Starting the year right


The following is a guest post by Laura Thomas of This Eternal Moment.

 A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge” – Thomas Carlyle

I will never forget my first day of kindergarten. I wore my favorite ruffly dress that twirled nicely, my hair in pigtails, and clutched my favorite pink doll tightly.


I was excited and terrified all at once. I was eager to learn and even more eager to be liked by my classmates.

Thankfully, the first face to greet me that morning was my teacher, Ms. Neal. Ms. Neal was one of those people created to make small people feel significant, loved, and happy. We were a group of more than 20 kids, but Ms. Neal made us all feel special.

And there was nothing that we wanted more than to see her smile and sense her approval of our oddly-cut shapes or wobbly-written letters. And approval she gave — loads of it.

More than 30 years later, my brother, a Delta pilot, returned to sit in the back of her classroom just to watch Ms. Neal work her magic. The children quietly sat in their places, raised their hands, respecting her and each other. How did she do it?

How did she inspire 5-year-old children to listen to her, respect each other, and most importantly to love learning?


Well, it’s been three decades and I honestly don’t remember what I learned in her class, but I do remember two things: her encouragement and her smile.

Mother Teresa has said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

When I think of starting our homeschooling year, I think about lots of things: planning, curriculum, schedules, projects, memory work, and (my personal favorite) a trip to the local office supply store.

But as we begin our new school year, there is something much more important for us to think, plan, and pray about: Our relationship with our kids.

I can teach my child math, but I want her to learn more than numbers. I can teach my child to read, but I want her to learn more than words. I can teach my child the names of the planets, or presidents, or nations, but I want her to know more than facts.

We all have come upon this journey called “homeschooling” from different places and for different reasons. But I am sure we have one thing in common. We want our kids to be passionate about learning, growing, and discovering. We want our kids to know that we are cheering them on, encouraging them each step of the way.

We want our kids, more than anything, to know that we love them and that we are walking this journey together as a team.

Perhaps before I spend hours mapping out extensive geography lessons, I ought to take time to think through how I can better encourage my children this year in their efforts to learn. Perhaps before I busily begin printing and laminating worksheets, I should take time to consider what each of my children love to do and figure out how to create an atmosphere that inspires creativity and freedom to explore.

Perhaps even before I peruse the internet for all my curriculum options, I ought to ponder how I can make the harder subjects fun for my kids.


As we begin this year, let’s consider how we want to end. Not with mere accomplishments or outward successes, but with a closer relationship to our children and a deeper passion for learning.

When our kids look back on their education thirty years from now, what do we want them to remember?

More than anything else, I want my kids to remember that we lived, loved, explored, and discovered together. That we laughed hard, worked hard, and played hard. That we spurred each other on to continue trying when we wanted to give up. That when I got impatient with their pace, I gave them permission to tickle me so I would lighten up.

So let’s get a great start to the year by choosing to focus on what’s really most important … and then go out and buy some really great new school supplies!

What are you keeping in mind as you start a new homeschool year?

About Laurat

Laura M. Thomas is a homeschooling mother of four, an avid writer, jogger, and nature lover. You can read more of her writing at This Eternal Moment.


  1. Jennifer butler says:

    Great encouraging words Laura!!!

  2. Great reminder…it can be so easy for me to get focused on the logistics rather than the relationships.
    Steph’s latest post: What I’m Into (August 2014)

    • Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. I am the same way, getting caught up so much with the logistics. This article is a keeper to review at the beginning of each school year as well as in between to help put things back in perspective when we get so caught up with the processes and may forget to focus on the relationships.

      • Sherrie,
        You are right! I planned a “homeschool planning retreat” last weekend for the year and had “planned” to focus on curriculum stuff – instead (after writing this article) I realized that I needed to just spend the time really praying for each of my kids and seeking to discern how I can best serve them in their learning journey this year. Hoping your year starts off great!
        Laura Thomas’s latest post: Starting the Year Right

      • Sherrie,
        Thanks so much! I am so glad that the post spoke to you. I wrote this to remind myself too and will probably look back to it often as well 🙂

      • Hi Sherrie,
        so glad that it spoke to you. I know that I will need to read my own words every year as well to remind myself of this 🙂 Relationships really are most important, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the other stuff…
        Laura Thomas’s latest post: Starting the Year Right

  3. This is a really great article that I agree with wholeheartedly! Thanks for the reminder about what’s the most important thing!
    Chandra’s latest post: Visitors from Germany and Laundry Room Transformation

  4. I love this reminder! On another note I recently thought about the dress I wore the first day of kindergarten as this week my oldest didn’t head off to public school kinder with her peers. I hope that with the memories of a great relationship and fun learning that it will make up for not having that particular memory! 🙂 She will have lots of other great memories…hopefully!
    Amy’s latest post: The Season of Toddlerhood

    • Amy,
      LOL! Asking my mom for my picture brought back so many memories 🙂 I’ve thought about taking some photos of them on one of our first days back with signs that say “1st Grader,” etc just so they have some milestone markers for the beginning of school years – ha ha.
      Laura Thomas’s latest post: Starting the Year Right

  5. A lovely post. This is what I love about homeschooling, the time I get to spend with my son who is growing up so fast. It’s important to focus on his interests as well as my goals for him and just to enjoy this time together and create wonderful memories.
    Camie’s latest post: Happy Hearts Fall 2014

  6. Laura, thank you so much for this amazing post! I really needed it as we’re just starting out for the year and need my focus in the right place… My relationship with my children is far more important than any school subject I can teach them. Have a great weekend!
    Heather @ Shards of Lavender’s latest post: BBQ Bacon Hawaiian Pizza

  7. A beautiful reminder. Thank you! I love the permission to tickle when you get impatient part…..I’ll have to use that this year 🙂

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