When I became pregnant with Reuben I was introduced to the Charlotte Mason method by my dear and close friend Melissa. At first I was overwhelmed. I had never considered different methods for homeschooling. As I researched it was like the world opened beneath my feet! There were so many approaches and they all looked fun! Unschooling. Classical. Even public school methods at home! For awhile I was overwhelmed. What was the perfect method? Who had got it right? My stress was at a all-time high and I hadn't even given birth yet.
After I delivered Reuben I went through a period where I really had to define why I wanted to home-school. I still felt lost and stressed, afraid to chose one method over another because what if I made a mistake? What if I chose wrong? I could ruin my child forever!
I can laugh now at my thoughts. Thank goodness, because my approach and mindset towards homeschooling has really changed and I feel very empowered. I realize now that I was thinking about homeschooling all wrong. I assumed that there must be a “right” way to home-school and that all the other ways were “wrong”. This public school way of thinking (because the department of education decides for public schools what is the “right” way to educate, discarding the “wrong”) was inhibiting my ability to shift through all my options.
I sat down one day and instead of thinking about all the different home-school options and methods I thought instead about how my child likes to learn. I thought just about him. How does he like to be taught right now, at three? Because even though we do not do “school” as such, he is learning and growing every day.
After just a few hours of observing him and thinking about his interests and personality, I jotted down the following. Reuben likes to read books. He loves to be outside. He can sit still a very long time at the table. He can color for hours. He enjoys learning and he wants to always be near me. He is a person and thus deserves my respect and patience. He does not want to be treated like a child. He wants to do what I do. He is naturally and insistently inquisitive. (why why why why all day long)
I stopped researching homeschooling that day. With the above things in mind I decided to cultivate a home-school method based around my child's strengths. His strengths and interests would be the tools I would use to cultivate his garden of learning. I then only had to till up my own soil and discover what foundation I had to build upon. What moral beliefs do I have about education? Moreover, what is the ultimate purpose behind learning and school?
Well, that was a simple question for me to answer. The purpose of life, not just school, is to serve and glorify God. That, I decided, was my mantra. To educate Reuben with God's will and plan and glory in mind. To teach him to love learning and to show him that he is born to learn; that he will be learning and growing forever, not just at school. Education is life. I am taxed not just with forming and educating Reuben's mind, but cultivating his whole person and encouraging him to grow good habits and learn to make his own decisions.
And just like that we slipped right into Charlotte Mason. Not only is her method about school; it is an entire philosophy about childhood! It is a way of life. I love everything about it! Not only does it fit what I believe about education, it fits Reuben's style of learning and his interests! It was like a light bulb lit up my heart.
I know there is no perfect school, and thus no perfect home-school. I know one method is not better than another. You can, obviously, make Jesus and God the center of any method of home-school you choose. One of the things that makes homeschooling great is that it can be molded to the child who you are educating. It is not supposed to look the same in every home, or even for every child. Each home-school should be evaluated separately for each mother (or father) is the principle, counselor, teacher and nurse of her own classroom. Unlike a public school where they must (due to time constraints, budgets, and personnel/staffing issues) create a status quo, home-school lets us mothers choose individual interest-led approaches that can vastly improve the education and life of our children.
The more I read about the Charlotte Mason method the more I love it. I am currently listening to three podcasts that I highly recommend to you if you are also interested in this method! The first is Wild and Free. The Wild and Free podcast has been so encouraging. My fears over homeschooling have been soothed and I feel so empowered as a woman that I CAN do this, I CAN learn alongside my son and teach him. I have also been listening to Charlotte Mason Says. CM Says is a podcast where John and Crystal are reading through the second Charlotte Mason book with some discussion involved. I don't have time to read her book right now, so listening to it on the podcast is really helpful. The third podcast was recommend to me by my friend Melissa (the one who introduced me to this method) and it's called A Delectable Education. Check them all out!
We are loosely doing a Charlotte Mason preschool with Reuben right now, and I can't wait to start him with "year zero" (kindergarten) when he turns five.
Will you be homeschooling? What method would best fit your child?