Relaxed Homeschooling: Core Phase for Young Learners

I believe young kids benefit from very relaxed, unschoolish, interest-led learning, and a delayed start to structured academics. In the Leadership (or Thomas Jefferson) Education model I’ve been discussing, this is the Core Phase of learning.

Our primary goals during these Core Phase years are:

  1. to encourage learning in an unstructured way
  2. to teach what we believe in, our family values

Core Phase for Young Learners

What does Core Phase learning look like?

Recently, six-year-old Scout decided she wanted to read the whole Jesus Storybook Bible in one week. Her reading level is good enough to understand most of it without having to stop questions every page; I had never seen her sit quietly for such lengths of time, but she did it! This was not an assignment I gave her, but a goal she set — and accomplished — for herself. This is what interest led, relaxed homeschooling is all about. No deadlines, no consequences for not doing it; just a bit of encouragement along the way.


We often end up talking about Africa because our Compassion children live in Kenya. Scout drew a picture to sent Lucy in my next letter. We have big maps on the wall and a globe sitting within kid height, and we often end up talking about Africa and other places. Although she has no concept of how far somewhere like Africa really is, she is already learning world geography.

world geography


I often teach through conversations, simply because homeschooling allows us to spend our days together and that time together leads to talking about everything from dirt bikes to giraffes to baptism and just about everything else imaginable.

Books to inspire:

We have a special bookshelf with books to encourage exploration. I sometimes change out these books or add new ones. They have to get special permission to take books off other shelves, but they can read any book on this shelf anytime they like. Most often that’s in the morning before breakfast, but sometimes at other times of the day, too. Especially when they notice I’ve added something new!

morning reading

Creative pursuits:

I came home from errands one day to find Kathryn teaching them origami. In the conversations that ensued, we discussed fractions, and Scout learned that a quarter is not just a coin but also 1/4 of something, and learned how to fold a paper into fourths. Scout impressed her Sunday School teacher that week by tearing a piece of paper into a square and making a butterfly out of it.

kids learning origami

In choir at church, the kids are learning hymns, but they’re also learning about reading music.

Kathryn started teaching Scout how to knit. This gives her busy little hands and mind something useful to do, and she loves it. She’s started doing it while I’m reading aloud, too, and it seems to help her concentrate.

little girl knitting

When he’s not playing outside, five-year-old Jem is usually building something with LEGOs. He builds things out of his imagination, builds things we may have talked about (like the garden below), or builds things he’s seen somewhere like a construction site. He asks a million questions about the things he builds, and his vocabulary and understanding have grown by leaps and bounds.

Lego garden

Nature study:

The kids learn about nature every time they play outside, and as we watch birds on the feeder as we’re sitting at the kitchen table. One sunny 80+ degree day, Jem saw the white petals falling from the flowering pear trees and thought it was snowing — but I finally convinced him otherwise!

I’m being more intentional again in regards to fun nature studies, like our miniature “fairy” garden. We’ve been planning our vegetable garden, and I know the kids will be wanting to help plant and work in the garden as much as I’ll let them.

Last week, Kathryn made up a little outdoor scavenger hunt for the kids to do, and even though they needed her help to figure out the clues, they had great fun.

scavenger hunt

. . . . . . . .

So that’s what Core Phase learning looks like, at least in our house.

Jamie at Simple Homeschool has a wonderful post this week explaining more about the foundational concepts of Core Phase, so hop over and read that for more on the subject. For further reading, I recommend Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, a book that’s been instrumental in the changes taking place in our homeschool.

Related posts about our homeschool:
The evolution of a Homeschool: Changing Methodology
Time vs Content in Love of Learning Phase

** I’m linking with my lovely friends Kris and Mary today!