The evolution of a Homeschool: Changing Methodology

Finally, in the last couple of months, I’ve emerged from the funk I’ve been living in for the past year. The fog has cleared from my brain, which means I can think and plan for more than just today. This is playing out in everything from homeschooling to decorating my house. I’ve mentioned some of it already in regards to starting my mornings right, and I’ll be sharing more about all of this in coming posts. Although I’ll be referring to my own little epiphanies and various people and resources that have inspired me, I credit all of this to the grace and power of Jesus Christ.

Now, on with the specifics of today’s homeschool post!

Unchanging core values; evolving methodology.

There are changes happening in our homeschool: Our educational philosophy and family values have not changed, but in order to keep focused on our key goals, some of our homeschool methodology is changing.

kids reading homeschool

In our first years of home education, I called myself a Charlotte Mason style homeschooler. I still love this educational approach because of it’s focus on nature, living books, and short lessons for young kids. AmblesideOnline has an abundance of information on the CM-style, and you can access all of Charlotte Mason’s original works on that site for free.

When we were just getting started eight years ago, I was inspired by the book, A Charlotte Mason Companion. Recently my blogland friend Cindy released an ebook I wish I’d had back then to explain how to implement this style of education: Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 EASY Step-by-Step Lessons. I still adore CM-style homeschooling; it has worked well for our family and I’m not leaving Miss Mason behind in our changes.

time to play

Last year we moved towards unschooling simply by necessity. But I saw it working. This led me to read more about it, and although I doubt I’ll ever fully embrace true unschooling, I have become a fan of what I consider it’s cousin: interest-led learning. I was encouraged by the book Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon; Dumbing Us Down by John Holt has been enlightening, too.

This year, I’ve struggled for balance in doing what the little ones need verses what middle-schooler Kathryn needs. I have long admired how Renee Tougas and Jamie Martin educate their families, and although their day-to-day schooling looks different in application, they both follow the Thomas Jefferson Education or Leadership model of education. They both recommend reading Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille; I finally did, and it has helped me “click” together several key pieces in the puzzle of my homeschool.

Getting off the conveyor belt.

My take of the Leadership model of education is that the best of Charlotte Mason, unschooling, interest-led learning, and classical education are all blended together in a way that honors the phases of mental and emotional maturity a child progresses through, while prioritizing love of learning throughout each phase and on through our adult lives, too.

kindle reading

The “conveyor belt” mode of education is where every student is pushed through the same one-size-fits-all school system. Most of us homeschoolers would agree that’s exactly what the traditional school system does, but we often do it in our homes, too! It’s just so hard to break out of this thinking for those of us who lived the conveyor belt; though I’m 100% sold on the more relaxed love-of-learning way we’re doing things, I so easily slip back into the traditional mindset I came from.

I want permanently break away from that trap.

creative nature fun

I’ve decided that if our key values are in place, we can embrace “good enough” instead of chasing that elusive “enough.” {Read this wonderful post at FIMBY on the topic of “good enough” in regards to both motherhood and homeschooling.}

What does this mean in practice?

Our day-to-day homeschool life should express our core educational philosophy. Alright, but what does that look like!? I’ll be sharing in my not-quite-weekly homeschool posts about this gradual process, as I figure out how to apply the changes I want to make.

For now, it means focusing on making sure everyone loves to learn. This includes me; I must set the example. It means continuing our relaxed approach to homeschool, and developing a rhythm to our days rather than scheduling certain subjects.

And it means I’m really looking forward to what’s to come learning alongside these children of mine.

–> I’ll be linking up with Kris and Mary, and Carlie; join us to share about your own homeschool, or just come see what other families have been up to lately!

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First, I have to say I LOVE those dresses for the dolls!!!
I’ve been reading also about the leadership model and find myself agreeing with most all of it. Thanks for the book recommendations here.

I’m very glad you’re coming out of the fog! Love you!


Hi Jamie! First, let me tell you how I have loved watching your story. I’m one of those “sit quietly in the corner of the room” type that rarely comments on blogs I love, but today I couldn’t resist. We are in such a similar place as a family. Some big eye opening wake up calls have hit us and we are making some changes. We are looking more toward a “delight directed” or interest based approach to homeschool this year. I can’t wait to watch your story unfold. Maybe we can even grab a minute to talk over some… Read more »

Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

This sounds wonderful, Jamie. I can’t wait to read more!

Amy Caton

Thank you for sharing your journey. I’m on my third year of homeschooling, and I’m still working through what works best. Each year has looked different so far. I look forward to your upcoming posts. 🙂


While I certainly don’t fit the stereotypical image of a Thomas Jefferson Education adherent, I did find a couple of the deMille’s books really useful for helping me meld classical homeschooling and unschooling, along with some CM, despite their seemingly contradictory aspects. I’m looking forward to reading more of your journey.

Stef Layton

beautiful – and SO true – we must set the example !!

Daniele @ Domestic Serenity

Okay, now you have my interest piqued in that book (which I’ve seen Renee & Jamie recommend). Bravo for you!! Can’t wait to hear more, and I’m checking the book out…a mix of CM, classical, interest-led and unschooling is exactly what I’d say we are. 🙂

Lindsay @ BytesofMemory

Great post! I now have a reading list a mile long! I haven’t loved some aspects of our school year this year. Others I really did but I don’t want to just check the boxes and cram it down Sammy’s throat since we had to do geography or whatever it might have been!

Chandra Regan

I appreciate how you can express yourself so well and are so deeply thinking about so many things, including your own lifestyle as it applies to different home school methodologies. I never read about any kind of methodology before I started home schooling our daughter. I just researched the basics of how to get started while she was in her first semester of public H.S. (which she hated). So, we pulled her out mid-year and made the homeschooling work, even around my 30 hr. work week. And I’ve been hearing about some of those methods you mentioned, as I read… Read more »

Colleen Kessler

Beautiful post, Jamie. I’m looking forward to your journey. Like Daniele said above, it seems like we’re a nice blend of CM-Unschooling-Interest Led-Raising Lifelong Learners-Classical Homeschoolers too. I can’t wait to see you at 2:1 again. I miss you. XXOO


Wow, I feel like I’m right there with you, but maybe in the midst of your previous year. As I’m wrapping up my high schooler (she should only have one more year with me, if all goes to plan), I’m thinking about my younger two that are just coming up toward school age. TJEd, interest-led learning, and CM are all strong philosophies I lean toward. I’m glad to see your reading list as it gives some great places to start. Thanks! I look forward to seeing where your family heads.


After many years of bouncing back and forth through Homeschool ‘styles’ we are now firmly entrenched in “Interest Led” schooling. I will never be a complete unschooler either mainly because Keilee would not allow it! She is the one who must check things off a list. We try to do and study the things that interest her. She has a lot of interests!! Math is not one of them but she knows she needs it so we fumble through Algebra I! I love this post Jamie. I love the way we all find our way. And no 2 ways are… Read more »

Jennifer N

Wow! This sounds just like the phase we are going through as well. Thank you for sharing!


Your methodology sounds so similar to ours. While I consider ourselves unschoolers, we do use a formal math curriculum and living books are still a huge part of our family and individual reading time. Renee Tougas’s posts on homeschooling philosophy really encouraged me to take this final step, as we started out as school at home, then moved on to eclectic, and now we’re here and loving every minute of it! John Holt’s book Learning All the Time was also instrumental in my decision.

Amy M

I have been researching the leadership education. Everything I hear about it sounds appealing to me. Thanks for your nudge to push me to look into it even further.


i enjoyed your post! i am having so much fun starting over with homeschooling with our two little boys. one is 4 and the other is 2. the 2 year old *has* to be involved with any little fun artsy things we do right down to working on letter recognition and singing the days of the week. i’m having the chance to implement the Charlotte Mason method of education with my youngsters- lots of purposeful outdoors, story telling, and messing fingers with fingers and play dough! my children were a bit older when i discovered miss mason. i’m sure like… Read more »

Valerie @ Momma in Progress

I love reading about your homeschooling style and how it has changed. We have always been headed down an interest-led path, although I find sometimes it’s easier to embrace than others. It’s hard to completely jump off that darn conveyor belt! When I find myself questioning too much, I know it’s time to step back and get out of my own way. Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to reading more.


Our homeschool is ever evolving and sometimes de-volving as I find my old was comfortable sometimes. I can’t wait to read more and see what you all will be up to!


Thanks for giving me so much to think about. My oldest just turned 3 so I am still learning about all the philosophies of home education.