Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Charlotte Mason Convert

We are wrapping up the "official" school year around here. Our programs for math, phonics, writing, and spelling have all be completed and put away. But this summer we're still doing school - just more relaxed. We're reading a fiction-based math book that Canaan loves (Life of Fred), reading a new world history "living book" each morning (A Child's History of the World), reading aloud together the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series, joining in on a children's engineering class (thanks to some great friends), hopefully reading a ton of whatever the kids want to read (thank you library summer reading program!), and getting outside to explore as much as possible!

A big part of our new homeschooling journey this year has been nailing down our "style". As with most things in life, there are a 101 ways to homeschool - from doing what basically looks like public school but from home, all the way to unschooling.  This year we swayed side to side as we worked to figure out what fits us best. One thing I am so grateful for with homeschooling is that there are so many great resources available, and the choices are up to us. We can figure out a method to our homeschooling that works for us (there are some incredible programs out there that are just. not. us) - for our family and for each of our kids.

About a month ago, a book landed in my lap (or appeared on my counter from BJ's mom). It's dated looking, but I picked it up anyway and found myself a taaaad bit obsessed. So much of what I have had pictured for us and so much of what feels right for our family and our kids - so much of what I dream of when I consider what kind of childhood I want my kids to have - I have found within the pages of this book. That book, incase you were wondering, is "For the Children's Sake", based on the ideas and teaching philosophy of the British educator from the late 1800s named Charlotte Mason.

I can see pretty clearly that we are not Charlotte Mason purists (if such a person still exists), but so much of what she taught rings true for me that I see her method as the core for how I want to do school with my kids. Some of her beliefs about school include:
  • First, children are people. They are not just vessels to fill with knowledge. They have their own God-given interests, passions, talents - that educators and parents can help guide and encourage.
  • The child's passions should guide much of what we study - in particular with regard to science, but with many other subjects as well.
  • The habit of loving to learn (and creating a world where learning is a natural part of life, and where learning is a joyful experience) is more important than what they learn. As part of this, lessons are kept short and sweet for young children (which also gives more time for outdoor exploring), and "living books" (opposed to textbooks) are used to help children enjoy and enter into the narrative of what they are learning.
  • Children should be allowed ample time to create, freely from their own imaginations, with quality materials.
  • Children should be exposed to artists and classic works of art (with just a little bit of background information) - and given the space to feel what they feel and notice what they notice about the art - without lectures from an adult.
  • And my favorite part of all... an abundance of time (hours each day) should be spent outdoors in nature (whenever possible) exploring, observing, and enjoying God's amazing creation. Yes, please! :)
I find myself a lot lately just so filled with gratefulness that this is our life, and that we get to do this. 


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