Homeschooling in Core Phase


by Shanalei Anderson

For those of you who love and embrace the educational philosophy taught in Oliver DeMille’s A Thomas Jefferson Education, here are some ideas for homeschooling children in the “Core Phase” (up to around age 8 or so)–the years in which children are to develop strong family bonds, a willingness to work, a strength of character, and their Core allegiance to God/Good!

  • Read the scriptures (or your Core book) out loud as the children play (for family scripture study or Mom’s individual scripture study). When the children become seriously interested in learning to read, let them follow along the text as you read. Share your deepest feelings about what you read. Invite the children to share theirs when they are old enough to understand and communicate their feelings about their Core Allegiance.
  • Memorize scriptures together. (I find it easier to memorize text if I can create a tune to go with the words.)
  • Have your children (even very young) work along side you, to learn to work and contribute to the household.
  • Get out into nature! Find a quiet place to stroll with the children. Invite them to pick a solitary place (close to you, however!) to meditate or pray.
  • Read classic chapter books together as a family.
[See recommended list in A Thomas Jefferson Education or here. I’ve read these to my oldest daughter, starting when she was 4 (she’s now 6)]. One idea is to have one family member read aloud while the others weed the garden, fold the laundry, etc. Multi-tasking!:

123 paint

  • Spend time with your children reading/doing activities from uplifting childrens’ magazines.
  • Sing childrens’ songs together at the piano, or with tapes/CDs.
  • Create family value statements and put them to song. (We have a small but growing repertoire –with lines such as “It’s fun to work,” “We’re very, very careful with our money,” “We take care of the things we’ve got,” “We’ve got the pioneer spirit [the spirit of sacrifice],” “We put things away before starting something new,” “Sunday is a special day for us,” and “. . . [W]e take pride in our quality work.”
  • Draw pictures and write notes (assisting the children) to be delivered or mailed to neighborhood widows/widowers, extended family, people in prison, the elderly in rest homes, etc.
  • Carry out family service projects in the neighborhood and community.
  • Help the children write in their personal journals regularly.
  • Read the life histories of ancestors. Have pictures of them on the wall of your home and talk about their strengths regularly.
  • Dress us to dramatize the words and actions of scripture heroes and other admirable people from history.
  • Role-play daily choices.
  • Dance together, sing together, play ball or other sports together. Help your children be each others’ best friends.
  • Spend 15 minutes of “special play” with each child daily, letting them decide how you both will spend that time–games? reading? physical play? make believe? (During “special play,” do not correct the child. Even if they make comments that are not correct, respond positively–for example: “Oh, you think it’s blue. That’s interesting.” Comment on what they’re doing without directing the flow of things.)
  • Play hymns or other inspiring music for the children to listen to while they color, draw, work with clay, or paint.
  • Help your children adopt an “empty nester” individual or couple. Encourage the friendships. See if the retirees have a talent or hobby that would interest your children and invite them to be their mentors.
  • Take your children to visit historical and sacred places. Discuss the significance of the site, its history and the contributions of those who lived, worked, sacrificed and built there.
  • Help your children learn to earn money and save for purchases (even for friends’ birthday presents).
  • Be very careful about taking your children away from the family to potentially expensive, time-consuming, vanity-producing, and competition-creating lessons/diversions. (Wait till the child expresses a sincere interest in developing a talent. Make sure it doesn’t disrupt precious family togetherness, or finances.
  • Of course, attend church together, have weekly Family Time, daily family prayer, etc.
  • Enjoy your children! Let them enjoy each other by being daily companions!

Did you notice that “learning to read” isn’t the primary focus in these early years?

Resist the temptation in this phase to focus precious time on forcing academics when soul-development is of greatest importance!

In a learning-rich environment where reading is a highly present activity, healthy children will naturally grow into reading when they are ready.

[This list adapted with permission from a blog entry by TJEd Homeschooler Shanalei Anderson]

For more information on Core Phase and the other Phases of Learning, follow the links, or read Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning.


About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.


  1. LISA January 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    This is so incredibly helpful. Thank you so much! I am homeschooling my 6 year old daughter and still trying to figure it all out and how I want to do this. Just came to your website for the first time and this was exactly what I needed to get started. I am so grateful. Thank you again.
    Lisa Gresham

  2. Name (required) January 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed this. Thank you for all the wonderfully inspiring ideas!!

  3. Nettie January 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Thank you. This is a wonderful article and very helpful!

  4. Adrienne January 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much for these inspired ideas. Every one of them rings true to me.

  5. Ali February 16, 2012 at 8:07 am - Reply

    Thankyou! I am reading three of your books right now. A tomb of knowledge to be sure. These are excellent ideas and examples…just what I needed. I still have to overcome my fear that I will be neglecting my children if I delay academics…I do hear the truth in it, though. Thank you for all you two share!

  6. Ammon Nelson February 20, 2012 at 9:14 am - Reply

    This is awesome. Core phase is so important. These ideas are not just important for the children in Core phase, but for everyone else in the family, including us parents who may need to patch up some of our lost core phase lessons.

  7. amy hanson September 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Seriously! An answer to prayer! I KNOW I’m supposed to follow the TJ way but just beginning with 4 kids I get lost so quickly and make it so complicated. This list brings the core phase back to simplicity. Exactly what I needed to hear because I feel like I’m not doing anything.

  8. Deborah March 12, 2013 at 2:56 am - Reply

    Excellent ideas for someone who is still trying to find her feet with TJED.

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