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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)
Thank you for writing this. As I’m wrapping up my first year of homeschooling, I’ve been researching all the various methods. We did Classical Conversations this past year, but I’m not sure if it’s the right fit for me and my child. I have been VERY interested in Charlotte Mason, so reading about your experience is super helpful. Thanks so much, and I’m going to dive a bit deeper into her approach and see if it might work for us.
I LOVE the CM philosophy. We ended up having to switch courses to public schooling for now (just wrapping up our first year) but the CM methods still hold a special place in my heart, and I plan to incorporate many of them into our family life once I’m more recovered from burnout. Thanks for commenting! 🙂
“I’ve fallen in love…” I so often hear that phrase attached to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. I, too, have recently found her and absolutely fallen in love!! It just strikes me that while many homeschool approaches are enjoyed by families, those who do CM don’t just enjoy it; it is life-changing in so many way.
We unschool and love it. 🙂 My kids really thrive on having planned activities available to them so I plan and organize our space in sort of a blend of Montessori and Waldorf, that they are free to engage in or not as they choose. Some of our days look very much like yours, others are more like yesterday which was a Wild Kratts binge after a few very busy days.
Shannon Acheson | AKA Design, Bloggers & Brands
A well written post. We began homeschooling ten years ago (TEN!) and have tried many methods. Charlotte Mason is at the heart of our studies, but we use a curriculum called My Father’s World. I LOVE IT! It has the Bible at it’s core, and history and real books – and to make it even more wonderful – a teacher’s manual that has everything all perfectly planned out. I only wish we started with it and continued with it (we used it for kindergarten and came back to it several years later). I hope you have a wonderful journey with your kids!
Thank you so much for sharing about what method you are using to homeschoool your children! I am looking into homeschooling my children (when they reach the age of being ready) and I don’t really know anybody around me who is doing this or looking to do it with their children so I wasn’t really aware of another way to homeschool. But thank God I found your blog through Pinterest and opened my eyes to this type of schooling. I believe this is the method we will use to train up the proper character of Christ in our children. Thank you so much again for writing about this! I will be definetley subscribing and reading your blog from now on.
Good luck in your journey as you dive into the world of homeschooling! It’s a pretty exciting ride 🙂
Hi ladies! Wow!! I feel a but overwhelmed right now and inspired, too. My daughter starts K (she just turned 6) at our neighborhood public school, which is 4 blocks away. It’s an amazing little school, but I am SO drawn to HS’ing. I don’t even know where to start though. I have 0 friends who HS here in Spokane, WA and just the thought of what my family (hubby is supportive of everything :)) would say is daunting. But!!! My faith in God and knowing that HE will help guide me through the decisions and help our little family strive is what Bringa me back to doing HS and ignoring all the naysayers. What tips can you give me? Do you know if there is a CM group in Spokane or what sites could you point me to for support? I’ll def check into the links you already shared. I read through the amblesideonline site (home page) and FAQs but didn’t see the actual material that Id need to order or download.
Hi Heather, I hear you! It really can be overwhelming. Here’s one of my fave blogs without a slant to a specific method. It’s helpful for figuring out what you really want to do. http://simplehomeschool.net
Also, if you know what method you’re most interested in, there are tons of groups on FB that answer questions for you, and share resources. I’m in a great Charlotte Mason group, and there are also groups for local areas. I searched “Spokane homeschool” in the FB search bar, and this one popped up (looks amazing!!) https://www.facebook.com/groups/spokanehomeschool/
Hi Heather – new Spokane mom here. Not sure when you posted this comment but wanted to know if you’ve connected with any CM style groups since you posted! I’m on the same search!
All I can say is amen, amen, amen! I am entering our family’s 9th year of homeschooling, and couldn’t love it more. We use an eclectic mix of CM and classical learning. The thing I love most about hs’ing is the ability to fine tune everything (curriculum, schedule, etc) to meet OUR family’s needs. God bless you & your precious family on this adventure!
YES! I anticipated SO MUCH fine-tuning as we go, for which I am supremely grateful. It means that I don’t have to “have it all figured out” from the start! Whew! 🙂
Don’t forget https://simplycharlottemason.com! Between that and Amblside.org I have found a lot of support for my Charlotte Mason method journey.
YES! Love that one. I should maybe do a post with my fave CM resources!
That would be great! We are a couple years away from needing to make decisions about schooling, and at this point I foresee us giving the public school system a chance, but I would love to get a better grasp of alternatives before crunch time hits us. The philosophy of CM sounds great, but I’m curious how it plays out practically speaking. As you get further on this journey, it would be so great to hear how a typical week of home school plays out 🙂
We’re unschooling, and mostly I love it. Sometimes I am struck by terror – that I am failing as a parent, that I am messing up her education forEVER, etc, etc. Mostly, it is easy and it flows, and I’m so proud of all the things she loves and learns about. We’re also not “typical” unschoolers. M loves workbooks, so we use Singapore math for her. She does it at her own pace, and her own insistence, and we mostly just try to hold her back from doing 6 chapters at once (“Honey, your brain needs a bit of time to absorb what you just did! Let’s take a break!”) She has long periods where she does no math, or where she seems to “learn” less in certain areas, and then, I look around and realize she’s exactly where she should be. She meets or exceeds all the guidelines for her current grade level (first grade! ah!), so I try to just relax. Seriously, how many five year olds have seen and touched placentas, and know what they do? Or know that rattlesnakes can fling themselves at you, but that mostly it’s the little ones that are scary? Or that the plural of cactus is cacti, or what that cloud is called? She’s fine. We’re fine. N is such a different kid, and I know we’ll stretch and grow as he learns (he’s much more abstract and conceptual than she is). I love these conversations, and sometimes wish I had it in me to sit down and implement a Charlotte Mason or Waldorf system in our home. But, but, M doesn’t do well with absolutes, and me, well, midwives don’t get to have routines or regular schedules, so we take it how we can get it, and do the best we can. One thing is certain, I do not regret keeping our kids out of public school, and have my fingers crossed that we can figure out how to keep them “home” when we get back to Canada.
Your style sounds amazing. I love it! I also love that Charlotte Mason allows for LOTS of flexibility – it’s a method/philosophy, not a curriculum. I am tweaking and choosing and bending as much as I want with it, however it works for our family. I am guessing you could implement a lot of CM ideas into your days pretty seamlessly.
Also – I am SUPER jealous that your kids get to learn about birthing and all its glory from their midwife mama. Such a unique and fortunate experience they have!
PS. When are you coming to TO? 🙂
I love this. I feel like I’m fist pumping in agreement all the way through! I still feel like I’m still trying to wrap my head around exactly how it all works in practice for how our family functions but its good and we’re learning together. The Robert Frost quote was one that I read over and over in my planner these past couple of weeks, it’s sort of become my encouragement this year.
Wishing you a wonderful year of schooling, friend!
And a wonderful year to you, too! Crazy to think that we’re embarking on this crazy journey already. I am looking forward to sharing it with you 🙂
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That’s a genuinely impressive answer.
I am currently using ACE for my daughter who is 9. I loved the things you talked about and am going to check out this one just out of curiosity. I may use some parts to add to ours! Thanks so much!
Hope you enjoy learning more about CM and her philosophy – it has been such a fabulous experience in our family thus far 🙂
Since my oldest is two, we are still unschooling. I am interested in CM, and am looking into how to apply that as my boys get older.
Enjoy these few years of learning and exploring the various styles! They are so exciting 🙂
We also use the CM method, and we discovered a wonderful website called http://www.amblesideonline.com. It is a group of mothers who believe strongly in CM’s methods and gathered a curriculum that they believe best stayed true to those methods. They have it broken down by year and each year by week. And the information is free! You have to purchase the books yourself, but if you plan a few years ahead, you can pick up many of them at sales for one or two dollars. I would really encourage you to check that out and to read CM’s books. I am halfway through book 3 and there are six books. I am understanding her methods much better by reading her actual writing!
AO is amazing! I’m using lots of the suggestions from it, and love the articles they have. So helpful 🙂
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
We are a homeschooling family that believes in the importance of providing a strong foundation of the core subjects (reading, writing, math, etc.) while at the same time allowing our children ample time to focus on their interests. I’m looking forward to future posts from you regarding your homeschooling journey. It has been such a blessing for our family.
That sounds about like the balance we’d like to strike. Thanks for reading and following along!
I too am enamored with the CM method. I started this homeschool journey 13 years ago. Hubby wasn’t sold so I had to “prove myself worthy”. He felt confidence in the ABeka method and so off I went to teach my then 3 yr old! It was quickly apparent to me that it wasn’t the best I could do but he did learn phonics very well…. my heart detoured much to hubby’s dismay. By the time he was 5 and heading into first grade, I had found a wonderful classical model community (Classical Conversations) and I have been happily there for 10 years. My heart still wanders and I would say my approach is eclectic with a CM/classical bent. I love hands on and interest led additions to our basic program. My now high schooler is capable of researching and developing his own thoughts on an issue and loves formal debate and logic. Science fascinates him and he is teaching himself programing languages. He knows what he wants to do with his life and firmly believes his (our) faith, not because I tell him what to think but because he has wrestled it out. We are in the thick of British Lit and medieval poetry heading into classic drama next semester. He is reading books that make him think about Western Cultural History. My other children are following the same path with one exception. I have one child who is much more big picture/abstract thought minded and I am adjusting the same curriculum to her learning style and tossing in more creative outlets. I find the balance between the two philosophies is rather easy and though I would love to ” be more” and “do more” and I am human and I see (and feel) my failures and imperfections, my children have an appetite to learn what their hearts are interested in and they feel the calling that the Lord has placed on their lives.
I guess we’ll see what my report cards says when they are all on their own! 😉
Wow – your story is so inspiring!! Sounds like a job well done (even though you’re not quite finished yet)! I love the eclectic approach, and will probably tend to lean that way myself. I embrace CM’s philosophy, but am making my own book choices, etc. (Which, to be honest, is actually totally in line with CM – she advocated the philosophy and then left it up to the educator to make the materials/resources choices that best fit the individual child.)
Love that you are educating using this method! My oldest is starting first grade and we too have felt drawn to this homeschooling philosophy. I would love to learn more about your specific plan for this year and any tips you decide to share!
Working on a post for that exact topic – stay tuned! 😀
Beautifully written! CM appeals to me as well, so we are using some of her ideas in our daily work. Shakespeare, Plutarch, Virtues, and Nature studies…and I love how my kids are responding to it. My daughter begs me to read more Shakespeare every morning. For most of our work, we follow the classical model. The two are very closely aligned though, so it was easy to add. The classical model challenges me to teach, rather than read the curriculum to the kids. It’s been a delightful summer of learning and stretching, and we’re just now starting to enjoy the fruits of my labors.
I love that your daughter loves to hear Shakespeare! That’s so amazing! I look forward (with excitement + nervousness) to some of those meaty subjects that I never mastered in school myself. Thanks for sharing!