How we found Charlotte
Last year homeschooling was terrible, like make you want to cry tough. I was a teacher. I have a Master's degree in Education. I have taught kindergarten through high school. What was wrong? I remember one day I called my husband crying and telling him, "I just can't do this any longer. It is hurting my relationship with my son and nothing is being learned." I felt lost. And it was at that moment we all agreed to stop school. It was April 2017, and we just stopped "having school" and going to our co-op. We decided we would end schooling at home early and enroll him in the neighborhood school in the fall.
In my attempts to ensure that I did everything possible on the homeschool front I began researching to see if we wanted to give it one last try. Our local school is rated at an eight overall, it is safe, close and would be "okay" for my son. I also know he wouldn't get the rigor or the attention or even life lessons that I could provide at home. But alas I tried the homeschool method, and it wasn't working, so it was ok to move on.
Then, I happened to read about a philosophy called Charlotte Mason. I am unsure where I first found her name, but as soon as I knew what to search for it, I jumped into the rabbit hole of research. I joined all the Charlotte Mason (CM) Facebook groups, subscribed to as many CM blogs and articles, I joined the CM Institute and signed up for a private consultation through A Delectable Education.
It was here during my research that I realized I was trying to make homeschool a replica of traditional school. I was forcing worksheets, busy work, dry text books as curriculum. I thought that is what it was or going to be I couldn't believe it could ever look different. After researching and getting a recommendation of books for a 2nd grader I decided to give it a try. We would start in July and go through August, and if it didn't work, it would give us enough time to enroll him to start school in September.
The first two weeks of implementation were bliss. Sheer joy. I can't even describe the attitude in my home; it was calm yet energetic at the same time. The energy for consuming the material was evident. The first two weeks my mother was in town and able to take my two younger children to the park and play for 2.5 hours while my older son and I focused on creating the rhythm and expectations of the CM way.
After the first week of learning my husband came home, and my son wanted to share all the things he had learned about for the week. He was telling him stories about the people we began to know, the artist, the musician, the folktales. My son was becoming part of this time in history we were studying, and he started making predictions about what the Indians were going to do or how Theasus was going to get to his father.
We are starting week seven next week with Charlotte Mason. Every moment isn't peaceful in a house of 3 young boys, every learning opportunity isn't always expanded on, and there are times I still have to discuss with my son why he has to do something. However, there is a new hunger for learning that has never existed before. When our timer goes off for an individual subject, he begs me to continue reading. He starts conversations with adults to tell them about what he is learning. When we go on our hikes my 19-month-old stops and watches an ant cross the trail, my four-year-old observes nature and shares his thoughts, and my seven-year-old gets out his nature journal to paint.
The Charlotte Mason philosophy is all encompassing. Her volumes of books touch on habit training, the proper clothing for children, the times' tables for learning, the material, the mother's role and so much more from the birth of an infant through high school. What I think has worked well for my son and our home due in part to Charlotte Mason is her recommendation for short lessons. The attention to focus during each lesson, the variety of learning (composers, artists, folk tales, physical education, chores, language, etc.), the idea of living books and of course the cornerstone of her ideas, narration.
The living books ideas are key to CM. Rather than reading a small passage out of a textbook we now read whole novels or stories. And the important factor here is that when you read a book or story in its entirety you know the material. It isn't just some small paragraph on how America was colonized. It is a book about how Amerigo Vespucci named America and Charles Robbins began a relationship with the Indians, and you want to keep reading more. It isn't a check list of finish this passage complete this worksheet. You get to become one with the material, and thus it synthesizes and begins to take hold in your brain as a memory to recall not only as a fact later, but to apply it in other areas.
We still have our homeschool challenges and opportunities to grow. Homeschooling still stretches me mentally and emotionally. But now that we have embraced this new philosophy it makes the journey more fulfilling.
Charlotte Mason has changed the way we homeschool, the way I look and interact with my children and most importantly the way we learn. I hope that if you are considering homeschooling or interested, you will look into Charlotte Mason. I hope that if you are not in that stage of life, you will support us in our endeavor to build learners of life, art and all things natural. Today, we have found what best supports our long term goals for education, and that is a Charlotte Mason homeschool.