Bold Turquoise

Jun 23 2015

Our Journey to The Whole Books Method of Homeschooling

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Our Journey to Whole Books

A Homeschooler with the Best Intentions…

Homeschooling is such a journey, isn’t it? I knew I wanted to homeschool my kids before I was ever even married and by God’s grace ended up with a man who held the same conviction.  I read my first how-to homeschool books when I was pregnant with my first son and went to my first homeschool conference when he was one and a half.  I adored the idea of lapbooking and grand projects and diligently printed out every toddler and preschool printable I could get my hands on.

More seasoned moms warned me.  They told me to chill out with all the curriculum and planning and just let him learn naturally.  But he was so smart, I thought, why not just get a head start on his education?!

My Dutiful Kindergartener, Back in the Day

My Dutiful Kindergartener, Back in the Day

So I forged ahead.  Our kindergarten curriculum that I pieced together and embellished was so large and extravagant that we both hated school and learning by Christmas!  We muddled through the rest of that year and I went back to the drawing board for first grade.

First grade, with less faith in myself, I dove head-long into a boxed curriculum that held many of the same ideals that I did.  Problem? With a brand new baby and a preschooler, plus having just moved out to the country, I didn’t make it to the library for half of the books we were supposed to read that year and the curriculum shot ahead at a pace he just could not keep up with. Subsequently, the second half of his first grade year looked much the same as that of his kindergarten year.

Still not confident, however, we lurched into the second year of the same boxed curriculum. One tedious construction paper project after the next was frustrating both of us and the only things we really enjoyed about the year, or that he remembered any of, were the read alouds.  If the information came in the form of a story, we were golden, otherwise everything went in one ear and out the other!

Clearly, a Kindergartener did NOT paint that globe!  Can we say "mommy project?"

Clearly, a Kindergartener did NOT paint that globe! Can we say “mommy project?”

That brings us to last summer.  My oldest was going into third grade, with very little to show for it, and my second son was about to enter kindergarten.  I had spent months planning a very project-oriented curriculum when that realization about story being such a key element in our learning fully settled in on me.

Why had I not seen it before?

So, a month before we were to start school, with some of the books for what I had originally intended to work on already purchased, I threw my plan completely out the window and started over with a literature-based approach in mind.  I listened to The Read Aloud Revival Podcast to get advice from amazing, literature-focused guests and began truly reading books such as Educating the Whole Hearted Child by The Clarksons.

One of our favorite read-alouds so far!  So many great discussions stemmed from this book and still do!

What a difference!  My third grader and I were now having big discussions about deep issues just from reading great literature.  It was wonderful!  What homeschooling could look like was taking on a whole new form for our family.  It was starting to feel so much more personal and alive!  All in all, even though we didn’t complete everything that we had planned, it was the first year that I could confidently say we all felt really good about.

And now, we feel that God is bringing our family a few more steps deeper into what education can mean for our family.  Over these past 4 years of “real” homeschooling God has been honing in on what we even deem is important in education, what our goals should be and how it should be accomplished.  I think it has taken these 4 years to fully strip away our public school tendencies (even though we didn’t think we had any- haha!) and embrace education as a lifestyle.

What Are Our Goals?

What our educational goals really boil down to are these-

  • That our children would love and seek God first and foremost, and that everything we learn would just be a way of better getting to know the world which He created.
  • The our children would have good character and deep-seated values of hard work, diligence and commitment.
  • That our children would know how to learn and research and would have a love for doing so. (If you teach them how to teach themselves then  they can learn anything.)
  • That our children would be able to express themselves well both verbally and in written form.
  • That our children would be well-versed in basic life skills so that they can be responsible, productive and independent adults. (Too many young people today suffer from the inability to scrub a toilet or even boil water.  Those will not be our children!)
  • That our children would have a good working knowledge of all the core subjects (math, science, history, the arts), so that they can be competent individuals who are able to think critically and analytically.

If this is why we are homeschooling then we have the freedom for our “school days” to look oh, so different!


Our days look so different now!

Our days look so different now!



  • We begin our days with Bible, and once they are able, personal devotion times. We invest in daily family Bible times and scripture memory and we work to weave Jesus and Biblical principles throughout the fabric of our days.
  • We hold books as high currency in our home, and they are the means by which we acquire most learning.  By reading stories about people we not only learn many of the great subjects (history, literature, language arts, science, etc…) but we also learn to empathize with others and take away life lessons from both their good and bad experiences.
  • We allow for a vast array of life experiences, including those that involve work and responsibility.  Everything from field trips, to chores, to helping dad go cut firewood in the mountains- they have value and educational purpose.
  • We are deliberate about being in nature an experiencing God’s wonders. Not only does is teach us about basic science principles, it allows us to grow thankful hearts and marvel at His greatness and power.
  • As much as humanly possible, we will create beauty and loveliness in our school days.  This can look like trading in spiral notebooks for travelers notebooks and stationary or opting to read on the back deck instead of at the kitchen table.  Allowing children to be the curators of their work in order to make it more personal and profound for each of them individually.

Moving Forward in Faith

Very little actual “curriculum” will be employed this next year and yet I feel that it will be one of our fullest years of learning, if not the most, so far.  God has strongly impressed it upon my heart that if I am constantly seeking Him and His guidance that He will show me the specific opportunities and “projects,” if you will, that will be the most valuable to my specific children.  Our God is deeply personal, so why wouldn’t He be able to tailor our learning experiences for our individual families?

In my next homeschooling post I will be sharing more about what we will be studying next year, the books we plan to use and more of the actual mechanics of what that will look like.

What has your homeschooling journey looked like? Are you making any big changes this next year?

4 thoughts on “Our Journey to The Whole Books Method of Homeschooling

  1. Julie Leon

    I love this!! Thank you for sharing your journey. I am on the front-end, with a two year old and 10 month old, and I was both looking at “curriculum” and remembering all the great books I’ve read about letting kids play, explore in nature, and learn from whole books. I’ve now written down our family goals in homeschooling and in raising our kids. I so appreciate your post, as it gives words to some of my ponderings, and I am able to learn from your experience. I’m so excited for you and the new approach your family has taken on!! 🙂

    1. MacKenzie Post author

      Thank you so much Julie and I’m glad I could be helpful! Enjoy those little ones! They get big SO fast!

  2. Carrie Allen

    This is the conclusion we came to as well. Although the boxed curriculums looked sooo enticing I knew deep down they wouldn’t work for Carson. We are going back to Five in a Row and I bought the literature pack so I don’t have to worry about finding it at the library or returning it. We’ve enjoyed homeschool time while snuggling on the couch. We have such a fondness of the books we’ve read. It really is amazing what can be gleaned from good literature!

    1. MacKenzie Post author

      That’s awesome, Carrie! It’s so freeing and empowering when you are able to go on faith and just do what is best for your family or child! Nice job, mama!


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