It is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children's early, most impressible years." Home Education, p.2
When we began our homeschooling journey four years ago, I had heard the mention of Charlotte Mason at our first homeschooling conference where I attended a workshop on different homeschooling philosophies. I remember very vaguely the speaker say, "Well you read lots of books and play in nature." Pulling my children out of a classical charter school at the time, this approach sounded anything but academic or rigorous. It sounded like some fairy tale education for moms that didn't want to put in the effort or sweat to bring up their children with real knowledge. As I've spoken with more and more moms throughout the years, I've realized that, unfortunately, many receive the same impression from those who truly do not understand the Charlotte Mason philosophy and attempt to speak on it.
So we chose the route of a neo-classical approach. Lots of memorization (makes them look smart on the outside). Lots of facts (they'll understand it later). Hour long math lessons (every math problem must be done). And lots of frustration.
A dear friend was leaving our beloved classical co-op, and I wanted to know why. She mentioned the name Charlotte Mason, and my memories of the speaker at the conference flashed back. So I politely smiled and thought maybe this classical approach was too rigorous for them, and so I began planning our 2nd homeschooling year, holding true to the classical approach.
About half way through the year, I began to feel the frustration that my homeschool was losing beauty. There was no spark. My children were beginning to hate school. And quite frankly I was losing that beautiful vision I had for my homeschool. Everything was worksheets, memorization, and little understanding of the whys.
So I reached out to my friend again, who was supposedly just reading books and hanging out in nature, and she told me about a great book list on AmblesideOnline.org (AO). At the time, I was about halfway through my 5th pregnancy, and as I spent a lot of my evenings on bedrest, I began to dig into this pot of gold. First the booklists, then the FAQ 's, then I began to pour over the years and schedules, and I was blown away. I excitedly went on eBay, and without hesitation, purchased the 6 Volume set of Charlotte Mason's writings.
Prayerfully reading Home Education and A Philosophy of Education for the next months ahead, I was completely enthralled by her writings, ideas, and passion for educating children. I wrote out quote after quote in my new commonplace, which I learned about from her, and I just could not get enough of the beautiful ideas she had had about children's education. It wasn't just books and nature, but art, music, living history, handicrafts, recitations, narrations, Shakespeare, Plutarch, and so much more. This wasn't fluffy education, this was life! This is what I was missing. And I had found my spark.
Another big part of my personal Charlotte Mason education came from the A Delectable Education Podcast. If you don't have time to read Miss Mason's writings, or maybe you enjoy listening while you fold laundry or run errands, this podcast is a life changer for any mother's understanding of how beautiful a living homeschool can be, not just for your children, but for you as well! Their encouragement, laughter, enthusiasm, book suggestions, and immersions are invaluable to any homeschool.
Our 3rd year of homeschooling we dived into AO without looking back. Our first week was so rich, so inspiring, and I knew that this is why I wanted to homeschool. My children were alive with ideas. My son began to notice birds and enquire their names and calls. My daughter's imagination began to run wild with ideas. And my youngest son said to me he never knew I enjoyed nature; I know buddy, I didn't realize it either.
So we started fast and furious, with all the riches of the feast, and within a couple weeks I began to realized that we needed to take a step back. This philosophy of education was not just new for me, but for the children too. And I realized that we lacked a few habits to make our days flow easier. So we scaled back, focused on habits, living books, math, and 4-6 hours spent outside. We then slowly added the riches. Composer Study. Handicrafts. Drawing lessons. Picture Study and Art Museums. Nature Study and Journaling.
After a few months of the feast, I was blown away how much knowledge not only my children gained, but I as well. History came alive for the first time in 33 years. Every wildflower and tree leaf intrigued my attention. My children were discussing and acting out scenes from stories. They were inspired by biographies, composers, and fairy tales. This was the life imagined. Learning together. Spending time in God's world. Listening to symphonies. And finally completing our hand-sewn quilt of America.
Entering our 4th year of homeschooling and 2nd year of Charlotte Mason, I really desired a local Charlotte Mason community for children and mothers. So I spent my summer searching all the resources on how to create a community that would support each other in the Charlotte Mason philosophy and bring fresh thoughts and ideas into the lives of our children. Another reason I really desired a co-op was to teach all of those intimidating lessons, such as Shakespeare and Plutarch. I knew that I wanted those lessons to be apart of my children's education, but I also knew I wanted to teach them in a community that would engage my children in discussions and also help them enjoy Shakespeare read as a play. Diving in with no experience, our co-op just finished its first year with 21 students, and Shakespeare and Plutarch have been some on the most joyous lessons to teach and watch the students engage in.
Today we have completed 4 years of homeschooling and two years of a Charlotte Mason education. As I reflect on how much our education has inspired and brought new ideas into our lives, I know that the real source is the Holy Spirit, yet I also realize that it was Charlotte Mason that answered the call of the Holy Spirit and wrote down the ideas given to her by God, Himself. And for that I am truly thankful. I'm thankful that I can spread a feast before my children everyday, and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide them as well on their own journeys.
Charlotte Mason's Volumes, books written about her methods, podcasts, blogs, and conferences are all wonderful places to get inspired and understand the beauty this philosophy can bring to your home. Have you thought about attending a Charlotte Mason Inspired Online Homeschool Conference? The event starts on June 22nd - June 27th, 2020. Tickets are only $17 and the content is available for a lifetime. So watch on your own time, from the comfort of your own home, and I pray that the speakers will bring new ideas and breathe life into your family's education as you plan for your new year! Click HERE for your ticket today!