We love learning.

We don’t love workbooks. We don’t love long-division for 45-minutes straight. We don’t love memorizing 150 prepositions with no plot or purpose. We don’t love lists of dull spelling words disconnected from the depth of a riveting storyline.

We love Pippi. And Anne. And Louis the swan. We love Pa and Ma, Nicodemus and Justin, Romeo and Juliet, Gandalf and Bilbo.

One weekend, I went back and re-read Educating the Whole-hearted Child and it felt like coming home. “Yes! THIS is what I set out to do. THIS is why we homeschool.”

And so I asked Jeff for a day, a whole day, to go to our local homeschool bookstore, and read and explore and peruse and recapture my lost love of learning. I vowed to leave with exactly zero workbooks, but to purchase anything and everything that would feed and fuel our hunger for knowledge, our love for learning, our zeal for life.

Several hours later, I had a treasure trove of educational delights, both for me and the kids. I had Jamie’s favorites for myself, all the Life of Fred language series (my kids adore anything Fred), a creative writing curriculum that I couldn’t wait to crack open with Dutch, and an entire language-arts series that uses our beloved Classics to teach mechanics, vocabulary and spelling.

But even more than great books, what I got was a rekindled love for learning. I realized that I could not require learning, I must inspire learning.

Even now, as I type these words, it’s a summer day and my kids have wordlessly wandered out here on the deck by me, books strewn about them in the sunshine, poring over pages, literature, language-arts, and yes, even math.

We’re not doing school. We’re learning.

And loving it.

Your turn! What has cultivated a love for learning in your homeschool?

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About Kari Patterson

Kari Patterson and her family live out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. As a 2nd-generation homeschooler she espouses the same philosophy her own mom did in the 80s: Cultivate a love for learning and one's education will never end. She bakes bread, brews kombucha, speaks at conferences & writes at Sacred Mundane. Her new book Sacred Mundane is available now.


  1. The change in words and direction is great. I love the doing less and learning more. Really encouraging article.
    Jen’s latest post: Best Books of the 2016-2017 School Year

  2. This really spoke to me. I have been trying to do it all too, and I just can’t. I need to scale back and focus on what we really love to learn. One specific way we did this was by ditching all the books we are “supposed to read” (classics) and reading books I love with my kids. We love Harry potter, chronicles of narnia, life of Fred. We also love life schooling for so many subjects. We mostly hate workbooks. I’m thankful you mentioned Educating the Whole-hearted Child. I will pick up that one again this summer as well. Thanks so much for sharing Kari!
    June’s latest post: 11 Ways Any Parent can Teach Science

  3. Such an encouraging article, Kari. I pray you continue to enjoy learning alongside your children and find the joy in doing less during each new season in life. It seems we all start off well-intentioned and yet, despite our desires to do good, add more and more and before we know it, reach our max. I love how our kids are great at letting us know when we’re trying to do too much and help pull us back on track. You’re such an inspiration to so many homeschool mamas out there. (Love your book recommendations as well). Much Love.

  4. We love almost all of the same things you do. 🙂
    Anne’s latest post: 2016-17 Read Alouds

  5. This is a brilliant article Kari.
    Sometimes it’s a shock to realise how off-track we’ve gotten. I’ve just realised how little time I spend outside now (and that encourages my children to stay outside). It’s cold here, and i’m terrible in the cold, but i’m making more of an effort to rug up and get outside every day to blow the cobwebs out of my head.
    Kelly’s latest post: Homeschooling – Are you doing it right?

  6. You are busy! I seldom go out during the week too, because I am busy at home and if I go out too often, my home suffers. It’s not just the everyday cleaning that suffers, it is also the rest of the family with the loss of the calm that being home provides. We enjoy learning, too, thank you for sharing with me about how you needed to get back to loving to learn.
    Suanna Sears’s latest post: Mommy Survey

  7. Holli Ballard says:

    I am sat here in tears reading your post. It really hit home. The struggle of moving to a new state, an injury, and my illness had reduced us to workbooks and angry glances. This was a call to return to what I envisioned and we love to do.
    Thank you.

    • I’m so sorry, Holli, that you’ve had a rough go of it too. You have my sympathies!!! I’m so thankful that we can always have a fresh start, and our kids learn from our mis-steps and course-correction just as much as if we’d “nailed it” every time. I hope you have a restful summer.
      Kari Patterson’s latest post: How to recover your lost love of learning

  8. Yes! Yes! Yes! We don’t need to be doing even half of what we think we should be doing (based on standardized schooling). In striving to give our kids a good, well-rounded education we do way too much! When I finally realized (after 14 years of homeschooling) that it’s God who teaches (and I come alongside in support as His hands and feet), our homeschooling experience was completely transformed.
    For he is rightly instructed; his God teaches him. (Isaiah 28:26)
    But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. Job 32:8
    He who teaches man knowledge— the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. (Psalm 94:11)

  9. Loved this!
    I just recently realized I had to say “no” more… because saying no is saying “yes” to something more meaningful.

  10. MelissaB says:

    SO needed this … Thanks so much, Kari!

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