Sunday, June 9, 2013

What I Love Most about a Charlotte Mason Education

Like many homeschooling moms, I am in the midst of fall planning.  And like many homeschooling moms, I love fall planning.  It's technically on my to-do list, but I think of it more as a hobby than a chore.  Sitting down with a cup of coffee, a blank "notebook" on Evernote, and a stack of books is my idea of a good time.

Now, in the online circles I run in, six children really isn't all that many, but everyone I meet out in the "real world" seems to think that it is.  I get a lot of questions when I'm out with my crew:
"Well now, don't you have your hands full?!" 
"Do you have help?"
"Wow, how busy is it at your house?!" 
"Do you run a daycare, or are these all yours?"

Moms of many, I'm sure you have all heard these too. ;)  Sometimes I just smile, nod, and move along; sometimes the questions are from a dental hygienist or a hair stylist, and by virtue of my being "captive," the questions turn into a conversation.  And when they find out that we homeschool, they go from surprised to stunned, as if the combination of having many children and schooling them all is just completely out of their imagining.  I'm always surprised by this, because, as I tell them: "Homeschooling is the fun part.  It's the best part of my day!"  And I mean it--I really do.  (There are a few things tied for the best part of the day, actually.  Kissing baby toes, watching the sweet antics of my toddlers, and getting glimpses into my pre-schooler's make-believe world are all wonderful daily moments.  But homeschooling ranks right up there with them.  I find it infinitely more fun than most of the other parts of my job: cooking, cleaning, wiping bottoms, and all the rest.)

My children are still very small, and I'm sure there will be challenges and frustrations in the days ahead.  And yes, occasionally on a particularly overwhelming afternoon, I think about what a (short-term) relief it would be to have two of my kids kept busy out of the house, in that free daycare that is modern-day public education.  But right now, almost every day, I feel like homeschooling makes my day that much more enjoyable.  Perhaps it's because I always wanted to be a teacher and did teach in college for a bit.  Perhaps it's that I'm a control freak and enjoy choosing what my children are exposed to and when.  Perhaps it's because I love learning, and homeschooling allows (requires?) me to learn alongside my kids in so many subjects.  Perhaps it's because having the big kids around to play with the littles makes our days run so much more smoothly--and means I get to watch those precious relationships among siblings grow.  Perhaps it's because I feel the grave duty of passing on the Faith to my children, and homeschooling is the easiest way I can find to do this.  Perhaps I don't like leaving the house all that often.  (Kidding.  Sort of.)  

In all of these ways and more, I love homeschooling.

But even more than that, I love Charlotte Mason's vision for education.  I really don't think I would be as excited about our school days if I were spending them correcting workbook pages, giving spelling tests, and reading comprehension questions from textbooks.  As I have mentioned before, my first exposure to Charlotte Mason felt like coming home.  Right away it seemed like the perfect fit.  It seemed like the way I would have loved to be taught as a child!  And it seemed like how I wanted my days as a homeschooling mother to look.

And that's what I love most about it: the whole thing.  (Is that cheating?)  I love the look of our days and weeks, our joyous lessons, our learning lifestyle.  It's a rich life.  It's a full life. 

Put simply, the thing I love most is this

...and this 

...and this

...and this

...and Shakespeare and nature journals and picture study and field trips and seasonal observations and all the rest of it.

And as I'm planning for fall, pulling together my weekly checklists for next year, I'm reminded just how rich this feast really is.  I mean, just look at the lovely reading list from one week of our second grade plans:

"The Battle of Stamford Bridge" from Our Island Story
Chapter 1 of Understood Betsy
"Two Gentlemen of Verona" from Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare
Part of Pilgrim's Progress
"Saint Sebastian" from Heroes of God's Church
"Two Empires" from Child's History of the World
Chapter 1 from Little Duke
"The Angel Gabriel Announces the Birth of Christ" from Knecht's Child's Bible History
"What is a Sacrifice?" from Fr. Francis' Come to Mass
"The Embroidered Coat" from Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls
"Eternity and What I Must Think of It" from Mother Mary Loyola's First Communion
Chapters 2 and 3 from Holling's Tree in the Trail
Chapter 2 from Henry's Brighty of the Grand Canyon
Part of Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Hans Christian Andersen's The Nightingale
"Peter and Jumper Go to School" from The Burgess Animal Book for Children
Haydn's Surprise Symphony No. 94
Manet's "The Races at Longchamps" (to compare with Degas' "Racehorses at Longchamps" from last term)
"The Strings" from The First Book of the Orchestra
"The Red Light in the Sky" and "The Man Drawn by Dogs" from The Kirbys' The World at Home
Poetry by Walter de la Mare
The Creation of Adam from Benson's Old Testament Rhymes
"La Bella Lavanderina" from Filastrocche Italiane

It is a thing of beauty, is it not? :) And there will be nary a spelling worksheet nor a comprehension question in sight!  (Though there will be a piano lesson, copywork, math, Italian lessons and songs, mapwork, an art project, some time with handicrafts, a drawing lesson, lots of narrations, a nature walk and journal entry, a folk song and a hymn, plenty of time for reading and free play, and much more.  As I said: full and rich.)

Does this not look like fantastic fun to you?  I admit I am a homeschool nerd. :)  But I happen to believe that a Charlotte Mason education, with its emphasis on the liberal arts and a diet of ideas for even the littlest, has the power to appeal to us all--students and teachers.  And goodness, I do love it.


  1. This looks like heaven to me. :) I felt the same way when I discovered Charlotte Mason. I had been tentatively planning on using aBeka curriculum for my daughter for Kindergarten which I enjoyed when I was homeschooled as a child - but I was just not excited about it at all. Then I discovered Ambleside Online and started reading about Charlotte Mason's way of teaching, and something clicked in my brain - I thought, "YES!" and I've been so excited to get started since then. :) I have enjoyed every minute of planning our K year and can't wait to read those books to my daughter. Thank you for sharing!

  2. It really does help when we look at the big picture doesn't it. :) We also use Ambleside Online, love it!

  3. It is a blessing that you have been given the opportunity to be this for your kids, and I am certain that there are a lot of us that wish we could be in this same place. It is encouraging to hear your story.

  4. A liberal education is beautiful; well said, Celeste.

  5. We sound like kindred spirits, Celeste! I could have written this post. Well, except for the six kids. We have four.

  6. Oh this just makes me giddy to read it! This sounds like our house...except I do have a couple older-ish kids in the bunch...but a couple years ago this could have been us. Now there are 8, and this is just how I feel. Love the part about planning being a hobby. Our books for next year are coming in daily, and it feels like Christmas. Thanks for the pictures and the book list...can't wait to check some of them out!

  7. I love your pictures of what you love!

  8. My family's adventure to homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way, started this January. You describe our daily routine. I find myself overwhelmed sometimes, as I discover what books are best for my two older kids. But it is those moments of reading on the couch, having my arms around my kids and spending time outdoors that makes it all worth it! I, too, feel like a blessed mom. Who says it's ever too late to start. My kids are 12 and 17! It took some time, as I had to work full time. But my prayers were answered and I'm living my dream.