Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Deeply Catholic, Deeply Charlotte Mason

Like I mentioned, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool before we even had children--I was completely committed for the long-term as soon as we made that choice.  For me, it just seems the perfectly natural extension of our family living, and it is one of my favorite parts of being a mother.  When I first heard about homeschooling, I dove headfirst into researching it like the graduate student I was.  Every book I could find, every forum and online resource--I soaked up all the information, spent an entire summer (and then much time during the school year as well) reading about this way of living and learning that we were entering into.  John Taylor Gatto's insistence on the merits of creativity and the serious deficiencies of the modern educational model, Susan Wise Bauer's view of history as an organizing principle of a solid education, Kimberly Hahn's encouragement that Catholic homeschool resources were growing to suit all kinds of educational styles--and on and on.  

And along the way, Miss Mason greeted me here and there.  My research into the Charlotte Mason model of schooling felt very different than my study of apologetics and Church teaching during my conversion process.  The truths of Catholicism were so absolutely foreign to me before meeting my husband. I certainly thought I knew about Catholics--and rejected them completely--but when coming to the teachings of the Church with an open heart, I encountered something totally unexpected: I realized that my presumptions about Catholicism were completely false.  Because of that, every teaching took me time to digest, process, get used to.  When I first read about Charlotte Mason's style of education, on the other hand, it felt immediately like a match--the narrations, the living books, the liberal and varied courses sung directly to my heart and my hopes for how a homeschooling life would look in my home.  And as beautiful as the methods looked, the philosophy behind them rang true as well.  "Children are born persons."  Yes.  "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."  Yes.  These are complicated principles, to be sure, but my first instinct was that they were true, and my second instinct was to want to know more.  (With Catholicism, my first instinct was that they were false, but thankfully, my second instinct was to be curious enough to read further.)

My favorite resources during those early days of study into CM education were the 4Real Forums and Ambleside Online (with its associated e-groups) and they continue to be my go-to resources now that I have begun the formal education of my own children.  It is a rather strange feeling after so many years of reading and thinking about homeschooling would look in our home to now be actually doing it in earnest.  The Roman invasion of England over breakfast, El Greco's "Annunciation" during snack time, a chapter from Charlotte's Web to wind down from outside play, field guides spread across the table for nature journal entries, math and drawing lessons while the baby naps...a Charlotte Mason education is turning out to be just as beautiful as it sounds, and I think I'm enjoying first grade as much as my children are.  (And learning almost as much! ;))  

Surely, part of the joy of learning in this way is putting children "in the way" of the best of everything: great writers and inspiring stories, the richness of music and art, the truths we find in numbers, the miracles of the natural world.  It is a feast for the mind, and I hope to raise children who are equipped and eager to come to that table and relish in that feast.  But we cannot forget the richness of our Catholic faith, which has so much to offer: the stories of the saints, the mysteries of the Mass, the eternal truths in the Catechism and the Church's teachings.  There is such depth in our traditions and Traditions, and I am so excited to share them with my children in the course of our formal education just as I have since they were infants.  I think this method of learning lends itself beautifully to presenting those truths to our little ones, and that is why I am excited to see so many resources becoming available for mothers who want to infuse their CM-style home education with a particularly Catholic flair.  I am one of those mothers!  And I hope to chat on this blog about how we make our home education distinctly Catholic--as well as provide a peek into the "joyous lessons" of our homeschool days.


  1. I loved this blog post! Like you, my husband and I are exploring the idea of homeschooling even before we have any children. Also like you, I am researching everything I can get my hands on (I too was a graduate student). I just came across the Charlotte Mason philosophy and it is very interesting! Thanks for the post--your description of teaching the first grade sounds amazing..its very encouraging to hear what homeschooling could be.

    1. I felt so excited to find this beautiful style of learning ready and waiting for me to share with my children. It has been a delight and I fall more in love with it every day. :) Thanks for stopping by and sharing! :)