Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homeschooling: Charlotte Mason Style

One advantage of homeschooling is being able to design the child's education to suit his or her unique mode of learning. This is also advantageous for the parent- educator as they can make allowances for their own style of teaching/learning and for the needs of the family as a whole.

There are many different methods and philosophies of teaching in the home school world. This website outlines them well. Most families pick and choose aspects from different styles, creating a custom course of study that fits them just right. Many families try several different methods over the years until they find the one or the combination that suits them best.

As a brand new homeschooler, I have no idea what's going to work best for our family. By nature, I am a bit scattered and eclectic; wanting to use a little of this style and a little of that style. Unfortunately, I drove myself mad trying to tie them all together into something cohesive that I could actually plan around.  In order to get past my confusion and get started, I found I needed more structure.

After much praying and consideration, I have decided to lean heavily on the Charlotte Mason methodology for our first year of home school. Charlotte Mason was a very well known educator in the late 19th century in England. Ambleside Online offers this terrific summary of Charlotte Mason's approach of education, if you are interested in learning more about how and what she taught. Its easy to see why her methods have inspired home schooling families for generations.

Today, most of the well known methods of home schooling include some parts of her philosophies in their methodology, most notably a reliance upon "living books" for curriculum.  Here is a great explanation of what makes a "living book" and what is the opposite that, something Ms. Mason referred to as "twaddle".

For me, it was the lovely emphasis on God, nature, and "great and noble ideas" in art, literature and science that swayed me to pursue her methods as a backbone in our school. I don't think of myself as a strict devotee of CM; I imagine I will still draw upon other philosophies as we home school through the years. But for now, I am rather enamored with her ways and I want to try to implement many of them in our school.

Take a look at this Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six.  This is what Charlotte Mason expected from a six year old studying with her. (Elijah is six). It's so beautiful to me. I would love to say that my six year old could do all of this or some variation on this.

But how on earth do I put these noble goals into practice? Where do I even begin? I need some major hand holding at this stage of my homeschooling life. Fortunately, there are some really amazing resources on the good ol' trusty internet!

Two, in particular, have really shown me how to use her methods. As a HUGE bonus, they have outlined yearly programs for home schoolers to follow. They are Ambleside Online and Simply Charlotte Mason.

Both are great, both follow the CM methodology beautifully and, best of all, are free! They are chocked full of great information. Therefore, you really have to dig in and spend sometime familiarizing yourself with their websites to make the most of what they offer. You cannot hop on there and get a quick overview of what they offer, but what they offer is well worth the time and effort.

They differ, mostly, in the specific books and resources they recommend for the varying subjects. After reading through the CM support sites, I have discovered some respectfully strong opinions about who has the better lineup, Ambleside or SimplyCM. In the end, it seems most CM moms pick and choose from both sites to develop the curriculum that they are most excited about. Which, is what I am going to do, as well. CM is not a book list but a practice. (There are no hard fast requirements about which books to read in CM, other than that be living and not twaddle, as I mentioned before. Therefore, I also plan to add books recommended from Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt and Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson to create our reading lists for the year. I am also going to tweak the history and the science recommendations from both sites to suit our family.)

I am also using these wonderful sites devoted CM education to draw upon as I finalize our schedule:

Higher Up Further In
Charlotte Mason Help
A Charlotte Mason Education

After all these months of indecisiveness about what and how to teach, it feels good to have some direction and structure. I pity my husband and my mother who were subjected to many a long, grueling conversation with me as I sorted through all of this. The last step in this process is laying out our schedule exactly. I am putting the finishing touches on it over the next few days and I will post it when I am done! (Some of you may be thinking whoop-di-doo, who cares? For me, this is a way to create some accountability for myself by putting my intentions out there for all the world, all three of you, to see:)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Homeschooling is Hard: A Mission Statement

Before Gabe and I married, there was an understanding reached between he and I that we would home school our children unless God clearly showed us differently. When Elijah was born, God cemented that calling in my heart. I looked in his newborn face and knew I probably wouldn't be sending him to kindergarten with a wave and a smile. I just couldn't imagine not being with him for all those years. Beyond the Divine calling to do so, why would we choose such a difficult and somewhat controversial upbringing?

A Mission Statement (of sorts)

We want our children to know that they are "fearfully and wonderfully made" unique creations of the One True God and that they were made to know Him and love Him. In knowing and loving God they will find their true calling in life and have the opportunity to live the richest, fullest life imaginable... the one that God designed them live. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  (Ephesians 2:10)  A public school education cannot address the unique God given gifts, talents and interests innate in all of us. They can't even address God Himself! 

We, the parents, are commanded to teach these things: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  (Duet. 6:5-7) How can teach my children about God in the way the He commands if they are gone all day? 

Finally, I can't help but feel the goal of our schools is to ensure that each child receive a minimum level of education and to create conformity between children. It is not our goal that our children be conformed to the world:  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  Romans 12:2 

Beyond this here more of my many reasons...
  • I want to foster in my children a great love of learning, for them to be excited about learning and confident about their ability to learn anything their heart's desire.
  • I want to allow my children the freedom to master a wide variety of skills and subjects that schools may not have the time or budget to delve into and do it without the pressure of a state mandated timeline.
  • I want them to see and appreciate God's place throughout history, humankind and creation.
  • I want them find meaning in a world full of goodness and evil through the lens of the Bible. I want help them to develop excellent values and moral character such as integrity, honesty, courage, faith and love. 
  • I want to spend all of the time that I can with them. Three hours a day is not enough for me! I enjoy interacting with them and witnessing them grow in every way. 
  • Public schools waste time: in lines, in buses, on roll call, etc. There is too much good stuff in life being missed out while kids shuffle between class rooms.  
Its time for Elijah to begin first grade. For months, I have researched homeschooling methods, techniques, philosophies, curricula, books, websites, forums, groups, etc. etc, etc, etc. I have wondered and wandered to no end about what to teach, how to teach it and when to teach it. This has tied me up in knots and kept me up at night.  I have almost made myself crazy bringing my convictions to home school to reality. 

Here's what I've come up with: Homeschooling is hard.  Not everyone can do this. It takes a lot of conviction, patience, perseverance, creativity, courage, organization and forethought to home school. You have to believe in this! Even when you do wholeheartedly believe in the reasons for homeschooling, it is still very challenging to get the ball rolling and keep it rolling.

Last night, I had a major breakthrough. I realized, that for the most part, my preferences and hope for homeschooling align with one particular method of homeschooling. Its wonderful to realize this! I found several online resources based on this method that have proven to be immensely helpful in creating our lessons for this year. In fact, if I wanted to, I could follow exactly along with learning schedules laid out on these websites and be confident that my children would receive a superior education.

In my next post, I am going to outline our curricula for the upcoming school year, 2012- 2013. I will also provide some background information about the method of homeschooling I have chosen!