The word "homeschool" is in the air right now more than any time that I can remember in the 16 years that our family has been educating at home, and I am getting multiple messages and texts each week about people who are looking into this option for the first time and all for a multitude of reasons. Earlier this week I held a little get together at my home for moms who are interested in the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, and while some of them are veteran homeschoolers, in some of them, I recognized the "look": the wide-eyed, crinkled brow, with a little sweat on the forehead that means, "What in the world am I getting into here?!"
It's overwhelming, I get it, and I remember the feeling so very well. It seems as if there are so many decisions to be made, and the responsibility of a child's education can feel like a huge burden on your back. I have seen the same look in the eyes of many families in the Vendor Halls of homeschool conventions: "so many history options! And then what about grammar? Let's don't even get started on writing or math...maybe let's just buy one of these cute overpriced "educational toys" and try to figure it out when we get home..." or there are the moms who buy 3 history books and a boxed curriculum and 4 writing programs and alllllll the Lamplighter books... it's swampy when you start to slog through the choices!
So how do we proceed when all of the choices paralyze us? Where do we even begin?
The concept of what my role should be in the education of my children is one of the ideas that kept me on the path of Charlotte Mason's principles and methods when I was led there, as so many others have been, by the book For The Children's Sake. And since then, I have been a student of her volumes and articles, and because there is so much to learn, I doubt that I will ever be finished! Currently I am reading again through Parents and Children, Volume 2 of her six volumes of books, and her answer to "where do we start?" is simple and profound in the same statement:
"Probably the chief source of weakness in our attempt to formulate a science of education is that we do not perceive education is the outcome of philosophy. We deal with the issue and ignore the source. Hence our efforts lack continuity and definite aim. We are content to pick up a suggestion here, a practical hint there, without even troubling ourselves to consider what is that scheme of life of which such hints and suggestions are the output." (page 118) (italics mine)
So if we are going to educate our children, where do we start? While most of the question that I get are along the lines of what books to use for different subjects, I propose that those questions are ones to be asked further down the line...and the starting point in order to be successful in educating our children and to do so peacefully must be this question first:
What philosophy of education do I want to follow?
Most parents want someone else to think about this for them- not because they are not intelligent enough to consider it for themselves, but because we have been "brainwashed" (yes, I used that word but I feel its appropriate here) to believe that only a "professional educator" is capable of thinking about such things. I was a professional educator, and I will tell you that there is very little consideration or training about philosophy in teacher training, and when I entered the classroom, most of that went out of the window as I was just expected to teach from what they provided for me to use.
With that point of argument dealt with, how do we begin to figure out what the philosophies are and what in the world does that have to do with what we are doing around our dining room table on Tuesday mornings at 10 am? I believe, and so did Charlotte Mason, that it matters a great deal, and how peaceful and contented mom and dad are as they educate their children, depends much on how their curriculum choices match the philosophy they actually believe in.
I have spoken to so, so many moms through the years that have purchased online plans, boxed sets, paid to go to very expensive co ops, and still are not settled... so they move to the next "thing" that is popular or promises great results. I realize that some of that is due to failure to implement the programs effectively, as well as other factors, but I am convinced that much of it is the mismatch of curriculum choice to philosophy.
Next time I will talk about what a philosophy is, and why I believe in Charlotte Mason's approach...I hope that you will join me!
I am a wife and homeschooling mom who absolutely loves her job! I love to read good books, enjoy art, and sit on my porch with family, friends and any passersby to talk about them and what a good, good Father we all have!