Navigating the path ahead: Using your homeschool compass

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Navigating the path ahead Using your homeschool compass
Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

This post is part of an ongoing series
about the educational philosophy Leadership Education
(also known as A Thomas Jefferson Education.)
Find the other posts in the series here.

Last Monday I described for you the process of creating a homeschool compass–a plan your children ages eight and older can use to help direct their own learning with you serving as a mentor and guide.

In that post I walked through the questions I asked my own kids–about skills they’d like to conquer, books they want to read, and even what they feel their mission and purpose on this earth might be.

Today I’d like to explain how we finished off the compasses and how we are actually putting them to use in our day-to-day homeschool life.

What are other kids studying?


After my kids had completed their part of the compass, I needed to get to work myself.

I looked through the corresponding book from the Core Knowledge Series for the grade each of my children would be in, and made a list of the various topics kids in that grade typically study.

Within overarching subjects, I made note of specifics that I thought might be important or might interest a child–so roman numerals or telling time within math–for example. I also jotted down specific curricula or resources we already have that teaches that subject–practical ideas on how we could approach each line item.

Then I sat down with my kids one-on-one and read over the list with them. In Leadership Education, we follow the principle “inspire, not require,” which means we don’t have required academic subjects in our home.

Instead we read through the list, discussed it, and I made note of the items/subjects they said they’d like to learn more about in the next six months.

Afterwards I was left with plenty of work and research to do later on to find resources they need that will both whet and satisfy their appetites for learning.

Now what?


Now that we’ve completed these compasses, what should we do with them? Where do we go from here?

First, I’m thinking about getting in on the action and creating a compass for myself-then reading it aloud to my kids.

After all, showing rather than telling is one of the most important steps we can take to create an atmosphere of learning in our homes.

Second, I plan to review the compass with the kids about once a month–read through it, remind ourselves of what we’re working on, use it in making library lists, and so on.

Third, I wanted a practical way to make use of this information in our day-to-day homeschool lives.

I took an index card and wrote down the specific resources each child can choose from during their daily lesson with me–this varies depending on their unique compass.

Trishna’s card reads like this:

When it’s my one-on-one time with her on a typical learning day, I pass her the card and ask what she’d like to work on. While I tidy the kitchen or make tea she chooses, then I get the necessary supplies and we begin.

I can see more clearly the path ahead of us, and I have a greater handle than ever before about what my kids want to learn and what phase of learning they are currently in. (If you’re not sure what I mean by “phase of learning,” check out this post for an overview.)

Now I will gather all this information and have a head start on making my six month inventory–my own blueprint and to-do list, so to speak, of the academic and character lessons I hope to expose the kids to in the next six months.

I feel good about the direction we’re heading in–because now I know what direction it is!

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

TJed logo

If you’d like to learn more about TJEd/Leadership Education, check out these resources:

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 the index card idea! One on one time is so precious around my house and having a list to choose from would help maximize our time. Thanks!
    Amy’s latest post: Homeschooling and Traveling

  2. We also do Leadership Education, and to prepare for the following year I have comprised my own compass, so I can focus on “You, Not them” during the summer. Thanks for doing this series! I hunger for all things TJEd and I love your family’s perspective.

  3. I have been working my way through the 7keys certification and am reading the books. My heart and soul really identify with what I am learning. I love to hear stories of your personal application of these principles and how you flesh them out in your day to day life. Thank you! Having children who are 5 and 7, I would love to hear stories of what this looked like for you in the core phase! :).

    • I’ve written a whole post about Core Phase and you can also search my homeschool day in the life posts to see what our days looked like when the kids were younger. Just use the search function or the tags at the bottom of the site! Hope that helps!

  4. I love this! My kids are still firmly in Core and we will be there for awhile still, but I’m looking ahead and trying to get an idea what Compass looks like for others. Thanks for sharing.
    Johanna’s latest post: Embracing seasonal shifts

  5. There were occasions when my daughter initiated self-study. When she was 12 she decided to read books on sports injuries. She read every book the local library had and then read the most current books through interlibary loan. At this point she knew she wanted to study sports medicine. At 15 she entered the local community college which had the best junior college program in our state. She also studied medical terminology one semester; we purchased that book at the college. It became part of her lanugage arts/spelling studies. Later, to give her high school credit while attending college, I asked her to choose several of the more informative books she had read and to write a general review of each, which meant she had to reread the books she had read at age 12. Another semester she received credit for theater arts when she participated back stage for one community play and with a speaking/singing part in two other plays (16 plus weeks of work). Another semester she planned to go on a missions trip with the church and needed modest clothing to wear. I taught her to sew that semester and she created enough simple cotton tops and dresses to wear in Mexico. She also took cake decorating (and adult classes later) and clowning classes at the Kids’ College put on by the other local community college. She joined the local clown group and was earning income. Her clowning was featured in a national girls’ magazine article. These semester and longer activities are what she did to create her curriculum, all driven by her curiosity, interest, and need. They demonstrated her community involvement and personal growth and they did go on her high school transcript and subsequent college applications.

  6. hello! , I enjoy your composing very a whole lot! percentage all of us connect additional of your content about Google? My partner and i need a professional on this room to end our issue. Maybe which is you! Awaiting look people.

  7. Hi Jamie,
    How much time do you spend with each child individually? Do you do this daily? Do they only choose one activity from their cards? Do you expect your kids to do any other academic work on their own throughout the day? Curious…. Curious… Curious… Thanks for sharing an inside peek to your daily routine. It helps a lot to see others days.

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