7 Keys to a Successful Homeschool

by Michelle Cannon
Guest Contributor

The joy and power of a successful homeschool journey cannot be overstated. Every parent who chooses to homeschool wants well-rounded children with whom they have a close relationship. They want to enjoy homeschooling and the many adventures it holds. Unfortunately, there are times when things just don’t seem to go as planned. Moms hold the key to success in their homeschools. Moms also hold the power to overwhelm themselves and sabotage their homeschool.

Here are 7 Keys to a Successful Homeschool. Use them wisely. 🙂

Key #1 – Develop Good Habits

If you find yourself hunting down school books, pencils and pens; if the children have no clothes to wear because your laundry has piled up; if you have no food in the refrigerator.. then you have no systems in place. It’s time to work on your habits.

“The power to distinguish what must be done at once, from what may be done, comes pretty much by habit. At first it requires attention and thought. The person whose mind has the habit of singling out the important things and doing them first, saves much annoyance to himself and others, and has gained in Integrity.”
– Charlotte Mason

Using the Key:  Get into a routine. Pick one day that you buy groceries each week and stick to it. Do one load of laundry each day. Make it a habit! On Sunday afternoon, make sure all of your books, pencil boxes and other materials are ready for the week. Good habits will help things run smoothly and be a great example to your children!

Key #2 – Train in the habit of full attention and timeliness

Some children work more slowly than others. However, dawdling is more likely to be the problem if they seem to take “forever” to do their lessons.

“Never let the child dawdle over a copy-book or sum, sit dreaming with his book before him. When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task…the lesson must be done, of course, but must be made bright and pleasant to the child.”
– Charlotte Mason

Using the Key:  Make sure that you are giving your children short lessons and alternating activities. Short lessons prevent dawdling. Alternate types of lessons. A lesson which requires reading should be followed perhaps by a hands-on project or a written lesson, but not another reading lesson. This causes boredom and the brain becomes weary. By giving short lessons and alternating activities, you are keeping the brain awake and stimulated. This will discourage dawdling, train in the habit of attention and the habit of working in a timely manner.

Key #3 – Give the gift of balance to your children

Children and moms can both experience “homeschool burnout”. When this occurs, not much is accomplished and it’s difficult to re-motivate anyone back into the desire to learn!

“… why, it is a real satisfaction to do the day’s work in the day, and be free to enjoy the day’s leisure”
– Charlotte Mason

Using the Key:  Exercise the entire child. Spend 1/3 of the day on academics (Mind); spend 1/3 on chores and hands-on activities (Body); and 1/3 on spiritual, behavior and moral training (Spirit).

Key #4 – Turn off the Idiot Boxes (TV and Computer)

Use of the TV and computer on a daily basis causes a dumbing down process in the brain due to the wrong kind of stimulus. The child forgets how to entertain themselves. Imaginary games and creative play fall to the wayside. Although their bodies are not receiving as much exercise, they grow more tired which leads to a kind of laziness.

“There is no habit so powerful to man or woman as that of personal initiative. The resourcefulness which will enable a family of children to invent their own games and occupations through the length of a summer’s day is worth more in later life than a good deal of knowledge about cubes and hexagons, and this comes, not of continual intervention on the mother’s part, but of much masterly inactivity.”
– Charlotte Mason

Using the Key:  Give your child productive activities. Bring them into your activities to set the example!

Key #5 – Get enough rest!

Burned out moms cannot give 100% to their children. Housework, work, running to play-dates and field trips and co-op classes can equal burnout.

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”
– Charlotte Mason

Using the Key:  Set aside time for things you enjoy: reading, gardening, a hobby, a soak in a bath. Get to bed early so that you can get up before the children and have a bit of a head start. (I love an hour or so in the morning before the children rise, to have my coffee, see what bloomed overnight, or just sit on a quiet porch!)

Key #7 – Focus on YOUR family

A friend of mine told me yesterday that the best piece of advice she ever received was “Don’t worry about what other kids are doing; worry about what your kids are doing.” It is so easy for a mom to compare herself to other moms and compare where her children are academically with where other children are. This is the greatest discouragement of all! And we do it to ourselves.

Eccleciastes 3:1 states: For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens.

Using the Key:  Perhaps you’ve just given birth and an in-depth study of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is simply impossible. Perhaps you have children with special needs who work more slowly. Just remember that your family is unique. Don’t try to be like someone else. It only hides the beauty that is YOU!


Michelle Cannon has successfully homeschooled three children and is currently homeschooling the last two, ages 8 and 13. Michelle’s website is The Heart of Michelle (formerly The Holistic Homeschooler).

Stop by and “Like” Charlotte Mason Home Education on Facebook!  :-)

NOTE:  People often ask about our family’s homeschooling journey, so I pooled together my responses from several online interviews and you can now read the combined interviews here:  Interview with Debi

Other Articles of Interest:


6 responses to “7 Keys to a Successful Homeschool

  1. Thanks, Debi! Sometimes I’m a bit too literal.

  2. These are helpful thoughts. But 1/3 of the day on spiritual, behavioral, and moral training…. what does that look like, exactly, for little boys, 6 years old and under? I mean, we read a Bible passage, discuss briefly, memorize a verse (that takes 10 mins, maybe 15). Behavior training happens throughout the day, but only a minute at a time here and there. We read some poem or story related to character or habit training at dinner a few nights a week (5 mins, maybe 10 if we talk about it). I don’t understand how 1/3 of the day can be spent here. I need some examples, maybe. Please. 🙂

    • Hi, Valerie … I’m not the author of this Guest post, but I’m going to respond anyway.:) I feel like the behavior/moral/spiritual training happens as we live our lives and throughout the day side-by-side with our children. To quantify it into 1/3 of our time does seem hard to fathom. I think Michelle’s just making the point that we don’t want to focus only on academics but that physical and moral training are important, as well. Just my thoughts for what it’s worth. I think you sound like you’re on the right track, Valerie. 🙂

  3. Not sure if it got cut off.. but is there a #6?

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