Over the past months I’ve been mulling over my educational philosophy. For several years I’ve been burned out and paralyzed as I tried to live up to some kind of rigid, artificial, school-at-home homeschool method I imagined was expected of me. It felt grueling and lifeless.
This past semester I backed off from a few subjects, focused strongly on the 3 R’s, prayed, and observed. I was inspired by some unschooling blogs. While I know unschooling is definitely not the right choice for us, reading about families who educate this way helped me understand a lifestyle of learning and exploration. Soon my kids were spontaneously asking, “Can we research this?” “Will you help me look this up?” “Let’s read a book about that.” I felt refreshed and freed. I started doing creative learning projects with the kids, and school became fun again—maybe really fun for the first time!
Right before we left for Christmas vacation, I stumbled on a community of blogs influenced by the Charlotte Mason method of education. I’m familiar with Charlotte’s methods, but it’s been a long time since I considered them. (Her method is summarized at Simply Charlotte Mason this way:
- “A method of education popular with homeschoolers in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits.”)
Reading through these blogs felt like answered prayer. This philosophy seems like the best of both worlds—excellence in education combined with the grace and freedom to cultivate a life-culture of learning.
I had been praying about which books I should take on vacation. (Don’t laugh; yes, I think God cares about little things like that!) At the last minute, I grabbed For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, which is about the Charlotte Mason method. All during our week away, as I read, my heart kept saying “Yes, yes, yes!” When I read the book years ago I didn’t understand it. This time around it made sense. I guess timing is everything.
I’ll be honest and say that I’m not too interested in being a Charlotte Mason purist. In fact, I had her original homeschooling series, read it, found it too much to wade through, and sold it several years ago. At this point I’m satisfied with a synopsis that gives me the heart of her philosophy, alongside the ideas of others who are putting them into practice. We’ll still be an eclectic homeschool, but I look forward to seeing how some of Charlotte’s ideas play out as we continue our journey. Already I have some just waiting to be put into practice during the next part of the school year.
In light of all this, I have two announcements. One is that I plan to have For the Children’s Sake Friday each week, to share quotes from the book that I find inspiring. Also, I will have a related giveaway soon. Stay tuned!