As a mother of two lovely daughters, both of whom have grown up a great deal already, I wanted to share a few thoughts to those who are just beginning their journey into the world of Charlotte Mason. I’ve been homeschooling for almost two decades now, and through that time have watched its growth and its changes.
When I began homeschooling, parents had fewer resources available to them and not nearly the same access to ways of communicating and sharing their thoughts, feelings and ideas with one another. These changes are wonderful! It is so much easier for a homeschooling parent to find books, lesson plans and curriculum guides that are better tailored to their specific skills as a teacher and to the needs of their students. Parents today also have access to blogs, websites, forums and Facebook pages and groups. These are so valuable, allowing the struggles of balancing parenting with teaching to be shared with others. We can offer support, encouragement and advice to one another, connecting us with others who are walking a similar path in life and keeping the feelings of isolation from looming too largely in front of us.
But, as with all things, there are disadvantages to these new and wonderful changes. While there are many varieties of curriculum websites, guides and teaching approaches, along with it is a lot of misinformation and, sometimes, information overload. This makes distinguishing between teaching materials more confusing and often frustrating. Greater access to communication among teaching parents also brings with it even more information, sometimes misinformation, and opinion overload. Parents, especially parents new to homeschooling or new to a specific teaching approach, experience struggles with knowing which curriculum guide or approach is just a tantalizing “new” flavor for the year or is genuinely one which speaks to their heart.
Here are just a few questions that you might ask yourself to help with these distinctions:
1. Am I being captivated by a shiny, new product because of its idealized images or have I really looked beyond the surface and into the actual scope, sequence and content?
2. Am I being drawn into purchasing and using a product because it seems popular with people I admire or assume is leading the “perfect” homeschool life or is it because it meets the needs of my student(s)?
3. Have I envisioned myself using the product as a teacher? In other words, have I read through a sample lesson from its beginning to its end? Have I gained a grasp of its overall goals for the year? How does it plan to meet these goals? Is the method planned for achieving the goals a method which meets the current needs of where my children are in their educational development?
4. Have I examined the overall educational philosophy behind the curriculum or teaching product in which I’m interested? Does the philosophy embrace an educational vision which mostly matches my own educational vision? Do the teaching methods support the actual educational philosophy? In other words, do the required lessons which directly involve my students support these ideas?
5. Have you considered the long term use of this curriculum or teaching resource? Have you written a brief list of educational goals which you wish for your children to have met when their education with you is complete? Does this curriculum or do these resources support or augment these educational goals? Or, perhaps, the teaching resource is meant to achieve a subsection of a larger goal and is only being used to fit this particular need? What long term benefits will be gained from staying with a specific curriculum or teaching philosophy?
6. Have I examined who I am as teacher and as an individual? These distinctions play a role into what I’m attracted to when examining teaching approaches and purchasing products. Have I been careful to set aside my own personal aesthetic attractions in order to choose an educational philosophy which authentically envelopes what makes me the best teacher I can be and what encourages my students to be the best that they can be?
A Charlotte Mason education is not only different because it doesn’t match the way in which most of us parents were educated, but is also very different because, unlike other educational approaches, it requires a long-term commitment. Trusting the tenets of her philosophy is so important if you really want your students to benefit from them. The results are not immediate and require time, maintenance and commitment. But, oh the rewards at the end! My children have long surpassed my ideal level of education, because the Charlotte Mason teaching philosophy, combined with some modern and classical elements as is included in A Mind in the Light, contributes to the creation of students who learn broadly and deeply. Ultimately, success later as a young adult hinges more often on the burning desire to learn and the ability to connect layers of knowledge than test-taking skills and time management. This is not to suggest that the latter two components are not important, but merely to impress the idea that they are easily incorporated into a curriculum which firstly supports the former components.
A Fellow Mom and Teacher