Its been quite the process to figure out exactly how I want to approach home education. It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not even sure where I’ve landed now is very permanent. But it feels right.
After lots of prayerful thought and study, I set out to implement a Charlotte Mason* inspired approach to education this year, complete with lots of living books, narration, short lessons, and nature study. I read as much as I could about CM methods, picked a book list to follow (Wildwood, for those interested), ordered the books, and dove in.
Well, things haven’t worked out quite as I’d anticipated. We’ve run into a wall.
For one thing, I suck at nature study. I’m just not outdoorsy, so I really struggled to get outside enough, even when the weather was lovely. I love the idea of nature study and lots of time outdoors like CM recommends, but I struggled with the execution. This left me feeling a lot of guilt and like a bit of a failure.
For another thing, I struggled to meet the needs of both of my kids. While Porter and I were working on math and phonics, or doing our daily Wildwood reading, Wyatt would get bored. I always had things for him to do- coloring and sticker books, but often I’d resort to giving him my phone so I could focus on Porter. Now, I’m not against the use of technology or screen time, but the balance felt off. I felt I should be spending more time with Wyatt. Again, this left me feeling a lot of guilt a like a bit of a failure.
I miss the days where we were reading and learning together, like last year. And it doesn’t feel like the CM schedule I’ve been trying to follow really allows much time, after factoring in life, for interest-led learning. When are we going to do the rock study Porter has been begging for?
I’ve known for a while we need to tweak things, maybe let go of the CM schedule a little, but I haven’t been sure of exactly how to change. I even impulse bought a new LA curriculum (which luckily wasn’t very expensive) and have had buyers regret.
And then I listened to a Julie Bogart podcast. This woman is amazing. She speaks such encouragement to homeschooling mamas. In it, she talked about embracing the coziness and power of the home aspect in home education. We want to give our children an education that lights them up, that they are excited about. The CM schedule I was following just wasn’t doing that. It was too rigid, which led to guilt when I inevitably failed to meet Miss Mason’s high standards, and it left Wyatt out too often. Although I love all of her ideas in theory, in practice it hasn’t worked as smoothly as I had hoped.
I have decided to more fully embrace the Bravewriter lifestyle that Julie talks about. This lifestyle is great because its so flexible, but still incorporates some of the best aspects of Charlotte Mason. Living a Bravewriter lifestyle will give us time for all the fun things I want to do- poetry tea time, nature study, movie days, art projects and appreciation, but without the guilt associated with not meeting Charlotte Mason’s standards. Julie’s approach to these things is much more flexible and modern.
By following a Bravewriter lifestyle approach to home schooling, I can still incorporate many of the Charlotte Mason principles and methods I’m drawn to, but in a more modern way that leaves out the guilt I was experiencing. At the same time, it give us freedom and flexibility to follow our interests more, to learn in ways that get Porter and Wyatt involved. Its the best of both worlds- last years freedom and my new found fascination with Miss Mason’s ideas.
*Charlotte Mason was an early 20th century educator who emphasized that children were born persons, not vessels to be filled with facts and information, but little individuals capable of taking in and assimilating what information they were ready for. The educators job, according to Miss Mason, was the “spread a feast of ideas” before the child. Aside from the 3 R’s, subjects include art and music appreciation, nature study, poetry, history, geography (both cultural and physical), literature, foreign language, and later Shakespeare, science, and citizenship. Children come in direct contact with things and ideas as often as possible through observation (like in nature) and reading living books (good books written by people that are so passionate we can feel it, and make us come alive with interest). Children narrate what they are reading, a process where they must learn to listen attentively, take the information in, and spit it back out in their own words, thus making it their own. Charlotte Mason believed that education “is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life,” in other words that education is broader that just book learning. She emphasized the importance of developing good habits and spending time outdoors.