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For us, homeschooling has been a journey– a course, passing from one phase, one season, one year…to the next and the next and the next.
We began in 2010 with an 8 year-old, a 6 year-old, a 3 year-old, and a baby bump. Over the course of the last decade-plus, we have done many, many different things and schooled in various ways, and our philosophy of education has changed drastically.
My educational journey started long ago, probably like yours, in a small kindergarten classroom with 15 other children. I went from grade to grade until graduation, at which point I, like so many others, dedicated myself to four more years of school to become a teacher. After college graduation, I went straight into a classroom of 8th graders, where I taught for the next five and a half years. Sometime during the last couple of years of teaching public school, I became more and more convinced that my place was home with my children.
You should know this: I didn’t plan on doing any homeschooling. No ma’am! I was going to be the sweet mama dropping off her kiddos and faithfully waiting in the car line every day. I never dreamed I’d have homeschooled my children for one year, let alone graduate two of them only to keep on trucking.
I tell you a teensy bit of my story so that you understand that I had many preconceived ideas on how schooling should be done. I admit to you that it was almost my undoing as a homeschooling mom, and it meant I had to break away from all I had known, which took years and lots of tears to do.
You see, what we do at home now looks almost nothing like what I knew my whole life. It was a hard thing to change; thus, it has been quite the journey! After many years, we now know we fall quite comfortably into the Charlotte Mason style of education.
3 MAIN reasons we shifted from traditional schooling to the Charlotte Mason method:
- The idea of relying on living books to teach our children.
- The idea of narration instead of cumbersome reading curriculum.
- The idea of observing nature by being in it.
A Little About Charlotte Mason (just a smidge)
Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She taught that children are born persons, and therefore need to be educated on the whole.
“Charlotte Mason believed passionately that children are persons who should be treated as individuals as they are introduced to the variety and richness of the world in which they live.” (p. 5, For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay)
She believed that providing a feast for the mind was essential to a child’s learning and success, and she did this through books–lots and lots of books!
Not just any books, though. Books that she called “living books.” Living books are books in which the author is a true expert in his or her field and has genuine passion for the subject. They are typically written in narrative form, making them much more interesting than a dry old textbook.
I can attest to the effectiveness of using living books rather than textbooks. True, my children don’t get the variety that typically comes with a textbook, but they get deeper and longer teaching on a subject so that in the end they know it better than if they had the 30,000 feet fly-by.
Another thing Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of was the idea of narrating, or retelling what the child had read. Charlotte Mason wasn’t into getting the quickest, simplest answer, but she also wasn’t into doing work just to do it. She was about getting the mind to think deeper and use the child’s own questions and use of words to do that. That’s why she believed so strongly in narration.
The third aspect of the Charlotte Mason style of education that drew me was the idea of being in nature, and in so doing learning the world around us. We cannot do that in 30 minutes or an hour a day; no, we must spend hours outside, alongside our children getting to know all that God’s creation is. Charlotte Mason herself said that we should spend not two, but four, five, six hours each “tolerably fine day” out of doors. (Home Education)
I admit, it’s difficult with life as busy as it often tends to be, but we do try to be outside as much as possible, and my children eat their lunch outside most days.
There is much, much more to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, but these are the things that drew me, that convinced me that I didn’t have to give up. I was at the end of my rope when I was introduced to her teachings. School was constantly a disaster. At that time, my oldest children were still in school, so the ages ranged from 18 all the way down to newborn. I simply could not keep doing what I was doing.
Smoother and Easier Days?
Does that mean all days are easier and smoother? Of course not! But most of them are. And that is a HUGE blessing!
- I don’t want to quit every single day.
- No longer do I question if I can do this because I know I can.
- And I no longer wonder if I’m “ruining” my children’s lives.
I’d say those are pretty big wins!
For more reading on the ways of Charlotte Mason education, check out Charlotte Mason Inspired, Simply Charlotte Mason, and The Gentle Art of Learning. Another great resource (besides Charlotte Mason’s own writings) is Karen Andreola’s book, A Charlotte Mason Companion. Karen does a wonderful job bringing Miss Mason’s philosophy to light!
|A Charlotte Mason Companion:
Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning
What the Charlotte Mason Style of Homeschooling Is Not
I want to clear up some confusion of what Charlotte Mason style education isn’t.
- While it is somewhat relaxed, it is not unschooling.
- While it is gentle, it’s not without discipline.
- While the days are to be spent feeding our children’s minds on a feast of books, it is not up to the child’s discretion of what is to be read.
- While being in nature is a key component, it is not without structure.
Many people hear the name Charlotte Mason, and if they recognize it, they assume school is so relaxed there must not be much to it. On the contrary, there is actually very much depth “to it.” The idea is for children to delight in learning, and therefore, crave more and more all the time. Education and delight aren’t typically words most people think go together, but with Miss Mason’s approach, the two go very well together indeed!