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I honestly don’t know how to write this post. How exactly does one organize and list out the reasonings behind the deep and tender stirrings of my heart toward this method? This way of living and learning that we’ve wholeheartedly embraced for our days, months, and years ahead?
Let just lay it out for you: I’ve fallen in love with the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, and I cannot bear to think that I might fail to communicate just how enamoured I have become with these ways. It brings me to tears to think of how beautiful and poignant it is in our lives and our way of being.
Charlotte Mason was a British educator “who believed that education was about more than training for a job, passing an exam, or getting into the right college. She said education was an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life; it was about finding out who we were and how we fit into the world of human beings and into the universe God created.” (source)
It is indeed so much more than a homeschooling method; it is a lifestyle and a vehicle to seeing my heart of heart’s desires for my children come to fruition. It is gentle, yet disciplined. It is relaxed, yet hearty and deep. It is a lovely way of teaching a child to connect to her world – first in its immediacy with bugs and leaves and trees, and beyond with countries and borders and histories and people.
What I fervently believe is that igniting passion in their souls is far more important than cramming a load of academic knowledge into their minds. Like Robert Frost beautifully wrote, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” I shake my head almost imperceptibly as I write these words and my eyes burn hot with the heavy realization of the gravity of it all.
Ambleside Online tells us that Charlotte Mason believed that: “children are able to deal with ideas and knowledge, that they are not blank slates or empty sacks to be filled with information. She thought children should do the work of dealing with ideas and knowledge, rather than the teacher acting as a middle man, dispensing filtered knowledge. A Charlotte Mason education includes first-hand exposure to great and noble ideas through books in each school subject, and through art, music and poetry.”
This resonates deep in my guts. I love it. Tom Cruise famously jumped on Oprah’s couch to proclaim his uncontainable excitement about his (then) love for Katie Holmes. This method of learning, this philosophy of education – this would be couch-jumping-worthy for me. I’ll take you out for coffee and talk your ear off about it if you’ll listen. I’ll shout it from the rooftops in case you too might be moved by it.
Homeschooling has been on my radar pretty much since I had first heard the word. For many of my growing up years, I wanted to be a teacher. For the record – I think I would have thrived as a homeschool student, but I experienced pretty much anything but homeschooling. I went to a Christian preschool, public school, private Christian school using the ACE curriculum, and finally a private Christian school using the provincial curriculum.
When I had my first baby in 2008, I began reading and researching. That was also the year I fell in love with the blogosphere. I devoured blog posts from women who didn’t think like me, who had wisdom to share, and who hadn’t grown up in my particular little bubble of life.
With just about every article and blog post on homeschooling that I came across, I inhaled it like oxygen to my curious mind. For about the first 2-3 years, my head was swimming with information overload. Then, as my mind requires in order to properly understand anything, I began to uncover the bigger picture. In that context, I asked these questions:
1) What is the dominant philosophy of education of our culture today?
Our system of public education began around the 19th century in response the economic need of the time. It was framed in such a way as to focus on academic ability which effectively severed education from its holistic roots of shaping the whole person. Our system encourages uniformity, favours those who possess great academic abilities, and leaves the rest behind to wonder what is wrong with them.
2) Is that what I want for my children?
Short answer: no, it’s not my preference. You can read all about that in my post called “Why I Don’t Want to Send My Kids to Public School“.
3) If not, what do I want?
Most of all, I want my children to become passionate and fully awake people who are holistically grounded by good habits and character, possess an intimate love for the world around them, and a hungry relationship with quality twaddle-free books.
(Note: most parents would likely desire the same for their children, however they use different educational options to achieve it. CM is the method we’ve chosen as the best fit for our family. No judgment here if you’ve chosen a different way!)
4) How do I get there?
In the summer of 2013 when my oldest was 5, I began to worry that I was going to totally ruin his education by holding him back from kindergarten without a solid plan in place. I knew that I wanted to homeschool, but I felt so lost! I wasn’t even sure of the methods I wanted to embrace. Every pre-made boxed curriculum I looked at was disappointing, and while I had briefly thought of unschooling a few years ago, the thought of my personality successfully facilitating that sort of education for my kids made me weak-kneed. That wasn’t the right fit for us either.
Photo by Oak & Myrrh Photography
As the panic started to set in, I was out on a walk one day with the kids in late July. I walked past the elementary school down the street, and on a whim I turned in to check if the doors were open. I met the principal, explained that I was considering sending my son there for kindergarten, and he graciously showed me around a bit.
I left with a tentative plan to go back for registration in a few weeks.
The Charlotte Mason journey begins…
That plan was itchy like an ill-fitting wool sweater over the next several days, and the heaviness of the pressure weighed on me. We were at a fork in the road of education, and I was to make the choice that would set us on one of two very different paths.
A few days later, my internet searches led to me an article on Charlotte Mason Education. My breath stilled for a moment as I realized that Charlotte’s approach to learning was the perfect balance of rigorous lessons in a gentle and slow manner. It was precisely and eloquently what I wanted. I had finally found it.
I’ve been immersed in learning the heart of this method for a year now, and I think I am finally beginning to grasp the beginnings. It’s a beautifully complex philosophy that is presented with simplicity and gentleness in its daily workings.
I had planned to embark on our homeschool year – and career! – on September 8 of this year (a week later than public schools here in order to give me more planning time since we moved a month ago and are still in renos!), but when the kids saw their neighbourhood friends go off to school yesterday, they begged – and I do mean begged – me to “do school”. I didn’t take any first-day-of-school photos, so we’ve not officially started yet. Ahem.
As I type this they are sitting at the dining room table with me, doing copy work and colouring pictures with care and attention. They are doing their very best work, and it warms my heart like a gooey toasted marshmallow to see them loving it.
I know with every ounce of my being that we made the right decision, and I am filled with eager anticipation for the year ahead.
2021 update: We’re no longer following the CM method but continue to be inspired by it. Here’s a post about our more recent homeschooling methods, with a free printable too: Our Eclectic Homeschool Plans for 2020-2021 (with Free Printables)